In which I unfriend people on Facebook for wishing that Trump would sicken and die

December 2, 2018 • 10:45 am

A few days ago  one of my Facebook friends posted a comment on their timeline wishing that someone would send Donald Trump E. coli-contaminated romaine lettuce, with the clear implication that this would sicken or kill him.  Much as I despise Trump and his views, I found that comment insupportable, and after a testy remark I unfriended the person. (The concept of “friends” on Facebook is weird anyway, as I haven’t even met most of these friends, including the Death-to-Trumper.)

I then posted this comment visible to my “friends” (the duckling is there as a Comfort Waterfowl):

My view, which I try to promote on this site, is that you can disagree with someone without insulting their looks, their family, or (especially) wishing that they were dead.

Imagine my surprise, then, when in the comments to my post appeared several people who shared the Miscreant’s sentiment. One said that the comment was excusable for several reasons, including that those romaine-eating people might have gotten sick and died because of the FDA’s lax food-monitoring rules, made more lax under Trump. And indeed, that may be true, but it’s still no reason to wish Trump dead—any more than it would be to wish Obama dead because he kept U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, enforcing a futile policy that ensured that U.S. soldiers would die. Should we wish Obama dead for the foreseeable effects of that policy?

The argument continued: Trump deserved to die because of his immigration policy (which I oppose), or because of his failure to express sympathy for the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville (which is reprehensible, as was Trump’s statement that there were “good people on both sides”). But to me, none of that justifies wishing death or illness on someone. If you don’t like someone’s policy, campaign against it, write Trump or the Congress, picket, and so on, but don’t wish someone dead.

Yes, if Trump died a natural death right now, I wouldn’t have anything good to say about him, but he does have family and friends and presumably values his own life. It seems mean and churlish to wish that life would end. (Yes, it might be salubrious for America, but there are a lot of people whose deaths would be salubrious for America, and we shouldn’t wish them dead.)

When I said it would be equally odious to wish for the death of Barack Obama, a correspondent said no, it would be more odious because Obama did good things and wasn’t nearly as horrible as Trump. That, I think, instantiates this meme:

Someone else said that “Just the thought of Trump eating poisoned lettuce made my day a little brighter”. That’s a horrible thing to say, and doesn’t make me think better of the person. I gave that one a chance to repent, but if she doesn’t she’s gone. (I have no illusions that my unfriending someone will make them sad; I just don’t want to be “friends” with people whose behavior is like this.)

Why are people doing this? For the same reason people accost Republican officials or congresspeople in restaurants, calling them out and making them leave. It’s a form of performative morality, in which people try to demonstrate their goodness in public (in this case, hatred of Trump = moral virtue), hoping that they’ll win social currency from their “friends”. People have become so invested in their identities that they find it unable to demonstrate the merest social civility toward someone else. You don’t have to like them, and it’s okay to snub them, but wishing them dead?

This is one of the bad effects of the Internet, which has not only allowed much of the world to stick their nose into your tent, but, even worse, makes people behave worse than they would were they to talk to you in person. And one reason for that is anonymity, which gives you a shield to express views that would make you a social skunk were they attached to their name. The other is that, even if you attach your views to your real name, you are separated from your communicant by many miles and two computer screens, and so are free from the social niceties accompanying face to face communication. (One thing I liked about Christopher Hitchens was that he didn’t say anything behind people’s backs that he wouldn’t say to their face.)  This is the same reason why you can curse people during fits of road rage in your car, and curse them in a way you’d never do if you were actually talking to them.

So much of social media involves people flaunting their self-styled virtues to gain approbation from others. That, of course, is the way life often works, but on social media the virtue-flaunting seems to have become more extreme, not only because of the extension of your village to the world, but because of the absence of face-to-face discourse.

I won’t put up with that kind of incivility on Facebook, and I try to keep it to a minimum on this site. You may disagree with me, of course, but please don’t tell me that I should keep people as friends (even “Facebook friends”) who wish for the illness and death of others. You can do what you want on your own Facebook page.  I don’t get pleasure out of pondering the illness and death of anyone—even Trump—and if you foster these sentiments on this website, you’ll most likely be bounced.

Have a brood of ducklings!


220 thoughts on “In which I unfriend people on Facebook for wishing that Trump would sicken and die

  1. I agreed with you yesterday and even more so today, after you’ve augmented your stance. It is unacceptable to wish illness or death on anyone (as you correctly admonish: as diabolical as he may be, he is still someone’s father, husband, etc.), or judge them on accidents of appearance.

    Hi, ducklings!

    1. As you know, I agreed with Jerry on Facebook as well, and I still do. It’s one of my own principles that I’ve come to separate from my friendship with Jerry.

      Something I didn’t say yesterday is that a lot of these people oppose the death penalty, torture, and the poor treatment of prisoners even though they have committed some of the worst crimes imaginable. (I agree with them there.) But, they’re willing to wish those same things on Trump. They could at least have a consistent message.

      1. I oppose the death penalty and the poor treatment of prisoners. However it is a fact that prisoners are treated poorly in this country. I do wish Trump in jail. Should I wish him treated better than some teen aged drug offender? Just depriving him of his freedom and his privilages for life might be punishment enough, but by comparison with how we treat other offenders, that would be a travesty.

        1. I’m not sure what your point is? Genuine query – not trying to be rude. I think that if Trump is convicted of committing a crime he should be in jail and he shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other prisoner. However, I consider the way all prisoners in the US are treated is appalling. (Not that we can’t improve in NZ! I think we all should be emulating Norway.) That’s a separate issue though, and how prisoners are treated in the US can’t be part of the decision of whether Trump is imprisoned if/when he’s found guilty of criminal behaviour.

          1. You are right, I have conflated two separate issues. Forgive my muddy thinking. In my mind was the reality of our appalling prison system, and the likelihood that even if convicted and imprisoned (highly unlikely) he woul be sent to a country club prison. I was contemplating the gross injustice of that as a hypothetical. I should have been clearer. Thank you for your query.

            1. You’re right of course – even if he gets sent to prison, he won’t have the same tough time most prisoners do. And he’ll think that’s the way it should be as well – that “people like him” shouldn’t have to go through what the young drug offender does.

