Donald Trump: Aggressive Rhetoric and Political Violence

Brigitte L. Nacos, Robert Y. Shapiro, Yaeli Bloch-Elkon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


During Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy and presidency political discourse in the United States became more hateful and divisive. Threats and actual violence against groups and individuals singled out and demonized by Trump increased. The targets of his verbal attacks were most of all racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, the news media collectively and individual journalists, and well-known politicians, mostly Democrats. There was a rise in bullying incidents in schools against minority students. Assuming that aggressive rhetoric by influential political leaders affect their supporters’ words and deeds, we examined Trump’s online and offline hate speech, the rhetorical reactions of his followers, and the violent consequences suffered by their declared enemies. We found that contrary to an old children’s rhyme (“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”) Trump’s aggressive, divisive, and dehumanizing language was seconded by his followers and inflicted directly or indirectly psychological and physical harm to Trump’s declared enemies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-25
Number of pages24
JournalPerspectives on Terrorism
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the two anonymous reviewers whose constructive comments were helpful in sharpening the focus of the presentation and discussion of our research results. We are grateful to Isaac Horwitz and Julia Schreder for their capable research assistance. Columbia University’s School of Arts and Sciences provided support for this research, and the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy has assisted us in working together.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020


  • bullying
  • demagoguery
  • leaders
  • media
  • political violence
  • violent speech


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