Political Rhetoric in the Wake of the Tucson Shooting

Friday, January 14, 2011


After the shooting in Tucson last weekend, pundits across the political spectrum took a renewed look at the hyperbolic and oftentimes violent rhetoric that marks our modern political discourse. Brooke looks at the way the media responded to this tragedy.

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Comments [46]


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Oct. 27 2011 04:57 AM
Dion Twayne Watson from Southside

police are abusing there authority when it comes to certain communities. Now there making death threats. they do not have that kind of power to do something like that and get away with it. This isn't right.

Mar. 10 2011 11:26 AM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ


Feb. 18 2011 04:30 PM
Quentin Hammonds from Raleigh North Carolina

WHAT! A sherif making death threats what kind of power do he think he have. Do he know he's still human and all laws apply to all humans on the face of this earth. Why do people keep bringing up the past is it because whatever happened in the past will happened in the future.

Feb. 18 2011 11:08 AM
Just a Thought

It is disappointing that the program has conspicuously decided not to explore the politically driven false narrative in the media and perhaps one of the most shameful chapters of the internet age thus far involving US domestic politics. The suspected bad faith use of media from twitter to major news outlets in the attempted chilling of American political speech and activism based on falsehoods and innuendo is worthy of a good faith examination. Was there deliberate media maleficence and the enabling of smears for domestic political effect and gain? Long after the absurd politicized allegations have been discredited, the stench of the false narrative remains. Fortunately the garish smokescreen the media floated to hide and distort has dissipated somewhat and the organic sunlight of fact based reality is revealing fetid left-wing corners.
In case your wondering, the frustration with media coverage like this is exactly why conservative radio and television has been so successful in the last several years and will continue to be. Thanks

Jan. 28 2011 06:06 PM
anna from New York

"Social scientists who understand human nature will not dismiss the vital roles of free choice, voluntary cooperation and moral integrity – as liberals do. A political leader who understands human nature will not ignore individual differences in talent, drive, personal appeal and work ethic, and then try to impose economic and social equality on the population – as liberals do. A legislator who understands human nature will not create an environment of rules which overregulates and overtaxes the nation's citizens, corrupts their character and reduces them to wards of the state – as liberals do."
OK, Joseph, let's go.
A historian would look at facts such as a collapse of unfettered capitalism wherever it existed before recommending European (pre-Social Democratic) fate of the 20th century to the world. Any scientist/scholar will not offer dogmas instead of facts. The fact is that unfettered capitalism doesn't and can't work, a civilized Social Democratic system which results in more balanced, humane and just society seems to be working. Interestingly, the ancients (Jews, for example) were keenly aware of human nature and insisted on regulating societies. Ancient Jews, for example, had jubilees, sabbaticals and number of other mechanisms to prevent (or at least limit) abuses of the decent, the vulnerable, the regular by the greedy, ruthless, criminal etc. and strive for a stable society.
Why don't you learn from them, Joseph?

Jan. 23 2011 07:18 AM
Joseph Louis from Chicago

Onthemedia is a left wing show. They practice deliberate ignorance, fail to ask appropriate and probing follow-up questions, and use a tone and employ a slant to their stories that is favorable to the left. When Obama encourgaed his followers to bring a gun to a fight, Bob and Brooke were pregnantly silent. Bob and Brooke hate conservatives and love liberals. They are both heavily invested in the Obama administration. They, like their other liberal elite friends in the drive-by media, all supported Obama. Just 32 minutes after the shooting in Arizona, the left wing blogs blamed conservatives. Onthemedia jumped on the band wagon and also attacked the right. What Bob and Brooke will never understand is that the shooting had nothing to do with Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, the Tea Party movement (notice that I did not call it a party), and Levin. What evidence can Bob and Brooke produce that the shooter was the least bit influenced by right wing talk radio? Based on strikingly irrational beliefs and emotions, modern liberals relentlessly undermine the most important principles on which our freedoms were founded. Like spoiled, angry children, they rebel against the normal responsibilities of adulthood and demand that a parental government meet their needs from cradle to grave. Social scientists who understand human nature will not dismiss the vital roles of free choice, voluntary cooperation and moral integrity – as liberals do. A political leader who understands human nature will not ignore individual differences in talent, drive, personal appeal and work ethic, and then try to impose economic and social equality on the population – as liberals do. A legislator who understands human nature will not create an environment of rules which overregulates and overtaxes the nation's citizens, corrupts their character and reduces them to wards of the state – as liberals do.

