Saturday, December 28, 2019

WTDT will resume regular posting on January 3.

What did Donald Trump do today?

Stochastic terrorism.

Trump's all-tweets, all-golf, no-work two-week-plus vacation continued as usual today. Today's tweets included a pre-dawn post linking to an article that supposedly identifies the intelligence community whistleblower who first brought to light Trump's attempt to force Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election on his behalf. 

More accurately, since the whistleblower wasn't on the July 25th call at the root of Trump's impeachment for abuse of power, it was the whistleblower's report of what many other horrified executive branch employees who were on the call had said that launched the inquiry. (The partial memo of the call that Trump himself released, in an ill-fated attempt to get ahead of the story, completely confirmed the whistleblower's account.)

Federal law gives the whistleblower the right to anonymity and protection from being fired or disciplined. (In fact, Trump's repeated demands that the whistleblower be exposed are themselves illegal.) But legal protections don't guarantee physical safety. The whistleblower, and their lawyers, have received death threats. Those threats are serious enough that they have been given an armed guard.

Trump himself has called the whistleblower "almost a spy" and said that their actions were "treason," adding that traitors used to meet a violent end.

The term for trying to turn a huge crowd against a target, in the knowledge that at least a few individuals in that crowd will probably make threats or commit violent acts, is stochastic terrorism. Even if the whistleblower Trump is trying to make an example of survives, it makes it less likely that other people who have witnessed Trump committing crimes or immoral acts will be willing to take the risk of coming forward. 

Trump knows from direct personal experience that stochastic terrorism works. Among other examples, the "QAnon" hoax that he and his campaign have promoted resulted in a man shooting up a restaurant, and one of Trump's followers mailed pipe bombs to media outlets and government officials that Trump attacked.

Why should I care?

  • Threatening people who report crimes is what criminal gangs do.
  • The president is not above the law, no matter how many times he breaks it.