This is Fascistic

Another sad data point about current politics.

Via CNN I would note the following: Judge and clerk in Trump civil fraud trial have received hundreds of ‘serious and credible’ threats.

Since October 3, when Trump posted on social media a baseless allegation about Judge Arthur Engoron’s law clerk, threats against the judge “increased exponentially” and were also directed to his clerk, according to Charles Hollon, a court officer-captain in New York assigned to the Judicial Threats Assessment unit of the Department of Public Safety, who signed a sworn statement.

Hollon said the threats against the judge and his clerk are “considered to be serious and credible and not hypothetical or speculative.”


Hollon said Engoron’s law clerk has received 20-30 calls per day to her personal cell phone and 30-50 messages daily on social media platforms and two personal email addresses.

On a daily basis, he said, the judge and his staff receive hundreds of harassing and threatening phone calls, email and voicemail messages such that security staff are “having to constantly reassess and evaluate what security protections to put in place to ensure the safety of the judge and those around him.”

There is little doubt that this is happening because Trump is purposefully, and continually, trying to rile up his supporters. He knows full well what he is doing.

Trying to mobilize group violence against the legal system of the federal government is dangerous, irresponsible, and let’s call it what it specifically is: fascistic.

We see here several classic fascist elements: the primacy of the leader, the feelings of victimhood, the notion of us v. them, and the exultation of violence.

That random people might engage in threatening calls is not the main issue here. The main issue is that a former president, seeking to be president again, is very much stirring up such people and behavior on purpose.

This makes me think of various bits of testimony from the January 6th Hearings, such as the following:

Then President Donald Trump was frustrated that metal detectors were slowing down armed people from entering a rally of his supporters on January 6, 2021, according to former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who recalled Trump demanding the metal detectors be removed because he believed the crowd was “not there to hurt me.”

It also reminds me of the numerous times that Trump has celebrated violence. See examples in this post, Radicalizing Rhetoric and this one from the late Doug Mataconis, Trump Praises House Candidate For Assaulting Reporter.

We ignore, downplay, or recategorize all of this at our own peril.

More on this topic from me:

Also, I would note this post from Kingdaddy: Fascism Is A Nationalist Aesthetic Movement.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Political Theory, US Politics, , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. gVOR10 says:

    On following the link to the Kingdaddy post I see I endorsed it then as very insightful, and I will again. I’ve since commented a few times that RW politics has become largely post-modern and performative.

    Governance is about policy. Elections are about entertainment. Which favors fascists and other Republicans as they don’t really care about governance.

  2. al Ameda says:

    Trump is a cruel, brutal, narcissistic, and completely cynical and amoral person.

    I can tell you from personal experience, I have family members and extended family who have voted for him twice and will do so again in 2024. They they like Trump because to them, ‘cruel and brutal’ translates as ‘he will fight for us;’ to them ‘narcissist’ is one of those words that ‘liberal elites’ use so it does not register; and ‘amoral’ translates to ‘so what, he put judges on the court who overturned Roe.’

    The 2024 election season is going to be cruel and brutal.

  3. EddieInCA says:

    I’ve said, repeatedly, that this is no longer about Trump. It’s about the 30% of the population to which “cruelty is the point” who support him fully and without ANY reservations, who support him without ANY reservation. It’s THE reason that these people support him. They WANT the violence, as long as it’s going towards those people they hate. There is no policy, other than cruelty.

    As long as the media keeps treating him as a regular candidate – normalizing the cruel rhetoric and calls for violence – it will continue to get worse, espcially given that most Americans are not engaged, and don’t realize how dangerous his, and his allies, are to the rule of law and a functioning democracy.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    Trump either has to overthrow the government and erase the constitution or he’s going to prison. That’s where we are. So yes he is trying to foment violence.

  5. Scott F. says:

    What Eddie says!

    As long as the media keeps treating him as a regular candidate…

    Also, things will continue to get worse as long as the media keeps treating his supporters as salt of the earth “real Americans” with legitimate concerns about the direction of the country rather than the “cruel and brutal” people they truly are.

  6. Beth says:

    What I’m curious about is what it’s going to take to get one of these fomented assholes moving on their threats. I think one of the few things keeping us “safe” is that the right wingers are basically cowards.

    However, at some point one of them is going to get a little tingle up their legs and decide to blow someone up.

  7. CSK says:


    This is why Trump gets away with what he does. People don’t fear him–he’s blustering jerk–but they DO fear his followers. Sure, most of them are too old and too out-of-shape to do any real damage. BUT…but but but, there are 71 million of them. Just 5% of that is much, much bigger than any army. They can do a lot of damage.

  8. Paul L. says:

    I am enjoying how the heroes of Democracy are remove his 1st amendment rights and silence Trump over over their hurt feelz.
    Gag/Let Justice Work orders are just used by the the courts to hide their misconduct.

  9. Mikey says:

    @Paul L.: “Their hurt feelz?” People are threatening to KILL THEM, you fascist imbecile.

  10. Michael Cain says:

    I noticed the other day that when Trump went on his rant about how badly all the courts and prosecutors and judges were treating him, the Georgia case was conspicuous by its absence. It’s a criminal case, in a state court, with a formal bond contract (and presumably a whole bunch of case law about what is a violation of that contract), and co-defendants falling all over themselves to plead guilty.

  11. @Paul L.: So, you are all in on threats of violence and death threats in the service of disrupting a court proceeding.

    You see, that’s fascistic.

    (You are also swallowing, hook, line, and sinker the justifications Trump, as leader, is providing you).

  12. Paul L. says:

    Then charge them and let the public see the “Death Threats”. The Fascistic behavior is silencing people who call Judges out for being biased prosecutorial lapdogs.

    hundreds of harassing and threatening phone calls, email and voicemail messages

    I was told it is harassing to call to the police to complain about their misconduct.

  13. Paul L. says:

    @Michael Cain:

    co-defendants falling all over themselves to plead guilty.

    For how much jail time? These people attacked Democracy and got probation.

  14. Mister Bluster says:

    @Paul L.:.. Then charge them and let the public see the “Death Threats”.

    This is an excellent idea! Before they can be charged they have to come out from under the rocks where they live. I’m sure that you will be happy to help the authorities locate them. Remember that it is your idea to charge them. You just wrote that in this post.

  15. Gavin says:

    Paul, you’re a biased lapdog.
    But that’s OK – because you look like a NPC who I’d run over in Grand Theft Auto.

  16. Kathy says:

    Portraying the strong, tough, invincible strongman/herrenvolk as a victim is a common fascist tactic.

    What I wonder is what level of doublethink and self-loathing is required to make it work.

  17. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Paul L.: I’m going to content myself with pointing out that the gag order does not include the Judge himself, only his employees. So your charge of “silencing people who call Judges out” is … counter-factual nonsense.

    Also, “call out” and “death threat” are not synonyms. I think you know that. I think you’re smart, given what I’ve seen of you posting. So what you’re doing now must be willful, rather than misinformed.

  18. @Jay L Gischer:

    I think you know that. I think you’re smart, given what I’ve seen of you posting. So what you’re doing now must be willful, rather than misinformed.

    Indeed. Moreover, the links in the piece point to numerous examples of Trump promoting violence. Paul L. knows what he is defending.

  19. Mikey says:

    @Paul L.:

    The Fascistic behavior is silencing people who call Judges out

    They’re not “calling judges out,” they’re threatening to KILL THEM.

  20. Jen says:

    @Paul L.:

    I am enjoying how the heroes of Democracy are remove his 1st amendment rights and silence Trump over over their hurt feelz.

    None of our rights are absolute. There are limits to ALL of them. You cannot, for example, murder someone and say you are engaging in human sacrifice per your religion. You cannot, for another example, say it’s free speech and disclose the nation’s intelligence secrets.

    And, specific to this post, you cannot incite violence or defame people or engage in “fighting words” or threats.

    Trump’s first amendment rights come with the same exact responsibilities all other U.S. citizens have, and that is to ABIDE BY THE NARROW LIMITS that have been established.

    That he cannot seem to manage even that speaks directly to his unfitness for office.

  21. becca says:

    Paul L is a proud member of what Lincoln called “the vicious part of our population” . Like people who took their kids and a picnic basket to a lynching. Like people who bombed the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma , killing scores, including children in the daycare facility. Like those who go to grocery stores to kill people of color. Like those who bombed a church and killed little girls getting ready for Sunday school in Birmingham. Like the man who assassinated Martin Luther King in Memphis. Like the book banners and gay bathers and gun nuts that harass and threaten all who don’t bow to their will.
    Trump is them and they are Trump.

  22. Jay says:


    Paul L is a proud member of what Lincoln called “the vicious part of our population” .

    Not quite. Keyboard warriors like him are happy to talk big online but they know that if they ever confronted any decent people in person they would be put down like the dogs that they are. Their bluster and basic cowardice is why we aren’t seeing all the violence they claim to support.

    Even the January 6 crowd wasn’t really up for it. If the police had brought out the live ammunition (as they should have) they would have been trampling each other to death running away. Just look at what happened when Ashli Babbit got what was coming to her.

    Unfortunately, they conflate mercy and restraint with weakness so my fear is that eventually one or two of them will actually muster the stones to do something. But it won’t be the Paul L’s of the world. I guarantee that he would pee his pants if he was ever in a situation where he had to back up his rhetoric.

  23. dazedandconfused says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Quite right, and a notable feature of the disorder is the thrill afforded to fascists from the ability force their “truths’ on others with violence. “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac” -said someone.

  24. Paul L. says:

    I noticed you don’t quote Trump violating the limits of Free speech. Baseless allegations about Judge Arthur Engoron’s law clerk is no where near “Fighting Words”.
    It is just like when the Law Enforcement caste gets upset when people flip them off and the police illegally arrest them.

  25. Paul L. says:

    Heroic Left wing violence.
    Fighting Islamophobia
    Hadi Matar who stabbed Salman Rushdie.
    Elton Simpson and Nadir Hamid Soofi who attacked the Draw Mohammad contest.
    Fighting Transphobia
    Audrey Elizabeth Hale The Covenant School shooting
    For Healthcare!!
    Republican Baseball insurrection shooter James Hodgkinson

  26. @Paul L.: So here’s the deal: political violence of the type you are outlining is bad, and politicians who promote violence ought to be condemned.

    Why is that so hard for you to do?

  27. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    So here’s the deal: political violence of the type you are outlining is bad, and politicians who promote violence ought to be condemned.

    Totally agree. And… nuanced comment on the way… that doesn’t necessarily mean they should have their speech restricted.

    I had been watching this thread and going back and forth on how to respond to this back and forth. There are a number of things about this that are true at the same time:

    1. The area of gag orders is pretty ill-defined law with very little guiding precedent. Paul is correct in that many gag orders most likely violate the First Amendment and don’t meet the Brandenburg incitement standards (which Paul incorrectly identifies as “fighting words”–fighting words are one subset of incitement, but not the only one that is recognized). More on Brandenburg in a second.

    2. Trump, so far, has been treated with kit gloves when you look at normal gag orders. The one placed on him by Engeron was extremely narrow (when compared to other orders). The Federal Order is more sweeping (though still more constrained than normal orders). Most defendants don’t get that level of deference.*

    3. Trump’s team is appealing these orders. That’s a good thing. Hopefully, regardless of outcome, we will get useful decisions and precedents from those appeals.

    4. Most of Trump’s utterances up to this point don’t meet the Brandenburg test for Incitement. That includes the Jan 6th speech–that’s why he hasn’t been charged with incitement to date. This isn’t just my opinion–it’s the one of Free Speech Lawyers from across the political spectrum. However, at least in the case of Engoron’s clerk, some people (including Ken White/Popehat) think that Trump’s continued attacks may be crossing that line.

    The challenge is that incitement law isn’t necessarily well suited to the doxing age, and context needs to be considered. The question of whether or not posting the modern equivalent of “Will someone not rid me of this meddlesome judge and clerk” on Truth Social can be taken as incitement based on the past behavior of that audience (especially when things like this have happened in the past: In this case, the Judge and Clerk are both receiving death threats via social media and direct phone calls to their doxed phones since Trump’s postings.