Jan. 22 2011 05:02 PM
Bill Smythe from Austin, TX

This false argument over the tone of the debate, is just the first shot of the media protecting Obama by tearing down any potential competitor by making up false charges. The folks at On the Media are just the useful idiots of the establishment by repeating and debating the false charges. Of all of the things they could examine in depth, why choose this non-story?

Jan. 21 2011 03:22 PM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

My browser crashed while reading this, and asked me to "reload." I sure wish it would tone down the rhetoric.

Jan. 21 2011 12:39 PM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

This new tone is really working:

Jan. 19 2011 07:18 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

Brooke's comment illustrates the mentality of the media Left - they have their theory (that History moves in a certain direction, that 'reality' reflects this), and then they cherry-pick events to support that theory. She states that 'in recent years' the incendiary rhetoric has come 'mostly from the Right'. If OTM was calling out incendiary rhetoric on the Left before 'in recent years', I'd like someone to direct me to it. Part of the resiliency of the political Right in this country is precisely because the Left and its sympathizers are so easy on each other.

It's worth noting in the big picture that the era of 'Walter Cronkite' news, 1963-1981, which were also years of liberal and Democratic political ascendency, saw two Kennedys and Martin Luther King assassinated (John Lennon as well), Geo. Wallace and Ronald Reagan shot, Gerald Ford shot at (twice). Sen. John Stennis was shot in a hold-up in DC, and it hardly made the news. By contrast, the cable-news/talk radio/Republican resurgence era since 1981 has been much less violent. If OTM wants to make large statements about the relationship of political climate and political rhetoric on the one hand, and violence on the other, it might take a deep breath and challenge some of its robo-liberal listeners with the above framing.

Nah . . .

Jan. 19 2011 12:40 PM
Just a Thought

Since we agree out of context heated rhetoric from the past had nothing to do with this crime, can we now focus on the heated rhetoric of the last week which was in direct response to this crime? Reviewing the media coverage and reaction after the tragedy may be a moment to "assess were we are and where we are going and perhaps now is one of those times". Thanks

Jan. 18 2011 02:58 PM
Isaac from Groton, CT

David -
Know anybody on the DLC map that got shot in the head by a bow and arrow? Oh, right, it points at States, not at districts with associated names.

How about instead of playig a game of tit-for-tat, why not acknowledge that there's something wrong with the kind of imagery and rhetoric that passes for "political debate," and, in the words of Jon Stewart, take it down a notch.

For America.

Jan. 18 2011 07:27 AM
KadeKo from suburban New England

---Here's a fact: I just googled "I hate Obama." 98,000 hits. The I googled I hate Bush. 105,000 hits. Sounds close enough---

How much Bush hate was from 1) redefining torture as legal, 2) whipping us up into a frenzy and fabricating
evidence to invade Iraq, 3) blowing a hole in the budget and never submitting a balanced budget over a ~6 year
ecnomic expansion, 4) declaring "Mission Accomplished" in a ridiculous few short months of combat, 5) people getting arrested for showing up at Bush "town halls" sporting the wrong--non-threatening--t-shirt or bumper sticker, or 4) warrantless wiretapping?

How much Obama hate was from 1) a black Democrat having the nerve to win the Presidency? How much was from the absolute "Get Government out of my Medicare"-level ignorance the Tea Partiers have been whipped into by their low-information media reinforcement loop?

Jan. 17 2011 06:24 PM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

Daniel, William and Mike-

Maybe we don't have to wait too long on the influence of hate speech (apparently Jared L was brought to a point where he hated looking at Bush):


Actually, I think people know a metaphor when they hear it, and that the anger is fixed mostly on policy and worldview.

