You Say You Want A Retribution

What's a mob to a king? For Trump, it's the keys to the kingdom.

Trump has been speaking explicitly in recent days about the concept of retribution, talking both about extrajudicial killings by police forces and draconian penalties ranging from a year imprisonment for burning a flag to the death penalty for killing police.

His public love affair with the death penalty goes back years, as does his habit of calling for it before or even despite (or perhaps ideally, in his mind, without) a trial, going back to his demand that the innocent Central Park 5 be executed for what was not even a capital crime.

Much has been made of the apparent paradox of a person touting law and order calling for the rule of law to in fact be set aside, but what I would like to talk about is his specific wording of retribution, which tells us more of what’s actually on his mind here.

This is not the rhetoric of law; it’s the language of crime. “If someone hits you, you hit them back, harder. You let them know you’re not to be messed with. You demand respect.”

Which, not coincidentally, is one of the ways that his proxies defend his attacks on veterans and their families, among others. It doesn’t matter if those attacks are factually lies or even if they’re completely the opposite of what he himself otherwise claims is true or what he says he stands for, because the point of the attacks is to attack.

It’s not even a case of believing the best defense is a good offense. It’s a belief that the best defense is sheer intimidation. The best defense is when everybody is terrified to make a move against you or even make a move at all without your blessing.

In short, it’s mob tactics.

As Sarah Kendzior has extensively and exhaustively documented going back years, the Trump business organization, family, and political machine (which are all one and the same) are in fact part of a multinational crime syndicate.

There is no place for retribution in a just and peaceful society, but in Trump’s world, the word of the powerful is law and everybody knowing their place is order. It’s important that we understand this when he speaks of law and order; what he means is fear and obedience.

That’s why there’s such a powerful upswing right now of police targeting activists and journalists with the most brutal means available, using “crowd control” munitions in ways that are explicitly punitive, executing vicious takedowns, and staging dramatic arrests at private homes. They’ve always done these things – they were a mob long before Trump became the figurehead for law enforcement – but a fish rots from the heaven and something is very rotten in the state of our union.

If he is still in power after January, we can only expect things to get worse, as they always do when he gets yet another, more powerful sign that he can do what he likes with absolute impunity. Each victory of these mob tactics only elevates him closer to the total power he has always imagined to be his due.