Shoppers are evacuated from Walmart in El paso, Texas. Picture:
Shoppers are evacuated from Walmart in El paso, Texas. Picture:

One chilling word in killer’s manifesto

COMMENT

Minutes before he opened fire and murdered 22 people, accused El Paso terrorist Patrick Wood Crusius posted his twisted, racist manifesto online.

Media reports have refrained from describing the document in detail, for obvious reasons. I'm certainly not going to repeat its unhinged arguments here.

Suffice to say they all originate from one core premise - the idea that the United States is being "invaded" by immigrants.

That word, or some variation of it, appears with striking regularity throughout the manifesto. Crusius rants about a supposed "Hispanic invasion of Texas". He repeatedly describes immigrants as "invaders" who need to be repelled.

Why single out that particular choice of words?

Because we have heard it countless times before, not only on the fringes of the immigration debate but from people who should know better.

Mexicans approaching the southern American border; refugees crossing the Mediterranean into Europe; asylum seekers trying to reach Australia - all of these situations have, at some point, been described as invasions.

We now know just how dangerous that language can be, and too many people are still refusing to acknowledge it.

RELATED: Racist gunmen driven by same evil mission

Which brings us to US President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump dished out plenty of blame when he addressed the El Paso attack in a speech to the American people overnight.

He blasted the media for "contributing greatly to the anger and rage" in society. He condemned the "glorification of violence" in modern culture. He lingered on the effect "gruesome and grisly" video games allegedly have on young people.

"This is also a mental illness problem. These are people that are very, very seriously mentally ill," Mr Trump said.

Some of his points are debatable - Japan has virtually no gun violence, for example, despite being uniquely obsessed with video games - but put them aside.

Two things were conspicuously missing from the speech.

There was no serious mention of reforming America's gun laws. And not the slightest sign that Mr Trump had reflected on his own rhetoric.

Let's review some of that rhetoric now.

From the moment he announced his run for the presidency, infamously referring to Mexicans as criminals, drug dealers and rapists, Mr Trump has used increasingly reckless language to describe undocumented immigrants.

That culminated during the build-up to last year's midterm elections, as he enthusiastically stoked fears about a migrant caravan that was moving towards America's southern border.

"Large, well-organised caravans of migrants are marching towards our southern border. Some people call it an invasion. It's like an invasion," he said, warning he would "consider" shooting migrants if they threw rocks at the border.

"We're stopping people at the border. This is an invasion."

Some reporters pushed back on his use of the word invasion. The President doubled down.

"That's an invasion. I don't care what they say. I don't care what the fake media says. That's an invasion of our country," he told one rally of supporters.

Shortly after the midterms, Mr Trump held a press conference at the White House. It was remembered for his spat with CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who he described as a "rude, terrible person".

Lost amid that particular controversy was the President's continued insistence there was an "invasion" at the southern border.

And this year, as recently as May, Mr Trump's re-election campaign was paying to distribute thousands of ads on Facebook telling Americans they needed to "stop the invasion" to maintain a "safe country".

Donald Trump ran ads describing the situation at the border as an “invasion”. Picture: Facebook
Donald Trump ran ads describing the situation at the border as an “invasion”. Picture: Facebook

Mr Trump was not alone in his use of the word. Not even close. Parts of the American media have repeated and defended his rhetoric for years, warning their readers and viewers they would be "replaced" by the "invading" migrants.

Now 22 people are dead at the hands of a gunman who was explicitly targeting immigrants, calling them invaders.

Are we supposed to just ignore the parallels?

Mr Trump seems to think so. He is blaming everyone and everything but himself.

The President did, at least, directly condemn white supremacy and bigotry in his speech overnight.

"The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online consumed by racist hate," he said.

"In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul."

That's all great. It's also abstract. It removes Mr Trump himself from the process, painting him as a bystander when he has been rather actively stoking America's divisions these past few years.

Should the President be more careful with his rhetoric? Should he, specifically, do more to discourage racial tensions?

The standard response of his supporters is to scoff at those questions, say something about fake news and deflect to another issue.

In the aftermath of the El Paso attack, they have focused on the gunman's obviously disturbed mental state as though that absolves Mr Trump of any responsibility.

"They are sick, sick people and the President knows that," said his chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

"I don't think it's fair to try and lay this at the feet of the President."

Of course the sort of person who would carry out a mass shooting is sick. That's kind of the point.

If there are unstable, potentially violent people out there, it is not unreasonable to ask whether someone in Mr Trump's position should avoid using language that could embolden them.

An ABC News investigation late last year found 16 criminal cases in which alleged perpetrators had echoed Mr Trump's rhetoric. The accused people were mostly white men, and their victims were mostly from minority groups.

ABC News tried to find similar cases linked to Mr Trump's immediate predecessors, two-term presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. There were none.

When asked to respond, the White House said Mr Trump was "committed to doing everything" in his power to discourage political violence.

Right now, we would all settle for one small, simple step - stop calling immigrants invaders. How hard is that?

 

Another of the ads. Picture: Facebook
Another of the ads. Picture: Facebook
The ads linked migration to public safety. Picture: Facebook
The ads linked migration to public safety. Picture: Facebook

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