DEVLIN: Ilhan Omar’s Incitement Invocation

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Saturday, May 11, 2019


In the aftermath of the Covington controversy, I wrote a column about how our current political discourse stems from the fundamental attribution error, which is jumping to conclusions about another’s behavior or intentions based on faulty assumptions of their character. In the piece, I noted that the media jumped to conclusions about the Covington Catholic High School students because of what they believed to be true about Donald Trump’s supporters.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen Democrats label any speech they disagree with as “incitement,” even accusing dissenters of violence, and their haphazard use of the term is yet another symptom of the fundamental attribution error.

For example, Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar infamously described 9/11 as an incident in which  “some people did something.” Conservatives and some liberals justifiably responded with ire. President Trump reacted to Omar’s comments by tweeting a video juxtaposing Representative Omar’s statements with footage from 9/11.

Immediately, Democrats claimed the president was dangerously inciting violence against Ilhan Omar. To no surprise, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came to her friends’ side by tweeting a picture of Martin Niemöller’s famous “first they came” quote and claiming this was dangerously “targeting of a member of Congress.”

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were also quick to shame the president and defend Omar. Sanders tweeted this:

Warren’s line of attack followed both Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders: 

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has surged in polls recently, grabbed his pitchfork and joined the twitter mob a few hours later. He tweeted:

I have to hand it to the Democrat’s in this case; for once, their messaging, if anything, is consistent.

Two days later, Ilhan Omar released a statement on Twitter, claiming her office saw a spike in threats on her life that directly referenced President Trump’s video: “Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief. We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.”

Omar is correct that hateful rhetoric and threats of violence are indeed immoral. However, there’s one glaring issue with the Democrats’ argument: the United States has established what legally constitutes incitement. Supreme Court precedent states that speech may be considered “inciting” if it intends to create “imminent lawless action.” While the president’s tweet is clearly in response to Omar’s comments, neither the video or President Trump’s caption mentions Ilhan Omar’s name, nor call for any explicit action to be taken against her, let alone targeted harassment or violence; thus, barring it from being considered an act of incitement. That being said, even if the legal definition was ignored altogether, do you really think Donald Trump, a man who isn’t shy about going on the attack and has explicitly insulted nearly everyone, would take such an indirect route of inciting action against Omar if that was his intent? I hardly think so.

Herein lies the question: How did Democrats get so far down the rabbit hole? Answering this question requires rehashing the effects of the fundamental attribution error. First, they instantly assume the worst about anything Trump does because they believe he is evil; as are his supporters. Therefore, the video Trump tweeted is much more than antipathy towards Omar’s understatement. Instead, Trump must be using Omar’s words not only to cudgel her politically, but to dogwhistle to his base that he approves of violent threats towards Ilhan Omar. Since Trump’s base props up his racism, they, too, hold Muslims and people of color in contempt, and zealously awaited their master’s wink and nod to violently act on their deeply-held prejudices. I find this chain of logic to be interpolation of the highest order.

Democrat’s could have argued that Ilhan Omar wasn’t intentionally understating the events of 9/11, that her comments were taken out of context, and we could’ve all been home in time for dinner. Instead, they fell into the attribution error and impugn the President’s speech by levying indictments of incitement. As a result, Democrats have sowed deeper divisions in our society, the very divisions they suggest Trump is tilling.

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Bradley Devlin

University of California, Berkeley

Bradley Devlin is a student at the University of California Berkeley studying Political Economics and serves as the President of the Berkeley College Republicans.

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