Toning down rhetoric is one thing.

And I agree with most of the calls to curb the kind of violent speech that has become so common in American political debates. Michele Bachmann’s “now in Washington, I’m a foreign correspondent in enemy lines” so “I want people armed and dangerous” comment, and Sharon Angle’s “Second Amendment remedies” comment, and Sarah Palin’s “Don’t retreat – RELOAD!” comment with the cross-hairs map with Gabby Giffords’ name on it? Are totally beyond the pale, and should be unacceptable in any political system. Suggesting that we “target” a certain district or politician in an election doesn’t bother me, since the term “target” has been used in politics forever; but explicitly referencing gun violence as a solution to a supposedly tyrannical and invalid government is another ballgame. There’s no reason for it, and the right has been particularly reliant on that imagery. For example:

Giffords’ Tea Party opponent in the 2010 election, Jesse Kelly, went even further with the violent rhetoric. Kelly’s campaign held an event called “Get on Target for Victory in November.” Description: “Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”

Strong language in politics? Fine. Anger? Yeah, that happens too. But when you cross the line between expressing anger and making veiled (or not-so-veiled) references to violent uprising as a legitimate expression of that anger, you cannot act surprised when someone takes action in accordance with your words.

Those of us who have followed abortion-related violence for the past few decades are all too familiar with how this works. After George Tiller was murdered, I wrote about his killing in the Guardian, and said:

Pro-life organisations routinely refer to abortion as “murder”, a “genocide” and a “holocaust”. They post the full names abortion providers on their websites, along with their addresses, their license plate numbers, their photos, the names of children and the schools those children attend (sometimes with helpful Wild-West-style “Wanted” posters offering $5,000 rewards).

When you convince your followers that abortion providers are the equivalent of SS officers slaughtering innocents by the millions, tell them that “it’s all-out WAR” against pro-choicers and then provide the home addresses and personal information of the “monster” “late-term baby-killer” abortion providers you’re supposedly at war against, you can’t act surprised when those followers conclude that it’s morally justified to use the information to kill doctors.

The same thing applies here. When you tell your followers that their entire way of life is under threat from liberals, that the country is being destroyed, that the president is a terrorist, and that we’re on the path to Socialism, and then you tell them that you hope they are “armed and dangerous” and if this continues there may have to be “Second Amendment remedies,” and then you hand them a map with a list of ten names and rifle crosshairs over the places those ten people reside, and then you say “don’t retreat – RELOAD!”? When you do all of those things, you don’t get to pull out the smelling salts and act so I-have-never-been-so-insulted when someone gets a gun and follows through. Come on. Your followers were bringing guns to rallies and threatening violence and hanging effigies and busting windows of campaign offices six months ago. Threats against members of Congress tripled over the past year, and those threats came mostly from people opposed to health care reform. Judge Roll, who was killed in the Arizona shooting, had to have 24-hour protection for himself and his family because of all the threats he received from xenophobic anti-immigrant zealots, after right-wing radio jocks publicized an immigration-related decision he handed down. Put your big-kid pants on and realize that even if you didn’t mean to encourage violence, you have, in fact, been encouraging violence, and you should have known that you were encouraging violence. Because let’s be real, a whole lot of people were telling you that. You had to have seen it. The evidence was right there.

So yes, I am in favor of toning down the violent political rhetoric. Tone it down! However, if people choose not to tone it down? I am in favor of publicly shaming them, and criticizing them, and making it clear that they are totally irresponsible assholes. But I’m not in favor of banning even hyped-up, ugly political language. Direct threats? Sure. But posters with crosshairs? First, it’s not like posters with crosshairs are regular things, so a bill banning them is kind of pointless when they seem to have been disseminated exactly once. But also, as much as I find the Palin poster abhorrent, it was not saying “Go shoot Gabby Giffords.” Given the fuller context that it was a part of, it’s not difficult to see how someone may have seen that poster and heard a whole lot of other talk and thought it was a good idea to go shooting, but it’s ridiculous to say that the crosshairs imagery, in and of itself, is a threat stark enough to merit a ban.

Let’s get it together, liberals. We can criticize violent rhetoric without going straight to banning certain kinds of political speech.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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76 Responses to Toning down rhetoric is one thing.

  1. BKMama says:

    Well said.

