Editorial:: What makes Trump’s anti-Muslim retweets different from other stupid tweets
Another day, another bizarre and irresponsible tweet by the president of the United States, another dilemma for this editorial page: Why comment on this inane exhibition when another one is sure to follow a few hours or days later? But President Trump’s retweeting early Wednesday of a series of anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right figure in Britain is worthy of comment — and condemnation — for several reasons.
First, it continues — indeed, escalates — Trump’s demonization of Muslims, which had its origins in his breathtakingly bigoted campaign proposal to impose a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” Trump’s call to exclude adherents of an entire religion has cast a lasting shadow over his presidency and his efforts to impose what he continues to call a “travel ban.”
Trump also has given aid and comfort to anti-Muslim bigots, who will feel encouraged anew by his retweeting of three videos posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the group called Britain First. Fransen’s resume includes a conviction last year for verbally abusing a Muslim woman.
By retweeting these videos, Trump has put the enormous power of his bully pulpit in service of [Britain First].
The videos are titled: “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!”; “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” and “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” — though the Dutch embassy in Washington said that “the perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands.”
Trump does indeed have a problem with fake news — the kind spewing from his Twitter feed.
Asked about the reliability of the videos, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “I’m not talking about the nature of the video. I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real, and that’s what the president is talking about.”
Violent extremists — including Islamic terrorists — do indeed pose a threat. But demagogues seek to blur the distinction between Islamic extremism and Islam generally, firing up their followers with hatred and an appeal to stereotypes.
That is true in Britain as well as the United States. As the office of British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement reacting to Trump’s retweeting of the videos: “Britain First seeks to divide communities by their use of hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people.”
By retweeting these videos, Trump has put the enormous power of his bully pulpit in service of their cause — sadly, just one of many times he has blithely uttered or repeated things far beneath the dignity of the presidency. On Twitter, Fransen exulted: “Donald Trump himself has retweeted these videos and has around 44 million followers! God bless you Trump! God Bless America!”
In a remarkable rebuke, the prime minister’s office also said: “It is wrong for the president to have done this.” This points to another problem with Trump’s impulsive decision to recycle these inflammatory videos: the unnecessary damage it has inflicted on relations with one of America’s closest allies.
The president’s itchy finger, atrocious judgment and lack of empathy have dismayed Americans — including some who voted for him — for months. But, as May’s reaction shows, the problem isn’t ours alone.
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