how to tell when your rhetoric goes too far

When you spend your days fear-mongering and creating imaginary existential threats, is it any wonder if violence breaks out as a consequence?

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It never ceases to amaze me that pundits and commentators ask us not to politicize a tragedy and then either go right ahead and do just that, or try their best to cover for those whose daily discourse certainly doesn’t help matters. Yes, when Jared Loughner decided to go a rampage and shoot Congresswoman Gabriele Giffords, killing six people in the process, he would’ve qualified as a violent lunatic in dire need of being detained, and yes, his actions were his own. But while partisan apologists and pundits are busy pleading both sides of the political divide to “tone down their rhetoric” to avoid inspiring another violent whack job, those who sent out a virtual mailer with crosshairs on the districts of politicians they didn’t like, urging their fans to “reload,” not retreat, make millions of dollars hosting shows which give their airtime to people who think the government is brainwashing youth in secret camps, and even wondering how to murder someone they hate on the air, are hiding behind the typical “lone wolf” excuse we tend to detest from fringe groups which inspire a mentally ill individual with a violent streak to go out and commit bloody acts in the name of some cause. And no, don’t even try to give me the nonsense that Loughner was a crazy liberal. If he was, why did he espouse the talking points summary of the Tea Party and ascribe to almost every other anti-government conspiracy?

So while Sarah Palin is pulling down her fliers and sanitizing her tweets, and Glenn Beck urges everyone for peace and understanding after being cited as an inspiration for an assassination attempt, we’re being told to blame either no one, or politics in general while ignoring that free speech in all its forms does carry at least some consequences and if we say something, we need to take responsibility for it. You can’t spend your days blasting divisive vitriol, getting your loyal fans foaming at the mouth about how evil the government is, support them showing up to town hall meetings with guns, and unleash hours of conspiracy-laden sophistry about an impending war with the government or an authoritarian takeover of the nation, and be surprised that someone who has a very touch and go relationship with reality takes you seriously and decides to get violent. If after you make a speech, your verbal targets receive death threats, you should know you went too far, and if after the bullets fly, you feel compelled to take down what you once so proudly said or tone down your shows until this story fades away, that should really make you wonder if you should’ve said it in the first place. To pretend that what you say on national TV and radio to millions of partisan faithful who see you as the only source of news due to their paranoia of “radical bias in the media” day in, day out, has no effect, is utterly ridiculous.

# politics // mass media / partisan politics / punditry / pundits


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