One of the biggest takeaways from the insurrection and domestic terrorist attack at the U.S. Capitol was, words matter.
When the president, and his fellow party members, elected or appointed, use their platform to incite violence, stoke fears, and peddle disinformation to their supporters, they should be held accountable.
In a time when our country is so ardently divided, care must be taken with the words our leaders use and the rhetoric they spew on social media, in the news, or other public forums. Words have power and meaning, and when someone like Trump uses their platform to spread conspiracy theories and lies, they must be held accountable.
At a rally on January 6th, Trump told his supporters, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” urging them to go to the Capitol. And they went. They took his words to heart and believed his comments to be a call to action.
Stoking fear, fueling conspiracy theories, and encouraging vigilante justice to protect the nation from a fictitious boogeyman are the main tenets of Trump and the Republican Party platform. Even worse, Republican leadership and Florida members of Congress such as Representative Matt Gaetz, Representative Brian Mast, Senator Marco Rubio, and others have aided Trump in spreading his lies far and wide.
The violence America saw at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th was not an aberration. It was not an outlier event. It was the culmination of a four-year campaign of throwing red meat to Trump’s most ardent supporters and sowing distrust in the media; and those who imbibed on the diet of Trump rhetoric turned out to attempt a coup against their own country because they believed the lies told to them by their president.
As people search for the culprit and where to lay blame, they should look no further than Trump, the Republican party, and conservative outlets such as Fox News and OAN. It is because of the words they use that people believe in “alternate facts” instead of truth, and binge on a diet of disinformation.
Our founding fathers feared tyranny and detested the idea of a monarchy. They knew the only way to ratify the Constitution was by getting the country on board through a series of convincing essays known as the Federalist Papers. Some time and 85 essays later, colonists bought into the idea of American independence.
Since the founding of our nation and before the invention of social media, Americans have found themselves enthralled by great orators like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ronald Reagan. Their words inspired and gave people hope.
Trump has used his words like a machine gun, determined to destroy and leave devastation in his wake. His words are not meant to inspire, they are meant to incite violence and sow doubt in the minds of supporters, leading them to only trust him.
When a small subset of a country rejects facts and truth, instead opting for alternate facts and baseless evidence, this poses a threat to society. As Voltaire once said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities,” and unfortunately social media anyone can have a megaphone to spread disinformation. In order to diffuse this, we must question the intention of those who continually cry wolf and reject the spread conspiracy theories.
As an eternal optimist, I would love to say the days of red meat rhetoric and false truths will become extinct once Trump and his cronies leave office. Until we elect leaders who choose their words carefully and seek to unite rather than divide, we will have to remain vigilant and reject anything less than the truth.