Former U.S. President Donald Trump celebrated Veterans Day Saturday by aiming dangerous speech at other Americans, pledging to “root out the Communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” His use of the term “vermin” was quickly compared to Adolf Hitler’s rhetoric, especially as Trump also echoed Hitler recently by describing undocumented immigrants as “poisoning the blood of our country”.
Trump’s remarks also exhibit familiar patterns or “hallmarks” of dangerous speech, including ‘threat to group integrity or purity’ which is rhetoric suggesting that the presence of other people is poisonous and must be removed. With the term “vermin” Trump also, of course, dehumanized his political opponents.
Trump has long used dangerous speech to fire up his followers with the idea that fellow Americans are betraying them. During his first campaign for president, he bizarrely claimed Hillary Clinton and then-President Barack Obama were co-founders of the terrorist group ISIS, identifying them as enemies and as traitors. Throughout that campaign and during his presidency he also regularly attacked immigrants – and especially liberal Americans who welcome them – by reciting a poem about a snake that fatally bites the woman who took it in and saved its life.