Jan. 17 2011 06:02 PM
Mike part two

I would like a pledge from anyone with a camera, a microphone or a keyboard that their own speech will be true even if the same cannot be demanded from others.

If facts of the events grow distant from the proposed connection then I want to understand how the mechanics of reporting allow for deviation. I would like enlightened commentary about the humanity of trying to make sense from chaos by closing to what we agree with and casting away those who disagree with us. I would like some chagrin on behalf of those who journalized their ideals or their frustrations instead of or in spite of the actualities.

Granted there is still much to be revealed and much that is beyond understanding, but I have a feeling the media let down in it’s effort to provide whole knowledge. And perhaps it is we who prompt the media to reach a low standard when it fills our immediate needs.

There is time now. I’m grateful On The Media has built it’s unique platform and I hope for follow up.

Jan. 17 2011 10:29 AM
Mike part one

Over the last year and a half On The Media has become my sanctuary for reason and insight. I especially appreciate OTM for it’s ethic to examine the daily description of our culture and compare it with the truths that may or may not be a part of a story’s life in the media. Your show’s success is evidence of careful listeners seeking resonance beneath the buzz.

I hope in the very near future you can revisit the coverage of the Tucson shootings and dedicate an entire program to explore deeper whether the connection made to extreme political speech is genuine or reactive.

If found true I would like to hear experts discuss mob psychology and how and why individuals join crowds and are freed to act differently from their norm. I would also like to hear more about hate and vitriol and how people recognize contempt when they are the target of a slur, but hear their own similar expressions as authentic, justified, perhaps even benign. I would like a pledge from

Jan. 17 2011 10:28 AM
Daniel Bennett from Washington, DC

I believe that there is a connection between the rhetoric and the horrible shootings last week. After the shooting in Arizona, rhetoric that includes references to killing or injuring people should be considered threatening. Despite the fact that the alleged killer is probably a loner and is locked up, everyone else now knows the terror of violence in the political arena which can be directed at elected official and bystander alike.

Why would anyone assert that since this attack, any more references to violence won't be considered a threat. In the past, the terror was contained to just the officials, who take the dangers to them in stride. But now, any public gathering is potentially a "High Noon" with no clear knowledge of who are the "bad" shooters, the "good" shooters or the unarmed innocents.

Some see this as a right vs. left -- I don't. I see this as a pro-violence vs. civil discourse divide. Which side are you on?

Daniel Bennett
Washington, DC

Jan. 17 2011 09:18 AM
anna from New York

"Listen, really listen to NPR, IPR, BBC, and CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Company, largely music). I believe you will see that they are very civil and respect their guest"#25
- I actually listened to BBC at some nights and my blood was boiling. Yes, I dislike intensely ANTISEMITIC PROPAGANDA
- yes, I have a problem with NPR being civil and respectful toward those who promote bigotry
- the fact that O'Reilly, Hannity etc. are disgusting doesn't change the fact that Malloy, Stone, Thomas etc. are disgusting.
I tend to repeat that the fact that Hitler was a monster doesn't mean that Stalin was a pussycat.

Jan. 17 2011 06:59 AM
anna from New York

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Boy, do I hate slogans and dogmas, in Russian or any other language.
Much less "svobodnaya" than you think.

Jan. 17 2011 06:50 AM
Barbara from Wisconsin

I agree with Deborah. This show is another reason why NPR must be defunded and be held to succeed or fail on its own. After hearing the examples from the piece this morning I was disappointed that they were all from the right. So unfair, so unbalanced.
Amazing how liberals think they are so fair when they use any story to slam the opposition.

Jan. 17 2011 12:49 AM
William Stevens from Redford, Michigan

Mik ... well said.
Deborah, ... What universe do you live in. Hannity et.al of Fox are balanced? Give me a break. You're like the people who founded Conservapedia because they thought/think Wikapedia was over-the-top liberal. If you haven't heard of Conservapedia, it was created by a Christian group (the earth is only 6-7000 years old), not a Conservative political group. Like the founders of Conservapedia, you it appears that you don't know what liberal, balanced, and conservative are. ... but I quibble about the word balanced when it comes to matters of fact. The discourse that takes place on Fox is all about opinions, and their ideologies warp what they consider to be facts. ... Listen, really listen to NPR, IPR, BBC, and CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Company, largely music). I believe you will see that they are very civil and respect their guests. That can't be said of Hannity, O'Reilly, and on the radio, Rush Limbaugh. Their guests who disagree with their positions are like lambs led to a slaughter.