    I made the mistake, on the day of the shootings, of posting a comment on the FB of a very conservative friend of mine. (I’m openly liberal.) Naturally I was immediately jumped on with metaphorical bats and clubs by her pals, who dismissed any intelligent thing I had to say by calling me a “baby killer” and telling me that I am the one who shouldn’t jump to conclusions. I finally had to walk away because it didn’t matter the substance of what I said, so much as that it was all coming from a terrorist-hugging, baby-killing socialist liberal.

    I wish people in this country could talk to each other without resorting to hysterics. I have plenty of conservative friends who actually have something meaningful to say; and I get teased by my liberal friends for even having conservative friends. It just doesn’t end, does it?

  2. d says:

    I’m not American, so I look at this from a different perspective (one a majority of the rest of the world shares?) and see equal violence-rousing rhetoric and images on both U.S. political sides. For example, your democrats also had a shooting image map with rhetoric to match. Obama’s speechwriter had party fun miming a violent act toward women (Hillary Clinton.) Obama supporters during the election were shown wearing “cunt” t-shirts on his website and in rallies. Sarah Palin was hung in effigy, Americans invited to “shoot” her in a video type game.

    Progressive bloggers were out in full force on media websites (even Canadian ones) harassing, ridiculing and “shouting” down discussion, moving around sites in groups which gave the impression it was planned.

    I think posts which point fingers at one side or the other, especially TODAY, are missing the point, and counter what they are ostensibly trying to say.

    My perspective, of course.

  3. Kristen J. says:

    Eh, I disagree. Language that is *intended* to incite violence should be illegal. We can argue about whether for example Palin intended her words to incite violence, but its reasonable to believe that a person using target imagery has that intent.

    • Jill says:

      Eh, I disagree. Language that is *intended* to incite violence should be illegal. We can argue about whether for example Palin intended her words to incite violence, but its reasonable to believe that a person using target imagery has that intent.

      I disagree insofar as language that is intended to incite violence should be regulated. I’m not sure I agree, though, that target imagery is always intended to incite violence.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Perhaps not entirely relevant to this post, but the thing that strikes me the most through all this:

    If a child in a grade school or a middle school showed up at school, used the violent phrases that our politicians use, created a map with crosshairs on their enemies’ school desk locations… That child would likely be suspended, referred for counseling, etc. etc.

  5. Cthandhs says:

    Incidents like these are very frustrating. It seems like violence has become a standard tool of political rhetoric. It’s easy to say that both sides are doing it, but the fact is that a Democratic woman was gunned down at a Democratic political event. Lets not pretend that this is some little fluke that could have happened anywhere.

    Why is there this rhetoric? Why are pols doing it even though there are *obvious* negative political consequences? They think it gets votes. The only way we have to dis-incentivize this behavior is to show that it don’t. That means we need public shaming any time *anyone* tries to pull this. It also means no votes for people who espouse violence as a political alternative. Bodies aren’t going to stop this, polling numbers are.

  6. Kristen J. says:

    Jill: I’m not sure I agree, though, that target imagery is always intended to incite violence.

    I wouldn’t say that it always is intended to incite violence. Calling someone a racial epithet isn’t always intended to incite violence either. Context is a large part of meaning. That said, the use of some words or imagery are inextricably linked to violence. Crosshairs are a reference to the use of guns to harm or kill someone. I think that gives rise to a reasonable presumption that the use of that imagery is intended to incite violence.

    If instead of actual crosshairs they’d used cartoon targets along with arrows with suction cups on the end, then it would have been more clear that they probably weren’t inciting someone to shoot people.

    Speech is one of our most important freedoms, but like every freedom there is a limit. When you intentionally endanger (or directly harm) someone with your speech, then I don’t think you have a right to that speech.

  7. Tom Foolery says:

    It seems like violence has become a standard tool of political rhetoric

    I see this claim a lot, but I’m not really sure it’s true. Andrew Jackson, who may be something of an outlier, said of his political rivals: “After eight years as President I have only two regrets: that I have not shot Henry Clay or hanged John C. Calhoun.”

    Is there any actual proof that there’s more violent rhetoric in politics today, or is this just the sort of thing we’re supposed to take on faith? It seems likely that by volume there’s more, but only because there’s simply more of everything, but adjusted for that, have things really gotten more vitriolic?

  8. Jesse says:

    Recently I read the book “Terror in the name of God.” While the shooting of Gabby Gifford isn’t motivated by religion (not like Dr. Tiller’s killer was) I found parallels. Most of my thoughts circled around that the Tea Party focused on their “correct” government, and deemed anyone who thought differently as an enemy. It wasn’t enough to prove that their policies were better, but they must thoroughly and completely make the “enemy” defeated.

