Mr. Trump: Hate Speech Escalates Violence

I spent years teaching nonviolence to teachers, church congregations, incarcerated people, and others. Most knew very little about the long and powerful history of nonviolence.

Nonviolence doesn’t mean living without anger or conflict. Strong emotions like anger can be a positive catalyst for change; fueling us to become more aware, to take action, or to seek help. Conflict is an inevitable part of human interaction. Dealing with conflict constructively, creatively, and with mutual regard allows conflict to serve a useful purpose.

alt to vio

Here’s a comparison of violent versus nonviolent responses, developed by the late John Looney, founder of the Peace Grows course, Alternatives to Violence.

What’s the first nonviolence principle we should know? De-escalation. A major characteristic of violence, verbal as well as physical, is that it tends to escalate.  It is most easily reversed at the beginning and becomes progressively more difficult to stop as it spirals into more intense violence.

Those who study the effects of intervention in violent situations have found when others object or actively intervene, their efforts tend to slow or stop the violence.  Dr. Ervin Staub, who survived under Nazi rule, reports in The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence, that the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the Nazis in Germany began their campaigns of genocide with small persecutions which citizens allowed to continue.  He reports that action by “bystanders” (those who are not victim or perpetrator) empowers the victim and diminishes the power of the aggressor. But ignoring the suffering of others allows the violence to escalate.

Mass violence tends to start with hate speech. Large-scale atrocities like the Armenian massacre, the Holocaust, the Bosnian war, and the Rwandan genocide can be traced back to hate speech.

Broadly defined, hate speech is any speech, gesture, or conduct which may incite violence or prejudicial action against an individual or group on the basis of ethnic origin, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, or disability.

Hate speech inflames and escalates violence. It’s often stirred up by those who seek to hide their own power-seeking machinations. They use it to distract and create conflict between the very groups most likely to suffer from their actions.

Hate speech must be stopped. If not, it escalates, causing increasing repression and violence — sometimes to horrific levels. And yet we’re living at a time in history when hate speech attracts media attention and political adulation. It may seem incomprehensible, but it’s happening. Yes, I’m referring to Mr. Trump’s utterances. Here’s a sample.

Slurs and dangerous accusations against people based on ethnic origin.



Slurs and prejudicial actions based on religion.


Violent and demeaning untruths based on religion.

To which the Council on American-Islamic Relations responded, saying Mr. Trump’s “rhetoric has crossed the line from spreading hatred to inciting violence… By directly stating that the only way to stop terrorism is to murder Muslims in graphic and religiously-offensive ways, he places the millions of innocent, law-abiding citizens in the American Muslim community at risk from rogue vigilantes. He further implies that our nation should adopt a strategy of systematized violence in its engagement with the global Muslim community, a chilling message from a potential leader. We pray that no one who hears this message follows his gospel of hate.”


Advocating gross violations of the Geneva Conventions. “…and if it [torture] doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway for what they do to us”.


Advocating even more gross violations of the Geneva Conventions. 



Advocating and applauding violence against protesters.

Mr. Trump fondly reminisces about the days when protesters were viciously beaten, saying, “people like that would be carried out on a stretcher.”

When an African-American protester from Black Lives Matter was punched and possibly choked, Mr. Trump later said in an interview, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”

Some Trump supporters are inspired to commit hate crimes based on Mr. Trump’s views. For example, Boston brothers Scott and Steve Leader were charged for beating a homeless Mexican man, punching as well as hitting him with a metal pole. One of the men justified the assault, telling police, “Donald Trump was right — all these illegals need to be deported.”  When asked for his reaction, Trump said,

“I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate. I will say that, and everybody here has reported it.” Donald Trump

At a North Carolina rally, Trump supporter John McGraw punched a protester in the face. Mr. McGraw later said in an interview,  “Next time we see him, we might have to kill him.” and “We don’t know who he is,” he said. “He might be with a terrorist organization.”


Spitting, punching, elbowing, shoving, name-calling, and death threats have become increasingly common at Trump rallies with particularly ugly vehemence directed at African-Americans. Rally-goers have threatened reporters, flashed Hitler salutes, and screamed “light the motherfu**** up.”

According to the World Policy Institute, it can get worse. Much worse. “The power and influence of the figure addressing the speech to a particular audience, along with the contextual factors of that speaker and that audience (i.e. creating false scenarios of self-defense, in which the targeted group are accused of undue murderous acts), are substantial factors in distinguishing hate speech from incitement to genocide.

Remember, the principle of de-escalation. When bystanders (those who are not victim or perpetrator) don’t intervene, hate speech and its consequences escalate.

We’re all bystanders.

Get involved. Speak up. Vote. Protest. Don’t let this happen.

[Update, September 2020.  “Since the beginning of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, domestic terrorism has more than doubled in the United States. During the Obama administration’s two terms, the U.S. averaged 26.6 incidents of domestic terrorism per year, according to the Global Terrorism Database. The most active year, by far, was 2016, which saw 67 attacks, more than double Obama’s overall average. During the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency, 2017 and 2018 – the latest year for which data are available – domestic terror activity stayed that high, with 66 and 67 attacks, respectively.”    Reported by in The Conversation.]

31 thoughts on “Mr. Trump: Hate Speech Escalates Violence

  1. Such a shameful episode in our history. Not just because of Trump. But more startling, because of all the people that follow him. It is a frightening time. More frightening when we realize that things like this are happening all over the world: France, Germany, Italy, Israel. I think something has happened to us all. Exacerbated, rather than mediated by our media. I think we have grown too separate, too far away from each other, too isolated.

