SEVERE WX : Frost Advisory View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Mail bombs: Hate speech can have consequences

Anyone who wonders about the link between hateful threats and actual violence was given something serious ...

Posted: Oct 25, 2018 9:58 AM
Updated: Oct 25, 2018 9:58 AM

Anyone who wonders about the link between hateful threats and actual violence was given something serious and grave to think about this week. Authorities found several pipe bombs delivered to people and organizations that for years have been on the receiving end of a flood of right-wing hate speech.

First it was billionaire philanthropist George Soros: A pipe bomb was found on Monday in his mailbox in Westchester County, New York. On Wednesday, bombs were mailed to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, former attorney general Eric Holder, and CNN's offices in Manhattan. The CNN bomb was addressed to Obama administration CIA Director John Brennan. (Only the one directed at Soros, who as a private citizen does not have Secret Service protection, arrived at its destination; the others were intercepted by law enforcement).

Bomb threats

Bombings

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal offenses

Discrimination

Societal issues

Society

Unrest, conflicts and war

2018 Political package bombs

Bombs and explosive devices

Business figures

Conservatism

Domestic terrorism

Donald Trump

George Soros

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Hillary Clinton

International relations and national security

John Brennan

National security

Political Figures - US

Terrorism

Terrorism and counter-terrorism

US federal government

Weapons and arms

White House

We don't know who did this, though authorities suspect all the devices were made by the same person or group. It's a sad commentary on our times that the motivations could be multiple. Sowing or threatening violence in many places over a short space of time is a classic tactic of terrorists, and others who wish to destabilize society -- for example, ahead of an important political event.

The midterm elections, coming up in less than two weeks, fit this bill. Republican Party efforts at voter suppression have made for a tense climate that President Donald Trump has worsened by insinuating that Democrats, whom he calls an "angry, leftist mob," may commit voter fraud.

The charge recalls the starring role of hate speech -- and repeated allusions to violence -- that have characterized Trump as a candidate and President. Who can forget Trump, in 2016, pretending to pull a trigger as he "joked" about "Second Amendment people" acting against Clinton, or elected Republican officials like Oklahoma State Rep. John Bennett and New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro calling for her execution?

Just a few days ago the President mimicked, admiringly, Montana Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte's 2017 body-slamming of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. "That's my kind of guy," exulted Trump, who last December retweeted a meme of himself with a bloodied CNN logo on the bottom of his shoe and, earlier, a video of him wrestling to the ground a man with a CNN logo for a head. If we go back further to his days on the campaign trail, when Trump offered to pay legal fees for anyone arrested for roughing up protesters, and early in his presidency, when he cautioned law enforcement officers against "being too nice" to suspects, a consistent theme of encouraging violence emerges.

On Wednesday, Trump emphasized that "threats or acts of political violence" have no place in America and said that "in these times, we need to unify." That's true. But it's also true that with hate-chants against CNN a standard feature of Trump rallies, it would be hard for the President to make his apparent feelings about CNN deserving some kind of punishment any clearer.

As constitutional lawyer Laurence Tribe tweeted, every recipient of the bombs "has been a target of Trump's vicious comments at his raucous rallies. He didn't light the fire, of course, and he's condemning it, but he brought the kindling and the matches."

And in fact, we can't attribute any direct responsibility for the bombings to Trump: His White House, through press secretary Sarah Sanders, condemned the "terrorizing acts," and Trump stated that he "fully agrees" with Vice President Mike Pence's denunciation, via tweet, of the bombings as "cowardly actions."

Yet the inclusion of Soros among the bomber's targets appears to indicate that this attempt at violence is meant to at least appear to connect to a larger right-wing crusade against "globalists" -- long a code word for Jews like Soros -- which Trump has embraced. It's hard to find a figure more demonized by the global right than Soros, an investor, philanthropist and Democratic funder who has devoted much of his fortune and time to defending democracy in Europe.

Soros' placement on an apparently equal footing with Obama and Clinton as a target of these bombings may not give us a direct diagnosis of motivation for these threatening acts -- again, we don't know why they happened -- but it does remind us that the global right has a foothold in our own country, thanks to elected officials like Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who have become propagandists for foreign right-wing "anti-globalists" like Vladimir Putin.

Authoritarians know that unrest and fright bring a desire for order, and they are always ready to step in, sometimes with special government measures, to "calm things down."

That is another reason to hope that the bomber (or bombers) is brought to justice and the more reasonable elements within the GOP take a second look at the real-life consequences of the hate speech that has overtaken their party. On this issue, breaking with Trump would truly be a civic duty, and one that might save American lives and democracy in the future.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2075539

Reported Deaths: 52770
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings27622810275
Queens2732379808
Suffolk1989063374
Nassau1818043159
Bronx1806976514
New York1363994432
Westchester1285842264
Erie878771773
Richmond737331800
Monroe659361063
Orange47706810
Rockland46564955
Onondaga37769670
Dutchess29064442
Albany24349350
Oneida22143505
Niagara19556356
Broome18258356
Saratoga15014166
Ulster13705251
Schenectady12924197
Rensselaer11049140
Putnam1052191
Chautauqua8749140
Chemung7486135
Oswego738190
Ontario726792
Steuben6710143
Sullivan651772
St. Lawrence645396
Cayuga615592
Jefferson584766
Wayne560267
Cattaraugus552687
Genesee5319123
Herkimer5077107
Clinton476933
Madison444088
Fulton431191
Livingston430758
Tompkins421451
Montgomery4178122
Columbia3974101
Cortland371060
Tioga365161
Warren356357
Wyoming347052
Allegany338684
Chenango337676
Otsego337647
Greene333475
Washington305555
Orleans303183
Lewis265534
Franklin251012
Delaware230137
Seneca197156
Schoharie164816
Essex157026
Yates116426
Schuyler102614
Hamilton3052
Unassigned13258
Out of NY0234
Utica
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 36°
Oneonta
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 31°
Herkimer
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 36°
Old Forge
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 36°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Looking for work or looking to hire? Check out the WKTV Job Fair!
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve