As Trump rants about “human scum” who oppose him, Political Research Associates, a Boston-based think tank that monitors domestic right-wing extremism, has released a report, in collaboration with Bend the Arc, timed to mark the first anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh last October, on the surging power of white nationalism and anti-Semitic narratives in Trump’s America.
The far-right narrative that Trump has exploited to secure power contends that white Americans are facing a Great Replacement by nonwhite immigrants, and that much of this migration is fueled by money from liberal Jewish backers such as George Soros. As the impeachment inquiry has taken off, Trump, his sons, and his supporters have, as a recent Intercept report explained, turned increasingly to conspiracy theories blaming Soros—code for “liberal Jews”—for his woes.
This isn’t simply distracting Noise. As the likelihood of Trump’s impeachment grows, the violence-provoking language of the far right must be treated as the Signal too.
PRA researcher Ben Lorber writes, “According to PRA’s review, in the two months leading up to the November 6  election, Fox News and five other leading conservative websites published a combined total of at least 345 news pieces that connected Soros and globalists to liberal causes—almost one article a day per site, on average.… By the time of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting [on] October 27, the conspiracy that Soros was funding the migrant caravan, boosted by continued mainstream exposure, had a potential reach of over 670 million on Facebook and Twitter alone.”
Pay attention to this swampland of violent, nativist rhetoric. But don’t take your eye off other vastly important trends.
This week, in an intensifying war against both the environment and the State of California, the Trump administration announced that the Justice Department is suing the Golden State in an attempt to stop its cap-and-trade carbon emissions agreement with Quebec. If the administration succeeds, it will have eviscerated one of the world’s most important cap-and-trade systems and given a huge boost to fossil fuel industries.
At the same time, federal and state policies to discourage poor families—especially immigrants—from accessing public assistance programs are having real-world impacts. In the past year and a half, more than million kids lost access to Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. While a majority seem to have moved over to private coverage, many have been left behind: The number of children with no health insurance rose by more than 400,000 from 2016 to 2018. Much of that increase, according to a New York Times analysis, was concentrated in Texas, Tennessee, and a handful of other conservative states.
And finally, preoccupied by impeachment, it’s easy for us in the United States to forget that big events are happening elsewhere around the world too. Chile is in turmoil, with massive civil unrest over rising transportation costs and growing economic inequality. Bolivia is in crisis, after elections marked by allegations of vote-count fraud. Massive anti-poverty and anti-corruption protests are rocking Lebanon. In the UK, the Brexit saga gets more messy by the day. And in Spain, Catalonia has experienced a huge new round of sometimes violent pro-independence protests.
That’s the Signal. Don’t get distracted by all the surrounding static.
Clarification: This article was updated to note that the PRA report was produced in collaboration with Bend the Arc.