Updated on September 20 at 1:15 p.m.
Donald Trump Jr. isn’t just his father’s namesake or dark-haired doppelgänger. He is increasingly emerging as his father’s id—or perhaps simply his father’s emissary to the alt-right.
Over the last few weeks, Trump has made an effort to tone down his rhetoric and try to avoid the most outrageous comments, the ones that endeared him to the racists, misogynists, and xenophobes who gather in darker corners of the internet. Ironically, this switch has come since he installed Stephen Bannon, the CEO of Breitbart, a leading alt-right outlet, as his campaign CEO. It has also produced positive results, with Trump reaching his high point of the campaign with just about 50 days to go.
But it’s still important to maintain the base, and that role seems to have fallen to Donald Trump Jr. Trump fils has been increasingly catering to the fringe right in his social-media statements and interviews. Just take the last 16 hours or so. Monday night, Trump Jr. tweeted this message:
Many people objected to the meme on the basis that it dehumanizes victims of war into, um, rainbow-flavored morsels. (“Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy,” Skittles said in a statement. The photographer who shot the image, David Kittos, said it had been used without permission, and added that he himself was a refugee who came to the United Kingdom from Cyprus after the Turkish invasion in 1974.)
It’s also factually dubious, offering no statistical basis for its claim. Refugees seem to almost never (though not never) have participated in terror attacks in the United States. Moreover, none of the attacks that Donald Trump has used to argue against resettling Syrian refugees in the United States have been committed by Syrian refugees. Trump has argued that the nation needs to institute “extreme vetting” for potential refugees, though his descriptions suggest the process would be no more rigorous than the current system, while adding a few subjective questions about “ideology.”
Even as the Skittles controversy bubbled Tuesday morning, Trump Jr. tweeted a link to a Breitbart story:
The article is straightforward race-baiting, warning of the defloration of white women’s purity at the hands of leering non-white Muslim men. It is premised on exaggerated statistics about crime rates among immigrants. The author, Anne-Marie Waters, writes:
You’ve got to wonder—why on earth would Europe’s leaders do this to their own people? What is causing this?
Some have told me it is stupidity, short-sightedness, or even insanity, but it isn’t—it’s hatred.
This is all part of a broad-ranging, virulent, and vicious hatred of the West, and of Western people (especially white Western people).
The Western world is dominated by leaders who despise its history and its heritage and are determined to bring an end to its power. They wish to extinguish Western culture, and opening the borders is a hell of a good start.
This sort of language is only slightly removed from the tone of much of the Trump campaign’s rhetoric, particularly in earlier stages. Trump has suggested, for example, that Obama tacitly allowed the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, or was in league with terrorists. He has repeatedly argued that Obama was not American. The candidate has also repeatedly retweeted messages from white nationalists who allege there is a “white genocide” occurring––the term refers to the white nationalist belief that immigration of non-whites and intermarriage between whites and other ethnicities is leading to the “genocide” of white people.
Last week, Trump Jr. made a strange comment about how if Trump lied repeatedly (which he does), the media would “be warming up the gas chamber right now.” When journalists (including me) raised an eyebrow at the comment, which seemed to be a casual Holocaust joke, Trump backers scolded them (us), saying Trump Jr. had clearly meant only to refer to capital punishment. But Donald Jr. was already cobbling together a record of conveying messages and memes from neo-Nazis and the alt-right.
To label this series simply a lot of coincidences would require a leap of faith and a disregard for probabilities. The outstanding question now is whether Trump Jr. is a true believer in white genocide or is simply playing one for cynical political purposes, letting the internet’s committed racists know that even if Trump moderates his rhetoric, he still wants their votes.