      2. I think their opposition to death penalty etc. is a deeply held value, while their wish of ill things to Trump is just a base emotion born of their frustration that they must endure President Trump, an emotion that they must vent in order to feel better. Unfortunately, in the age of Internet, the venting becomes an uneraseable public script.

  2. Once upon a time I would have said “Amen, brother!” JAC you are correct on so many levels. Civil discourse and mutual respect should be the standard that all of us should follow.

  3. Couldn’t agree more. Reading about the life of HW Bush, the consistent sentiment is recognizing his decency, as a politician and as a private individual. The genuine friendship between the Obama and Bush families speaks volumes. Could anyone imagine Michelle Obama expressing such a foolish and nasty wish? No way. Because those two families, however one feels about their politics, are what we should all aspire to be. Kind, generous, full of conviction and class.

    1. I remember how decently Mr Bush used the Willie Horton strategy in the 1988 Presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis.

      1. Lee Atwater, Bush’s campaign manager, probably deserves much of the blame for this kind of tactic. I don’t think it came naturally to Bush. Although, he must have approved the ad for release.

  4. Moral righteousness justifies psychopathic behaviour. If someone is deemed to be evil, they are thus dehumanized and torturing and killing them or destroying their career is seen as good and just.

    A group of psychologists wrote a great article on this only I cannot find it at the moment.

    1. It could also just be an outburst to cope with a feeling of helplessness. It’s the same thing that motivates passive-aggressive behaviour.

      I’m sure we’ve all had people do miserable things to us and even try to destroy our lives for weird reasons often nothing to do with us (or is that just me? I do think i have weird experiences ans wanted to write a book called “weird shit keeps happening to me”).

  5. Good for you, Jerry. Much as I may loathe Trump, I find the (apparently many tens of thousand) people constantly wishing for his death and saying that the thought of him dying in horrible pain makes them happy to be disgusting. They’re no better than their opponents who thought Obama was destroying the country and wished for the same thing.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people say things like this, and I don’t even have social media.

    1. I find the (apparently many tens of thousand) people constantly wishing for his death and saying that the thought of him dying in horrible pain makes them happy to be disgusting.

      On the other hand, it’s a long-running and continuous experiment in the (non-)power of prayer. The minute that the Tangerine Shitgibbon (to use his Gaelic title, or at least his Glaswegian one) bursts into flame during a live TV broadcast with really high ratings is the day that we’re all going to have to start checking the speed of light and the result of 1+1.

      1. So, would we conclude from that that you’ve been thinking Uncharitable Thoughts in your prayers? 😉


    2. I don’t wish for his death ,i hope he lives long enough to be jailed for all the crap he has dumped on people .

  6. I wouldn’t wish him dead, but to see him sh*t himself on live tv at the G20 or one of his little Nuremberg rallies due to eating some lettuce…

    1. No, you don’t wish him dead, but what you fantasize about is too puerile for words; shall I say re the lettuce, it’s in very bad taste.

        1. It’s weird that people find vomiting embarrassing. I didn’t think it was funny or embarrassing and just hoped Bush was ok. I wouldn’t want to barf suddenly either but if I did I’d be meh about it unless I messed up someone’s stuff or puked on them.

          When I woke up from a medical procedure I told the nurse that I was going to barf. She ignored me so I puked on the floor and didn’t care. She later asked me if I vomited. I said yes but only because I was so sick. If I wasn’t sick, I would have been sarcastic and claimed an albatross flew through the window and puked.

          1. Yeah, well the important point is that he wasn’t hurt. Just embarrassed. I won’t apologize for finding it amusing. Humor is subjective. I would also list Spaceballs, Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles as my three favorite movies. Mel Brooks’ movies may be “puerile” but he’s funny as hell.

        2. I bet you would ,like me wet yourself watching the Grantham witch slowly sink to the floor with food poisoning when she was in Japan

          If that means i am a terrible person ,i don’t care .

          One of my penpal’s send me this in a message .

          “You are a very good brother. Is anyone cloning you anytime soon?”

          See i am not that bad .

  7. I’ll tell you, though, if that trolley was heading for the workers down the way, and Trump was sitting on the bridge above the tracks, I wouldn’t hesitate a second.
    I think you’re a little hard on harmless venting, Jerry: it’s called fiction.

    1. Thanks for advising me on my attitudes and behavior. I have taken it under advisement, and decided I’m right.

      It bespeaks things about people’s character when they do this, and I don’t consider it ‘harmless venting.’ Life is too short to associate with this kind of, yes, toxic behavior.

      1. Offense-seeking, aren’t we? Isn’t the romaine remark the kind of meaningless fantasy that occurs to us all the time when we feel resentful or despairing. Mailing lettuce to the White House isn’t a feasible terrorist act, just a sigh of despair.
        Why, despite ‘The Better Angels of our Nature,’ are half the YA lit and half the action movies we are offered about apocalypse or post-apocalypse. People feel they are without agency, they see the ‘movements’ petering out or breaking up in partisan infighting, and sometimes they feel like a chained dog who just has to snarl.
        I’m not an American: I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and I’ve just seen my provincial (state) government taken over by a Trump wannabe called Doug Ford – the older, meaner brother of the late Rob Ford, once mayor of Toronto. European and Latin American governments are filling up with phony-populist right-wingers, whose philosophies make Mr Romaine look level-headed. Ostracism of those who vent is no solution. It might make you feel righteous, but really?

    1. There’s a .00001% chance it might work. So, you might as well. Nothing to lose.


      (I was referring to sticking pins in a doll doll, of course. Did anyone think I meant voting?)

  8. What annoys me about social media is that people who agree with one another end up quarreling. It is extraordinarily easy to misread the intent of a comment and to overreact. Conversations easily spiral out of control.

  9. “Why are people doing this?”

    I suspect a lot of the words of violence come from frustration. People hate living under “the worse president ever” and want to do something about it. Patience is not a common attribute. Yes they can vote, but 2020 is so far away.

    1. Eh, I remember this from the W. years as well. This is not new to Trump. Of course, I remember people on the other side wishing death on Obama.

      I think some people are so caught up in their own feelings of anger and disgust that they really do wish for these things.