    All of which is to say, thank you Laura, for another provocative post. I wish we were talking about fun here. And play. And the good stuff in the world and in each other’s hearts. For me, the best I can do is remind people, and, of course, myself, about all that goodness that’s so close to our center. Maybe we can derive enough strength from that understanding so we don’t fall victim to people who want us to victimize each other.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think, my friend, that this does have to do with playfulness or at least with how far removed people have become from it. In play there’s spontaneity, connection, and truth right there tickling us to see beyond limitations. We need more play, more time in nature, more snuggling, more radical silliness!

      Standing up against intolerance and violence is the good stuff, especially when we can do so from a place of love, real love for our fellow humans and our dear planet. Play on sir!


  2. Thank you so much for writing this. I can’t help feeling like these people are bought and paid for to create this havoc. It’s hard to believe there are any who would follow this perspective as a potential solution. It’s so hard to watch. Our prayers are among the most important things we can offer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As someone outside the US, I sit in terror when I watch that hateful man open his mouth. How on earth is any government he forms going to conduct its foreign policy? In a country that is such a melting pot of race and belief, how does he reconcile his bigotry with freedom of speech and religion? Or perhaps he doesn’t bother with the Constitution… From the outside it appears that his political platform is “I am rich, I am American, I am white, I can say and do as I like”. It does not bode well for the rest of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Believe me, many of us in the USA, surely the majority, also take in his utterances in terror. My Republican friends are horrified. LIght a candle for us, pray for us, bury a picture of Trump for us. We need the help!


        • I cannot imagine how he has a following. The demographic supporting him is unemployed/underemployed, little hope of increasing economic status —- pretty much my demographic. I don’t have access to commercial television nor do I read celebrity publications, maybe people are swayed by his ability to get publicity for anything he says. There’s a long history of the elite inciting violence between low-power groups as a way of covering their own machinations. (Robber barons are a thing in many cultures.) I remain confused. I’m also horrified, because Germans assured themselves that in the land of Goethe, Kant, Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Bach, Hesse, and other luminaries that so hateful and small-minded person as Hitler couldn’t possibly succeed. And yet he did.


          • I hope some reporter out there is digging through Mr Trump’s past to find something sufficiently rotten to make him ineligible, or at least less attractive as a proposition for his disenfranchised fan base… A man who lives by media publicity should expect to perish by it too…

            Liked by 2 people

      • I worked for an American company in the US for many years (leased a tractor-trailer to them) and believe me when I say the vast majority of Americans are thoughtful, caring, smart folks who will make the right choices. I traveled coast to coast and there is no shortage of intelligence and common sense. I’ll tell you what looks bad though – the crack=pots are inevitably the loudest. For instance the recent election in France is a perfect example. The anti-immigration far right conservatives were roaring about closing borders and had the anti-immigrant groups excited that they would get elected. In the end though, when all was said and done, the sane quiet people voted and elected the centrist parties that were very sensible in their policies. I expect the same will happen in the States – it isn’t the loud and abusive minority that control the election, but rather the quiet.majority.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. As a Canadian I have always wondered about Free Speech. We do not give it such a place of honor in our society. You can still say what you want but it cannot promote hate against any identifiable group, nor can you use speech to incite violence. Trump would have been arrested in Canada for promoting hatred. I have never understood why Americans protect the promotion of hatred and inciting violence under the guise of free speech.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brava!


    On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 11:30 AM, Laura Grace Weldon wrote:

    > Laura Grace Weldon posted: “I spent years teaching nonviolence to > teachers, church congregations, incarcerated people, and others. Most knew > very little about the long and powerful history of nonviolence. Nonviolence > doesn’t mean living without anger or conflict. Strong emotions ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As a non-American, I have been watching all of this with horror and a sense of surreality. Trump is bad, but he’s just one crazy abusive guy with a big voice. It’s the fact that so many Americans are voting for him – that is the most terrifying thing to me, because Trump will eventually slither back into the woodwork, but that mindset of violence, hatred, contempt, and selfishness, will carry on in America. Let’s not pretend it hasn’t actually been there for many years, Trump has simply given it a voice. I’m pretty sure that he’d be arrested here for inciting violence.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not American (I’m Irish) and I understand that there is some disillusionment with Barak Obama’s presidency. (I suspect he’ll have the freedom to do more good as an ex-president). But I will never forget the hope that surrounded his election. I remember sitting in my office in the UK, watching the 2008 election results pour in, moved to tears because of the palpable hope, not just for America, but for the whole world. Where has that hope gone? The spectre of Trump fills me with terror. My American friends are horrified, and those Americans I have met here in Europe in recent months are worried about the impact of his hate filled vitriol on the safety of Americans overseas. Bring back hope.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I’m watching all this with horror as a Brit living in the Netherlands. You can say what you like but inciting hate and racism and putting it under the umbrella of free speech is unreal. Geert Wilders, a far right Dutch politician is currently in court here for inciting hate and racism and he has spoken far less shocking things that Trump. Wilders has tried to claim his right to free speech too. No one has the right to use a platform to spout the things that are currently coming out of Trump’s mouth. More shocking is the support he has. Internationally we are not sure whether to see this as laughable or downright scary!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for this post. I have been completely fluxomed by Mr. Trump’s following. He should have been boo-ed off the stage a long time ago. For the first time in my life, I truly understand how people like Hitler come into power.


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