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EXPERT: Trump’s dehumanising language generating fear and contributing to violence and hatred

Charles Darwin University 2 mins read

16 NOVEMBER, 2023

Who: Charles Darwin University forensic linguistics expert Dr Awni Etaywe.

Dr Etaywe is a lecturer in linguistics and a forensic linguistics researcher focusing on terrorism, incitement to hatred and violence, and digital deviance. He is a member of the Special Interest Group on Peace, Compassion and Empathy within the Australian Systemic Functional Linguistics Association. He is also interested in how language is used to negotiate (un)shared bonds and to forge social affiliation and disaffiliation.


  • ‘Language as evidence’ in terrorism and social justice cases.
  • ‘Breaking the code’ – an analysis of the genocidal language used by Israeli officials in the Gaza war.
  • Digital deviance and the role of social (dis)affiliation in incitement to hatred and violence.
  • The role of social disaffiliation in far-right extremists’ incitement to violence.
  • Semiotics of compassion in digital activism.

Dr Etaywe is available to contribute extensive analysis and commentary on this subject.

Contact details: Call +61 8 8946 6721 or email to arrange an interview.

Quotes attributable to Dr Awni Etaywe:

“From a sociolinguistic perspective, politicians such as former US President Donald Trump strategically craft their messages to resonate with their audience, employing 'communion' acts to foster social connections.

“Simultaneously, they utilize 'alienation' acts to create disalignment from rivals and adversaries.

“Politicians and extremists share styling, but Trump's deviance is within democratic bounds, and is expected to be subject to accountability within these bounds.

“Supporters laud Trump as a disruptor aiming to 'Make America Great Again.' Understanding Trump's deviance through his linguistic behaviour reveals violations of established norms and social network-specific values. Applying the sociology of deviance lens helps grasp what makes Trump popular among supporters or a violator of social norms to critics, offering leadership lessons in domestic and international affairs.

“This generated fear is enhanced through the use of the term "vermin" in the tweet which carries a highly dehumanising connotation that frame others as undesirable or harmful. This choice of language devalues members of the targeted groups, portraying them as a threat and fostering a hostile perception of them. Such dehumanisation practice contributes to an atmosphere of hatred and violence against members of the out-groups.

“Terms like "Communists," "Marxists," and "Fascists" categorise certain groups negatively and echoes a divisive and confrontational tone by associating political adversaries with historically controversial ideologies.

“The rhetoric is inciting, divisive and uses negative language that operates to create a sense of urgency, crises and confrontation.

“Deviance defines our broad moral orders, personal, cultural, legal and institutional fields and thus our boundaries. From a Durkheimian functional lens, a politician’s deviance should affirm the long-established cultural values and norms, and should bring people together to work towards restoring justice and condemning violence. Morality as well as deviance thereof is what links social structure to (im)moral agency.”

Contact details:

Raphaella Saroukos she/her
Communications Officer
Marketing, Media & Communications
Larrakia Country
T: +61 8 8946 6721

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