As the Trump Dynasty stumbles into misrule and failure, how long before the first well-known journalist gets murdered? With the president designating the news media as “enemies of the people,” unstable personalities like pipe-bomb mailer Cesar Sayoc and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter have been shaken loose from their moorings.
Imitators will surely follow.
Not that there’s anything new about it. Soreheads have been menacing journalists since the invention of newspapers. Recently, a man in Mountain Home, Arkansas, was charged with terroristic threatening after repeated phone calls targeting CNN’s Don Lemon.
I wondered if he was the same idiot who used to call my home 20 years ago threatening rape and mayhem. At age 39, he appears too young. But more about that to come.
Two things are different about the current menacing climate: One is that left-wing cranks have gotten involved. Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s wife was recently menaced by a crowd of “anti-fascist” protestors at their home. Activists affiliated with “Smash Racism D.C.” banged on the door, chanting, “We know where you sleep at night!”
Alan Pyke, the protest’s leader, has written that “the point ... is to unsettle and frighten -- and I certainly would have been frightened had it been me in that house.”
A few days later, Carlson’s 19-year-old daughter was called vulgar names by a jerk at a Charlottesville country club seemingly affiliated with a large bottle of vodka. Carlson complains that he can hardly dine in public due to harassment. Other Trump allies, such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, have also been pestered in Washington restaurants.
The always excitable Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has encouraged people to confront Trumpists. Some would argue that Nielsen’s complicity in creating concentration camps for children should make her ashamed to appear in public. I’d be one of them. Even so, anti-Trump protestors need to think what they’re playing at. Cross the line between public and private, and others will be tempted to obliterate it altogether.
Nothing would make Trump himself happier. See, that’s the other thing: Nothing excites the president of the United States like standing behind bodyguards going, “Let’s you and him fight.”
“These people, like the Antifa -- they better hope that the opposition to Antifa decides not to mobilize,” Trump said recently. “Because if you look, the other side, it’s the military. It’s the police. It’s a lot of very strong, a lot of very tough people. Tougher than them. And smarter than them ... Potentially much more violent. And Antifa’s going to be in big trouble.”
Actually, there’s no evidence that Trump’s much more popular among active military than in the rest of the country -- not to mention that his failure to honor U.S. war dead, his using soldiers as political props, and his personal attacks on veterans like Admiral William H. McRaven are clearly eroding his support.
Forget Antifa. Trump hasn’t got the self-discipline to be a real fascist. If he tried to body-slam CNN’s Jim Acosta like that Montana congressman, the Secret Service would need a forklift to set him back on his feet. But what he does have is a cohort of white supremacists itching for a fight.
Some on far-right social media sites are all excited about what they’re calling “Civil War 2.0.” As documented by Dave Neiwert, there are various “Proud Boys” and “Patriots” living a fantasy version of Hank Williams Jr.’s “Country Boys Can Survive” almost entirely online.
“If they succeed in impeaching President Trump, then we will back President Trump,” one Georgia militiaman told reporters. “With a use of force if need be.”
Most real country boys, of course, need to stay home and feed the livestock. Even so, fantasies have a nasty way of becoming reality. That’s why mobbing Tucker Carlson’s home is such a stupid, immoral act. Picket outside Fox News headquarters or protest his public appearances. But leave his home and family out of it.
In my experience, most people who threaten you are pathetic specimens, like this week’s prize-winner: a guy who gets off on emails depicting me engaged in degrading sex acts and who offers to meet me in Chicago to settle the score. Or the Russian operatives with fake American identities who pretended to spy on me, writing “Trump should (defecate) in your traitorous mouth.”
Mostly, I just block them and let them fulminate into the cyber-void.
Cops will tell you that threatening callers are cowards who will never show up. But they also let me know that the guy who kept awakening my wife with threats of rape and murder was calling from a pay phone outside a liquor store in a nearby town. He knew my whereabouts; I knew nothing about him.
It never affected my work.
But then, I’m always surrounded by big dogs, and I keep a shotgun handy.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org.)