Jan. 16 2011 08:39 PM
raul from san francisco

In Toni Morrison's book "Playing in the Dark" she advances the argument that there are times in our history when the "presence" of events (such as slavery) leak into the consciousness without our knowing the precise moment. I think that is what we have here.

We have a young man who is at just the right age to begin developing schizophrenia or some sort of psychiatric disorder. He is living in a state whose leadership on the right have lend a hateful racial campiagn full of lies and fabrications to enact the disgraceful SB 1070. I won't even go into the hate speech used there against the Administration and it's policy's.

I believe that we, most of us absorb what is in the air and water around us so no, Jared probably didn't shoot his congresswoman out of a single political ideology. But why a politician? We will never really know.

The reason that these events and the hate speech that has becomes so loud in the last few years are connected is because we (those of us with a little common sense) know that something is wrong. When people bring guns to peaceful protests against health care, when terms like death panels are used to defeat a law, when candidates running for congress talk about "Second Amendment remedies", when hate mongers go on the air and pronounce that the President of the United States "Must hates white people", or that he isn't even an US citizen.

Something is terribly wrong. Out of balance.

I call on the media and I ask those of you reading this to contact your media outlets and demand that they stop the false equivalence. Stop the lie that this happens on both sides. That is a LIE. Demand that the "media" do it's job of calling out the party that stands by without rebuke for it's wayward members.

Stop this nonsense and CALL THEM OUT!

Jan. 16 2011 03:35 PM
deborah from Knierim, iowa

Once again, NPR showed its liberal leanings. The piece on "Civility" and the events in Tucson was such a one sided discussion that it would have been laughable if it wasn't such a serious subject. Maybe you should listen to Hannity and others once in a while...hear what a real balanced discussion sounds like!

Jan. 16 2011 03:09 PM
geTaylor from Bklyn.,NY

Hey Jeff -
Who are you talking to?
Is that a sample of dialogue from the "Civility Theater" scam you will be pushing this week?
Is there anyway I can determine your predictions in 2009 for the 2010 Elections?
How are those "changes" working for you?

Это - свободная страна!

Jan. 16 2011 01:32 PM
Jeff from Texas

My take on the rhetoric is that Conservatives are afraid these days---afraid of what is happening to our country. They're afraid of change and it shows itself by the rhetoric that they display. New ideas, new implementations, mistrust of new people in power are all changes that suggest that things just aren't the way they use to be and Conservatives feel power or control slipping away and our country going to hell in a hand basket. When I hear words of fear and paranoia, I feel empathy for the speaker because I know deep down they're afraid. Not all change is good, but it is inevitable.

Jan. 16 2011 11:45 AM
Paul T from Ann Arbor, MI

David -
"Could you imagine the outrage if there were 20 or 30 YouTube videos of President Obama as Hitler?" A Google search of "obama hitler youtube" yields "About 2,590,000 results" (slightly edging out "bush hitler youtube") so, yes, I'll just have to imagine the outrage - because I'm not seeing it. Probably there's little outrage because any nutcase can post any video they want on YouTube. Few are seriously hoping to see the day where *no one* would take things so far off the deep end.

But it might be hoped that our *leaders*, both politicians elected by majorities and pundits chosen by large pluralities of media consumers, might refrain from extreme nastiness. Not because non-mainstream figures pose no danger, but because, hey, we gotta start somewhere.

So it was with interest that I read about Joe Manchin's "killing" a bill while holding an actual gun. Imagine my disappointment when this Blue Dog Democrat turned out to be killing a cap-and-trade bill, a bill intended to reduce global warming. Wow, let's stop the government from trying to regulate global warming pollution - now there's a real liberal/leftist rallying cry for you!

