Portrait of a panic

At a Trump rally in Reno today, the Secret Service rushed the candidate off the stage after people in the audience saw a protester  and yelled “He’s got a gun.” The man was arrested and taken out of the arena after people in the Trump crowd had finished hitting and choking him.

A few minutes later, Trump was back on stage, saying “Nobody said it was going to be easy for us but we will never be stopped.” His campaign issued a statement in his name saying “I would like to thank the United States Secret Service and the law enforcement resources in Reno and the state of Nevada for their fast and professional response. Nothing will stop us — we will make America great again!”

In the meantime, one of his Twitter fans started bragging about how brave he’d been in the face of an “assassination attempt.” Trump’s Director of Social Media, Dan Scavino, retweeted that Tweet; so did Donald Trump, Jr.  Joe Walsh thundered “How come it’s only the Left that incites violence, shuts down events, & now attempts to take out the opposition?”

Now it turns out that:

  1. There was no gun.
  2. The man was a holding a sign that said “Republicans Against Trump.” 
  3. He was mobbed by Trump supporters.
  4. He has now been released without charges.

So all that fake heroism and panic turned out to be about nothing at all except the hyperactive panic reflex of a bunch of Trump supporters, the cynical willingness of the campaign to exploit the incident to create fear, and of course the willingness to be fooled - bordering on eagerness - among not only Trumpites but elements of the media.

Can you imagine the mockery Trump & Co. would have directed at Hillary Clinton if she’d run away from a nonexistent gun?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Portrait of a panic”

  1. According to Tr*mp's supporters, a gun at the rally would make everyone safer. Why would that be a problem?

    1. Maybe he was asking for a gun, the way a surgeon might say "Sponge." Trump's ego is so fragile that a poster could be just as deadly as a firearm. As the old saying goes, "When they bring a nasty sign, we bring a gun."

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