Over the past several days, we have seen a number of violent clashes between Donald Trump’s supporters and anti-Trump protestors at Trump campaign rallies. One campaign event, a scheduled Trump appearance in Chicago, was called off by the candidate because of the threat of escalating violence.
Most pundits and Trump’s political rivals have criticized Trump for creating an atmosphere of chaos and violence and for remarks at previous rallies that seemed to encourage violence against protestors. Some pundits have predicted a backlash against Trump. Trump, for his part, declares that he is the victim of protestors who seek to prevent him from speaking and to deny him and his supporters their American constitutional rights.
Whether or not Trump can be blamed for actually inciting violence, the violent images from his rallies televised over and over on every American newscast, have served Trump’s political interests.
Generally, these images depict African American and Hispanic demonstrators facing off against white, middle American Trump supporters. Essentially, the images, like the idea of the now famous wall, help Trump present himself as the defender of white, working-class America against black and brown people, lacking respect for American values and threatening to engulf white America. For this reason, Trump’s political base is unlikely to blame him for violence at his campaign rallies. The violence, if anything, underscores Trump’s determination to defend America.
As has been the case throughout the campaign, moreover, Trump is able to induce the news media to present his message free of charge. Every time Trump complains about protestors or the media’s unfair depiction of events, the news media present Trump’s message again. And, every time one of Trump’s rivals points to the violent atmosphere created by Trump, the media present his message again.
This use of violent imagery is another example of Trump’s ability to dominate the news. Generally speaking, violence will drive all other news from the nation’s television screens and newspaper pages. By manipulating or, at the very least, taking advantage of violence, Trump has again deprived his opponents of the media attention they need.