    I found Sarah Palin’s map to be quite a representative of that school of thought. It simply wasn’t enough to say “Let’s target our resources into these areas.” The map encouraged like-minded thinkers to stalk the prey.

  9. What matters to me is not necessarily the language, but an understanding of how different people perceive of the same words. There’s an awful lot of dog-whistle politics going on in the inflammatory political talk that some argue has caused this latest tragedy, true, but assuming that all people perceive of the same rhetoric in the same way is not terribly helpful.

  10. Hysterial Realism says:

    It is not the case that we are seeing unprecedented levels of violence in U.S. political rhetoric. Think of the Revolution, Shay’s Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, Bleeding Kansas, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, the L.A. Riots. I am not saying this excuses it or makes it okay, but the fact is, we were born from a radical, violent political revolution, and violent political action (let alone violent rhetoric) is basically in our national DNA.

    Also, it is premature at this point to suppose Loughman even had a coherent political motive for the attack.

  11. Sheelzebub says:

    It’s not just the gun sights. It’s the stuff about reloading. It’s the protesters with signs saying that “next time, we’ll be armed.” It’s the Second Amendment Solutions shit. It’s the calls for our deaths from the likes of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck, to name but a few. It’s the “Pray for Obama” effort that was, in effect, praying for his death.

    These assholes were the first to go all injured innocence when Obama referred to them as enemies (WTF do you call people who liken you to Hitler and “pray” for your death??). Yet they remain strangely silent when one of their own likens people with far less power than them as Nazis, who shrug off calls for death, who seem to think that the New Black Panthers intimidated people but that White folks who implied they’d shoot their opponents were A-OK. I have YET to hear any sizable number of conservatives roundly condemn this rhetoric as it’s spouted. These sniveling assholes go on and on about how threatened and alienated THEY feel, they go on about their right to carry weapons, and who gets killed? Not them. Nope. They do the damn killing. They enable it. They encourage it.

    And now they don’t want to hear it. Oh, it’s a terrible tragedy, let’s not cheapen this, they say. Tralalalala. They declare that it’s point-scoring and unfair. Well, bull fucking shit.

    This is nothing new. Look at the violence visited upon clinics and clinic staff. Look at the dehumanizing way the poor and people of color are treated at the hands of these suddenly compassionate conservatives. Look at the way immigrants are treated, religious minorities are treated, or anyone who doesn’t fit the all-American mold of White, heterosexual, cis, Christian conservative. This did not happen in a vacuum.

    If these pundits and politicians give a fuck about Gifford, they could maybe take a hard, honest look at the fact that she pointed out the harassment and threats she was getting, and the violent rhetoric being thrown her way from the right (and she did mention Palin’s illustration and rhetoric).

    I don’t see any serious moves to quell the freedom to make these kinds of statements. I do see a lot of false equivalencies being made in the larger MSM, and I’ve gotta tell you, I’m sick to the teeth of it.

  12. harkness says:

    They weren’t targets, they were cross-hairs, what you see when you look through a gun’s telescope to better aim at what you want to kill. It was much more explicitly gun-oriented imagery than a ‘target’ that has become such a bland general term that it is, after all, the name of a major big box store.

    As Michael Moore put it: “If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web w/crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got
    shot, where would he be sitting right now? Just asking.”

    Meanwhile, there’s this on Gabrielle’s opponent in her last election:
    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/01/flashback-giffords-opponent-had-m16-shooting-event-help-remove-gabrielle-giffords-from-office.php

  13. d says:

    “Targets” was the word used in the Democrat map. The images were “bulls eyes”, which is what you aim for with the rifle that has the cross-hairs in the scope.

    I shoot.

  14. Suzanne says:

    I found this post to be thoughtful and I agree with your point. But I can’t help but notice – and be disturbed by – your masthead, which features a tow-headed little girl wielding a big ol’ gun.

  15. A says:

    Sources?

    d: I’m not American, so I look at this from a different perspective (one a majority of the rest of the world shares?) and see equal violence-rousing rhetoric and images on both U.S. political sides. For example, your democrats also had a shooting image map with rhetoric to match. Obama’s speechwriter had party fun miming a violent act toward women (Hillary Clinton.) Obama supporters during the election were shown wearing “cunt” t-shirts on his website and in rallies. Sarah Palin was hung in effigy, Americans invited to “shoot” her in a video type game.
    Progressive bloggers were out in full force on media websites (even Canadian ones) harassing, ridiculing and “shouting” down discussion, moving around sites in groups which gave the impression it was planned.
    I think posts which point fingers at one side or the other, especially TODAY, are missing the point, and counter what they are ostensibly trying to say.
    My perspective, of course.  

