Is Sen. Feinstein right to suggest Trump's tweets incite violence?
- Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior senator, has been in the Senate since 1992. She is a known advocate for the environment, worked on the creation of the AMBER alert system, and wrote one of the first cybersecurity laws. In 2017, she became the first woman Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- President Trump has been known for his notorious use of Twitter, where he not only “promotes his policies but also criticizes his opponents.” Twitter has labeled many of Trump’s tweets as misinformation, some relating to coronavirus and the presidential election.
- Sen. Feinstein criticized Trump’s tweets regarding the election to be a source of violence in Pennsylvania, saying, “I’m really struck by... people armed with assault weapons as a product of a tweet could rally outside an election office… It’s really a serious issue that needs to be considered.”
- According to the FBI, there were 7,314 criminal incidents and 8,559 bias-related offenses in 2019. The increase amounted to 3% from the previous year, but it was also the “third consecutive year with more than 7,000 crimes reported.”
- As of September 28, the Department of Justice released a report showing the overall 1% decline in violent crimes for the third consecutive year. However, the number of “shootings and killings” have risen in the last year.
President Trump's Twitter etiquette has been admittedly questionable at times; however, he should not be blamed for recent events. Senator Feinstein's remarks about his tweets inciting violence were quickly and rightfully met with criticism. While Trump preemptively claimed victory over the election via tweet when it was still undetermined, he did not promote any protest or unrest.
Feinstein referenced the Philadelphia incident involving two men arrested near a ballot counting location for not having necessary firearm permits. Although it was considered suspicious, it occurred two days before the tweet in question anyway.
The following weekend, Trump supporters gathered for the Million MAGA March in Washington D.C. in an act of patriotism and concern for the election outcome. The rally was reportedly peaceful throughout the day, consisting of 'several thousand Trump supporters.' Yet, by evening, the same crowd experienced violence from counter-protestors from leftist groups, Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Its members harassed Trump supporters, including 'elderly and families,' by throwing water and eggs at them; they burned flags and MAGA hats and engaged in fighting, which led to 'at least 20 arrests' and a stabbing.
Given this, democrats such as Feinstein have a civil responsibility to address their own supporters who were ultimately responsible for the violence, as President Trump was certainly not. Still, that did not stop her from implying that Twitter perhaps ought to do more to censor the president than just provide a fact-checking 'warning label.'
Senator Lee was bold in dismissing Feinstein's ridiculous 'concern,' pointing out 'Antifa's response to peaceful pro-Trump rally attenders' being the only perceivable violence, a fact that many media outlets have conveniently ignored.
Statements from President Trump, such as 'when the looting starts, the shooting starts,' and his choice to address protesters as 'thugs' have only created division and fueled hate in America. Senator Feinstein is right to question such communication. Data from the FBI shows a spike in racially-motivated violence since Trump took office--and these violent patterns are closely correlated with counties that the president won by a large majority. Further, a study done by the Anti-Defamation League found that counties that held pro-Trump rallies experienced a doubling of hate crimes after the events, compared to counties that did not hold Trump rallies and which experienced no change in racial violence. A 2017 study found that individuals exposed to President Trump's racially-tinged tweets later responded more negatively to immigrant survey questions than participants who read other political figures' messages. All of these studies point to the president's language inciting violence in America.
Further, there have been many specific examples of individuals committing violence while expressing support for President Trump or citing Trump to justify violent acts. Many of these individuals exhibited such behavior at Trump events or while wearing Trump-branded gear. Some of these individuals include Eric Lin, Dallas Frazier, and Cesar Sayoc, among others.
On October 30th, US District Judge Michael W. Mosman found that the president's tweets helped incite violence during the racially-charged demonstrations in Portland, Oregon. Twitter has placed warnings on the president's tweets as well, saying that they glorify violence. These examples show that Senator Feinstein is not alone in believing that President Trump's tweets incite violence.