The defense presented today in former President Trump’s second impeachment trial just spent the past two hours inciting more violence. It was designed to make Trump happy by attacking the Democrats, making them the bad guys, and confirming that he is the victim. Therefore, both he and his supporters are right to be aggrieved. The other purpose of this defense is to further incite Trump’s supporters by going all in on victimization through these video clips and montages. Those video clips and video montages were specifically produced to be immediately transmitted through pro-Trump/MAGA and QAnon social media and on the various pro-Trump/MAGA and QAnon boards. I’m sure that if Dan Scavino, who has always been Trump’s conduit to and coordinator for the most extreme pro-Trump/MAGA supporters on social and digital media, was not involved in creating them, he was quickly given them to seed them and disseminate them throughout social and digital media.
The defense presented this afternoon is that Trump didn’t incite violence, his supporters aren’t violent, and we’ll prove it by inciting more violence. This is a defense right out of the techniques and neutralization. Shortly after the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol I produced a threat assessment for what could be expected going forward, this excerpt deals with techniques of neutralization:
This social behavioral pathway for behavior was delineated in the 1950s by Sykes and Matza and is called Techniques of Neutralization. Their intention was to clarify the social behavioral pathway that leads to delinquency, deviance, and crime. They posited that neutralization allows one to drift into crime, deviance, and delinquency. Or in the case of the 6 JAN 2021 insurrection that we are interested in: sedition, rebellion, extremism, terrorism, political violence, and possibly treason.
The techniques of neutralization are divided into five types of neutralization: 1) denial of responsibility; 2) denial of injury; 3) denial of victim; 4) condemnation of the condemners; and the 5) appeal to higher loyalties. The first three justifications all deal with denial. They allow the offender to rationalize his behavior as outside of his control. He or she is not really hurting anyone. And even if someone is hurt, they may have deserved it. The fourth justification allows the offender to invert the knowledge of her wrongdoing back upon those criticizing it by asserting that the condemners are hypocrites, do equally bad things, or are out to get the offender. Finally, the fifth rationalization allows for the justification of behavior on the basis of loyalty to one’s group rather than one’s society.
These five types of neutralization are found in every single one of President Trump’s speeches, off-the-cuff remarks at press gaggles, extemporaneous remarks at his rallies, and the formal responses he makes after he and/or his supporters do something illegal and/or violent. On Wednesday 13 JAN 2021, President Trump once again asserted that not only was there nothing wrong with his remarks at the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the violent insurrectionist attack on the Capitol, but that these remarks have all been formally reviewed and determined to be perfect and appropriate by unnamed third parties (essentially using deception and logical fallacies – appeal to authority, third party credibility and handoff – to exonerate himself and his supporters). As the attack on the Capitol was ongoing on the afternoon of 6 JAN, President Trump released a video asking his supporters to cease their attack, but also told them that the election had been stolen from him and them, thereby justifying their anger and actions.
In these remarks, you can see almost all of the five types of neutralization. President Trump has repeatedly denied responsibility. He denies there was any real injury; he has yet to issue any statement regarding the deaths that resulted from the attack including the murder of a Capitol Police officer. He denies the victims; because they are not his supporters so they do not count. He turns the condemnation of his and his supporters actions back on those making them. The classic Trumpian example of this was after Heather Heyer’s murder at the hands of a white supremacist at the pro-Trump, white supremacist, and neo-NAZI Unite the Right March in Charlottesville, VA. In both his initial attempts to make a presidential statement and his walk back of that statement, he tied himself into rhetorical and logical knots as he insisted that there were good people on both sides. Both sides being the pro-Trump white supremacists and neo-NAZIs and those that came out to counter-protest against them. And in all of his remarks he appeals to higher loyalties: the Make American Great Again movement and concept, an invocation of the Constitution, and invocations of the real America and America First. He invoked the MAGA movement and concept in his remarks in Texas on 13 JAN as an appeal to a higher loyalty.
