US President Trump was being asked Monday (Oct. 14) to condemn a mashup video in which the most violent clip shows a fake Trump mass-murdering media personalities and political figures in a “church of fake news.” Concerned individuals and groups in the U.S. say the video must be denounced since “violence has no place in our society.”
The video, which stitched together a series of internet memes, was screened last week at a three-day event of the pro-Trump organization American Priority in Trump National Doral in Miami, Florida. The guests, “New York Times” reported Sunday (Oct. 13, 2019), included Donald Trump Jr. and former White House press secretary Sara Sanders.
The graphic clip, which includes the logo of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, shows a bogus Trump “shooting and stabbing parishioners in the church.” It was an edited version of the 2014 film “Kingman: The Secret Service.” Trump’s head was superimposed on the body of Colin Firth who in the movie goes on a killing rampage, shooting, beating and stabbing people inside a church. Media victims in the video version of the slaughter each bore the logo of a media outfit the President loathes, such as CNN, New York Times, etc.
Making of the video was described as “incredibly, cringingly dorky,” inept and foolishly stupid. Yet it was also viewed as “macabre, horrific and disturbing.”
What the video implied was disturbing. It could mean that the anti-media stance and prose of President Trump has influenced his supporters and seeped (or “bled,” as one critic put it) into their propaganda.
The violent images of film could evolve into pictures of actual mayhem and murder, in which it wouldn’t be Trump doing the slaughter but someone or some group incited by the incendiary attack on media and critics would be wielding guns or knives.
Demonizing the media has been a mainstay of Trump’s campaign for the presidency in 2016, continuing into his term, increasing in intensity in recent weeks as the impeachment inquiry stepped up in the House of Representatives.
But is it not mere rhetoric, couched in Twitter structure and tone, harsh at times but not incendiary?
Given the video, which went beyond verbal language, the Trump assault on media -- calling its practitioners “fake and corrupt” and “enemy of the people” – could go notches higher.
If he takes the advice of his White House staff, which he sometimes does but rarely for long, he may condemn the message of violence the video espouses. But he will have a huge problem resisting the urge to gloat on Twitter over the fantasy of killing reporters, editors and opinion makers whose news or commentary he does not like.
Power to influence
The point that resonates, even in countries where the president doesn’t come close to behaving like Trump, is the power of the chief executive to influence the people supporting him. The stronger and wider the leader’s mass base is, the greater the danger on inciting political fans to violence.
Eroding people’s trust in facts, on which informed judgment is made, is bad enough. Stirring and fueling hate towards the press, which reports and explains events and issues of national interest, may turn the conversation into a killing spree. The scene of massacres at U.S. schools could shift, heaven forbid, to newsrooms and broadcast studios.