Jan. 15 2011 10:48 PM

I’m surprised that a program which purports to consider all things media, neither the hosts nor contributors asked themselves an obvious question: since interminably repeated commercial speech supports $$$multibillion industries (advertising and all kinds of media) and stimulates certain actions among the buying public, why on earth would 24/7 exposure to incendiary rhetoric NOT influence a few individuals to act violently? If words don’t influence people, why do Procter & Gamble, Nike, Pfizer, Apple, Starbucks, Verizon (you name them) bother advertising, and why do politicians and interest groups spend megabucks on carefully crafted political commercials based on exactly the opposite premise? Ultimately, if words don’t matter, why do we humans have the gift of speech at all???

It matters neither whether the disturbed young assassin in Tucson was left, right, yellow or purple, nor whether he listened specifically to talk radio. The media aren’t sealed off in some kind of box from the wider culture which surrounds all of us, and which we are all aware of.

It’s no more reasonable to totally exonerate than to totally blame Sarah Palin for her sustained output of violent rhetoric. In the scheme of things, she is but one contributor to the pervasive, sustained culture of violent speech in the media-political complex – of which by far the major output currently comes from the far right, however much the “even-Steven” commentators in the media may try to blame both sides equally.

A shooting like that in Tucson was entirely predictable; we just didn't know where or when, any more than advertisers know which particular individuals will respond to their commercial messages. The minds of mentally disturbed people are veritable sponges, particularly vulnerable to absorbing violent messages and, once in a while, converting them to violent actions – especially when firearms come into the mix.

Jan. 15 2011 10:36 PM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

And I should add, to my bumper sticker illustration, that this kind of lack of netrality goes both ways. Conservatives also think they are not haters while having their I hate Obama stickers.

Jan. 15 2011 05:28 PM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

Here's a fact: I just googled "I hate Obama." 98,000 hits. The I googled I hate Bush. 105,000 hits. Sounds close enough - and really, more in my favor - to dispel any notion that because Brooke says so, we shouldn't deny that one side does it more.

And Anna may have a point. Jared L. liked Mein Kampff, but no one is asking who influenced him to like that tripe and then kill a Jewish servant of the people. No, they assume it's a conservative hater was the big influence.

But I guess I'm whining.

Jan. 15 2011 05:20 PM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ


Should I cop to whining? I don't know. But I will take great issue with your blanket assertion that my "rhetoric is replete with innuendos and non sequiturs."

I didn't assert innuendos. I gave facts - links - where anyone, you included, could go and read information that disagreed with the 'one side is worse than the other' implications of the clips Brooke ran. And while expected the facts presented to be dismissed, your right, Brooke suprised me by in fact assenting the idea that OTM sees it only one way - "Apocalyptic pronouncements has issued mostly from the Right in recent years. No one even bothers denying it."

I won't put my credibility up against Brooke's, though I worked for ABC for 15 year. But I am a bit surprised that forls who want to really understand whether the angry rhetoric has an impact would allow her statement to go unchecked. You say it's her "business to study such things" but she gives you no facts at all. She has no credibility of any book or author that you seem to want for support.

Look, ask anyone with a "I hate Bush" or "I hate Obama" bumper sticker and ask them if they are a hater. If they like Obama, they think the guy with the "I hate Obama" bumper sticker is a mean hater, even while the "I hate Bush" sticker languishes on their own bumper. I had hoped that Brooke's segment would focus on should we broiadcast that kind of rhetoric on our cars, but the one-sided clips - plus her own unsupported admission - make that question moot.

Jan. 15 2011 05:19 PM
anna from New York

"David and Anna, with all due respect, your rhetoric is replete with innuendos and non sequiturs."
I don't know about David, but I am an analyst (by inclinations, training - extensive, and most of work experience). Antisemitism is one of my areas of expertise (by education). Innuendos are outside of my areas of interests.
Speaking of analysis. I do have a problem with your vocabulary and style which seem to be "charged": "complaining/whining," "your ox" etc.
Such a pity that antisemitism isn't yur "ox."

