Does Dangerous Political Rhetoric Incite Violence?

It seems that 2011 is off to a rocky start. On January 8, a 22 year-old male shot a bunch of people in Tucson, AZ. His main target was a Democratic congresswoman who was shot in the head. Sadly, I’m not surprised about this tragedy. Ever since Obama was elected president, hate, racism and paranoia has been broadcast all over cable television, radio and the Internet in ways I have never seen before.

Who is to blame for this horrible tragedy? There is one side that is blaming the Tea Party and certain cable news/radio personalities for generating hate with their heated political rhetoric. The Tea Party and their supporters of course are denying any blame, insisting that the shooter was mentally disturbed. Well, I agree with them on that last point, but I’m not convinced that they are completely without blame.

The Internet is buzzing with comments blaming Sarah Palin for this violent act. I recall watching cable news and seeing a clip of Sarah Palin talking to voters about putting political opponents in their sights and showing the picture of a politician in the crosshairs of a gun sight. And she said, “We need to take them out.” It shocked me that someone, especially someone in the public eye, would say such a thing. Okay, so she wasn’t talking about shooting and killing someone, but a crazy person doesn’t know how to distinguish the difference.

It was reported that Giffords had criticized a website by the Sarah Palin Action Committee that posted imaged of crosshairs on a U.S. map targeting congressional seats for the 2010 mid-term elections. Giffords was one of the targets. I would post a link to this website and map in question, but the pictures were taken down right after the shootings. Do you think they are feeling just a wee bit guilty?

This quote from Gabrielle Giffords gave me chills: “We’re in Sarah Palin’s ‘targeted’ list, but the thing is that the way she has it depicted, we’re in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action.”She said this right after her office had been vandalized in 2010.

Americans are lucky to have freedom of speech, but is this freedom taken too far in certain circumstances? Should those in the public eye use common sense and watch what and how they say something? People can speak out against an ideal without causing violence. With so much hate and intolerance sweeping the country, it doesn’t help to have a key political figure talk about taking people out or calling them targets.

Any thoughts/comments on this?

Kelley Heckart

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2 thoughts on “Does Dangerous Political Rhetoric Incite Violence?”

  1. It seems to me that people in the public eye do need to be careful about what they say. Hate speech and talk of violence should not be considered acceptable. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that Sarah Palin had a list of people to be “taken out”, not because I can’t believe that she would do such a thing, but because I couldn’t believe that some people accept such speech.

    We are all part of the same country. We don’t have to all like each other, but hate speech and pointing guns really doesn’t get us anywhere when we have disagreements.

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  2. Unfortunately it is a sign of the times! The more desperate for power a group of individuals or parties is to win the more violent and extremist their methods. If you devoid people of their humanity by demonising them or their religion, political party or some aspect that you dislike or fear, then you have won the battle. How many people would have reacted, unfortunately, to the news of the shooting with glee or disinterest because they have taken the people themselves as human beings out of the equation.

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