  10. Found it. This is how ISIS justifies it’s atrocities. How Hitler justified the Holocaust. How all manner of vigilantes justify harming others:

    “”In his book Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty (1999), the psychologist Roy Baumeister argues that people believe most perpetrators of violence to be sadists who gain pleasure from the suffering of innocent victims. Especially for the most heinous crimes, we can’t help but see the perpetrators as ‘bad’ people: inhuman monsters who lack basic moral feeling. Baumeister called this phenomenon ‘the myth of pure evil’. A myth because it isn’t true.””


    A writer for Vox justified the attack on Tucker Carlson’s wife and residence as morally righteous because Carlson was guilty of ‘violence’ against others with his…speech.

    1. Your remarks and citations go hand with the link that Blue gave yesterday re the Atlantic article on the culture of cruelty flourishing because of Trump.

  11. Quite reasonable.

    Though I’d like to see a picture of ducklings anytime Donald is mentioned in a post. A matter of balance, or something like that.

    1. I may have missed the development of the theme/ meme – is it that we’re getting pictures of Donald Duck, because he’s totally quackers?

    1. Trumps taste tester? “OK Mr President, you really need this Hawaiian shirt pattern for your facial tangerine painting. It is almost the ideal marker of your taste.”

    2. “he probably doesn’t eat lettuce”

      Excuse me? “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – on a sesame seed bun.”

      You’ve traduced the Big Mac recipe that’s a mainstay of the Trumpian dietary intake. 🙂

      1. You do know the “lettuce” is a single small, thin, soggy, leaf of iceberg. Not worthy of bolding. Easy to miss when you’re bolting down the all-beef patties.

  12. I think you point out why I have nothing to do with Facebook or Twitter. The human character is no more ready for this than it is capable of dealing with a Donald Trump as president. I find these platforms not far from the bathroom walls of the past. They are good ideas gone bad and we see this with how people were manipulated during the elections in 2016. Having your modern day elections determined by who manipulates and hacks away on line the best – we have come close to hitting rock bottom. This is the serious side of the bad done through the existence of Facebook and these public communications systems with no adult supervision.

      1. Yes, I completely agree and I refuse to use either Facebook or Twitter. I’m slightly hypocritical I suppose, in that I do keep up with social things I need to know via my wife having a Facebook account.

      2. We have not begun to come to terms with what should be done with the likes of Facebook. Can it actually be regulated and can foreign countries be prevented from all the manipulation of the platform? We already know it is out of control and the people running the company are more interested in raking in the money than controlling what is going on. They claimed at first to not know and yet hired PR firms to cover their backside. Good luck with the future…

    1. Having your modern day elections determined by who manipulates and hacks away on line the best – we have come close to hitting rock bottom.

      Phrases like “rock bottom” always get my attention. I’ve dug in caves desperately hoping for a rock bottom. Or thin air.
      You have some reason to think that we are approaching rock bottom, and that there is actually a rock at the bottom? Not a gaping void followed by an unhealthy amount of 32ft/s/s ?

      1. I can only suggest you concentrate on the content and not a phrase that seems to grab your attention. Or you could just be maybe wasting my time on line.

  13. … you can disagree with someone without insulting their looks, their family, or (especially) wishing that they were dead.

    I down with you four-square when it comes to wishing anyone death or serious illness, including Donald Trump (although, I must confess, in my heart of hearts, when I lay me down to sleep, I sometimes pray he’ll get a stage 4 case of the crabs). But regarding his family, Trump himself has given his dilettante daughter and lunkhead son-in-law jobs in the West Wing, so they’re fair game.

    And as for his “looks”? Res ipsa loquitur, man. 🙂

    1. It is a way to be connected with people who you otherwise would not be able to interact with. I have friends, for example, in Uganda that I only know through Facebook, who work for causes I support (secular education).

      I have friends from high school and university years who “evaporated” over the decades. Facebook provides a way to reconnect with people.

      It is also much easier for me to stay in touch with my state senator and representative.

      There are many reasons why Facebook became popular and why it remains.

      People who don’t use telephones also don’t understand why anyone would want to have a telephone.

      1. I have friends from high school and university years who “evaporated” over the decades. Facebook provides a way to reconnect with people.

        And on the other hand, if you absolutely hated your school years and have never wanted any connection with any of the bastards again, Facebook will put you back in contact with them. Repeatedly. Unless you delete all your contacts and leave the account as a “leaf node”.

        1. If that’s the case you simply decline their friend requests.

          In my case, my less savory former classmates tend to remove themselves because I’m a strident atheist.

          1. Facebook still keeps shoving the “I think you know X and you ought to improve our profit margins by interacting with them” messages. After all, there is no disincentive to them to do it – apart from poisoning their database.

            1. I’m not here to defend Facebook from its many shortcomings. I’m just pointing out that there are legitimate reasons that so many people use it. It is fine if you (or anyone else) doesn’t want to use it. Criticisms by non-users, however, that fall under the “I don’t know why anyone uses it” umbrella only illuminate the ignorance of the non-user.

    2. I like Facebook. I see photos and news of relatives who I rarely see. I learn a bit about professional friends who I don’t see even an average of once a year.

      True, I’ve unfriended one person and hidden posts from a couple others who post way too much stuff I don’t care about, and like most media it has too many ads, but overall, I’m glad I’m on Facebook.

  14. I have a Facebook page and have unfollowed s number people who posted numerous political content especially that content copied and pasted from other sources. Some it it was likely written originally on Russia. It appeared that devisive.

    I don’t know if anyone I have heard saying they wish Trump or Obama would die, much less be killed.

    When Jimmy Carter was President a liberal co-worker once told me he would like for Carter to die. He was joking but still that was over the line.

    I agree with defriebded anyone who says they would like to see someone, anyone, killed.

    1. I know Carter and the co-worker were both liberal. Cannot remember why the man disliked him so much. Maybe a holdover from Carter doing such a terrible job as governor.

      1. It was a long time ago so my recollection may be faulty, but I remember Carter as far from liberal, perhaps moderate would be a better term. This is one reason Ted Kennedy challenged him for the Democratic nomination in 1980. However, Carter has been one of America’s best ex-presidents.

        1. The only explanation I ever heard for Kennedy running was that Carter was against universal health care because he thought we could not afford it. I don’t know if that is the reason or one of many reasons or a reason at all. It may have just been personal dislike of him by Kennedy and party power brokers. Carter was ruthless and had a talent for making strong enemies and buring bridges behind him. He never realized an opponent on one issue today may be someone whose support you will need on another issue tomorrow. Before his terms both as govenor and presudentwere up he had made enemies of so many people he had barely any support from anyone.