    The question is whether or not that falls under incitement. I just saw that Trump’s lawyers have submitted an argument to the appeals court that death threats don’t constitute imminent danger ( Regardless of what any of us think, that will be something for the Appeals Court (or possibly the Supreme Court) to ultimately decide.

    Given that recent years (including 2023) have seen the assassination of State and Federal Judges, I’m not sure where this will net out (especially in an era where it’s incredibly easy to get and share personal information).

  28. Paul L. says:

    some people (including Ken White/Popehat) think that Trump’s continued attacks may be crossing that line.

    When it comes to Trump, Popehat throws out any of his past beliefs about “people engaged in hyperbolic political rhetoric that is clearly protected by the First Amendment“.
    [Insert Dishonest Bad faith Hack abusing their Government Power and Authority]…deserves to be fed slowly feet first into a Woodchipper/Industrial Scrap Metal Shredder.

  29. mattbernius says:

    @Paul L.:
    Paul, I know that nuance isn’t your thing–or, for that matter, listening to what experts actually say in context–but hey, I’ll give it one more try.

    Ken White has been one of the most consistent people saying that what Trump has uttered in the past–including on Jan 6th–doesn’t rise to incitement. Heck, he’s been nicknamed “Kenny Raincloud” for a reason. So this isn’t just a political shift. And there is tons and tons of literal evidence for that (see “All the Presidents’ Lawyers” and later “Serious Trouble” for that evidence). Despite how White personally feels about Trump (and to be clear he doesn’t like the man at all), like any good advocate and defender of the First Amendment, he’s been incredibly consistent on this issue (for example he still considers Judge Chutkin’s order overreach). So your starting position reveals your lack of nuance and bias before we get to the example you cite.

    Next, we get into the logistics of the post you just cited. In this case, it was over anonymous comments on the Reason chat. Not messages sent to a judge. And he’s completely right about those. That is fundamentally different than direct death threats being placed on people’s personal lines. Further, as he points out, there is actual evidence that Trump’s posts have led to his followers actually doing things like… showing up to a former president’s supposed address with a van with guns in it… I noticed you skipped that point:

    And, after reviewing the podcast, the specific Truth Social post that Ken specifically talked about was the one where Trump made a comment saying he would like to see someone “citizen arrest” both Judge Engoron and Leticia James. Which gets back to the “would someone not rid me of this turbulent priest” reference. Even then he says he’s not sure but it feels like it’s getting close to the Brandenburg line.

    Context matters in the law and the interpretation thereof.

    So when a defense attorney and First Amendment advocate who regularly critiques federal overreach from an informed perspective (having been a Federal Prosecutor) AND has previously–up to the last month–said there’s no incitement suddenly says “hey, the context here is important and this might be a colorable issue”–maybe, just maybe, it’s worth examining one’s position.

    See Serious Trouble’s most recent episode “Incitement” for more on White’s nuanced logic on these issues.

    That’s, of course, if one is interested in doing that. But then again, what do I know–or lawyers for that matter?

    I personally think you should write Ken one of your special “Paul L. gotcha” messages. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. The email is RI*********@se************.com

  30. Matt Bernius says:

    This morning I realized there are a few issues here that need to be disentangled from a legal perspective:

    1. Are these types of speech restrictions in a civil or criminal trial constitutional? As noted, there isn’t a lot of clarifying law on this. So the question as to whether or not this is a First Amendment violation is an open one and hopefully will be clarified through the Trump Team’s appeals.

    2. Was the fact pattern of Trump and his attorney’s postings enough to warrant sanction under the speech restriction? Again, if the speech restrictions pass First Amendment muster then the answer to the question is yes. The fact pattern also demonstrates why those statements are different than anonymous indirect postings to a third-party board.

    3. Do those statements rise to chargeable incitement (which is different than #2)? On this, going back to Popehat, effectively no. The only thing that could change that is if someone actually attempts to physically attack (or “citizen arrest”) the judges, clerks, prosecution, or witnesses. Then all bets are off.

    4. Is continuing to attack the Judges, Clerks, etc a good legal strategy? This is a strong “No.” However, it’s a great PR strategy because it speaks to a portion of one’s base who already sees this (and many other) prosecutions as political or social attacks.

    Obviously, everyone’s mileage with this may vary.