Monday, October 17, 2016

The Effect of Dangerous Rhetoric

Rhetoric is a staple of political campaigning.  Convincing people that you stand for something that you don't actually believe yourself is an art form.  But this year's election cycle features more dangerous rhetoric than I can ever remember--and the effect of all of that dangerous rhetoric is starting to come home to roost.

In just the last couple of days the FBI arrested three men in the Kansas City area who were plotting an attack on Muslims in that area.  The men were part of a "militia" that professes to believe in "sovereign citizens" and is "anti-immigrant".  Now where would these men have been hearing that message the last year or so?

And then over the weekend, a Republican party field office in North Carolina was fire-bombed.  Photos from the scene show the phrase "Nazi Republicans Leave Town" was spray painted on the side of the building.  Now who has been using those types of phrases lately?

Add to that a story about how CNN and NBC are providing private security for their reporters covering Donald Trump campaign rallies.  The move comes as attendees yell threats and throw things at the media areas during every campaign stop.  Now why would those people be doing that?

And then you have Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke encouraging people to "take up pitchforks and torches" if Donald Trump doesn't win the election.  I can't help but think of the end of Frankenstein as bloodthirsty mobs take to the streets intent upon "destroying the monster".  Now when have we as a country ever reacted to an election like that before?

Plus, you've got election officials across the country having to defend the security and accuracy of the process--because a growing percentage of the population believes the vote is "rigged"--or that Russian hackers are going to be able to change the results without anyone noticing.  Now why would people suddenly doubt this previously-trusted process?

For years, we have collectively decried the deterioration of political discourse in this country.  But that was based on attack ads that painted each candidate in every race as the "Worst Human On The Face Of The Earth--so vote for the other person".  But the rhetoric in this election has become so vitriolic--and has spread far beyond targeting individual candidates that it threatens public safety and innocent lives. 

I would hope that eventually "cooler heads will prevail"--but in this election, that appears highly unlikely

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