  15. Attacking his appearance—his hair, the size of his hands, his obesity—is, unfortunately, the most common criticism of Trump. It is juvenile and self-defeating, for it distracts from the things for which he does deserve criticism. Just another way that the Left keeps losing the moral high ground.

  16. Two thoughts come to mind:

    1. They’ll do the same **** to you – meaning the royal you – anyone.

    2. It’s a whole elaborate chain reaction out there. Be careful what you put in.

  17. Let’s be practical, if not compassionate, or, at least, ethical. We don’t want tRump dead with Pence waiting in the wings. That would have been (ca. 1942) like trading a dead Hitler for a live Himmler. Hitler, despicable as he was, did a *few* things right. Himmler was the living essence of evil for *all* save himself. I find Pence alarmingly similar.

      1. – Managed the army largely by himself, against the advice of his generals.
        – Proved that Napoleon’s mistake of invading Russia was a problem at the “invade Russia” step, not at the “Napoleon did” step.
        – ummm, I’ll think of some others, given time.

        1. Read a book called “Blitzed ” about drugs in the third reich ,the author argued that hitler began to take speed ,and that is why he lost the war .

      2. Well ,he did care for his sick mother for a while .And he was heartbroken when she died .
        I will admit it is not much .

      3. Hitler was initially “good for bidness” (as they say in Texas), re-industrializing Germany in the midst of the Great Depression. He also used his long knives to rid Germany of the dreaded SA stormtroopers (if you overlook that he replaced them with his own, even nastier, SS).

        So there’s that.

  18. That seems pretty obvious, but the obvious can elude some people, unfortunately.
    If you accept that we do not have free will, and/or think that capitol punishment is not justified, then it is pretty obvious what stance to take here.

  19. I don’t have to wish or fantasize about him being in ill health. He’s old, eats poorly, and doesn’t exercise. He seems to have some cognitive issues, and his age, diet, and activity aren’t helping. It’ll catch up to him.

      1. Well, his poorly considered actions will catch up to him if his health doesn’t first. He just seems like a heart attack or aneurysm waiting to happen.

      2. I think so, too — but then “karma” is the metaphysical belief it’s been the most difficult for me to relinquish.

        1. It’s not so much mystical karma but deterministic karma. You do stuff that leads to other stuff. Since narcissists and sociopaths struggle with self awareness and lack empathy, they inevitably use up all the good will from others (as word gets out that they are only nice while you are useful) and things go down hill from there.

            1. It is true but remember that they are incredibly resilient & can bounce back from set backs much more easily than many of us, so they aren’t always completely down & out. It’s one thing I admire about them.

      1. I suspect he thinks far, far too highly of himself to get treated for dementia. It’s going to be sad and ugly even with all the money.

  20. I second you,JC – there are people who are loathsome but I stop myself short at wishing them dead. It somehow seems disrespectful of the life force. Whatever that is.

    Besides, it’s your WEIT!

      1. I wasn’t sure whether the lettuce in my fridge was Romaine. I’m not like some kind of lettuce maven. I just like BLTs. (When is National BLT day coming up, Jerry?) I agonized over this for a very brief period, considered posting photos of the lettuce in question on FB to get some opinions, but in the end threw it out.

        1. In situations like this, I always imagine the headlines if I make the wrong decision. I’m your case: “Man dies after eating recalled lettuce: he didn’t know if it was romaine; he just liked BLTs, friend reports”.

  21. tRump has woven such a tangled web of shell games it would take several generations to undo the damage IF possible. I’m not taking sides, as Marge Simpson might say, I’m just caught up in the rhythm. If karma has any genuine effect, perhaps the yugely bestest president the world has ever known will soon come clean on some of his offenses. Also, maybe by the time Barron’s great-great grandkids reach middle age, some of them will actually be able to distance themselves from this History Maker 👀.

  22. … you are separated from your communicant by many miles and two computer screens, and so are free from the social niceties accompanying face to face communication.

    I think the interposition of any type of mechanical device will do the trick. I’ve seen people screaming at each other and shooting each other the bird while hurtling down the highway at frightful speeds while encased in three tons of deadly steel and rubber and glass — things they’d be extremely unlikely to do while, say, riding next to each other in an elevator.

  23. The emphasis at this website continues to baffle me. Every day the populist right are guilty of the most execrable shit, just the lowest behaviour, behaviour that is genuinely dangerous. Not some horrible smug leftie wishing Trump eats bad lettuce, but a genuine nutjob sending pipe bombs to Trump’s opponents…and with depressing inevitability absolutely nothing is written about it at WEIT.

    To make it clear, there is rarely anything to object to in the content of the posts here: the people in this article sound like utter douchebags and I’d probably have unfriended them too. Ditto with the innumerable other posts at WEIT making the same argument about how awful the same section of the left is over and over again. These people are often deeply unlikeable, charmless and electorally destructive to liberalism, I think many of us agree with that. But some of us are also genuinely worried about the recrudescent right. A lot more worried than we are about students being obnoxious on campus.

    I cannot fathom how a liberal website like this has become so lopsided in its choice of political punching bags. And I(clearly) don’t care how annoying it is for some people to read me write this – I still haven’t heard a single reasonable justification for WEIT ignoring Trump and the far-right while overwhelmingly concentrating on the illiberal left and their poxy behaviour. Saying ‘it’s Jerry’s website’ isn’t an argument is it? It’s like saying ‘it’s my ball so it’s my game(screw you guys I’m going home)’.

    Of course Jerry can write what he wants and he can tell me to hop it, but it’s not an explanation for the bewildering slant at WEIT. Visiting WEIT nowadays is like visiting one of those right-wing aggregator sites that collect as many stories about how evil the left are as possible.

    And for the last time, as this usually comes up in the replies, I’m NOT asking for only criticism of Trump and the right, I’m NOT asking for some kind of liberal-left rightthink to be enacted at WEIT. What I’m asking for is just, at the very least, some balance. Some articles about what is IMO the most dangerous political phenomenon in the western world right now, to counterbalance the slew of articles about the illiberal-left being pompous/obnoxious/arrogant(delete as applicable) – is that crazy? I don’t think it is.

