Editorial: Trump retweets for a reason

  • Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First, was retweeted three times by Donald Trump on Wednesday. Ben Stevens

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A few hours after Donald Trump retweeted three separate anti-Muslim videos posted by Jayda Fransen, her Twitter following had grown by several thousand people. By mid-morning on Wednesday, Fransen had already bragged more than a dozen times about her new fan – the leader of a nation founded on the principle of religious freedom.

One of her tweets read: “The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has retweeted three of deputy leader Jayda Fransen’s Twitter videos! Donald Trump himself has retweeted these videos and has around 44 million followers! God bless you Trump! God bless America! OCS” (which stands for “Onward Christian Soldier”).

Fransen, a 31-year-old unabashed racist who was found guilty last year of verbally abusing a Muslim woman in front of her four children during a “Christian patrol,” is deputy leader of the ultranationalist Britain First party. The three videos she posted that Trump retweeted were titled, “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” “Muslim destroys statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” One of the videos – the one involving a “Dutch boy on crutches” – is not what Fransen claims it is. The New York Times reported that the “Muslim migrant” was actually a teenager born in the Netherlands. The other two videos, the Times said, “showed incidents in Syria and Egypt in 2013 without any explanation of the context of the political unrest then taking place in those countries.”

If you’re wondering whether Trump considers his retweets to be endorsements, he answered that very question two years ago in Iowa: “Well I do retweets, and I mean, to a certain extent, I do, yeah. I think that’s right. Do you want me to say no? You know, I retweet, I retweet for a reason.”

So by Trump’s own admission, when he retweets the since-suspended @WhiteGenocideTM account, or a quote from Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini, or any number of baseless conspiracy theories, he does so for a reason. He does so because he’s playing hero to a substantial piece of his base, the proud “deplorables” who use hatred and fear to shape the narrative of a white Christian world under siege. To Trump it’s all a game – and it’s anybody’s guess how much his own views align with the white supremacists he has elevated. But it’s no game on the ground in America or Europe, where emboldened racists are rising up and lashing out. Before Trump retweeted Fransen, she had about 52,000 followers. A few hours later, the number topped 65,000. Who knows what it will be by the time you read this, but it will grow and grow. Again, Trump retweets for a reason.

As troubling as we find the pro-Trump people who wear the word “deplorable” as a badge of honor – and enjoy a good anti-Muslim video on Twitter – we are just as disturbed by the silent supporters who consider him personally reprehensible but a godsend when it comes to padding their bank accounts. While the president oozes mendacity and malice – and in the process makes the world a more dangerous place for everybody – their focus stays on the economic and environmental policies that will make them wealthier.

In Trump’s America, a spoonful of deregulation helps the racism go down.