Divisive and often false claims about unauthorised immigrants have been a cornerstone of Trump’s political strategy for years, from the “build the wall” chants at his 2016 campaign rallies to his warnings about a migrant caravan before the 2018 midterm elections.
In his reelection campaign, Trump has spent an estimated $US1.25 million ($1.84 million) on Facebook ads about immigration since late March, according to data from Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic communications firm that is tracking the digital political advertising of presidential candidates.
Those ads represent a significant portion of the roughly $US5.6 million that Trump has spent on Facebook advertising during that period.
Most of the “invasion” ads began running between January and March, though a few dozen began running in May. Many of the ads began with a blunt message —”We have an INVASION!”— and went on to say, “It’s CRITICAL that we STOP THE INVASION.”
Trump’s campaign, like other advertisers, runs many different Facebook ads using text or visuals that vary. Ads with the word “invasion” make up a small portion of the ads the Trump campaign has run on Facebook this year.
(Facebook’s archive of political ads, which dates back to May 2018, says it contains more than 240,000 Trump ads.)
There is no evidence that Trump’s Facebook ads directly influenced the author of the manifesto, who wrote that his views “predate Trump” and posted the document on 8chan, an online forum known as a haven for extremists.
But Trump, through his speeches, tweets and campaign ads, has elevated the idea of an “invasion,” once a fringe view often espoused by white nationalists, into the public discourse.
Some other Republican candidates have echoed Trump’s language in their own ads.
“Let’s call this what it is — an invasion of our country,” read a recent Facebook ad for Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn football coach who is running for Senate in Alabama.
Other Republicans who have used the word “invasion” in Facebook ads include a candidate for governor in West Virginia and a candidate for Senate in North Carolina.
Cognitive linguist George Lakoff said the word “invasion” was a potent one for Trump to use because of what it allowed him to communicate.
“If you’re invaded, you’re invaded by an enemy,” he said.
“An invasion says that you can be taken over inside your own country and harmed, and that you can be ruled by people from the outside.”
Lakoff added: “When he’s saying ‘invasion,’ he’s saying all of those things. But they’re unconscious. They’re automatic. They’re built into the word ‘invasion.’”
For the writer of the manifesto, the concept of an “invasion” had an additional, racist meaning: He promoted a conspiracy theory called “the great replacement,” which claims that an effort is underway to replace white people with nonwhite people.
Democratic candidates for president blamed Trump for helping spread such views. “White supremacy is not a mental illness,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Monday.
“We need to call it what it is: Domestic terrorism. And we need to call out Donald Trump for amplifying these deadly ideologies.”
But radio host Rush Limbaugh attacked Democrats and the news media Monday for pointing the finger at conservatives like him.
“We’re stick and tired of every time this happens, people that we believe in being blamed for it,” he said.
“We’re sick of it. None of us pulled the trigger, none of us want these things to happen, and yet we turn on the media and that’s what we hear.”
Stoking fear about immigrants has been central to the Trump campaign’s advertising strategy since it first began airing political commercials during the 2016 race.
The campaign’s first ad of that election focused on “radical Islamic terrorism” in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, with footage of people seemingly flooding across a border.
(The footage was from Morocco, not the United States.)
Trump also proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” after the attack.
Scenes evoking illegal immigration became common during the 2016 effort, and Trump painted a picture of an America overwhelmed by immigrants. “We don’t have a country right now,” he said in footage shown in one ad. “We have people pouring in, they’re pouring in, and they’re doing tremendous damage.”
He seized on the “invasion” imagery again in the runup to the 2018 midterm elections, when he claimed without evidence that a caravan of migrants making its way north toward the border had been infiltrated by “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners.”
The president and fellow Republicans warned of waves of violence, drugs and crime that awaited the country if it were led by Democrats, who were portrayed as supporting policies that would weaken national security. That effort did not have the desired effect, as Republicans lost control of the House.
The New York Times