Jan. 15 2011 05:06 PM
William Stevens from Redford, Michigan

Brooke Gladstone wrote: "David, if we chose, we could exchange competing examples of valdalism by Right and Left wingers day and night ..." David, Brooke is agreeing with you that there is vandalism on the Left as well as the Right; yet you, and Anna a well, have kept complaining/whining that it is only, or very close to only, your ox that is getting gored.

You, Anna, implicitedly stated that you want the issue to be whether or not your ox is being disproportionaly gored; but that is not your call. It is OTM's call and OTM has decided - appropriately I would say because it leaves out any discussion of personalities and who is largely responsible for the "scarifying" rhetoric and so forth - to have the issue be: Does scarifying rhetoric and so forth do any harm.

I would be very surprised if you don't disagree with that last statement; but it is Brooke's business to study such things (in this case where the "Apocalyptic pronouncements has issued mostly from ... the Right in Right in recent years. No one [a credible source] even bothers denying it." I give what she wrote greater credence than I grant you. If you wish to verify the question, I'm sure there is at least one book you could read that addresses the topic. But please remember that the credibility of a book depends on the credibility of its author.

With respect to the issue at hand, does the scarifying rhetoric, etc., cause any harm; I emphatically say it does. Repeat a falsehood often enough and loudly enough and it becomes gospel. Rhetoric that reflects critical thinking is sorely needed; and non sequiturs, by definition do not reflect critical thinking. David and Anna, with all due respect, your rhetoric is replete with innuendos and non sequiturs.

Jan. 15 2011 04:53 PM
anna from New York

"To these obvious republican shills here saying both sides used harsh metaphor is bullpoopoo"#10
Well, if you consider me to be a Republican shill, you're out of luck. Technically, I am still a Democrat (and it was my first and only formal affiliation in this country) even though I've threatened to leave the party at least since 1996, but I define myself as a Social Democrat (possibly the only one in this one-pretending-to be two party land).
Sorry, to disappoint you, but the left doesn't have to be antisemitic. Au contraire, my friend, au countraire.
BTW, rants against the Federal Reserve and bankers in general more often than not have antisemitic overtones.
dr anna

Jan. 15 2011 04:27 PM
Kathy from Ohio

WHERE was your inclusion of stochastic terrorism in this discussion??

Jan. 15 2011 04:07 PM
Matthew from Rockland County NY

This Jared doesn’t even have to have political affiliation to blame conservative rhetoric for his killing spree; he can just be mistrustful of the government.

That would be enough to make targeting a democrat seem like a good idea.

Whoever out there in media land is telling people that America is under attack by its own government is to blame, You are the journalists, please find out who that is, so I can blame someone appropriately, and feel right about this.

Jan. 15 2011 02:12 PM
Matthew from Rockland County NY

I have heard that Jared had no discernable political connections. I have also read that he has ranted about various topics, one of which was the Federal Reserve, and how they are -in not so many words-, 'out to get us' (Americans). In my experience, rants about the Federal Reserve are from conservative, or Libertarian types, or those who are always mistrustful of the established structure of the government and monetary system in place in America.
And although I agree that Palin putting crosshairs on Gifford’s district didn’t cause this, I also believe that a crazy Jared heard someone in the media talking about how the current government was/is ruining America, maybe even Palin, and that the country will be forever changed for the worse by policies like Obamacare, and etc. These commentators are to blame, when you tell a lunatic that the country you love and grew up in is being changed forever, and your children and their children are going to suffer because of it, the lunatic is going to feel like he must stem the tide of the socialist takeover by taking the hard action.
He met and received a thank you certificate from Giffords when he attended one of her events in 2007, which would put her in his universe, he has probably even been close enough to shoot her before, and assumed she would be accessible again.
To these obvious republican shills here saying both sides used harsh metaphor is bullpoopoo; Democrats don’t accuse conservatives of destroying America, or say that a second amendment solution is needed for these problems with Obama government. Saying ‘hostage takers’ (when true) is a far cry from saying Obama is illegitimately president. Republicans / conservatives in the public arena are a bunch of rabble rousing, harsh language using, selfish and unfair human beings, and they should all feel ashamed. Who I believe is responsible is FoxNews, and their defense of the country against the liberal horde who are currently “in control”.

