In the last three years, various experts have made what they called dispositive cases for crimes by President Donald Trump ranging from hate crimes to treason to inciting violence. Now Yale University Professor of Epidemiology Dr. Gregg Gonsalves is adding genocide. Gonsalves is upset with what he views as the “delayed” response by the Trump Administration to the pandemic. That is certainly a legitimate viewpoint that is shared by many and people of good faith can disagree on when the Administration should have acted. However Gonsalves insists that such a failure to respond a couple weeks earlier is “awfully close to genocide.” It is is neither genocide nor close to genocide, but Gonsalves later doubled down to make sure that people understood that this is not just hyperbole but he was “being serious here.” He further suggests that this genocidal strategy could be tied to killing minority voters before the election. Gonsalves has appeared widely as an expert in coverage by CNN, NBC, Politico, Foreign Policy magazine, The Washington Post, and other media outlets.
Gonsalves tweeted “How many people will die this summer, before Election Day? What proportion of the deaths will be among African-Americans, Latinos, other people of color? This is getting awfully close to genocide by default. What else do you call mass death by public policy?”
He then added:
“So, what does it mean to let thousands die by negligence, omission, failure to act, in a legal sense under international law?
And I am being serious here: what is happening in the US is purposeful, considered negligence, omission, failure to act by our leaders. Can they be held responsible under international law?”
Gonsalves teaches on microbial diseases and law at Yale but seems a bit more informed on the microbial than the genocidal.
First, Gonsalves is not the first to espouse the conspiracy theory that this is all part of scheme to kill “African-Americans, Latinos, other people of color” before election day. A Rutgers Professor also recently claimed that this was all part of a “gross necropolitical calculus” by the Trump Administration to kill minorities. Such conspiracy theories are largely brushed over by the mainstream media. Indeed, as we have seen, even a bizarre conspiracy theory by former Joe Biden was largely shrugged off by the media. The Yale faculty in particular seems to have taken a deep dive into the intellectually unsound, as shown by another professor who teaches in both the medical and law schools, Dr. Bandy Lee.
Now, let’s focus on his question of whether Trump and the Administration can “be held responsible under international law.” The most used definition of genocide is found in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide , which requires an “intent [by the accused] to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” What Gonsalves is describing is negligence, not intent. Moreover, we are discussing a matter of a couple weeks in January or February. That would be a curious way of conducting an intentional genocidal campaign. Indeed, it was not until much later that we saw the growing differential among minority groups in the lethality of the virus.
For three years, I have been critical of utter abandon shown by Trump critics in distorting the criminal code and even defending prosecutorial abuses (as is the case with the recent commentary on the Flynn case). Not only are these unhinged interpretations not challenged in the media, they are replicated in an effort to satisfy the demand of viewers in the age of echo journalism. Even the clearly false legal statements recently made by President Obama were left unchallenged because such fact checking are largely reserved for Trump and his supporters.
This is a case in point. Imagine if a Yale professor had accused President Barack Obama of genocide. The response of not just the media, but the faculty and students at Yale would have been overwhelming. Yet, any attack — no matter how untethered to reality or the law — is considered fair game if it is directed in the right direction.