By Jan Jekielek and Catherine Yang
The swift and varied legal actions taken against former President Donald Trump as he navigates his campaign for 2024 reelection have two main goals, according to author and commentator James Lindsay. The first is to overburden the GOP frontrunner in the public eye, making the situation so “messy” voters lose hope in him as a candidate, and the second is to “provoke the American public into giving up the rule of law,” he says.
“There’s a very deliberate operation going on,” Mr. Lindsay said on an episode of American Thought Leaders: Now with Jan Jekielek on EpochTV. People in the know refer to it as “fifth generational warfare,” he said, and although it may sound convoluted, it is simple once you look at the tactics.
Mr. Lindsay broke down several tactics being used against President Trump, from a psychological tactic narcissistic abusers are known to use, to Marxist strategies outlined by Saul Alinsky in his book “Rules for Radicals.”
The “us versus them” in this case is not a left or right matter, he added, but “normal people who believe in the American experiment, whether left, right center, Democrat, Republican, white, black doesn’t matter. Everybody who believes in America and the Western civilizational project is who is the ‘us’ in this us–them dynamic.”
“The people who want to destroy and break that and are using us to do it are the ‘them,'” he said. “And we can formulate countermeasures once we understand how their tactics work.”
DARVO, or “deny, attack, reverse victim and offender,” is a psychological tactic that has been coined to describe a pattern of manipulation by abusers.
“Every time that something comes out, they deny that it happened, they attack the person making the accusation, and then they try to reverse the roles of victim and offender so that they’re the poor victim, but somebody else is the offender,” Mr. Lindsay said.
He says we all see this tactic play out in the media cycles: “Every time there’s a scandal that comes out around the Biden family, they turn around and they deny that it happened, attack Trump, and try to make it out that Trump is some kind of actual criminal offender and they of course, are not.”
“This is a classic technique,” Mr. Lindsay said.
“There is a purpose for what they’re doing,” he said, and he calls it “Operation: Make Trump Messy.”
“They want to make people not want to vote for Trump because he’s just too burdened with messy stuff—’there’s too much legal trouble, it’s going to be a circus again, I don’t want to deal with it, I’m just not going to vote for him.’ So, chase people away from supporting him while cornering him into the nomination.”
Perhaps it will escalate into declaring that President Trump is ineligible, he added.
“Make [Trump] ineligible to be the candidate and eligible to run for president, make it so that the secretaries of states in states that have Democratic ones can take him off the ballot should he run for president because he’s too criminal or messy or violated a law, or whatever it happens to be,” he said.
“This, of course, is also legal trouble for Trump; it wears him down emotionally, mentally, maybe physically, it costs him a lot of money, it weakens him as a candidate by draining his war chest for legal issues.”
Playing to an Audience
The 1960s “Rules for Radicals” have been updated, and Mr. Lindsay says the playbook can be found online at BeautifulTrouble.org.
One of these core principles is “middle-level violence,” which puts your opponent in a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” decision dilemma.
“You don’t hit them too hard, you don’t hit them too soft, so you’re clearly not the aggressor … and then you make use of their reaction,” Mr. Lindsay said. It bleeds into a second tactic of taking advantage of that provoked response.
In familiar terms, parents may remember a common provocation tactic between siblings: a younger brother holds up his finger in front of his sibling’s face. “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you!” he taunts.
“There’s no physical contact, so there’s no justification for a physical response,” Mr. Lindsay explained. “And if you give one it’s going to be ‘Mom, he hit me!’ right? And then at the same time it’s so overwhelmingly annoying that you can’t ignore it.
“It’s enough of a provocation to necessitate a response, but not enough of a provocation to justify the response that you get. That’s middle-level violence,” he said.
This tactic is being played out with the “vague” and “sprawling” indictments against President Trump, he explained.
“It looks like what you’re seeing is an escalating provocation, to tell the American people, we’re going to take Trump down, we’re going to persecute our political opponent, we’re going to turn this place into the appearance of a banana republic, no matter what. And so you might as well treat America as a banana republic, and give up on it.
“And maybe even it’s time for you to take to the streets and have another January 6 and rally for Trump in some way that they’re going to be able to funnel into some kind of action that they can move the ball with, just like they did with January 6.”
“Antifa is masters at this, they train for this, it’s to go out and provoke the public until somebody flips out and yells at them, throws something at them, tries to hit somebody, or whatever. And they capture that moment out of context on camera, and then it goes viral and the whole world sees it before anybody can understand what’s going on,” he said.
This works because it’s all played to an audience, Mr. Lindsay explained. “If he can’t appeal to Mom, or some authority, it’s not going to work. So this is clearly dependent upon fooling or manipulating a watching audience … this is a game.”
But the dynamic completely switches once the audience does understand what’s going on. If Mom finds out you’ve been baiting your brother for the past 20 minutes, now you’re the one getting scolded.
“You can actually flip around this dynamic and defend yourself against this kind of attack,” Mr. Lindsay said. “Don’t take the bait, and name the dynamic.”
“The response has to be to drag the context back into the frame,” he said. “When people understand they are being manipulated, it changes how they evaluate the situation.”
The goal of radicals is to sow discord, in this case frequently between Republicans and Democrats, and let them argue “horizontally” while they pursue another “vertical target,” he explained.
That vertical target is to undermine the rule of law, undermine Americans’ belief in the rule of law, undermine some freedom that allows them to step in and take control,” he said.
He believes the goal is to have people believe “the rule of law is off the table,” and take matters into their own hands, after which their actions will be used against them “just like they did in January 6.”
“The second we start to see through this we take away at least 90 percent of their power and effectiveness,” he said.