The techniques of neutralization are where the social behavioral rubber meets the road of the social behavioral definitions that drive the extremist, white supremacist, neo-NAZI, and neo-fascist actions of the insurrectionists that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday 6 JAN 2021 in an attempt to overthrow the US Congress, prevent it from certifying the 2020 presidential election results, assassinate Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi, and overthrow the American constitutional order. Almost fifty years of purposeful, implicit, and explicit changes in the Republican and conservative definitions promoting, retarding, and neutralizing behavior have borne a bitter destructive fruit in Donald Trump’s techniques of neutralization aided and abetted by the algorithms of social media platforms. The result of that fruit’s perverse blossoming is a uniquely American insider threat composed of the Republican, Republican leading Independent, predominantly white and nominally Christian supporters of President Trump combined with yoga moms worried about the safety of vaccines or processed food or gluten.
Unfortunately, the techniques of neutralization are not limited to just President Trump and his base of supporters who have decided that if they cannot control the United States government then they will tear it apart. Before Wednesday 6 January had given way to Thursday 7 January, and since then, Republican Senators Hawley and Cruz, Republican House Minority Leader McCarthy, Republican Freedom Caucus members like Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz, and conservative news media personalities like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Brian Kilmeade, and Rush Limbaugh have all used techniques of neutralization to signal both solidarity with President Trump and his supporters and threaten Democrats and everyone else in America who is not a Trump supporter with more low intensity warfare and political violence. These statements warning Democrats not to hold President Trump responsible or accountable are not only self-serving as it seeks to move responsibility off of their own support for his factually inaccurate claims, disinformation and deception about widespread election fraud in the presidential election, the lie that he won by a landslide, and the lie that the election was stolen from him, Republicans, and his supporters, they are also classic examples of techniques of neutralization. They deny responsibility, they deny real injury, they condemn the condemners, they appeal to higher loyalties, and they contain implicit and explicit threats. They are the basic template of all domestic abusers: “if you don’t forget what happened and let it go, we can’t move on and it will happen again and then it will be your fault, again”.
All of these appeals to not hold President Trump responsible and accountable are threats against Democrats if they do. They are all couched as President Trump’s 70 million plus voters are angry, upset, outraged, and feel cheated, so if the Democrats hold President Trump accountable those angry 70 million Trump voters and supporters might just do something violent again. Explicit threats have been made to Republican members of the House and the Senate regarding their and their families’ safety if they vote to impeach or convict President Trump. A Republican member of the House from Utah, who voted against impeaching President Trump for the second time on Wednesday 13 January 2021, revealed to MNBCS that a death threat, referring to him as a traitor, had been taped to his office door at the Capitol the following day. Given the newly increased security measures at the Capitol, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic public health measures, which have further reduced who can be and is in the Capitol at any one time, the only person who could have left him the threat is another member of either the House or Senate, a member of their staffs, a member of committee staffs, a member of the Capitol Police, a member of the staff that maintains the Capitol, or someone who was escorted in by a member of the House or the Senate. This is the ultimate insider threat. And it, like the similar threats issued – including by members of Congress themselves, it is: nice Congress and Republic you got there, be a shame if something were to happen to it…
You can see this dynamic in American Conservative Union President Matt Schlapp’s tweets:
If they continue w sham impeachment and very real SDNY and NYAG investigations of Pres Trump. They will make him stronger and push him to run again in 2024 as it will be the only way to make it all stop. If they want rid of Trump stop pursuing and persecuting him.
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) February 12, 2021
You guys won. If you spend the next year w these politicized prosecutions you will rile us up unify us and lose the Congress. And for Trump if he has no legal rest he will come back hard either as a candidate or a force. My advice is leave us alone and govern. Miss you! https://t.co/YdLeW11jRo
— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) February 12, 2021
There’s a reason they went heavy into Democratic elected women, women of color, and people of color calling to fight back or resist or protest. It was to clearly show that these angry black and brown men and women are the real threat to America and the real Americans, not Trump and his supporters who are overwhelmingly white while also appealing to the 1st Amendment. They were denying injury and victim, while condemning the condemners, and appealing to a higher loyalty. This is impeachment defense by incitement and the real point of it wasn’t to give the Republican Senators a fig leaf of cover to vote to acquit, which they were going to do regardless of what was said over the past three days. The real point of it was to further threaten, terrorize, and incite to domestic terrorism, insurrection, and revolt Trump’s extremist supporters. Democratic senators and representatives, other Democratic and liberal movement leaders, as well as news media figures like Chris Cuomo and Nicole Wallace will be targeted as a result of the defense presented today. It was yet again another expression of the real Trump Doctrine: “I, Donald J. Trump, will be treated fairly…. or else!”