I passed on this yesterday because I agreed with what Lewandowski says here, more or less. It’s not a matter of political correctness or incorrectness, it’s a matter of “dog whistle” accusations being unfalsifiable. How do you prove that Trump, or whoever posted that image from his account, saw something anti-semitic in the shape of the star and tweeted it out hoping that others would see it too? As a matter of strategy, how would it benefit him to do something like that? White supremacists, presumably the target audience for the “dog whistle,” have been vocal about supporting him, but their votes are locked up. It’s swing voters whom Trump needs now. A news cycle devoted to whether his campaign has a problem with Jews is, shall we say, unhelpful in that regard.
Besides, does this sound like a guy who’s eager to Jew-bait?
[O]n Thursday, he immediately rebuked man at a campaign rally who said criticized “Zionist Israel.”
Trump told the man: “Israel is a very, very important ally of the United States and we are going to protect them 100% — 100%. It’s our true friend over there.”
Within an hour of a backlash erupting on social media yesterday, he had replaced the Star of David shape in the Hillary image with a circle, further evidence that any similarity was unintended. If we’re going to fire a missile as powerful as an accusation of anti-semitism, maybe let’s base it on something more concrete than a generic shape in Photoshop.
Something like … this, maybe:
Mic discovered Sunday that Donald Trump’s Twitter account wasn’t the first place the meme appeared. The image was previously featured on /pol/ — an Internet message board for the alt-right, a digital movement of neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and white supremacists newly emboldened by the success of Trump’s rhetoric — as early as June 22, over a week before Trump’s team tweeted it…
The watermark on the lower-left corner of the image leads to a Twitter account that regularly tweets violent, racist memes commenting on the state of geopolitical politics…
It is currently unclear as to whether Trump’s team found this image from @FishBoneHead1’s Twitter account, from /pol/ or from another digital repository for racist, xenophobic and violent imagery. When Trump’s team sources memes, images and other forms of media from Twitter, the team has a longstanding pattern of attributing the account from which they found it. Among the many benefits of this practice of attribution is that it creates a desirable distance between the presidential candidate and the images he tweets.
Where did Team Trump get the image? If they found it on an alt-right message board, this isn’t an innocent mistake. And even though playing footsie with white supremacists isn’t in his long-term political interests, that hasn’t stopped him from doing it before. Playing dumb on who David Duke is when Jake Tapper invited him to reject Duke’s support a few months back is a classic example. That’s presumably why his alt-right fan base forgives him for his sporadic pro-Israel rhetoric: They probably don’t think he means it. It’s just something he says because he has to say it to keep the media off his back. Once he’s safely elected, then we’ll see the “real” Trump. In fact, some white supremacists are celebrating yesterday’s image because it links Hillary to a “Jew star.” Evidently they don’t think it’s an innocent mistake either.
Some might see Trump’s strange likening of Jewish groups to the KKK as an attempt to dog whistle to his bigoted supporters. But more likely, he was simply flailing in a largely nonsensical stream-of-consciousness to avoid answering the question. The problem, in this instance, was not that Trump was trying to express bigotry, but that he did not even recognize that what he was saying could be construed as such. This combination of actual animus and obliviousness is what makes Trump’s rhetoric–and its wall-to-wall coverage by a ratings-hungry news media–so dangerous.
Play with fire and you’ll get burned, even if only accidentally. Whether intentionally or not, Trump’s built a devoted following within the online hangouts of white supremacists. He’s surely aware of it and he hasn’t gone out of his way to discourage it. His denunciations of their support have been largely perfunctory. It may be that one of his racist fans tweeted that image at his account fully intending the symbolism in the shape of the star, then Trump’s Twitter guy saw it and reproduced it without picking up on the symbolism himself. (The reason the image was reproduced rather than simply retweeted may have been because Trump’s guy wanted to add something to the image. In Trump’s version, there was a screencap of some Fox News poll data appended beneath the Hillary/star graphic.) It reminds me of this kerfuffle from back in November, when Trump stupidly retweeted something from a fan claiming that 81 percent of homicides involving white victims are perpetrated by blacks. In reality, 82 percent of homicides with white victims are perpetrated by whites. It was propaganda designed to reinforce the stereotype that blacks are predators. But whoever was running Trump’s Twitter account that day was too stupid not to see that the numbers were obviously bogus and too lazy not to take three minutes to check them by googling. He got suckered by racist propaganda. I’ll bet the same thing happened here. And it’ll happen again.