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This revealing anecdote unmasks Trump’s dehumanization game

Trump on MS-13 gang members: ‘They’re animals’

On May 17, President Trump responded to a question from a reporter on remarks he had made the previous day about the deportation of MS-13 gang members.(Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)


Whether he’s talking about Latino immigrants or kneeling African American football players, President Trump has a consistent way of disguising his racism, bigotry and dehumanization while dog-whistling it out to those voters who he believes may thrill to it.

The game is always that Trump fluidly conflates one set of individuals who constitute a less sympathetic target — one he ostensibly goes after, and one that is harder to defend — with the broader group he’s actually trying to belittle or dehumanize but cannot do so overtly.

This morning, Trump unleashed an assault on Democrats, claiming they are rooting against America. He tweeted that Democrats are “coming to the defense of MS 13 thugs, saying that they are individuals & must be nurtured.”

By “individuals,” Trump perhaps meant “people.” MS-13 “thugs” are in fact people, but as you’ll recall, Trump recently described some undocumented immigrants as “animals.” He says he was referring to MS-13 members, but his real meaning wasn’t entirely clear — and regardless, the obvious target was the broader group; the only question is whether this was implicit or explicit.


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