I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face in a gas chamber. It was the evening of September 17, 2015. I had just posted a short item to the Corner calling out notorious Trump ally Ann Coulter for aping the white-nationalist language and rhetoric of the so-called alt-right. Within minutes, the tweets came flooding in. My youngest daughter is African American, adopted from Ethiopia, and in alt-right circles that’s an unforgivable sin. It’s called “race-cucking” or “raising the enemy.”French's wife publishes a blog at Patheos, and it was attacked as well:
I saw images of my daughter’s face in gas chambers, with a smiling Trump in a Nazi uniform preparing to press a button and kill her. I saw her face photo-shopped into images of slaves. She was called a “niglet” and a “dindu.” The alt-right unleashed on my wife, Nancy, claiming that she had slept with black men while I was deployed to Iraq, and that I loved to watch while she had sex with “black bucks.” People sent her pornographic images of black men having sex with white women, with someone photoshopped to look like me, watching.
Several different accounts began posting images and GIFs of extreme violence in her comments section. Click on a post and scroll down and you’ll see pictures of black men shooting other black men, close-up images of suicides, GIFs of grisly executions -- the kinds of psyche-scarring things that one can’t “unsee.”And the threats became even more ominous:
The moment we landed back at home after I declined to run for president, [my wife] turned on her phone to see an e-mail from a Trump fan, a veteran who informed her that he knew the business end of a gun and told her directly that she should shut her mouth or he’d take action.When French was being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, I mocked the Frenches' Santorumesque cultural values. The Frenches are cultural warriors. They're on one side and I'm on the other. But they don't deserve this.
We contacted law enforcement, she got her handgun-carry permit, and life returned to the new normal of daily Twitter harassment, until the day this month when an angry voice actually broke into a phone conversation between my wife and her elderly father, screaming about Trump and spewing profanities. My wife was on her iPhone. Her father was on a landline.
I know the counterargument: Republicans have spent years getting their base angry, and now they're reaping the whirlwind. In general, I do think conservatism brought this on itself. But that doesn't absolve individuals of responsibility for terroristic threats. Trump has hit this fire with gasoline and accelerants and then whipped out a flamethrower and juiced it some more. Some of the worst people in America are responding. I blame Trump. But I also blame Trumpers who terrorize.
When I read about Team Trump's plans to cast doubt on the election results -- the endless denunciations of the media and pollsters, the cries of "Voter fraud!," the plan by Roger Stone to conduct what will obviously be phony, Drudge-worthy exit polls -- I have to assume that election officials in every swing state that Hillary Clinton wins, as well as election officials in Illinois (because it includes the city the right sees as hell on earth, Chicago), are at risk of being subject to the same things David French and other Trump opponents have endured. After that, as I've said before, it's going to happen to Clinton electors around the time of the Electoral College vote.
As a society, we're not even half-trying to get a handle on this sort of abuse. Women who are highly visible online have known all about it for years. Now journalists who've written less-than-flattering Trump stories know. And add conservative Trump critics to the list. The list will get longer next month, and maybe beyond.