President Trump’s attack on the city of Baltimore last weekend, calling it a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live,” hit closer to home than any of his recent attacks on people of color and those who welcome America as a multi-ethnic country. His related attacks on the Baltimore area’s venerable Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) just deepened the wound.
We have no problem with a president sparring with political opponents on important matters of policy. It’s what politicians do and if the intent is, in Lincoln’s words, “a more perfect union,” or in Jewish parlance, “for the sake of heaven,” so be it.
But choice of words matter. So does common courtesy. Trump’s “I know you are but what am I” name-calling of Cummings as a racist is ugly. It is divisive. And it cheapens all of us. It would be quite another thing if Trump took on Cummings on policy and let the public decide which approach it prefers. Or if he looked at Baltimore’s longstanding problems of poverty and racism and followed through with his campaign promise of delivering an infrastructure initiative that would help the city physically and economically, as Baltimore City Council President Brendan Scott suggested this week.
Instead, he tweets the thoughts of those who have been banned from that social media platform and are looking for new homes for their white supremacism and hate speech. One possible home may be a new social-media hub called Thinkspot, which will be launched this month. As the Forward reported, Thinkspot’s founder, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, describes it as an “anti-censorship platform.”
That has many wondering if the alt-right and neo-Nazi types who have been banned from the more popular platforms will rush to the new site. “The people who come to these platforms are those who have been largely suspended or unable to use traditional social media,” Jared Holt, an investigative reporter for Right Wing Watch, told the Forward.
Some infamous, banned alt-right writers, interviewed by the Forward, fully expect to be banned again from Thinkspot. “I will sign up for Jordan Peterson’s thing of course, and will be banned for some inane reason,” said neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin. “But it will be necessary to sign up and be banned to prove the point.”
Trump has the power of the bully pulpit (which had a different meaning when President Theodore Roosevelt coined it). But he is feeding the sea of alt-right extremists and starving the rest of us of air.