A Change in Rhetoric
There is no doubt in my mind that President Donald Trump wants to make the lives of the American people safer. Where the doubt lies is whether or not he is going about it in the right way.
I’ve been writing for Security Today for over a year. While I know that is not a significant amount of time to some, it has seemed like a long time to me. The days when breaking news hits and terrorist attacks are reported seem like entire life times and not just another 24 hours in a seven day week. It is my job to stay glued to the news, to watch as the death counts rise and as political leaders from across the world decry the violence and send condolences for those who’ve lost their lives in tragic events of violence.
I remember very vividly the attack in San Bernardino, California. While this was not my first terrorist attack to report on, (that was the attacks on Paris in November of 2015) it was the first domestic terrorist attack I covered.
I had only been writing articles pertaining to the security industry for about a month and a half when Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and injured 22 more at Farook’s office holiday party on December 2, 2015. I watched the news trickle in from the Twitter accounts of local police departments, fire departments and eventually the Los Angles division of the FBI. I watched as mainstream news stations live streamed a car chase and then shootout with a vehicle that was believed to belong to the gunmen. I stayed alert as police released the news that the suspects had died.
I was frightened and concerned when I finally lay down to get some sleep that night. I wasn’t the only one, either. I think that is why on December 5, in the White House’s Weekly Address, former President Obama responded to the mass shooing in a video uploaded to YouTube.
Obama briefed the country on the recent attack at the beginning of the video, warning Americans that he was given information that the suspects may have been radicalized and that the incident was being investigated as a terrorist attack. He also spoke on the loophole that allows people on the No-Fly list to purchase guns. The video ended with Obama’s statement on how we, as the American people, will not be terrorized.
“As President, my highest priority is the security and safety of the American people,” Obama said. “This is work that should unite us all, as Americans, so that we are doing everything in our power to defend our country. That’s how we can honor the lives that were lost in San Bernardino. That’s how we can send a message to those who would try to hurt us. We are Americans. We will uphold our values and our free and open society. We are strong and we are resilient. And we will not be terrorized.”
It’s been over a year since that attack on San Bernardino, but it has not been forgotten. A lot has happened since November 2015.
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that aimed at reviewing and tightening the procedures for allowing refugees into the United States. Specifically, the order blocked refugees for 120 days as the admissions process was reviewed, banned all Syrian refugees and put a 90-day hold on visas from seven countries that have been deemed a threat by the Obama administration.
As you know, this executive order did not receive a standing ovation. As critics lashed out with their reasons for why this “Travel Ban” was unconstitutional, President Trump took to Twitter to explain his reasoning.
In a tweet on January 29, President Trump said, “Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe and, indeed, the world – a horrible mess!”
In a tweet on January 30, President Trump said, “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there!”
On February 4, The Department of Homeland Security announced it had suspended all actions to implement the immigration order and would resume standard inspections of travelers as it did prior to the President’s executive order after a federal judge halted the “Travel Ban.”
President Trump and his team were quit to denounce the motion.
“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into the U.S.? Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision,” Trump tweeted. “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
President Trump is not the only member of the administration to shine a light on those who may try to take advantage of the states’ border security in order to cause harm to Americans.
Kellyanne Conway, one of President Trump’s top aids, went on MSNBC to talk about why the Travel Ban is necessary. In her conversation with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, she explains that terrorist attacks are being under reported, and that is why the American people don’t see the necessity for the immigration order.
“I bet there was very little coverage – I bet – I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre.” Conway said in the interview.
In this particular instance, the Bowling Green massacre was not covered because it did not happen. What Conway might have been referring to was an incident where two Iraqi men who were living in Bowling Green and were arrested for attempting to provide money and weapons to terrorists in Iraq.
Bowling Green city officials said in a statement, “There was no massacre in Bowling Green.”
Despite the fact there was no massacre; an audience can see what Conway was alluding to. She was trying to explain her belief that Americans may not have the proper information made available to them so that they can understand why an immigration ban would be necessary.
Piggybacking off of this theory, the White House and Press Secretary Sean Spicer released a list of terrorist attacks that happened between September 2014 and December 2016 that they felt the media had not adequately reported.
Included in this list was the attack in Paris, where 130 people died in three separate attacks on the city, the mass shooting attack on Pulse Nightclub in Orlando where 49 people were killed, and the attack in San Bernardino that I previously spoke about.
To the Trump administration, this list is their way of proving a point, but many believe it is a scare tactic; a visual aid to show the amount of terror in the world over the last two years.
At a White House Press Briefing on February 7, TIME reporter Zeke Miller asked Spicer about the change in communication tone surrounding the new administration.
“In past administrations,” Miller said. “The rhetoric is usually one of ‘Go on with your day, live your life.’ Do you believe Trump’s comments provide a different message?”
Spicer began to answer his question, starting with the statement, “That’s not the point.”
“His message to the American people is he is fully committed to doing everything he can to keep the country safe.” Spicer said. “I think there is a big difference between what you’re saying and the point he [the president] is trying to make. He’s making a point to the exposure the attacks get.
We see these things and they are becoming too prevalent. That’s why he wants to become ever vigilant. We need to be reminded that places and groups, like ISIS, continue to see to do us harm. It is his job to do everything he can, as Commander in Chief, to get ahead of the curve to keep the country safe.”
Spicer finished up his answer by saying, “The president’s message is not fear, but reassurance that as President of the United States, he is taking every single step to do what he has to, to get in front of the threats.”
So why does all of this matter?
At its core, the messages from former President Obama and President Trump are fundamentally the same. They recognize the threats to the country and want to do everything in their power to keep the American people safe.
However, the rhetoric surrounding this core message began to evolve when President Trump was sworn in as Commander in Chief; from “We will not be terrorized,” to “There are a lot of bad “dudes” out there.”
Does this new style of communication from the White House have the potential to create fear among the American people? Does it compromise our national security? You tell me.
Posted by Sydny Shepard on Feb 08, 2017