Inflammatory Rhetoric and Political Temperature

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Monday, January 7, 2019


We’ve reached a point in the political sphere in which most everyone could agree that political tensions are at an all-time high. In recent history parties in the U.S disagreed with each other about policy and approaches to problems in our nation, but rarely did we see it devolving into such a goofy back and forth like in the 2016 election cycle when President Trump and Joe Biden talked about beating each other up.

We see many “hate speech” codes still popping up on campuses, trying to tamp down on speech that may hurt others and “incite violence.” Every small act of violence and every national news-worthy one was being used as political leverage to suggest that the leaders of one party or the other was inciting violence within the nation with their horrendous speech and views. In some cases it’s wholly true, in others it’s just a miserable attempt at winning the political game. So what speech does incite violence as opposed to just someone being a jerk? When can someone be to blame for their speech, and to what degree?

The simplest litmus test for speech that incites violence, is that which we see rather often in this current political climate. It comes from both sides, and the rational people on both sides should do well to shun it. President Trump asking his supporters to punch protestors at his rallies and that he’d “pay their legal fees” is absolutely incitement of violence and unacceptable. Maxine Waters asking her supporters to harass members of the Republican party at restaurants, gas stations, etc. is also absolutely speech that incites violence. Direct calls for action such as these are the most basic to identify as “inciting violence.” Had a protestor at a Trump rally been punched, the blame could have been put squarely on Trump’s shoulders, and rightly so.

When people are harassing Senators and other Members of Congress while having dinner with their families, the blame can rightfully be put on Maxine Waters and others who have called for similar action. Some people do take the bait on words like these, and it’s not crazy to think people would. That kind of speech absolutely should be rejected by the population at large, and,  more importantly, the supporters of those leaders who call for violence. Responsible conservatives will reject violent rhetoric from even the President, just as responsible liberals will reject violent rhetoric from Waters and the like.

However, today we often see any sort of insult or hyperbole being chalked up to incitement of violence, and that’s because both parties are looking to pin blame on the leaders of the other. The mail bomber was coined the MAGABomber within an hour of us learning of the mail bombs. Mainstream media had a hay-day blaming Trump for criticizing Democrat leaders, saying the mail bombs were his fault, going so far as to call those leader “Trump’s targets” as if he had asked for his opponents to be bombed. None of what the President has said could possibly be spun to suggest he wanted his opposition dead, attacked or even harassed. Yes, President Trump says some of the goofiest things about his opposition and has some grade-school insults for them, but those don’t make him responsible for the violent actions of radicals.

If Stormy Daniels were to be attacked in the near future, you’d be reaching to suggest it was done because Trump called her “horseface.” Does calling her “horseface” make the President a rude, disrespectful jerk? Many would say so, but only those looking for an excuse to remove him from office would go so far to suggest that calling people names would lead to violence. Most speech from politicians falls into this category. Politicians speak in hyperbole, Democratic leaders have called the Trump tax cuts “blood money,” but we’d be hard pressed to find someone who died as a direct result of the tax cuts. Prominent members of the media call Trump “Hitler” incessantly, it doesn’t even mean anything anymore. Do these words incite violence? Is any attempt on the President’s life the responsibility of those who criticized him or called him names? Absolutely not.

This speech is common today, calling your opponents racist, horseface, fake news, misogynist etc…. It’s absolutely divisive and gross. However, if we learned to accept that none of this is actually incitement of violence, but just goofy, exaggerated and unnecessary, our leaders would be less inclined to use it to hype up their bases and tear down their opponents.

When we legitimize this speech and give it more weight than it deserves, our leaders will be inclined to use it to divide us for political gain. If we were to look at all of it for what it is, name calling, we could just move on and focus instead on the policy issues that we really get into politics for. The only way to bring the political temperature and inflammatory rhetoric down, is to to care less about goofy insults and hyperbole, and stop buying into the outrage that comes along with it.

William Atallah is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin studying Government and Philosophy. He is a major proponent of individual liberty and small government. His current focus is on finding a more common ground and promoting civil conversation between people and supporters of opposing parties

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About William Atallah

University of Texas at Austin

William Atallah is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin studying Government and Philosophy. He is a major proponent of individual liberty and small government. His current focus is on finding a more common ground and promoting civil conversation between people and supporters of opposing parties

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