Labeling and its consequences

In the press, intelligentsia, and on the left, Donald Trump and his supporters have been consistently referred to as terrorists, Klansmen, and Nazis.  

Arizona's Secretary of State Katie Hobbs labeled Trump supporters “his neo-Nazi base” in a tweet she posted in August 2017.  This tweet was left up for three years and two months.  Hobbs is the chief election officer of the state. She is in charge of the vote “counting” in Arizona.  She has also accused President Trump of attempting to “sabotage” the U.S. Postal Service in an effort to influence the election.  Can she be trusted to be impartial?

CNN’s plummily titled Chief International Anchor, Christiane Amanpour, recalled Kristallnacht, the infamous anti-Jewish pogrom carried out in Nazi Germany in 1938, by noting that President Donald Trump’s presidency has similarly been a “modern day assault” attacking “those same values.”  She claimed, "That tower of burning books . . . led to an attack on fact, knowledge, history and truth,” and: "After four years of a modern-day assault on those same values by Donald Trump, the Biden/Harris team pledges a return to norms, including the truth.”  The Trump administration's Kristallnacht and book burning were never covered by the press. 

 Beto O'Rourke compared Trump's rally in Greenville, North Carolina to Nazi Germany: "That's Nuremberg to me."

He wasn't the only one. Joe Scarborough discussing a Trump rally in North Carolina, “That’s the president, actually, from his Nuremberg rally from last night.”  It was another obvious reference to the Nazi rallies at Nuremberg.  

The Nazi talk went beyond that: Former CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden compared President Trump’s immigration policies to that of Nazi Germany, too. “Other governments have separated mothers and children,” Hayden wrote next to a black-and-white photo of Auschwitz.  

Others dished out references to the Klan. Democratic congressional candidate from North Carolina, Moe Davis, stated “When @NCGOP extremists go low, we stomp their scrawny pasty necks with our heels and once you hear the sound of a crisp snap you grind your heel hard and twist it slowly side to side for good measure. He needs to know who whupped his ass.”  Davis compared Trump rallies to “Klan rallies” and “make American great again” hats to “new KKK hoods.”  For some reason voters in his district decided not to elect him.

CNN contributor and liberal "intellectual" Reza Aslan called for the “eradication” of Trump supporters. Aslan remarked that President Donald Trump "is a white nationalist terror leader. His supporters – ALL OF THEM – are by definition white nationalist terror supporters. The MAGA hat is a KKK hood. And his evil, racist scourge must be eradicated from society.”  The characterization of Trump supporters as an “evil, racist scourge” is reminiscent of the Holocaust.  In references to the genocide, identical language is used by historians, journalists, and human rights organizations.  Aslan also called for violence against the Covington Catholic High School boys.  He asked in a tweet,  “Honest question. Have you seen a more punchable face than this kid’s?”  Patrick Buchanan asserted, "To true believers in the revolution, the Right is not just wrong; the Right is evil."

"Historian" Jon Meacham claimed, "Donald Trump is a product of the white man’s, the anguished, nervous, white guys lizard brain."

"Comedian" Bill Maher made a joke about Trump’s mom having sex with an orangutan.  “To determine whether he is in fact the love child of a human woman and an orangutan from the Brooklyn zoo,” Maher said. “Look, I’m not saying your mother was repeatedly ****ing an orangutan back in the 1940s, I don’t know if that’s true I hope it’s not true.  But given your face, your physique and your intelligence level and of course your hair, the American people deserve some real proof that your mother did not spend most nights in 1945 covering her body in banana oil sneaking into the monkey cage and compulsively humping an orange orangutan.”

All of these pundits have remained employed and have been lauded for their courage for speaking truth to power.  Are their more egregious comments that would require someone to be fired.  Apparently, the answer is 'yes.'  Radio personality Grant Napear was fired by his radio station and resigned as the Sacramento Kings TV play-by-play announcer after his tweet that said “All Lives Matter” became public.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the Singing Nuns, a traditional Catholic sisters organization, a hate group.  The Little Sisters of the Poor are also under investigation.

There is a danger in labeling.  A 2007 Clark University study of hate speech claimed, “Dehumanization is a frequent element of hate speech, and is used to vilify the target. It also has the effect of disinhibiting violence. Thus, dehumanizing descriptions of individuals and groups are an alarming signal of hate speech and the danger of future violence.”  After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing the late Washington Post columnist, David Broder wrote: “The bombing shows how dangerous it really is to inflame twisted minds with statements that suggest political opponents are enemies."  Floyd Corkins, a LGBT volunteer shot up the conservative Family Research Council headquarters in August 2012.  Corkins admitted he got his information from the Southern Poverty Law Center website.


John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy (Algora Publishing).  He has a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations from St. Mary’s University.  He is retired from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.  He is featured on the BBC's program "Things We Forgot to Remember:" Morgenthau Plan and Post-War Germany.

Image credit: Library of Congress, via Picryl, public domain


If you experience technical problems, please write to