When Donald Trump gets criticized, his supporters don’t send their best. They send out an army of mentally unstable deplorables to viciously attack, smear and threaten any reporter who dares cover it. And worse, the tactics they use to silence any media figure who stands in Trump’s way are escalating to the point of violence.
Kurt Eichenwald knows this better than anyone. A reporter for Newsweek who has broken more Trump scandal stories than anyone in the business, Eichenwald has experienced first hand the fury of Trump’s social media brownshirts. After enduring it in relative silence for months, he finally went public with a truly disturbing article documenting the anti-Semitism and violence that Trump’s fans unleash after every article he writes.
A couple of weeks later, after my article about how Trump’s business interests would create a conflict of unprecedented proportions, I received a tweet from someone with the twitter handle “Mike’s Deplorable AF.” Like many Trump supporters, he has chosen to identify himself as deplorable to mock the label once used by Clinton to describe the racists, neo-Nazis, homophobes and like who have crawled out of the sewer to cheer for the Republican nominee. Mike, however, is indeed deplorable.
Unlike the typical racist, xenophobic rants Eichenwald was used to, “Mike’s Deplorable AF” took things to a dangerous new level. Eichenwald has been very public about suffering from epilepsy, the neurological disorder that can cause intense seizures. One of the triggers is bright, flashing lights. Many movies and television programs carry a warning for viewers with epilepsy if the footage includes things that might affect people with epilepsy. It’s not something to mess around with.
As Eichenwald explains, this Trump supporter tried to weaponize this medical issue and harm a reporter for the “crime” of exposing Trump as a crook.
In his tweet, which has since been deleted, Mike made mention of my seizures and included a small video. It contained images of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that has been identified by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate symbol. I was carrying my iPad, looking at the still image on the video and, without thinking, touched the PLAY button.
The video was some sort of strobe light, with flashing circles and images of Pepe flying toward the screen. It’s what’s called epileptogenic—something that triggers seizures. Fortunately, since I was standing, I simply dropped my iPad to the ground the second I realized what Mike had done. It landed face down on the bathroom floor.
The deplorables are real. The deplorables are dangerous.
While Eichenwald’s experience is harrowing, other reporters have come forward to recount their own terrifying experiences with Trump’s fans. The presidential candidate himself works to stoke these anti-media reactions by routinely telling his supporters that the media is lying to them. Or filled with liberals out to get him. Or rigging the election for Hillary Clinton. At his rallies, the crowd often turns so hostile that reporters must be protected by Trump’s Secret Service detail for their safety. Online, Jewish reporters are routinely greeted with pictures of their faces photoshopped into gas chambers. Female reporters are often threatened with murder or rape. Minorities are derided with racial epithets.
As of this writing, Trump has never bothered to condemn these attacks, speak out in defense of independent journalism, or even urge his supporters to stop it. Instead, he appears to get a kick out of bullying reporters, and a sick satisfaction in watching their harassment.
With the election drawing near and Trump sinking in the polls, the question of when something happens to a reporter isn’t a matter of if, but when?
Featured image via YouTube