  16. Tom Foolery says:

    It was much more explicitly gun-oriented imagery than a ‘target’ that has become such a bland general term that it is, after all, the name of a major big box store.

    A+ hair-splitting hackery.

  17. Robin Turner says:

    It’s not just America; there is a worldwide tendency to use military metaphors in politics, often without even noticing it (attack, defend, advance, retreat, struggle, vanguard, campaign etc.). The difference is probably in the high numbers of Americans who (a) own guns and (b) have a shaky grip on reality.

  18. tinfoil hattie says:

    I wish you had included examples of what the high-paid white male “entertainers” on TV and radio have said to incite violence and hatred. This post makes it look like women are the problem. HA. Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, even Olbermann with his wishy-washy “I made a comment that sorta kinda mighta been interpreted as violent – so gosh, I’m sorry” – lots of examples to choose from.

  19. Lynnsey says:

    BKMama: I made the mistake, on the day of the shootings, of posting a comment on the FB of a very conservative friend of mine.

    I did the same thing…and, apparently, everyone who doesn’t agree with me is a murderer…because that’s even close to what I actually said.

  20. d says:

    I gave directions to my sources. With Jill’s indulgence, I will be more explicit. It’s all here. I’m not willing to try now to duplicate what Violet Socks has done, to hunt down each individual source replicating what she has, although I could have two years ago. Read the latest relevant post, and then if you want more, google Obama, Palin, Favreau, on this blog:
    http://www.reclusiveleftist.com

    And I am a bit taken aback at your demand. I didn’t think any one could plead ignorance of any of what I listed, which is a mere sampling. It’s fact. Were you not around then, or just not following the issue?

  21. Jim says:

    Comrade Kevin: What matters to me is not necessarily the language, but an understanding of how different people perceive of the same words.

    Very important. Clearly the shooter did take the rhetoric in the way that the rhetors [say they] meant it. I don’t where this leaves those trying to assess blame for the rhetoric and its possible effects, but I don’t really care. I doubt any of the families care at this point. The point is be a lot more civilized towards each other.

  22. Elizabeth H. says:

    Although I’m a long-time fan and reader of this site, there is something very off-putting about seeing the girl with a rifle logo above this post. Practice what you preach?

    • Jill says:

      The girl with the gun is not an incitement to violence, and I’m not sure how, other than showing a gun, it could be interpreted that way. An image of a gun is not in and of itself an incitement to violence. Guns symbolize a lot of things.

      Also, look up “irony.”

  23. Cagey says:

    d: I’m not American, so I look at this from a different perspective (one a majority of the rest of the world shares?) and see equal violence-rousing rhetoric and images on both U.S. political sides.

    Equal? No. While that imagery certainly exists on the left, it rarely takes on the deeply personal and disturbingly specific tone that much of it on the right takes on. Note that in the supposed comparison map on the site you linked to, the DNC map does not bother to list specific people, while Palin’s does. Strategy maps are routine, strategy maps listing specific individuals are not. It’s also a complete ignoring of context. Strategy maps are seemingly innocuous, or at least they would be if we hadn’t spent the last year hearing similar gun and violence-related “metaphors” from politicians and media figures, to say nothing of the “take back our country”, thinly-veiled racist, xenophobic and sexist remarks being thrown around, which only make matters worse when you turn the target into a specific person rather than a political ideology or an area of the country containing dissenting opinions. The left has of course displayed sexism towards Palin and other women, but what they have not done is spent nearly 2 years spouting divisive, eliminationist rhetoric about how the opponent seeks to actively kill your unborn babies and grandparents while handing your jobs over to illegal immigrant criminals and terrorist muslims. They have not spent their time playfully talking about “second-amendment remedies”, bringing weapons to townhall meetings, etc. To say nothing of the violent and racist imagery that came out of Obama’s first year in office from right-leaning publications, radio shows, and other media outlets, including things which actively promoted his death. And the actual effects are rather clear as well. The increased threats to Congress people, usually those who were on the left, says that the notion that this rhetoric is somehow equal on both sides is a silly supposition, as it is not equal in amount or effect. The left doesn’t seem to be receiving the rhetoric in a way that compels them to throw bricks through politician’s windows, to bring weapons to meetings, and other more direct threats of violence. The stuff coming out of the DNC camp and the like is neither acceptable nor appropriate, but to even compare that to what has been spewing from the Right and suggest it’s equal in the potential for promoting violence is to me to basically ignore how the Right has been conducting themselves for the past 2-3 years.

