In August, former Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson – who has since moved to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter – warned that former president Donald Trump could be assassinated. In an interview on comedian Adam Carolla’s podcast, Carlson said that the efforts to stop Trump from retaking the White House are so extreme that it could result in violence.
“Begin with criticism, then you go to protest, then you go to impeachment, now you go to indictment, and none of them work. I mean what’s next?” Carlson pondered, adding, “You know, graph it out man! We’re speeding toward assassination, obviously. No one will say that, but I don’t know how you can’t reach that conclusion.”
Those comments came just days after Carlson asked Trump directly during an interview that was shared to X, “Are you worried that they’re going to try and kill you? Why wouldn’t they try and kill you? Honestly.”
The former president responded to Carlson, “They’re savage animals; they’re people that are sick.”
However, this week the concern is that someone could be killed – and it might not be Trump, but it could be his fault!
Calls for Violence Coming From the Former President?
In an op-ed for The New York Times on Thursday, Jeffrey Toobin – author of “Homegrown: Timothy McVeigh and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism” – warned that the former president’s inflammatory speech has reached a point where it could result in physical harm or worse committed against those who have brought charges against him.
“Mr. Trump’s statements represent an immediate danger to the targets of his rage and the public at large,” wrote Toobin, who further suggested, “Trump has never respected the norms of political behavior and there’s little reason to think gag orders will provide meaningful discipline either. As on Jan. 6, his supporters shed traditional rules as well. The day is fast approaching when someone picks up a gun or builds a bomb and then seeks to follow through on Mr. Trump’s words. If and when that happens, he will say that he did not specifically direct or cause the violence, and he will probably escape without criminal charges — but the blood will be on his hands.”
Toobin points to McVeigh as an example of someone who he said had anger that already reached a boiling point when he was pushed by the political rhetoric on Capitol Hill and by talk radio.
Social Media Turns Up the Volume
The situation is now simply worse thanks largely to social media, which has become an echo chamber where people tend to only listen to what their side has to say.
“The proverbial gloves have been off for some time regarding social media decorum,” warned Jason Mollica, professorial lecturer in the School of Communication at American University.
“Facebook and YouTube already rolled back misinformation policies this year; we’ve seen what Elon Musk has made the network formerly known as Twitter,” Mollica told 19FortyFive.
“Violent acts have happened across the United States due to postings,” added Mollica. “The Texas mall assailant posted frequently in extremist forums and shared antisemitic sentiments; the shooter in the 2022 Tops Market massacre in Buffalo, N.Y. often posted on social networks about his racist feelings towards the Black community.”
Trump is also the first President to use social media to share his every thought.
“The former president has shown no regard for rules,” Mollica explained. “Even with a gag order, he’s still posting vitriolic comments against those who are against him. Sadly, Mr. Toobin’s words have already been proven true.”
However, Dr. Cliff Lampe, professor of information and associate dean for Academic Affairs in the School of Information at the University of Michigan said that it is relatively rare that social media posts lead to violence, given how much invective is often associated with those posts.
“The bad news is that posts like these have definitely caused violence in the past. We see this with the armed violence planned around Pizzagate in 2017 and the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise at a baseball game in 2017,” Lampe told 19FortyFive. “There are countless examples sadly of people who have been propelled to violence due to posts on social media sites. Unfortunately, social media posts can and have reached a point where they can push people to harm one another.”
A gag order on an individual – even Trump – may not make much difference in a social media context, where it is easy to orchestrate a “brigade” – the group of allies who direct an attack at the behest of some central figure, Lampe noted. “Brigades in various forms are common in social media and can cause considerable psychological harm given their scale and power.”
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.