Jan. 15 2011 02:07 PM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ


I appreciate your thoughts and your tone. Thank-you.

On your challenge, does "If they bring a knife to the fight, I'll bring a gun count?" The President is not a congressman, but he should do! Or when he refers to his opposition as "hostage-takers?" Irealize it's silly to go tit for tat. My point is, these are metaphors that both sides use and everyone understands. But if we're going to start counting them - or subtly suggest in this report (but them come out and say it as Brooke does, above) then I guess we're counting!

Jan. 15 2011 10:51 AM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

OTM has chronicled the postmodern flattening of the media – while blaming "old school" media types for issuing these pronouncements. But just start searching for twitter, Facebook and youtube videos that want "Sarah Palin dead," and you'll see that the old school media guys on the right have nothing on the left. You just don't get easily tracked the audio from them. You have to use more than a Lexus/Nexus search to track the media today.

You know, OTM does such a good job on language, and the way words play out in the media and the impact they have on political conversations. Why not do a show on how, when emotions get hot, suddenly a metaphor is not a metaphor! Everyone knows that Sarah Palin doesn't mean to "target" someone with an actual gun any more than Daily Kos meant to do the same thing with their map, or that Joe Manchin meant we should get out our guns and kill a bill (though one has to give Democrat Joe props for driving the metaphor home by holding an actual gun at an actual bill!)

Jan. 15 2011 10:25 AM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ


If you want to be "heard" - if you really want to make an argument about whether "apocalyptic pronouncements" do "any harm" - then you should simply acknowledge that both sides do it big time. But I think what y'all at OTM really mean to tell us with your actuality clips is that we might have a problem, but it's really on the right – as you admit, nobody even questions it!

But you know, it's an issue of neutrality. We must all admit that we are not neutral, and therefore be more circumspect of how you measure. Liberals don't hear about the existence of the Clinton "War Room" and cringe at that kind of language. Rather, they go see the film with that name in droves. Many on the left don't "see" the burning Bushes, or the Bush with Hitler moustaches and satanic horns… because they *agree* with them. Could you imagine the outrage if there were 20 or 30 YouTube videos of President Obama as Hitler? There are a ton of them with Bush, even though they prosecute the very same wars.

American politics runs on metaphors drawn from war, and has at least since the 19th century. What journalist didn’t write about “targeted” districts or candidates in the last midterm election? Why do we say “campaign” and “rank and file,” or refer to “battles” and “war rooms”? None of this has ever before been taken as an incitement to violence. So please don't instruct us that "apocalyptic pronouncements has issued mostly from the Right in recent years. No one even bothers denying it." Actually, many do! It’s that the left is not interested in facts. Once a template has been established, no amount of evidence is going to usurp their idea of how and why certain events have transpired.

Jan. 15 2011 10:25 AM
anna from New York

There is a problem with the Democrats assertion that there is a problem with the rhetoric of the right because it's often presented in the main media.
Everyone is missing an important fact, namely, that the nature of mainstream TV viewers recovering from pleasures of "wonderful" American workplace half asleep can be different from possibly more active, more aggressive, occasionally sicker listeners who come to smaller venues for inspiration.

Jan. 15 2011 08:13 AM
anna from New York

"David, if we chose, we could exchange competing examples of vandalism by Right and and Left wingers day and night, but that is not the issue here"
Sorry, Brooks, I disagree.
A Jewish Democrat is shot by someone on the left (crazy or not) and the Democrats are talking about ... Palin.
Hate is hate. Whether it's hate of Beck or Thomas, Fox or Pacifica, Beck or Answer rallies.
The dogma "when the right incites, it's dangerous, but when the left incites, it's not a problem" is unacceptable.
"The issue here is scarifying political rhetoric uttered by major media figures and elected officials"
I agree, and I find the Thomases and Stones and Malloys and countless others, scary.
There is another dogma which says that when it's said by major figures it's dangerous, but when it's said by a slightly less major (how do you measure the size) or not on the mainstream it isn't dangerous. This dogma contradicts historical facts, such as Lenin and his band's takeover in Russia, or fascism moving to mainstream.
It's a fact that there has been blatant antisemitism on the left (media, celebrities, universities, check Oxford or Berkeley, for example) for decades and this fact has been ignored by the Democrats.
The fact that a Jewish democrat was shot by someone on the left was an opportunity for the Democrats to face the problem. They didn't hear the knock. Their conscience was sleeping.
Countless times, I heard from the left the demand to remove Jews from the government (the Protocols, the Protocols are everywhere - Pacifica, Al Jazeera, BBC and ... leaving to your imagination and conscience). Now, Giffords is removed from the government.
Congratulations, the Democrats.