    FYI I could’ve written this after almost any of the previous articles. So please do not consider it a defense of the kind of cretin who would wish death on Trump. My problem is with the relentless focus on a single political target, not with the generally unobjectionable thrust of the articles themselves, which are, as ever, reasonable and well-written.
    In fact that’s what frustrates me so much; where is this same clarity of moral purpose and fulsome criticism when it comes to the far-right? When it comes to Trump and Fox News and Brexit and Viktor Orban and Bolsonaro and Breitbart and the Daily Mail and Infowars?

        1. So if anyone ever has any kind of issue with anything at WEIT, the solution is…’go off and start your own website?’

          If you’ve got a legitimate response to anything I’ve said go ahead and say it, but effectively telling me to go away doesn’t qualify.

          1. Try looking at it from the perspective of others who come here (free of charge). Why would we want to read comments that were just complaints about the posting? Also, I am pretty sure it does not line up with the roolz here.

            1. Firstly, my comments aren’t only ‘complaints about the postings’. I comment about a whole array of topics. More recently I’ve tended to comment on cat videos and the various ephemera in the morning posts, purely because I’ve run out of things to say about obnoxious social justice warriors foisting their beliefs on others.

              Secondly, I don’t know if it’s against the rules. Jerry can ban me if he feels I’ve stepped over some kind of ethical line here. I don’t think I have, but it’s his website, I’ve never claimed otherwise. However, it frustrates me as someone who’s been a big fan of WEIT to come here week after week and see nothing but the same topics covered, all while the most bloody awful, politically momentous, outrageous things happen in my country and yours and go unmentioned.

              And while I respect your opinion and enjoy reading your posts(I enjoy reading so many of the commenters here), there are fifty thousand subs and your opinion isn’t the only valid one either. I’ve also spoken to people who feel the same way as I do but who are cautious about coming out and saying it for fear of breaking da roolz.

              1. I completely understand what you are saying I just don’t think you will accomplish what you are after. You want far more political/social issues covered and yes there are many other who would agree. That is why you should begin a blog or site of your own where you can control all of this. Our host is primarily an evolutionary biologist from academia and also scientist. Lots of politics of the day is just not the scene here.

              2. “You want far more political/social issues covered…”

                …no, I really don’t. What I’m looking for is some balance. It strikes me as fiddling while Rome burns to double down on the illiberal-left at the exact point when the far-right are lurching up from their graves like fash zombies. I simply don’t understand the skew of articles here, the majority of which seem to be political and aimed at left-wingers. WEIT isn’t a mom and pop operation, it has fifty thousand subs. I’d argue it has a responsibility not to focus solely on one side, most especially because it criticises others for doing just that.

                You’re right, it’s not up to me or anyone else besides Jerry what he writes about. I write these comments because I’ve visited this site every day for five or six years and I like it here. I like the commenters here, and I appreciate polite replies like yours. I’m talking about a touchy subject and other sites would have immediately banned me or chased me out with pitchforks by now. Dog knows how somewhere like Pharyngula would have dealt with me.

                I comment on this because it bothers me. You’re probably right, it’s not going to make a difference, but I can at least say something every now and then.

              3. I feel it is more important for us on the Left to act as a sort of cleaning crew, pointing out where it is going wrong. Helping the Left improve its ideas helps everyone. Good ideas are their own benefit and it helps make the Left less of a target for its enemies. Railing against bad ideas on the Right also has its benefits but there are others doing a great job of that.

        1. I said the same thing before, and it was a genuine offer. You can write, and I think you would enjoy it. And writing your own posts doesn’t at all mean to stop commenting here.

    1. The enormous gaping maw of wrongs and outrages that spew from the right are easy targets and low hanging fruit. These get their fair share of rebuttals from innumerable leftie and moderate web sites, news feeds, and so on. Adding to that would be a drop in the ocean.
      So the emphasis here is very welcome, since we would not get them otherwise, lest we choose to peruse right wing and conservative sites. I for one don’t.

      1. I disagree strongly that the president of the world’s most powerful country and its government is an easy target; I also think the populist right are becoming less and less of an easy target as time goes by and they become ever more emboldened. It wouldn’t take that many more pipe-bombs in the mail before criticism of Trump was verboten. The Islamists managed to enforce their own speech code through similar means and it really didn’t take much before critics realised they were taking their lives in their hands when talking about anything to do with the ‘prophet’.

        As for the argument that there are plenty of critiques of the right out there: sure, and there are arguably even more critiques of the left out there too; countless cottage industries dedicated to nothing but cataloguing the admittedly obnoxious behaviour of the identity politicking dunderheads on the far-left. Many of the sites doing such cataloguing even claim to be liberal sites, like Quillette. There is most certainly not a shortage of this kind of left-bashing.

        And even if that weren’t the case, I can’t see the reason why one side is ignored completely on a website that is avowedly liberal. What possible reason is there for that kind of imbalance?

        1. “I disagree strongly that the president of the world’s most powerful country and its government is an easy target; I also think the populist right are becoming less and less of an easy target as time goes by and they become ever more emboldened. It wouldn’t take that many more pipe-bombs in the mail before criticism of Trump was verboten.”

          What does any of this even mean? I’m not being facetious. First, how are they not easy targets? The commenter to whom you’re replying noted that they are reported on all day, every day in all mainstream and liberal websites. What, exactly, makes them difficult targets? And, if they are difficult, how is it that this coverage continues?

          And what is this talk of pipe bombs in the mail? Is there some bombing campaign I don’t know about, the objective of which is to outlaw speech against Trump? Furthermore, if there was such a campaign, please explain how, exactly, it would have the results you think it would.

          1. They’re not easy targets for the reasons I specified: that if you start criticising Trump or the far-right you’re liable to get a slew of death threats(which I have received in the past), or get doxxed or harassed over the phone. You’re also liable to alienate the people who vote Trump, as Sam Harris did when he came out in opposition to him. A good chunk of his audience simply stopped listening to anything he said.

            “And what is this talk of pipe bombs in the mail? Is there some bombing campaign I don’t know about, the objective of which is to outlaw speech against Trump?”

            …I genuinely don’t know what you’re trying to say here. I’m assuming you know exactly who I’m talking about; Cesar Sayoc, who posted pipe bombs to prominent Trump critics. And I’d say a rabid Trump supporter posting pipe-bombs to a clutch of Trump’s most prominent critics is most definitely an attempt “to outlaw speech against Trump”.

