In editorial, David Livingstone Smith calls Capitol insurrection a threat to democracy

David Smith
David Livingstone Smith, Ph.D.

David Livingstone Smith, Ph.D., professor of Philosophy at the University of New England, has penned an editorial for in Indian outlet The Edition, in which he states that President Donald Trump’s dehumanizing rhetoric leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol is a threat to democracy.

Smith focuses on Trump’s speech prior to the riots that interfered with the election certification of Joe Biden, in which the sitting president told his followers that they are “the real people.”

“This is classic dehumanizing rhetoric,” Smith writes. “When an authoritarian leader tells his followers that they are the ‘real people,’ he is implicitly telling them that their rivals are not ‘real people.’”

“He is inviting them to think that their opponents are less than humans and that they should be treated as less than humans, that they do not deserve the respect that human beings accord to one another, and that they can be abused and even killed with impunity,” he continues.

Smith has researched dehumanization for the past 12 years, and he has authored three books on the subject. His most recent, “On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It,” was released this past summer.

In his piece, Smith goes on to say that the insurrection will have lasting detrimental effects on the nation’s democratic ideals.

“Trump is known for his racist and xenophobic language, and he has used dehumanizing speech from time to time in the past. But what happened on January 6th is more ominous than anything that has gone before,” Smith cautions. “Dehumanizing language, uttered to an angry crowd in a situation of extreme political volatility, may have ignited a conflagration that will be very difficult to extinguish.”

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