Jan. 15 2011 08:05 AM
William Stevens from Redford, Michigan

David: Yes the irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric of Sarah Palin was not responsible for the shooting in Tuscon, AZ. However her language has not been productive. Yet when I recently listened to Pat Buchanan speak on a show where the issue of the appropriteness of what she has to say was discussed, he narrowed the focus to the question of whether or not her rhetoric led to the shooting. Her rhetoric was NOT the cause of that shooting; but her speaking of reloading etc., and her only addressing the issues in a cursory way has been far from exemplary. She says she is exercising her right of free speech and that those who disagree with her have the right to say so and why, as though she is speaking in depth to the issues of the day. You are correct in saying that there is irresponsible rhetoric etc. from all sides: and I can understand your objecting to the media spotlight, as you see it, on the irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric of the right. But I have to ask you: Have you heard persons of the left of the stature of (stature?) of Sarah Palin, (Michelle?) Backman of Wisconsin (or is it Minessota) who says she wants the citizens of her state to be armed and dangerous, and the congressman who stood up in the halls of congress and said, "You lie! You lie!" Have you heard of anything like that from congressional Democrats? Yes, such inflammatory rhetoric is not new. Thomas Jefferson was unmercifully villified, and there was at least one fight in the halls of congress. That sort and much worse, from persons of all kinds of persuasions, including religion which apologists claim is all about peace and goodwill; Please spare me - well, it all makes me wonder about the future of humankind. In a day when our weapons are more and more powerful and their use is increasingly impersonal - What were Rumsfeld's words - Oh yes, "Shock and awe." Things are not looking good.

Jan. 15 2011 02:21 AM
Brooke Gladstone from Brooklyn

David, if we chose, we could exchange competing examples of vandalism by Right and and Left wingers day and night, but that is not the issue here.
The issue here is scarifying political rhetoric uttered by major media figures and elected officials, rhetoric about taking arms and Hitler and locking-and-loading and fascism-on- the-rise and bloodsuckers and so forth. Apocalyptic pronouncements has issued mostly from the Right in recent years. No one even bothers denying it. The debate is over whether it does any harm.

Jan. 15 2011 01:26 AM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

When SEIU protestors showed up on the front porch of a Bank of America Executive’s house, the media was not interested in changing the tone.


When leftists attacked a military recruiting office, the media was not interested in changing the tone.


When arsonists burned down Sarah Palin’s church, the media was not interested in changing the tone.


When rioters tried to burn down Seattle during a free trade summit, the media was not interested in changing the tone.


But when Jared Loughner, a mentally unstable Karl Marx reading registered independent whose friends described him as a leftist, guns down a Bush appointed federal judge and tries to take out a Congresswoman, suddenly the media is interested in changing the tone, but only because the tea party movement had something or other to do with something that didn’t have anything to do with Jared Loughner.

Oh yeah, the tea party movement won in November. That’s why we suddenly have to change the tone.

Jan. 14 2011 10:09 PM
David from Lawrenceville, NJ

So the only folks (except for the obligatory Keith Olberman cut) - and certainly the only politicians using inflamatory rhetoric in this piece are on the right. Really? And only the right has those maps, really?


It's amazing that OTM is interested in the media's influence on these events. As a friend remarked, when Kos gloated over the deaths of Americans in Fallujah, the media wasn’t interested in changing the tone.


When groups showed up outside Karl Rove’s house to protest, the media was not interested in changing the tone.


Jan. 14 2011 10:09 PM

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