Trump's Twitter Attacks Reveal Him to be 'Wannabe Despot,' Says Political Violence Expert

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U.S. President Donald Trump departs the White House for Palm Beach, in Washington D.C., U.S. November 21, 2017. Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Donald Trump's latest attack on black athletes shows that the commander-in-chief is more interested in dividing and ruling America like a despot than bolstering its founding democratic rights, says an academic who studies authoritarian regimes.

"Trump's obsession with the NFL protests makes more sense if you understand it's a familiar tactic for wannabe despots: publicly shaming people exercising their democratic rights while using divide and rule tactics to scapegoat minorities," Brian Klass, a fellow in comparative politics at the London School of Economics, said on Twitter early Friday.

Klass, who wrote The Despot's Accomplice, looking at how the West assists authoritarian governments around the world, was responding to Trump's second day of early morning tweets against black athletes.

"Can you believe that the disrespect for our Country, our Flag, our Anthem continues without penalty to the players," Trump wrote early Friday.

Trump is angry at the NFL and lashed out in response to White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr.‏'s message about how New York Giants defensive end, Olivier Vernon, knelt during the national anthem ahead of a game.

Trump's obsession with the NFL protests makes more sense if you understand it's a familiar tactic for wannabe despots: publicly shaming people exercising their democratic rights while using divide and rule tactics to scapegoat minorities. https://t.co/aRyQBTwLWm

— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) November 24, 2017

Trump's tweets about black athletes and racially charged issues seek to energize his base of white voters while simultaneously taking away the civil rights of those who oppose him, Klass said.

Many African American players have been taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police violence and the disproportionately large number of black Americans in U.S. prisons after NFL player Colin Kaepernick started the civil rights protest in 2016.

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"The Commissioner has lost control of the hemorrhaging league. Players are the boss!" Trump complained. The president has repeatedly called for the NFL to force players to stand or be fired from their jobs.

Can you believe that the disrespect for our Country, our Flag, our Anthem continues without penalty to the players. The Commissioner has lost control of the hemorrhaging league. Players are the boss! https://t.co/udXP5MR8BC

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired. He's fired!'" Trump said in September during a rally for Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary candidate Luther Strange.

On Thanksgiving Trump began the day by attacking the NFL for a proposal of keeping teams in the locker room during the national anthem. "That's almost as bad as kneeling! When will the highly paid Commissioner finally get tough and smart? This issue is killing your league!" Trump said.

He also took aim at LaVar Ball, whose son—UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball—was released from jail in China after he and two other players were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting this month. Trump has demanded that Ball and the other players show more gratitude. But Ball suggested last Friday that the players were going to be released even if Trump didn't intervene.

A University of Hong Kong law professor, Fu Hualing, told The New York Times this week that "I would be surprised if they were even prosecuted." Hualing said "it's nonsense" Trump's intervention was the only reason the players were released.

"It wasn't the White House, it wasn't the State Department, it wasn't father LaVar's so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence - IT WAS ME," Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning.

In October, Trump argued with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in action in Niger, and Florida House Rep. Frederica Wilson, after they said he was discourteous during a condolence phone call.

But the president did not quarrel with a white family that said he had promised to cut them a $25,000 check after their son was killed in action, but only sent the money after the media reported that he had not yet done so.

Trump's core supporters are white Republicans who believe that the system is unfairly tilted toward African Americans who are striving for special rights.

After a violent white surpremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, Trump's response to blame "both sides" was praised by former KKK leader David Duke.

Recent FBI statistics show a sharp uptick in hate crimes against religious and ethnic minorities in America. Civil rights groups have attributed the increase to Trump's anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric throughout the 2016 election campaign. These groups are tracking similar trends during the first year of Trump's presidency.