Though Trump’s tweets have bordered often on hilarity and disturbance, there is a point where they become unforgivably dangerous, and that point was today.
President Trump began his day today, as we all do on a typical Wednesday morning, by re-tweeting anti-Muslim propaganda videos. The videos, which Twitter flagged as may containing “sensitive material,” were titled: “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off the roof and beats him to death!”
Jayda Fransen and the Britain First Movement
The clips were originally posted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the Britain First political party, a far-right minor political group in the UK that markets itself as a patriotic movement. Founded in 2011 by former BNP members, Britain First describes itself as “a patriotic resistance and ‘frontline’ for our long suffering people” and fixates particularly on its opposition to Islam, which it describes as an “alien and destructive religious doctrine” on its website.
The Britain First website homepage is riddled with petitions to stop the construction or extension of mosques in Britain, and its pro-British” and “no-nonsense” policies include introducing “a total ban on the word ‘racism’ in the media” and “a comprehensive ban on the religion of “Islam” within the United Kingdom.”
But not to worry – the Britain First movement promises that it is absolutely not racist. In fact, under the “racism” subheading of its website, the group assures its readers that British ethnic minorities regularly attend their events and activities, and that the group opposes Islamic extremism and mass immigration simply because “they are a danger to the British people.”
After Trump’s re-tweets, Fransen enthusiastically welcomed the president’s support by tweeting in all-caps:
“THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN’S TWITTER VIDEOS! DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA! OCS @JaydaBF @realDonaldTrump”
The Authenticity of the Videos
But, putting aside for just one moment the absurdity of the president of the United States sharing the posts of a widely condemned Islamophobic fascist who has been charged with “religious aggravated harassment” in the UK, let us analyze the authenticity of the videos that POTUS so generously shared with us this morning.
The first of the three clips that Trump re-tweeted, posted with the message: “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!”, was quickly proved incorrect by Dutch officials who stated that the man perpetrating the crimes in the video was neither Muslim nor an immigrant. The video was posted originally early 2017 and the suspect, according to a spokesman for the Dutch public prosecution service, was born and raised in the Netherlands.
The second and third clips do show Muslims as claimed, but like many of Fransen’s posts, include misleading captions and no information about timeline or context.
The second video, entitled “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”, shows an incident during the 2013 riots in Alexandria, Egypt, in which Hamada Badr, 19, was pushed 20ft from a rooftop and beaten. Badr died from his injuries and Mahmoud Hassan Ramadan, the perpetrator, was executed for his murder in March 2015, according to the Egyptian interior ministry.
The third video, entitled “Muslim Destroys Statue of Virgin Mary!” was posted on Youtube more than four years ago on Oct 29, 2013. The caption on Youtube states “After invading and occupying a Christian region in Syria, a Muslim cleric declares the supremacy of Islam and Sharia law before smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary.” The video shows a man holding a statue of the Virgin Mary and speaking to the camera before throwing the figure on the floor. The man appears to be Omar Gharba, an extremist cleric affiliated to a group who received significant press coverage during the Syrian conflict, according to the Independent.
The Danger of Trump’s Tweets
But the real issue here is not whether the videos that Trump shared actually show a one-off extremist Muslim individual. The real issue here is that the president of the United States is so recklessly willing to endorse anti-Islam sentiments in a world where tensions are already high and rising.
The public has largely become desensitized to the ridiculous nature of Trump’s tweets and remarks, but Trump’s actions crossed an unacceptable line this morning. 43.6 million people follow President Trump on Twitter; it would be ridiculous for anybody with that sort of social media presence to endorse such misleading media without fact-checking or at the very least contemplating what the effects of such an action could be. But, for the president of the United States to do it is inexcusable.
For someone who publicly and repeatedly condemns “fake news,” when it brings adversity to him, President Trump has shown this morning that he has little reservations propagating “fake news” himself if it substantiates his own unhinged convictions.
Press Secretary Sanders and Deputy Press Secretary Shah on Trump’s Tweets
According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, whether the videos that Trump shared are verified, authentic, or misleading is all beside the point.
Defending the President, Sanders stated that the president shared the videos this morning in order to raise awareness for the need for national security and military spending.
“The president sees different things to be national security threats, and he sees having strong borders as being one of the things that helps protect people in this country from some real threats that we face,” Sanders stated.
Continuing, Sanders asserted that “whether it’s a real video, the threat is real.”
During a press gaggle on board Air Force One en route to St. Louis., White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah responded to questions regarding the President’s tweets this morning. According to Shah, President Trump was “raising the security issues that he has been raising for years” with the tweets.
“The president is going to continue talking about these issues because they’re important for the safety and security of this country,” Shah continued.
When asked why the president re-tweeted a widely condemned far-right anti-Muslim group, Shah avoided the question by stating “A lot of folks want to focus on the videos. We want to focus on the issues. It’s about safety. It’s about security. It’s about ensuring that individuals that come to the United States don’t pose a public safety or terrorism threat.”
When a reporter asked why the president couldn’t point out these issues without using fake videos, Shah pointed out that the president “does do that often.”
“He did that yesterday, and he continues to do that all the time,” said Shah. “He’s talked extensively about these issues. He’s signed presidential proclamations, signed executive orders. He talked about these issues at quite some length, and today was just another example.”