Politics Analysis

America’s political killings surge as Trump’s hate speech intensifies

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

Data for 2023 shows gun violence increasing as former president Donald Trump campaigns for the top job again. Alan Austin reports.

JUST OVER two weeks ago, on New Year’s Eve, 14-year-old Zykere Langley died from a bullet fired into his chest at close range in Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

This young boy’s death took the total of American children shot in 2023 to 6,193 — an all-time record. He was killed by another 14-year-old.

Tragically, Donald Trump’s continuing violent rhetoric, with the enthusiastic support of Fox News and other Murdoch media outlets, made 2023 one of the worst years on record for political violence and gun deaths.

We do not know yet whether Zykere was a victim of politically-charged hatred. Police say it was a targeted shooting following an altercation on social media. So there is a fair chance. We will find out when the coroner eventually reports.

We do know Trump has ramped up calls for physical violence in recent months, labelling people he despises “vermin” — who, of course, must be exterminated. He has nicknamed prosecutor Fani Willis “Phony Fani”, called the New York judge hearing his business fraud case a “psycho” and characterised special counsel Jack Smith as “deranged”.

Trump routinely refers to President Joe Biden as “Crooked Joe” who is “a communist, fascist and a tyrant”. He recently posted on Truth Social that the persecution he’d experienced from the ‘Biden Crime Family’ was ‘reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s’.

Violent rhetoric leads to violent acts

Thousands of Trump supporters were convicted last year of malicious hate crimes. These include the MAGA fanatic who broke into the home of former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and smashed the skull of her husband, Paul Pelosi, with a hammer.

More than 1,230 defendants have now been charged with offences committed on 6 January 2021 when Trump urged his followers to storm the Washington Capitol. Of those, 843 have pleaded or been found guilty, 726 have been sentenced, 573 to imprisonment. The others are still pending.

Proof that Donald Trump instigated the violent insurrection comes from multiple judicial inquiries, including:

  • the judgment by Colorado District Court Judge Sarah B Wallace in November excluding Trump from next year’s presidential primary ballot;
  • the Colorado Supreme Court’s December decision confirming Trump’s exclusion;
  • the finding by the Maine administrative hearing on 29 December that Trump is excluded from future elections,
  • the guilty pleas and trial decisions of the 726 January 6th insurrectionists now sentenced;
  • the testimony of multiple witnesses, almost all Republicans, in the 2021 impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives; and
  • the sworn testimonies in court filings in upcoming criminal trials relating to election interference in Georgia, Washington DC and New York.

Gun violence overall

The last year was extremely disappointing for gun control activists. Personal violence incidents had been steadily declining over recent decades, then accelerated suddenly when Donald Trump entered the presidential race in 2015.

The agreement between candidate Trump and Fox News gifted the television network exclusive access to Trump’s incendiary rants and racist hate speech, and gave Trump in return a vast national audience of largely low-IQ television addicts highly susceptible to a con artist’s plausible pitch.

The sudden surge in stabbings, bashings and shootings happened only in the USA, as the data from the World Bank, discussed here last May, emphatically shows. See white and green chart, below.

(Data source: World Bank)

Most categories of violence peaked in the U.S. in 2021. These included physical assaults, homicides, firearm injuries, children from 0-11 killed or injured, mass shootings, police shot on duty and suspects shot by police. (Data is from Gun Violence Archive, with some earlier figures drawn from Statista.)

In 2022, Trump’s social media and cable TV presence declined substantially. Violence subsided that year, which reformists hoped signalled a return to the earlier long-term trend of reducing hate crimes.

This was not to be. In 2023, Trump scheduled regular live rallies, resumed incessant social media posts and gained more TV coverage, causing the violence to escalate again.

Children aged 0 to 17 shot surged to a new all-time high of 6,193 last year. See yellow chart, below.

(Data source: Gun Violence Archive)

By way of global comparison, that number – 6,193 – is zero in most other developed countries most years.

Other categories that increased last year included mass shootings, police shot on duty, suspects killed by police and schoolteachers shot at work.

Signs of hope

Some measures did improve through 2023. These include gun suicides, firearm injuries, accidental gun deaths, school shootings and total firearm homicides.

This last metric increased in a straight line for the first three years of the Trump/Fox News pact, plateaued for two years and then surged in 2020 and 2021 as the Trumpists fomented nationwide anger via the false stolen election claims. Homicides peaked in 2021 at 21,068 and look like they are gradually reducing again. See green graph, below.

(Data source: Gun Violence Archive, Statista)

The movement to tighten gun laws and limit the ridiculously easy access to handguns and assault rifles is advancing. Two things are needed for it to break through — tighter gun laws and Donald Trump’s removal.

The current U.S. Supreme Court has a poor record on gun laws. It will decide later this month whether or not Trump remains on presidential ballots when it hears appeals against the Colorado and Maine decisions mentioned earlier.

Whatever it decides will be too late for schoolboy Zykere Langley and the other 6,000 children shot last year. And for their grieving families. Let’s hope the court makes the right call so that number is never seen again.

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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