Violence-laced political rhetoric

by David Safier

There are rarely straight line, cause-and-effect relationships between political rhetoric and violence. But a constant onslaught of violent imagery and language directed at the government in general and political candidates in particular can almost be guaranteed to raise thoughts of violence in some individuals, and may promote violent actions in a few of them.

In the spring of 2010, Palin’s SarahPac had this image on its website:

Yes, those are gun sights on the districts Palin is “targeting.” Note that Representative Giffords’ name is on the list.

A similar, updated map with gun sights on Democrats still in office was on Palin’s Take Back the 20 website until today, when it was taken down.

Here is a screen shot from the Pima County Republican website announcing a Jesse Kelly event last summer.


I posted about it when it appeared in June. The pairing of “Get on target,” “remove Gabrielle Giffords” and “Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly” is too damned close for comfort.

This event was from Jesse Kelly, a candidate who used ads with photos like this:

The ad is included in a glowing World Net Daily story on Kelly titled:

Fed-up Marine has guns blazing to oust Democrats
‘They’re destroying this nation, and while I’m still breathing, I will not let it happen’

I suggest Congressional Democrats create a resolution condemning violence-laced rhetoric directed at the government or at specific politicians. It should cite examples, including the use of gun sights on maps, suggestions that we may need to resort to Second Amendment solutions to government problems, and on and on. It’s a non-binding resolution which carries no more weight than a resolution condemning the use of the word “nigger.” People’s First Amendment and Second Amendment rights aren’t harmed. Congress should be able to pass it unanimously, unless some politicians think it’s OK to suggest that encouraging politically motivated violence is justified.

(h/t to the Maddow Blog for bringing some of these pieces together.)

0 responses to “Violence-laced political rhetoric

  1. Thanks for your comment. As one who remembers the sixties and the Vietnam War protests, I tried to think of the last time a “leftie” created violence. Since the Vietnam era, I could think of none, but as you said there have been multiple examples of those on the right taking their government grievance to the violence level.
    I think we have a responsibility to keep saying that.

  2. falcon9, this isn’t just a tragedy, it’s an assassination attempt, and it is therefore very useful to look both at violent rhetoric and actual violence to see if there are any patterns to help us prevent future terrorism. Here’s a list of some recent political assassinations & attempted assassinations:

    • July 2008, Jim David Adkisson marches into a Unitarian Church in Tennessee, murders 2 and wounds 6. Adkisson himself leaves a manifesto stating that he wanted to “kill all the liberals” and wanted to after all the people listed in conservative Bernard Goldberg’s book “101 People Who Are Screwing Up America.” At his house, police officers find other books by Hannity and O’Reilly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knoxville_Unitarian_Universalist_church_shooting

    Adkisson’s manifesto: web.knoxnews.com/pdf/021009church-manifesto.pdf, in which he complains about “all the bad things liberals have done to this country.”

    • March 2009. Richard Poplawski murders three cops. The day before, Poplawski had taken the trouble to upload a ten-minute video of Glenn Beck talking about the (imaginary) FEMA camps onto a website he frequented; a close friend of Poplawski’s would later confirm he was upset because he falsely believed “Obama was going to take his guns away.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Pittsburgh_police_shootings

    • May 2009. Scott Roeder assassinates a doctor, Dr. George Tiller, who performed late-term abortions; a sizeable majority of those abortions were to save the life of the woman in question. Roeder had close ties to Operation Rescue, founded by Randall Terry, who has supported many Republican causes. It is unknown if Roeder’s attack on Tiller was influenced by the 26 segments in four years that Bill O’Reilly did, referring each time to Tiller as a “baby killer.”

    • 2010. Byron Williams is apprehended after a shootout by police on his way to attack and attempt to murder several members of the Tides Foundation. In an interview, Williams confirms that he was inspired to do so by Glenn Beck.
    http://mediamatters.org/research/201010110002

    • May 2009. James von Brunn attacks the Holocaust museum. von Brunn had concerns about Obama’s birth certificate and planned to assassinate White House advisor David Axelrod.

    http://mediamatters.org/research/201010110002

    You’ll notice something about these killings: all of them are clearly from right-wing radicals. There’s no case in the past 20 years of a liberal going into a conservative church and opening fire, no liberal attempting to bomb the Heritage foundation because Rachel Maddow demonized them, no liberal murdering cops over Bush’s civil liberties policies or whatever, no liberal killing pro-life activists. (And I haven’t even mentioned the murders of Dr. David Gunn, Dr. Bernard Slepian, and the others murdered in a now 18-year wave of anti-choice violence, or Eric Rudolph of 2000, who blew up gay nightclubs & a women’s health clinic.)

    Couple that with the rhetoric you get from *prominent, powerful* right-wingers–Ann Coulter, 2002: “The only thing Tim McVeigh did wrong was not going to the New York Times building,” Bill O’Reilly (again!), 2005, “If Al-Qaeda attacks the Coit Tower [in San Francisco]< we shouldn't rebuild it," radio talk-show host and Presidential stepson Michael Reagan, "Howard Dean should be hung from the neck until he's dead," Glenn Beck putting a sketch, on air, in which he poisons Nancy Pelosi, Glenn Beck, stating on air he'd like to have Michael Moore assassinated. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure you can find a few obscure lefties who have occasionally said stupid or violent things (and I could certainly find my share of right-wing loons on freerepublic)--that's why I put the words PROMINENT and POWERFUL in stars. Because that's what we're talking about. Prominent, powerful, highly visible people on the right making violent statements and being rewarded for it, and right-wing killings. If you've got a response, you should probably start with two things: Clearly identified, indisputable left-wing murders of Republicans in the past 10 years (hint: there aren't any), and a simple question: What's the difference between poisoning Nancy Pelosi and shooting Gabrielle Giffords?

  3. Well, let’s complete the list of shame. Congressman Mitchell not only had a rifle scope on a district, he had it directly on a person. Quit trying to use a tragedy for political gain. Dupnik started out in a noble fashion, a statesman and ended as a shameful idiot at his press conference. There is no evidence that Loughner ever attended a teaparty event, his father is listed as a party not specified voter. There isn’t even any evidence that he visited tea party web sites. His favorite book selection included Karl Marx. Is he a liberal? His fellow high school students labeled him as a pot smoking loner. Intense Pot smoking has been associated schizophrenia and paranoia. His home is only a few minutes away from that Safeway. He shopped there on a regular basis and was very familar with the store , came across a notice of the event sign weeks in advance and began to have delusions about what was to come. His marksmanship was simply unbelievable, even given point blank range. It is likely that he has been rehearsing for an event like this for years. His personality appears to be intensely anti-authority, with every traffic stop exploding to the edge of violence and it appears he had similar occurences on the pima college campus.

  4. It is time for a list of shame. A list of shame for Jesse Kelly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, and any other political wannabees or pundints that push the rhetoric of violence to the insane. Jesse Kelly’s efforts on his website aren’t worthy; he can’t have it both ways-condemning government on one hand and then condemning anarchy on the same hand.

    Peace out to Senator John McCain. His words for the victims were great and I wish him continued success as a Senator.

    To hell with the Tea Party, too, they can go on the list for the promotion of anarchy.