Hyper Partisanship: Could political rhetoric lead to violence?
Not too much to say, but in the aftermath of the tragic shooting that occurred in Tucson, AZ; many questions are being asked about whether Sarah Palin’s campaign tag lines (i.e. don’t retreat, reload) or ads (see below) which placed crosshairs on “targeted districts” helped create the environment which lead to the shooting. While I am not a fan of Sarah Palin and do find her rhetoric over the top, I find it completely unfounded and wrong to place any direct responsibility on Sarah Palin. However, with that being said Sarah Palin’s tactics are an example of a more general problem which MAY have contributed to the climate of public anger toward politicians and Washington DC.
The increasing demonization which climaxed during the 2010 campaign season was significantly higher than past campaign seasons. Incidents in which people were intimidated, verbally or physically assaulted during rallies were reported by news stations repeatedly. Congressional Offices were protested and in one case violently as a congressional office was vandalized. This video with the recent shooting victim Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was originally aired on March 25th, 2010. Take note of some of the signs being held “Kill the Bill” and the quote from the host “war rhetoric and campaign rhetoric are interchangeable”
Frustration and anger with Washington DC was high and some campaigns chose to fan the flames to rally support. Rhetoric would portray opponents as the enemy or attempting to destroy America. The partisanship was so high Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert put on a “Rally to Restore Sanity”, which promoted the idea; you can disagree without being disagreeable, you can draw contrast from your opponent without inflammatory propaganda.
Perhaps in the wake of such a tragedy we should all step back and reevaluate our own standards of what we will accept from our elected officials and those working on their behalf. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the incident in Tucson Arizona.