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Incivility & Violence in Political Discourse

Updated on August 16, 2010

The Chicken Has Come Home to Roost!

In the aftermath of the health reform legislation, as more and more Congressional lawmakers are directly exposed to the virulent ire of their constituents, it looks like the chicken has come home to roost.

For well over twenty months now, blinded by shortsighted, self-serving political interests, these so-called leaders and their bands of prognosticators have stoked the flames of division and fear; to the point where it sometimes even felt like we were witnessing an unreal but frenzied macabre dance of destruction that, like most Hollywood acts, some erroneously thought would sooner dissipate.

As the events of the last week have proven, rather than innocuously dissolve into the political stratosphere, as most mirages do, the consequences of these patterns of speech seem more real and enduring than anyone possibly imagined. The armies of recruits are assembled with their lit Molotov cocktails and justifiably seeking outlets for their pent-up feelings of resentment and dejection.

They have been primed to dislike policy outcomes that they often do not even understand. And by god, someone has to pay.

But how did we really get here? With whom does the responsibility for creating the present environment of incivility and hate lie?

Unsurprisingly, the media establishment and their opinion-molding talking heads, being true to their disjointed, truncated and adversarial traditions of news reporting, appear ill-equipped to provide much guidance. They seem to have elected to further obfuscate the issue with their flimsy, unconvincing attempts at ‘balanced’ reporting.

So, as it typically goes, being that both Republican and Democratic members of Congress have now been targeted by the threat of violence, most presentations of the issue in the major networks have sought to blame either side equally for producing, contributing or seeking to benefit from the milieu.

To the contrary, it is hardly controvertible that a defining characteristic of the Republican strategy, especially in the last two election seasons, is the commitment to endeavoring to distinguish their brand in a way that is stridently exclusionary. And oftentimes, it has been most reprehensibly and irresponsibly done with a choice of language that is either laden with violent imagery or intended to inspire a certain degree of shock and awe.

If it’s not Limbaugh or Beck repeatedly lambasting opponents and calling them “bastards” undeserving of a modicum of human decency then it’s McCain, Palin and their cohorts labeling Obama “Socialist” or “paling around with terrorists.” Even as recently as just this week, we saw Palin imploring supporters at a rally to “repeal” and “reload,” incredibly, further amping-up an already resplendently charged situation!

Confronted, Palin was of course quick to deny that she truly meant to incite anyone to violence with her incendiary rhetoric.

We have even seen mainstream full-fledged organizations form around the core idea that there are Americans and there are Americans (the “birthers”) or co-opt others with some historical standing, bastardize and turn them into veritable instruments for the propagation of an ideology of hate ( the Tea Party Movement).

Regarding the “birthers,” the fact that there is an entire movement, supported and tacitly condoned by the Republican Party, founded on the elemental falsehood that the seating President of this country is not a bonafide American is simply mindboggling.

What, might I ask, did the perpetrators of this pattern of political speech think would be the ultimate impact of their art on the unsuspecting, often politically unsophisticated recipients of this coded call to arms?

To Canter and other Republican Congressional leaders playing victim or the media seeking to equalize the blame for the climate of fear and violence that has since enveloped the political landscape and now threaten civil discourse, I say the chicken has indeed come home to roost!



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      Matthew Kortenhoven 7 years ago

      Well said!