It never helps to dismiss apparently ridiculous statements from the Trump Administration. As this blog has previously asserted, they are not as ridiculous as they seem. Donald Trump made what appeared to be a hilarious gaffe during his campaign-style rally in Melbourne, Florida on Saturday. While discussing the difficulties faced by some European countries due to their acceptance of significant number of refugees, Trump implied that there was a refugee-related terrorist incident on Friday, February 17 in Sweden. There wasn’t. However, that does not matter. As hilarious as this statement may have seemed to Trump’s detractors, his supporters now believe that the media, which Trump is trying to discredit, is concealing a terrorist attack in Sweden. I would suggest to you that, like the Bowling Green Massacre, this lie, whether it was a mistake or not, contributes to the Trump Administration’s use of Muslims as a Scapegoat to unify his supporters and conceal his incompetence and ignorance of how government works.
The Courts have revealed that Trump can’t deliver
Trump’s scapegoating of Muslims is nothing new. He famously called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. He called for a national registry of Muslims in the United States, including Muslim Americans. It spoke to the not insubstantial percentage of Americans who genuinely fear terrorism from abroad. However, Trump’s plans to unify the country against the threat of “Radical Islamic Terrorism” have been stymied by the Federal Judiciary. The Executive Order on Immigration banning entry to the US for citizens of 7 Muslim nations didn’t work for anyone. For Americans who value constitutional rights, the rollout was a disaster and the Order was, at best, overbroad. For Trump’s supporters, it failed to fulfill a campaign promise to exclude foreign Muslims from the US.
When in doubt, point the finger!
Trump’s, and his lieutenants’, instinct to point the finger when things don’t go their way is pretty consistent with the behavior of Dictators past and present. As this blog has stated elsewhere, active use of scapegoating tends to be inversely proportional to a would-be autocrat’s success. In other words, if he’s delivering on his policies, no scapegoats are necessary! If he’s not, he’s got to direct the public’s attention elsewhere. Let’s look at an example:
Good old gestating Dictator Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela came up against this very problem last year. Oil prices were tanking. Inflation was soaring. Homicides were up. No one was happy with him. What is an autocrat to do? Well, Maduro discovered that three border agents had been ambushed by two men on a motorcycle. Within hours, this incident, which was not organized and didn’t kill anyone, had become a paramilitary attack, justifying a crackdown on Columbian “smugglers and drug dealers” throughout Venezuela. Of course this crackdown turned into the mass persecution of ordinary Columbians resident in the country, but that is not the point of this article. The point is that Maduro did it in order to refocus public attention on an unpopular scapegoat in order to distract them from his failures as a leader.
Trump is playing the same game
Trump’s fictional Swedish refugee terrorist is the third fake terrorist the Trump Administration has invented in a single month. First, Kellyanne Conway gave us the Bowling Green Massacre. Then Sean Spicer told us there was a terror attack in Atlanta. Now we hear there was a refugee related terror attack in Sweden! These could all be misstatements, as the White House says. I just don’t think it’s likely that all of them are. Lies this big tend to have a target. Is it more plausible that Trump and his lieutenants are repeatedly misstating the nature or location of terror attacks, or is it more likely they have discovered that these lies are politically advantageous for them? We already knew that the majority of Trump supporters believe the Bowling Green Massacre actually happened. Now we know they believe an attack happened in Sweden. The only real question is, exactly what political purpose does this serve? The answer is, they help the Trump Administration scapegoat Muslims in order to misdirect the public, and it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book.