  24. Jackie says:

    I think Sarah Palin is very ignorant about the reality of violence. Putting up cross hair marks on a map regarding political opponents, is beyond senseless. In general Sarah seems to have a lack of understanding when it comes to the impact of violence.

    It’s most likely coincidental that Sarah came up with the cross hair map idea, and that the shooting took place. Still, maybe Sarah should talk to the parents of the 9 year old girl who was shot at the meeting. Maybe if Sarah encountered a victim of politically related violence, she’d realize that cross hairs on a map isn’t amusing, that it’s insensitive to victims of violence and makes her look like a [redacted by moderator], like the guy who shot Gabby Gifford.

  25. d says:

    Cagey: I would echo Jill’s comment, although she wasn’t directing it to you, I am.

    “Look up irony”.

  26. David says:

    The fact that the right wing have been conducting themselves worse gives no excuse for us on the left to conduct ourselves badly.

    The fact that the right – and specifically anyone who has ever uttered the words “second amendment remedies” should feel ashamed, revolted and disgusted at themselves for saying those words in light of recent events- doesn’t change the fact that the left has participated in the same kind of irrational, fear based politics. (even if not to the same extent).

    In other words, to head off people who would say that I’m making a false equivalence here, I’m not. Even if I say that the conservatives are worse it does nothing to excuse the bad behavior of liberals. Let crap be called out as crap, regardless of politics.

  27. GallingGalla says:

    d: Cagey: I would echo Jill’s comment, although she wasn’t directing it to you, I am.
    “Look up irony”.  

    Ooh, look at d retconning upon being called out.

  28. Politicalguineapig says:

    I think the only appropriate thing to do is to have the GOP and Sarah Palin foot the bill for Rep. Gifford’s stay in the hospital and the hospital bills of the surviving victims. They’ll definitely tone it down if it cuts into their salaries.

  29. Politicalguineapig says:

    And I’m beginning to think that the only thing to do is to let the wingers have their own country, but we’re yoinking the national parks.

  30. Manju says:

    It makes sense for the RWing to tone down incendiary rhetoric. But having this nationwide conversation in the wake of the Giffords Assassination is…well…incendiary. There is simply no known link between her assassin and the RWing, the TeaParty, Sarah Palin, or Rush, ie those being singled out.

    Talking about Islamic terrorism is an important subject, but to talk about it after the suspect turns out to be Christian is well, inappropriate at best, islamaphobic at worst.

    The guy is almost certainly not a RWinger. He’s certainly not a republican. One person who knows him classified him as left-wing and the other said he was apolitical. His grievances and influences are all over the spectrum.

    He killed a dem but Hinkley shot a repub. That doesn’t make the left responsible for Hinkley, does it?

  31. d says:

    “Ooh, look at d retconning upon being called out. ”

    What is retconning?

  32. Bernard SG says:

    Dear “d”,

    I am not American either and my perspective is at odds with yours. Your “both sides do it” tired argument is ignorant at best and most likely an disingenuous attempt to deflect the debate.

    Come back when you have a factual example of any Democrat running for or serving on elected office using rhetoric in which it is suggested that it’s ok to overthrow the US Government by violent means or that intimidation – like openly carrying firearms in public political gatherings where the POTUS or any other government official is present – is a valid way of making a point in the democratic debate.

    Come back when you have an example, in contemporary US politics of any Democrat or left-align activist engaging in violent action and not being called out explicitly by the Democratic Party’s leadership.

    “Inappropriate” behaviors are not created equal.

  33. d says:

    I am not being disingenuous. You are. Don’t call me dear and then imply I am ignorant.

    I know that what you ask can be proven just not by me. What do you mean “come back when I can prove…” anything. Because you cannot prove your opinions. Is there some special rule for dissenters here, that I have to score points and prove I can name someone, when we both know it has happened? Sorry, I am not as adept as the members of the male led progressive blogosphere in debate that has as purpose only scoring points.

    I find American political rhetoric, and I make no distinction between political parties in that, to be appalling, unsuportable and tantamount to world terrorism.

    Who are you to tell me “come back when”?

