When Does ‘Rhetoric’ Become a ‘Threat’?

When this happens:

Upon hearing the news, Laurene Pierce (President of the College Republicans at University of Texas) thought it would be hilarious to tweet that people shouldn’t shoot Obama, “as tempting as it may be.”


This is scary.  And many of my (sane) Republican friends have been quick to label this individual as fringe.  But this is, unfortunately, not the case.   That is to say, when a party or group of people, of any kind, starts to enjoy the humor in rhetoric which is linked to the death of a person or another group of people, that is dangerous and terrifying.  This is far from an isolated incident by a group of ignorant college students.   The growing majority of rhetoric from candidates–approved and backed by the Republican party–has grown ever closer to ‘threats’.   Consider these examples:

  • Virginia’s Republican party (Loudon County) committee (note: the party committee…not a fringe group) circulated an email that included an image of Obama looking like a zombie, with a bullet hole in his head and part of his skull missing.
  • Jesse Kelly, the opponent of Rep. Giffords, before she was shot in the head at point blank range, had a ‘Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly’ event. This was an official Republican candidate for office, not a fringe person.
  • Sarah Palin, one time Vice-Presidential candidate of the Republican party, says ‘take up your arms’ and ‘lock and load’.
  • Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle argues that a violent insurrection is what is needed to restore sanity to Congress, saying that if Congress isn’t careful, people may find themselves resorting to “Second Amendment remedies.”.
  • Glenn Beck, a former FOX News talking-head, stated on his show: “I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. … No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out. Is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus — band — Do, and I’ve lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, ‘Yeah, I’d kill Michael Moore,’ and then I’d see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I’d realize, ‘Oh, you wouldn’t kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn’t choke him to death.’ And you know, well, I’m not sure.” –responding to the question “What would people do for $50 million?”, “The Glenn Beck Program,” May 17, 2005 (Source)
  • An anti-Obama protester (admittedly a Libertarian) who feels that we have a tyrannical government (I don’t think for a moment people who use that term have any idea what a ‘tyrant’ is; the word does not mean what you think it means) carried an assault rifle to a rally.  He isn’t alone either.  Tea Party supporters in New Mexico did the same thing.
  • Congressman Broun suggested that Health Care Reform was akin to ‘Yankee Oppression’, making many wonder if he was inciting a reference of rebellion if the bill passed.  He said, “They’re trying to develop an environment where they can take over,” he said. “We’ve seen that historically.”  He really believes this, so much so that he likened Obama to Hitler.  We also went to war against Hitler, in case you were wondering.  So his position is not so subtle here.
  • Shery Lanford Smith, chairwoman of the Sumter Tea Party, joked about the murder/death of the Obamas.
  • Presidential candidate Rick Perry continually uses guns in his rhetoric, because he has a ‘love affair’ with them.  His means of gun control is ‘using both hands’ and shooting is his ‘golf’.  When you are actively looking for support from NRA members, people with guns, what does one expect to find in the rhetoric?

There are more instances of course, if you know of any that you want to submit to me, post them with a source in the comments section.  The fact is, this is no longer just jest or hasty rhetoric, or careless comments–though it may also be those too–this has become a hostile threat to everyone who does not agree with the Republican base.  And we see the actions and consequences of such rhetoric, from the barbaric shooting of Giffords and her friends and colleagues, to the recent White House shooting:

According to acquaintances cited in the complaint document, Ortega-Hernandez considered Obama the cause of his problems and referred to him at times as the “anti-Christ” and the devil. (source)

Where have we heard that rhetoric before?  I have to agree with Marty Kaplan when he writes:

If you’re worried that violent video games may make kids prone to bad behavior; if you think that misogynic and homophobic rap lyrics are dangerous to society; if you believe that a nipple in a Superbowl halftime show is a threat to our moral fabric – then surely you should also fear that the way public and media figures have framed political participation with shooting gallery imagery is just as potentially lethal.

If you are a Republican, and you’re reading this, rest assured I’m not a Democrat.  I’m an independent and I think for myself.  But I have never heard this sort of rhetoric from a Democratic; Obama never suggested we take our guns to the White House and forcefully remove Bush.  He never said to lock and load.  You have a choice in the words and rhetoric you use.  Be sensible about it; the ‘other side’ is not the enemy.  They are Americans too, and they have a voice like you do.  By threatening to silence that voice with violence, you are becoming the oppressor–you are taking the rights away from those who are just as welcome to them as you are.  Think about that for a moment; think hard about it.  Take action against this sort of threat.  Make a difference.  Bring back some sensibility to the Republican party.


One Response

  1. Please see,
    for “take these sons of Bitches out” and the “war on workers”
    For target maps from the DLC,

    Where Biden hopes people that cut funding to cops would have a notion of what it feels like to stare down the barrel of a gun or be raped.
    Am I worried that union guys will wage real war, or Democrats inspire assassins or rapist to Target the GOP? No, and I’m not worried that someone’s public gestures of gun love or use of martial imagery. Adults understand the metaphor, and suggesting that this inspires lunatics like the guy who shot at the white house to kill the anti-christ or Lauhtner is throw back to the giddy days of Tipper Gore’s crusade against violent heavy Metal songs. I’m a little surprised to see this sort of thinking here. Should we examine the violent rhetoric that led to Hinkley’s attempt to kill Reagan? Should Scorsese kept in mind the possibility of nuts identifying with his movie about a nut? And do we need to go into all the Bush as Hitler rhetoric during the last administration? Should we be afraid of the much more proactive OWS crowed and their angry rhetoric? I’m to the opinion this concern over violent rhetoric is pure hysteria.

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