Early Tuesday morning, we learned that Brandon Griesemer, a 19-year-old grocery store clerk from Novi, Michigan, made at least 22 calls to CNN’s Atlanta headquarters where he not only threatened to shoot and kill employees, but used racial and ethnic slurs for both African-Americans and Jews. The calls were made two weeks ago, and Griesemer was charged last Friday.
This was not Griesemer’s first rodeo. On September 19, he was reported to have made similarly ugly calls to an Islamic center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Brandon Griesemer is a bigot.
His is the kind of bigotry that is hard to keep to oneself. He has to get it out. He wants Muslims and African-Americans and Jews to experience his cruelty. He wants them to know that they are hated and despised and threatened. He acts out on his bigotry — acts out with his threats, yes, but who knows how far he would have taken it. That’s why this latest story is so frightening to me. But Griesemer did not seem to frighten the U.S. District Court.
Griesemer, you see, is a dangerous bigot, but he is also white. And because of his whiteness, he is already free on just $10,000 bond. He was charged, arrested, and released all in a single day, last Friday.
His threats, in the spirit of the Trump administration’s soft stance on white supremacy and other violence from white people, were basically given the legal version of a wink and a nod. If you think for a single solitary moment that a Muslim-American who made 22 hateful, violent calls to CNN threatening mass casualties would’ve been charged, arrested, and released on the same day, with a bond of any kind, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. They wouldn’t get home in time to see next year’s Superbowl, let alone the game that night.
It’s not that surprising that Griesemer’s threats were not viewed as an ongoing matter by the justice system; the rhetoric was not very new. While the intent was clearly more violently malicious, for CNN the threats used a language that would be strangely familiar indeed.
“Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down,” Griesemer has said on one call. It does sound familiar, right?
Donald Trump, the president of the United States, not only frequently uses the term “fake news” to describe CNN, he labeled the news channel just that only moments after news of Griesemer’s arrest came out.
Even Crazy Jim Acosta of Fake News CNN agrees: “Trump World and WH sources dancing in end zone: Trump wins again…Schumer and Dems caved…gambled and lost.” Thank you for your honesty Jim!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2018
On multiple occasions, Trump has tweeted and retweeted violent images and videos in which he causes physical harm to CNN.
Many years ago, I was told that whatever leaders do in moderation, their followers often do in excess. Trump’s attacks on CNN are not in moderation — they are already in excess. It was, then, only a matter of time before someone was emboldened by his attacks on CNN to the point of threatening physical violence. They’ve taken what Trump has started to the next logical point.
“You are going down. I have a gun and I am coming to Georgia right now to go to the CNN headquarters to fucking gun down every single last one of you. I have a team of people. It’s going to be great, man,” said Griesemer on another call. “You gotta get prepared for this one.”
It went on like that again and again, with short intervals between calls. The frequency of calls almost matches Trump’s own tweets about CNN being “fake news.”
But since news of the threats and the arrest came out early this morning, what have we heard from Trump, the man who can’t shut up about CNN? Keep that question in your mind.
Let’s imagine for a moment that Griesemer was not merely a Muslim, but a Muslim immigrant from one of the countries Trump keeps trying to ban. And let’s imagine the threats were made against Fox News instead of CNN.
Do you think Trump would’ve tweeted about it by now? Do you think he’d be using the arrest of such a person to justify his Muslim ban?
Trump, who has something to say about everything, hasn’t said anything about Brandon Griesemer.