            1. So one guy sent out pipe bombs (to politicians, not citizens criticizing Trump). Are you going to say that liberals are trying to outlaw President Trump speaking because of the various white powder incidents? To say that a citizen — not an actor of the state — and a single citizen at that, or even several, is trying or managing to “outlaw” criticism with this is absolutely absurd. There is zero logic to your argument, either through scale or through the actors at play or through the victims targeted.

              And your first paragraph is just as true of the opposite, so I don’t see what relevance it has to anything you’ve said.

        2. And since when does Jerry never talk about the Right? Have you not seen his many posts about religious denial of evolution? About Trump? About other Right nonsense? Or is it your contention that this one particular website, owned by one person, must have a balance of posts regarding both sides for it to be worthwhile? If that’s your contention (it appears to be if your last paragraph is any indication), then why don’t you have the same complaint about the NYT, WashPost, HuffPo, etc.? Why is it just this one site, and why just the Right?

          1. I do have the same complaint about places like the Huffington Post(less so the Wapo and NYT, purely because I think the former’s pretty reasonable and I don’t read the latter). I think they’re safe spaces for people who want to believe the left are incapable of wrong and I’ve spent the last five or six years in critical exasperation at the idiocy of the illiberal left. I certainly don’t shy away from criticising them when they deserve it.

            “why just the Right?”

            You can’t ask me that, whatever it means, (why “just the right” what?) having admitted a few sentences beforehand that what I’m talking about is a _balance_ of articles.

            Re. the final para.; no I haven’t seen many posts about Trump and “other right nonsense” here. I’ve seen the occasional critical mention of Trump in the morning ephemera articles but few actual articles about the unprecedentedly vile and outrageous behaviour of the American right and its microdextered avatar.

            And yes, in my opinion a liberal site that(rightly) criticises places like HuffPo on a regular basis for being hives of left-wing bias should at least have a balance of posts, otherwise it opens itself up to accusations that it’s doing just what HuffPo is doing.

            1. Why don’t you give this up? Our host has given his reasons for not having more anti-Trump and anti-Right posts. It makes perfect sense to me and, I’m guessing, others who read and comment here. Every website like this has to choose what to write about. It seems pretty simple. There’s plenty of content of the kind you are looking for elsewhere. All you have to do is Google.

              1. I’ve brought this point up maybe three times in the last two years. In relative terms I think it almost never comes up. If you disagree fine, but don’t tell me to be quiet or go away. I’ll say what I like, and if Jerry wants me to leave I’ll leave.

                And I’ve spoken to a fair few people who are concerned about this. Unsurprisingly they’re not keen on bringing it up, precisely because they fear getting responses that tell them to bugger off and read somewhere else.

                I’ve been scrupulously careful to remain fair and polite when talking about this. I’ve not been rude and I don’t think I’ve said anything unreasonable. And as I say, I’ve mentioned it maybe three times in the last two years. I’ve not dominated any BTL sections, I’ve not brought it up day after day. I’ve mentioned it sparingly.

                On this particular issue I’ve explained myself as fully as I can. I’ve been coming here daily for five or six years, and commenting ever since then too. This is a freethinkers’ website right? So if your response to dissent is ‘go away and read somewhere else’ then maybe you’re at the wrong website, not me.

                I’ll leave it there I think.

              2. I didn’t say you have to go away. I merely suggested the kind of “balance” you seek is to be found elsewhere. And, while our host is obviously the ultimate arbiter of what is said on this website, I am sure commenters certainly have feelings about what goes on here and I respectfully suggest that those who support our host’s answer to your suggestion far outnumber this silent minority you allude to.

                I suspect that a lot of readers would bail if this site turned into yet another anti-Trump or anti-Right website. Have you considered that aspect of your suggestion?

              3. “I suspect that a lot of readers would bail if this site turned into yet another anti-Trump or anti-Right website. Have you considered that aspect of your suggestion?”

                I’m not going to let that pass: you know perfectly well that I’ve never suggested anything like that, so you’re now misrepresenting me on purpose. If you can find a single post where I’ve ever suggested that this site should turn into an ‘anti-right/anti-Trump’ website then go ahead and post it.

                As for whether the majority are against me or for me, I don’t care very much.

            2. So, your point is really that all websites should have a balance of posts criticizing both sides equally. In addition to all news sources, and, I guess, everything else.

    2. I don’t think many populist right are Facebook friends with Prof. Coyne to begin with; and if some are (maybe some scientist or atheist), they certainly mind their language.

  24. Everyone has their red line. I’ve blocked several people on Facebook, mostly people I don’t really know and whom I hastily befriended before I knew better, but occasionally an actual real-life acquaintance.

    My red line is when someone posts an outright lie, without intending satire, and refuses to apologize or at least acknowledge the mistake. The lie could be ideologically right or left, but it’s typically right. What’s with these people?

    I keep one particularly toxic character around just to keep my finger on the pulse.

    1. I keep one particularly toxic character around just to keep my finger on the pulse.

      Does he/she/it make interesting noises if you push the finger in a little bit?

      1. “Does he/she/it make interesting noises if you push the finger in a little bit?”

        You old romantic

  25. (One thing I liked about Christopher Hitchens was that he didn’t say anything behind people’s backs that he wouldn’t say to their face.)

    Hitch would also stand up for someone behind their back when a friend was attacked.

    I recall the story (from Hitch-22, I believe) of the visit he made with Martin Amis to have lunch at the home of Saul Bellow (one of Hitchens’s literary heroes). Hitchens came to the defense of Edward Said (whose picture then graced the cover of the copy of Time Magazine atop Bellow’s table) when Bellow attacked Said, even though Hitchens and Said were then estranged.

    He had a Code (at times, an old-fashioned, almost chivalric one), that Hitchens fellow.

    1. That’s why he frustrated so many partisans on both sides: he was politically unclassifiable, and bridled at the idea that you stick up for your tribe regardless of what they do.

      I’ve never missed a celebrity after they died until he passed away. The world felt just a touch colder and less secure afterwards.

    2. Hitch also was a big defender of Salman Rushdie when Rushdie was issued a fatwa by the Ayatollah.
      I think it was Amis who said Hitch was a romantic, which made him somewhat inscrutable.

