by David Safier
I'm reading more analyses of this kind, which make a great deal of sense. It's not only violence-laden rhetoric that inflames the discourse and leads to threats and acts of violence. It's language that declares, You're not one of us — language that dehumanizes political opponents or makes them into aliens.
This from Robert Wright on NY Times' Opinionator blog:
In that sense, the emphasis the left is placing on violent rhetoric and imagery is probably misplaced. Sure, calls to violence, explicit or implicit, can have effect. But the more incendiary theme in current discourse is the consignment of Americans to the category of alien, of insidious other. Once Glenn Beck had sufficiently demonized people at the Tides Foundation, actually advocating the violence wasn’t necessary. [According to Wright, Beck regularly called the Tides Foundation part of a communist plot to "infiltrate our society," but he didn't suggest violence be used against it. California police pulled over a heavily armed man who planned to kill people at the Foundation.]
By the same token, Palin’s much-discussed cross-hairs map probably isn’t as dangerous as her claim that “socialists” are trying to create “death panels.” If you convince enough people that an enemy of the American way is setting up a system that could kill them, the violent hatred will take care of itself.