Rhetoric Professor: Why It’s ‘Very Reasonable’ To Conclude Trump ‘Incited’ Capitol Siege

Texas A&M Professor Jennifer Mercieca said Twitter’s actions of removing President Trump’s tweets and suspending his account were “probably too late.”

By Laura RiceJanuary 7, 2021 1:17 pm

Professor Jennifer Mercieca has been studying President Donald Trump’s use of language for years. She is the author of “Demagogue For President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.”

Mercieca said his message Wednesday to his supporters was consistent throughout the day.

“If you watched his speech that he gave in the morning at the ‘Save America’ rally, he told his supporters there that there was a conspiracy to defraud him of the election and that they needed to be violent, they needed to be aggressive. He promised he would go with them to the Capitol and that they would put pressure on Congress to do what he thought was right. That’s a similar message that you heard him repeat. Even after the riots started. He continued to say that there had been a conspiracy, that he had been wronged,” Mercieca said.

She said even Trump’s calls for no violence were phrased in a way that allowed him to actually say two things at once so that, she said, he can avoid being held accountable.

“So on the one hand, he says there’s this conspiracy. You know, this great victory has been taken from us. And then on the other hand, he says, and there should be no violence,” Mercieca said.

She said this type of mixed message would not encourage someone who was inclined to storm the United States Capitol building yesterday to stop. And, further, he continued to use language to connect himself with the people involved in the siege by using words such as “I love you.”

“It’s a way of connecting him to his base so that they feel obligated, they feel loyalty to him,” Mercieca said.

And, Mercieca said, Trump presents that loyalty to himself as the ultimate form of patriotism – even more so than to the U.S. Constitution or democracy.

“Donald Trump presents himself as the apotheosis or the greatest example of American exceptionalism. And so you have to be loyal to Trump and that loyalty equals patriotism,” Mercieca said.

Mercieca agreed with Twitter’s decision to require three of the president’s tweets be removed, and suspending his account for at least 12 hours. Twitter also threatened permanent suspension if Trump violates its policies in the future.

“It’s a difficult bind for Twitter,” Mercieca said. “You know, on the one hand, they do want to have free speech. They do want, of course, you know, the president of the United States to have the ability to communicate. He does not do that responsibly. And that puts them in a very difficult position, just like it would any other platform. I think that it was. Probably right to do what they did yesterday. I think it’s probably too late, but again, I think that they’re in a difficult position.”

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