President Trump is no mere entertainer or buffoon, as many want to believe. Instead, he is carefully, skillfully, and consistently speaking directly to his hardline nationalist supporters in their exact language, making their tropes and memes his own. We have been insufficiently attentive to how carefully crafted and targeted Trump’s new right discourse and politics are, how they deliberately encourage and mobilize extremists, and normalize them as a crucial political constituency. We tend to say that Trump is “dog-whistling” to white nationalists and supremacists; but it is far more serious than that. President Trump is enabling extremist violence through what sociologists refer to as “scripted violence.”
Every new “humane” way of killing—the guillotine, the rope, the chair, the gurney, the gas chamber—turns out, ultimately, to be as shockingly medieval as the last. The task of finding usable veins—in this case, on a cancerous, frail, and prematurely aged body—is now revealed as merely the latest chapter in this ghoulish history. Whatever one’s position on capital punishment, Americans can surely agree that no one should be tortured to death.