The Propaganda Is Working: Trump Voters Call MS-13 a 'Serious' Threat to the US - But That's Simply Not True

Donald Trump's support is based on racism. And the racism is based on Republican conspiracy theories. And those conspiracy theories are now, thanks to White House propaganda, taking root within his racist, gullible base.


A majority of people who voted for President Donald Trump consider criminal gang MS-13 a threat to the United States, a new poll finds, indicating the Trump administration may be succeeding in inflating the perception of the gang’s national risk.

Specifically, 85 percent of Trump voters call MS-13 a "very" or "somewhat" serious threat to the United States, and roughly half of them are worried MS-13 is going to target them or their families personally, which is a ludicrous, asinine theory based entirely on Trump-peddled propaganda. Before Trump's team settled on "MS-13" as their stand-in for Violent Ethnic People Coming To Get You, it would be a fair bet to say that precious few among Trump's base would even know what MS-13 was. Now half of them are worried that MS-13 is hiding under their floorboards.

To make it clear, yet again, while there is a violent gang called MS-13 and has been for a few decades now, the current incarnation is largely a collection of disconnected teenagers whose lofty ambitions primarily revolve around menacing their schoolmates, not entire U.S. towns. They are not increasing their membership, have no central structure or leadership, have no substantive role in drug or human trafficking, and primarily target young Latinos. Those are their primary victims, not lily white Trump supporters breathlessly flipping through Republican fundraising emails.

Everything else is a hoax. The vision of a paramilitary entity known as "MS-13" capturing and losing American towns, the notion that this violent but scattered group is a meaningful presence on the border in any capacity, and all the rest of it is a hoax crafted by white nationalists in the White House and racist online circles to justify an explicitly racist crackdown on innocent refugees.

For all the hype in the governor’s race, MS-13 has been associated with three murders in Virginia this year, and two of the victims were MS-13 members themselves. To put that into perspective, there were 480 homicides in Virginia in 2016, and nine Virginians died in traffic accidents over Fourth of July weekend alone.

But Trump voters now overwhelmingly believe the peddled notions about this group few of them ever heard of, before this year, and that is a testament to the power of the white nationalist propaganda machine whirring away within the White House walls. It is still not considered decent to demonize non-white Americans in general, or non-white immigrants, but concocting a blatantly racist conspiracy theory about a new non-white menace hiding just beyond your mailbox continues to be the preferred stand-in for those more blatantly white-supremacy-based notions.

To Rep. Steve King (R-IA), immigrants are primarily melon-calved drug mules. To Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mexican cartels are possibly working with ISIS to import an infectious disease found only in Africa. To the NRA, Muslims fleeing violence are quite possibly violent extremists themselves. To Donald Trump's White House team, every asylum-seeking child tossed into tent cities with little paperwork and little concern for ever reuniting them with their parents might be, just might be, a wee little gang member come to kill us all.

This willing effort to demonize an entire group based on demonstrably false fearmongering is the sort of thing that gets you put on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups. It may be to the point where the White House itself counts as such; their declarations of the inherent criminality of immigrants certainly appears to be meeting that criteria. Trump may not know his left shoe from his right, but his advisers are certainly very aware that "MS-13" does not have even one percent of the power they have been painting it as having in breathless campaign-year announcements. Ditto for all the other Republicans attempting to fundraise off their efforts to frighten their racist base; this has become, unequivocally, one of the go-to propaganda efforts of the Republican Party itself.

Peddling such obvious propaganda should itself render someone unfit for office, but we have fallen a very long way from any imaginary time when we demanded our top national leaders be, at the very least, truthful. Perhaps branding the Republican Party a hate group would jostle some of the beltway’s conscience, however.

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