      1. I think Amis went even further, saying Hitch’s allegiances to certain people and causes was instinctive, almost childlike, in some instances. I think his allegiance to the Kurdish people, and his detestation for the despotic reign of Saddam Hussein, is what led him astray, at least in part, regarding his support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

        1. Yes, he did have a real soft spot for the Kurds. You have to admire his feelings for “the little guy”. But, he was not a pragmatist, which most people try to be nowadays.

  26. I don’t do Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I wouldn’t wish anyone dead. I wouldn’t be too bothered if Trump died of natural causes. Except that if Trump dies, you get Pence. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. Especially as he would likely screw up the rest of the world even more than Trump.

    1. I wouldn’t wish anyone dead. I wouldn’t be too bothered if Trump died of natural causes. Except that if Trump dies, you get Pence. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

      I Trump died of natural causes, what do you think are the odds of the wingnuts assuming that it was an assassination by [insert target of rabid defamation here] and start the semi-automatics, pipe bombs and anthrax powders flying. Sales of this delight will soar, and none of the purchasers will know that they’re misquoting a cheese-eating surrender monkey.

      1. I don’t doubt that some of them probably think he’s already been killed and replaced with someone else(probably someone from the same dead-celebrity-lookalike agency that replaced Paul McCartney after he died). It’d explain why he’s delivered so little of what he promised after all.

        1. Paul McCartney is alive and well, he hasn’t died.

          The rumour that he secretly [?] died in a car crash in 1966 is nonsense. I lived at 9 Cavendish Avenue, St John’s Wood, London in 1970, next door to Paul who lived at 7 Cavendish Avenue, and had several chats with him. His wife’s daughter, Heather(the daughter of Linda McCartney and adopted daughter of Paul McCartney) was eight years old at the time and she would come over to play with my toddler son, often taking him over to the McCartney house next door.

          1. I know, I was being tongue-in-cheek when I wrote that.

            P.S. You lived next door to Paul McCartney?? That’s quite a claim to fame.

        2. Are you sure that he hasn’t been replaced by a lizard in a tangerine skin (and what lizard let *that* body suit through Quality Control?)

        1. But we know they’re ineffective. For the target. So, I deduce that you’d be doing this for benefit at your end?

  27. The worst thing I’ve wished for Trump is a recession. But that was a while ago, now I’m just hoping subpoenas will rain and be effective. I have a feeling the subpoenas will not be heeded though…and there is precedence for that.

    And thanks for reminding me that not creating a Facebook account was/is a good idea.

  28. I agree that wishing Trump illness and death is immoral. It is also impractical.

    If Trump dies in the next two years, Pence is president. Pence is just as odious as Trump but far more competent. I with Trump good health and very, very bad election results.

  29. Jerry, I appreciate your civility, especially in this age of horrible verbal abuse the internet is full of. But your strict adherence to Kantian deontology kind of surprises me. I’m not attacking your call for decency, and I assume you have given this a great deal of thought. But in my mind, Trump is not just an American domestic issue, he’s an existential threat to all of humanity, especially to us non-American people. This fear makes me look at this in a bit different light.

    To be sure, I sincerely hope no one ever, ever makes a violent attack on Trump. All political violence is counterproductive, and would only make Trump a martyr of the white suprematists and clear the way for the fascist America. Moreover, political violence is a game which the more immoral side will always win, so we should never enter such a game. It is not a world I want to see. But if I understand correctly, you didn’t condemn just violence and violent threats, you also condemned passive wishes that the world would be rid of certain evil people.

    As a theoretical moral question, am I to understand you don’t wish Hitler had died before he started the Holocaust and killed millions? I honestly doubt it. And yet, some estimations of the death toll of the climate change surpass that of the Holocaust by at two orders of magnitude. And while Trump is of course not the only perpetrator of this genocide, he is arguably the greatest obstacle to saving the planet and clearly aiming to make sure billions of human lives will be lost by the end of the century. Or sooner, if he starts a nuclear war to please himself.

    So, how far would you go in this civility? Would you honestly wish people like Trump, Putin or Kim Jong-Un a long and healthy life? Or, if we refrain from naming anyone, is it wrong to wish a murderer dies before he kills his victim? How would you see this issue?

    (I apologize for using a pseudonym, but I’m not willing to face possible verbal abuse from people who might find my theoretical contemplation unpalatable.)

    1. These are very interesting questions, and I cannot but help to offer a very partial answer. This won’t answer everything.
      So far, as far as I am aware, Trump has not been responsible for more innocent deaths than many past presidents. President Obama, for example, had significantly expanded the use of drone strikes and that has caused large numbers of civilian deaths. Before him was Bush who could account for far more innocent deaths from his ‘adventure’ in Iraq. And yet we do not act to condemn these people.
      In the formal sense, we cannot persecute someone on their possible role in producing future deaths, however high that may be. The projected deaths from global warming rests on the heads of all leaders, not just the American president, since pretty much all of them have done as little as possible about the problem. More broadly, I have felt that the onus is on all of us as a species. So far we show little ability to think in the long term and to defer from using the great conveniences of fossil fuels. No leader is forcing us not bicycle to work, or to not put solar panels on our houses.
      At times I think we might be better off living under a world dictatorship that is led by the Sierra Club.

      1. “The projected deaths from global warming rests on the heads of all leaders, not just the American president, since pretty much all of them have done as little as possible about the problem.”

        Excuse me, no, that won’t wash. Not doing a lot, or even doing ‘as little as possible’, is vastly different from ‘doing ones damndest to sabotage all efforts’ which is what tRump is doing.

        The sooner he’s gone (and Pence, and frankly, in terms of the state of the world it really doesn’t matter how), the better.


        1. tRump is a set-back, to be sure, but past presidents and the leaders of other countries have not exactly enacted the highly aggressive changes that are needed to turn this ship. The rest of us have also not done enough. Even with a different president. Even with Hillary at the helm, we would still be screwed, I think. For one thing the economic shock of meaningful change would promptly get her voted out of office next term. And that shortcoming would not be her fault, it would be our fault. The trend of climate change is far to vast a problem to meaningfully solve, owing mainly to human nature which is to react most strongly for our own short-term interests.
          Had this present state of knowledge about our future climate been instilled into the minds of every person living in the 30s and 40s, with the advent of industrialization and super highways still still of us, we might have been able to delay the looming disaster by some decades, but I don’t think we would have been able to really prevent it. Fossil fuels are too tempting to not use. Deforestation is too valuable a resource for farmland in the tropics, and for housing and basic fuel in the wider impoverished areas. Humans are overall too greedy and short-sighted to really see these long term effects, and that is indeed unfortunate.

