Trump has Filled the Void Obama Left
Donald Trump is not a man revered outside the US, he’s regularly mocked by British and Europeans on social media. His recent outburst however has left many shocked, even UKIP supporters may wince at supporting his sentiments. And this guy is running for president!
“Donald J Trump is calling for a total and complete shut down of Muslims entering the United States, until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
– Donald Trump (video here of Trump’s statement along with Paul Ryan’s response)
He is an astute businessman and it shows, his statement here was a ruthless stroke of genius in terms of his election campaign. The advantage was handed to him by Obama and he has played that advantage perfectly. As an intellectual Brit or European this may not make sense, but from the perspective of the US this is an obvious and smart, albeit repugnant, move on Trump’s part.
After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, Obama refused to say that the attacks had anything to do with Islam. After the Paris attacks last month he again said that the attacks were nothing to do with Islam. He repeatedly refuses to draw any association between the attacks and the religion, constantly using phrases like “mindless violence”, “hateful terrorists”; but never, not once, did he talk about how those hateful terrorists are in some way connected with Islam. Those “madmen” make statements, before, during (and sometimes after) they have committed some despicable act, declaring in absolute and certain terms that they are operating in a religious context. Perhaps they’ll say they’re doing god’s work while citing a verse or sura that justifies their actions. They also talk about their grievances with western intervention (or lack thereof depending on the situation), they talk about the wars and the oppression of Muslims. We all accept these connections, some of the strongest anti-war movements on Earth are in ‘Western’ democracies, we’re aware of these factors. But Obama has repeatedly failed to address the role of religion in their motivations.
Americans are seen as impulsive by other countries in the world, we mock them as they let their emotions rule their intellect. But they’re not dumb. They are able to hear the cries of Allahu Akbar before the triggers are pulled. They can watch the videos posted by Islamists. They are not dumb, but it doesn’t matter, the religious motivation and fervour is something that doesn’t require intellect to detect.
Obama’s constant denial of this connection has left a gaping void, a vacuum of frustration. Maajid Nawaz coined a term for this trap, The Voldemort Effect: to not only refuse to name the threat but to then conclude that the threat that you can’t name doesn’t even exist. This creates an empty space of confusion, anger and fear. All Donald Trump needed to do was fill it, his short statement even amplified the feeling of confusion that naturally forms in this space.
The following is a video of Maajid’s powerful speech back in Feb 2015, in it he predicts that this void would occur due to Obama’s labelling aversion; if you haven’t seen it you’re unlikely to gain more from any other 11 minute period today than this.
We in the UK have a different situation, for all of David Cameron’s flaws he has named this threat as Islamism (or the Islamist ideology). He, among others, has named it and promoted the use of that lexicon to divide this war of ideas along its true ideological lines. Obama’s succumbing to The Voldemort Effect has left the US in a state where hysteria, hatred, bigotry and confusion will reign. Obama and Trump have played the game ISIL set for them and I fear that America’s Muslims will now become ever more isolated and radicalised over the coming years.
It’s not the fault of Americans that so many are backing Trump. His ideas about vetting and profiling are wrong, his blaming ‘Muslims’ is wrong, almost everything he says is simplified and ignorant. But to a public that doesn’t even have the terminology to identify what they’re afraid of, he is speaking sense. I hope that someone soon is able to call the threat of Islamism from inside American politics in a way that opposes him. For now though, it seems the left has lost its spine.