Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why extreme rhetoric matters: Setting the occasion for violence and terrorism

In response to the recent Las Vegas shooting, Greg Sargent in the Washington Post takes conservatives to task for their hyperbolic, apocalyptic rhetoric.  

... there are some particular features of conservative political rhetoric today that help create an atmosphere in which violence and terrorism can germinate.
The most obvious component is the fetishization of firearms and the constant warnings that government will soon be coming to take your guns. But that’s only part of it. Just as meaningful is the conspiracy theorizing that became utterly mainstream once Barack Obama took office. If you tuned into one of many national television and radio programs on the right, you heard over and over that Obama was imposing a totalitarian state upon us. You might hear that FEMA was building secret concentration camps (Glenn Beck, the propagator of that theory, later recanted it, though he has a long history of violent rhetoric), or that Obama is seeding the government with agents of the Muslim Brotherhood. You grandfather probably got an email offering proof that Obama is literally the antichrist.

At this point, conservatives will weigh in with "false equivalence" saying liberals do it too.

To my conservative friends tempted to find outrageous things liberals have said in order to argue that both sides are equally to blame, I’d respond this way: Find me all the examples of people who shot up a church after reading books by Rachel Maddow and Paul Krugman, and then you’ll have a case.

The Las Vegas shooting is just one instance - get set for more.

And I promise you, these murders in Nevada will not be the last. It may be going too far to say that conservative politicians and media figures whose rhetoric has fed the deranged fantasies of terrorists and killers have blood on their hands. But they shouldn’t have a clear conscience, either.

Sargent knows that he will attract lots of flak for this column.  Indeed, we have a  precedent right here at home.  Recall a similar argument made by Sheriff Clarence Dupnik when Gabby Giffords was shot.  Both Dupnik and Sargent are spot on.  The over-heated right-wing rhetoric is not a cause for any particular incident, but it does, in psychological terms, set the occasion for the violence.

Read the entire column here.

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