A former white supremacist skinhead is warning that President Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric and his recent declaration that he is a proud “nationalist” would be seen by white supremacist extremists as an endorsement of their beliefs and an encouragement for them to take violent action.
Speaking to CNN’s S.E. Cupp on Saturday, Christian Picciolini, who wrote the book White American Youth, said Trump’s “nationalist” declaration “was like a loud bullhorn to me. I didn’t hear a dog whistle.”
“When somebody with power gives them words that back up with what they believe, spreads conspiracy theories and gives them some sort of agency, there’s a certain subsegment of these extremists groups that will act,” he explained. Pointing to recent pipe bombs sent to leading Democrats as well as attacks, such as the Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre of last weekend, Picciolini said that while some extremists may just voice their views “vocally,” others “take action based on the words that they hear.”
“Now that hate is being normalized, they feel they are in power,” the author said. “People need to be held accountable for their words,” he added.
Since “the nation’s founding,” the U.S. has had an issue with white supremacy he noted.
However, he said the country is now seeing a “resurgence” and “new people” joining the movement and emboldening those who have long held these beliefs.
“There not hiding behind hoods anymore,” he said. “They’ve gone from what I used to be – wearing boots – to wearing suits … Now these people who had hateful ideologies, who were embarrassed of them maybe just a few years ago, are not embarrassed to say them anymore.”
Beyond hate groups in the U.S., foreign nations have also used Trump’s remarks to justify violence. In Nigeria, the army tweeted a video of Trump on Friday, in which he warned U.S. troops would shoot any migrants throwing stones if and when they reached the U.S.-Mexican border crossings. The video was accompanied with the message: “Please watch and make your deductions.”
The tweet came after at least 45 protesters were killed in a shooting attributed to police and soldiers using automatic weapons. Nigeria’s defense spokesman John Agim told Agence France-Presse (AFP) the army shared the video of Trump as a reaction to allegations its forces had acted illegally in dispersing the demonstration.
Trump has faced significant criticism for encouraging violence during his political rallies, praising a Republican congressman for body slamming a reporter and even verbally offering to pay legal fees of supporters to “knock the crap” out of demonstrators. The perpetrators of three recent attacks, including a campaign of pipe bombs against Trump’s political enemies, the murder of eleven people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and a shooting attack in Tallahassee, have strongly echoed elements of the President’s rage-filled rhetoric against his opponents, in support of white nationalism, and against women.
Former neo-Nazi and current anti-hate activist, Christian Picciolini, explains why the threat of white extremism must not be ignored. pic.twitter.com/NkVDFvJKRt
— Vox (@voxdotcom) October 30, 2018