          1. Agreed. But we still have to do what we can. People have to be motivated to want to do the right thing, and they can be. People can be persuaded to recycle, to economise, to avoid littering, and so on. It’s hard to do, it’s even harder to do *enough*, but we have to try. And the last thing we want is tRumps declaring that, not only will they do nothing about it, there isn’t even a problem.

            One of the fundamental causes of all this is overpopulation, and whaddayaknow, not only is the US not helping to promote birth control worldwide, it (led by tRump and the religious fundies behind him) is trying to undermine it and make the problem worse.


            1. The mayors and governors are ignoring Trump and our contribution to total pollution is decreasing, according to the information I see. Trump does not control the country and the country can and I is moving forward without him.

              1. Well, I hope so.

                But just think how much more they could do if the government actually supported them.


            2. One of the fundamental causes of all this is overpopulation, and whaddayaknow, not only is the US not helping to promote birth control worldwide, it (led by tRump and the religious fundies behind him) is trying to undermine it and make the problem worse.

              You named the elephant in the room…thank you

              1. While I am all for birth control worldwide, I wonder whether it would be a good idea for the leader of the free world to tell poor non-white people that their children are not welcome. I mean not welcome in this world, not welcome in the USA, and many find even the latter controversial enough.

  30. Has there ever been anyone in the history of human life whose behavior has been so evil that one might understandably yearn for this person’s death,

    * without expressing this wish openly or taking any steps to cause it,

    * and then, upon learning that this person has actually died (by natural causes, not by murder),

    * saying or thinking, “Good riddance”?

    Would this be reprehensible conduct?

    1. I wouldn’t find it reprehensible. Millions of people are dying all the time, most deaths are regrettable, it is surely perverse not to accept the benefit to the rest of society of that particular one.

      On a side issue, I would say ‘good riddance’ would apply even if they were murdered, surely.

      (That is a different question from whether one would approve of murder. Suppose they were killed in a car accident, would ‘good riddance’ imply that one approved of car accidents?)


  31. Thank you. This cannot be said enough. But, in the interest of humility, I have to ask if you voiced the same objection to the end of the lyric for Masters of War. (And I hope that you die and your death’ll come soon..)

    Oh, and at the top of the post. It’s Escherichia, not E., on first mention. Let’s not ignore convention just because they’re bacteria.

  32. Good points. Besides the human side of thing, to wish no one ill in that way (even tyrants), is the practical matter that Trump dropping dead gives us President Pence (ditto for impeachment), a True Believer who would be carrying on most of the policies more quietly but with no less gritty resolve.

    My curse for Trump and Kushner is that they lose all their money, without which Trump has nothing to value himself. How many outside his very small family circle would give him the time of day, minus the private planes and resort golf time? In that case, wishing him a long life of obscurity would be more intense than were he to shuffle off this mortal coil prematurely. but with shady bank roll intact.

    1. Basically you’re saying separate the money from the man. How about separating the man from the money. Put him in prison, where he undoubtedly belongs, out of reach of his treasure chest. Let him eat prison food for the rest of his life. I’d go for that.

      1. Trump is a fast food junkie, I think he might manage prison food OK. The legal system will work out as it may with him, but someone as narcissistic as Trump who literally measures his self-worth by how big his name is, how lavish his palaces, is less than nothing without that reinforcement.

        Also, not being in jail wouldn’t allow him to play the persecuted political prisoner either. Look at how jailbirds Kent Hovind and Dinesh D’Souza wear their experiences as badges of martyrdom.

  33. I confess that I used to fantacize about Trump’s death, often in horrible ways. I am aware that this is infantile, immoral, and counter productive. I used to be a Quaker attender, I have read Gandhi, and I have practiced Buddhism (as a philosophy not religion). So I am cognizant of how harmful such thoughts can be to the person who harbors them. Therfefore I can appreciate your moral stance Professor Coyne, and agree with it. However, I do believe and hope that Trump is prosecuted and found guilty for the numerous nefarious crimes it apears increasingly provable he has committed, including treason. Is it wrong, then, to hope for a conviction, and that he be incarcerated for life in a supermax, where he will be humiliated physically and mentally every day until he dies? This, surely, would be worse than death for someone like Trump. Lest you think this overly cruel, consider that we do this to teen aged drug offenders regularly.

      1. Simple enough: He should be indicted for the crimes he likely has committed. If a true bill is returned, and he is tried and convicted, then he should be sentenced accordingly. If he is guilty of treason, he should be imprisoned for life in a supermax. That’s at least what they did to Chelsey Manning.

  34. Perhaps not fully relevant but didn’t Ghandi (or someone) say that ‘an eye for an eye’ will lead to a world of blindness.

    I’m probably paraphrasing but I think the sentiment is apt.

    1. While I’d like to be like Gandhi, I am not that evolved. I have felt personally and existentially threatened by Trump the last year, as I think have all of those who say they wish him dead (not me). This is a natural human reaction, and while it may be a difficult and admirable thing to have trancended these base emotions, it does seem a little like virtue signaling to vigorously castigate and condemn those who haven’t.

    2. At the end of Spike Lee’s do the right thing ,there is a bit about MLK saying an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind .

      1. I coined my own version a while ago, ‘a nose for a nose leaves everyone anosmic’. It didn’t really catch on.

  35. I’m the slave of my emotions, but I know my emotions are no justification for encouraging uncivilized behavior.

  36. I appreciate the in-depth commentary made by Jerry on the issue of wishing somebody else to be dead, especially for political reasons!

    1. The “especially for political reasons” bit puzzles me. It seems to imply that politics is “the unimportant stuff”. Right now politics is very important indeed, involving life-and-death issues for everyone on the planet. We’re not talking about trivial differences in attitudes.

  37. Problem is, this was a joke. No one will send some nasty lettuce to Trump. As far as unfriending, one friend more or less wouldn’t make a difference.

    Just my 2 cents

Leave a Reply