Not only is language a reflection of who we are, but in politics we tend to look through language and not realize how much power language has. Muhad Villalaz just found this out when he was attacked by acid which left him with second-degree burns. Villalaz, a Hispanic, was confronted by a man over a parking spot who called him “an illegal” and told him “to go back to his country” before throwing battery acid at him. Milwaukee’s Mayor Tom Barrett later came to Villalaz’s aid and accused President Donald Trump of being responsible for the rise in violent hate crimes which left him disfigured. He noted it was only six months ago the president laughed at a rally when an attendee shouted that migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border should be shot.
Barret further warned “… more and more people feel that because the president is saying it that this is okay.”
Adding “It’s not okay, it’s horrible,” he continued:
“Everybody knows Trump’s encouragement of anti-immigrant sentiment incites violence and that people feel they have license to go after Hispanic people. This anger towards people from other countries is being fed by our president and his followers.”
Villalaz claimed the man asked, “Why did you come here and invade my country?” When Villalaz told him “Sir, you don’t know my status. I’m a U.S. citizen too, and everybody came here from somewhere,” the man got mad an attacked me. There is evidence the rise of anti-Latino hate crimes is directly related to Trump’s extreme anti-Latino rhetoric.
War-Like Language and Narcissism
Most evolutionary biologists now agree that communication isn’t as simple-or as honest-as had been thought. In fact, communication which is typically seen as a benevolent and shared effort isn’t always to convey information as accurately or truthfully as possible. Given the common occurrence of how people often do not know communication when they see it, or rather, they are often deceived and incited to violence by it, the evolutionary process of communication has been found to primarily reward behaviors that benefit whoever does the communicating, not necessarily the recipient. In short, communication may not only be indistinguishable from manipulation but in the mouth of a violent-prone narcissist it can be downright deadly.
This is what’s so alarming about a New York Times report and new study that decoded Trump’s tweets, tweet by tweet. Along with praising himself 2,026 out of 11,390 times, Trump’s tweets have spilled out at triple the rate he set in 2017. What’s more, he’s attacked someone or something in more than half of his tweets-some 630 people and things in 5,889 tweets since taking office. Above all, he’s promoted conspiracies 1,720 times, attacked minority groups 851 times, called the news media the “enemy of the people” 36 times, and was only two of the 12 Republican presidential candidates in 2016 primaries who used the “language of war” throughout the primaries and all 16 debates.
The International Journal of Communication at the University of Southern California moreover found that Trump’s focus on the language of war in his Twitter posts were characterized by competition, threats, and the elimination of others which focused on performance, style, personal attacks and his standing in the polls, and centered on “the immediate realities of winning or losing.” Something else the research found is that of the more than 22,000 tweets posted by the GOP candidates, Trump with his violent rhetoric had by far the largest following. Another concern was: “With every round of elections, more and more people were getting their information directly from the candidates through platforms like Twitter.”
War-Like Language Sells and Incites Angry Majority
The use of Twitter also gave candidates more control and agency over their message than traditional mass media or a critical third-party, helping them to amass more and more power and control over followers. As other candidates tweeted about issues and strategies or encouraged followers to show up and vote, Trump undoubtedly used the language of war more than any other candidate-which drew the most attention and support. While his tweets may have had a cynical effect on a few followers that read his messages, many appeared to revel in his war-like language and violent rhetoric. Something else the study discovered is that the two candidates which used the most war-like language were the last two in the race.
Another thing evolutionary biologists have discovered is human violence was not as common as once thought. Indeed, and after examining fifty well-studied societies, the primatologist Christopher Boehm concluded that when individuals persistently violated group norms-as by excessive bragging, bullying, cheating, lying, stealing, or murdering-a range of social sanctions were nearly always employed, including ostracism, public shaming, and so forth. Rarely, and on occasion in the event of an acknowledged murderer, such an individual might be killed. But nonviolent alternative punishments were consistently preferred and were much more common.
If this is the case, as the research suggested, Trump has turned the Age of Enlightenment and Civility on its head. Claiming at his latest rally that: “We’re kicking their ass” and “The American people are fed up with Democrat lies, hoaxes and extremism,” he declared: “The Democrats have created an angry majority that will vote many do-nothing Democrats out of office in 2020.” Together with threatening Civil War or retweeting tweets by those like Pastor Robert Jefress who warned removing the president would cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation that would never heal, the president’s war-like language must be taken seriously. So should his mention of an angry majority which is evidently ready and willing to use violence, as Villalaz found out.