  34. Manju says:

    Come back when you have a factual example of any Democrat running for or serving on elected office using rhetoric in which it is suggested that it’s ok to overthrow the US Government by violent means or that intimidation

    And then there’s Rumsfeld who said of Iraq “We have our good days and our bad days.” We should put this S.O.B. up against a wall and say “This is one of our bad days” and pull the trigger.
    –Fl Democratic ad

    John Kerry: I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.

    A little context. Robert Kennedy had a Diebold consiracy theory and other leftists engaged in 911trutherism (Howard Dean, Van Jones recently got caught). This made the Bush Admin seem illegitimate and the subtext of course is violent revolution is justified.

    The Az Assassin appears to have 911truth and anti-war tendencies. To my eye, the anti-war rallies were just as bigoted (anitsemitism) as the teabagger ones, and just as violent in their rhetoric. Take a look for yourself:

    http://www.ringospictures.com/index.php?page=20090816

  35. Manju says:

    Come back when you have an example, in contemporary US politics of any Democrat or left-align activist engaging in violent action and not being called out explicitly by the Democratic Party’s leadership.

    This question seems off. What is the RWing act of violence by a Repub or RWing activist that was not condemned?

    Be that as it may, the anti-globalization / g20 rallies are always violent. They are certainly more violent than tea parties. I’m not sure if the Dem party put out a condemnation but I don’t really care if they didn’t since these are far left people. I did see mainstream leftwing bloggers (crooks and liars blog) defend and deny the violence and blame the police.

    Recently Prez Clinton dismissed the former democratic senate majority leader’s ties to a racist group responsible for the worst acts of political violence and terrorism in American history…violence that actually produced an undemocratic one-party region. The group was aligned with the democratic party and the progressive movement (both the turn of the century one and the new deal) so I guess thats why Clinton went lightly:

    “He once had a fleeting association with the Ku Klux Klan, what does that mean? I’ll tell you what it means. He was a country boy from the hills and hollows from West Virginia. He was trying to get elected”

    Does that count?

  36. Kara says:

    Kristen J.: Eh, I disagree.Language that is *intended* to incite violence should be illegal.

    Language that is intended to incite violence IS illegal. So is seditious (advocating the overthrow of the US govt) speech, so is threatening the life/safety of a public official, and so is shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater.

    No one is guaranteed 100% “freedom of speech” without consequences. While no one is going to prevent you from saying what you want, you should think long and hard before you say it, because there could be consequences, and memories in the internet age are long indeed.

    Just Google “First Amendment limitations” or “First Amendment exceptions” and you will find a lot of really interesting stuff. I recommend the wikipedia articles that turn up in the top slots of the results. Like this one – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_the_United_States

    Interesting stuff.

  37. Kristen J. says:

    Kara,

    I’m a lawyer. I know the law, I simply disagree with how the Court has interpreted incitement (and threats for that matter). Also, the First Amendment doesn’t make things illegal. It protects us from laws that limit some speech. This Congressperson is suggesting a new law that would make a certain speech illegal, speech that isn’t at present necessarily illegal. So, my point with that as the context stands. But thanks for the condescension!

  38. Kara says:

    Kristen J,

    Thanks for missing my point, which was that the First Amendment does not offer blanket protection for whatever you want to say.

    And thanks for the insult! (Which is totally protected speech!)

    Have a nice day.

  39. Politicalguineapig says:

    Manju: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2011/1/10/934890/-Stochastic-Terrorism:-Triggering-the-shooters.
    Read this and tell me that Dems are just as violent as Rethugs. Dems may mutter about it- hey, I have my violent days too, but Rethugs actually act on their impulses. It’s just plain ignorant to say otherwise.
    And wrt Byrd- you do know the guy denounced the KKK, right? He owned up to his connections, and publically recanted. Whereas most modern day Rethugs- well, you can just smell the racism oozing off ’em. They might learn something, given fifty years, but I doubt it.

  40. d says:

    The aggressive and hateful language has been pumped up here in response to a couple of posters who have the nerve to point out some inconsistencies. With the exception of only one poster (Manju) I believe everyone here is left?

    How ironic. .

  41. Kristen J. says:

    Kara,

    If that was your point, I don’t see why you were arguing with me since I never said the First Amendment conferred blanket protection for whatever anyone wanted to say.

  42. d says:

    Is it true that there are fewer controls on American gun laws under Obama than there were under George Bush? Toning down rhetoric is one thing… . Exactly.

  43. Pingback: links for 2011-01-11 « Embololalia

  44. Manju says:

    Politicalguineapig:

    I don’t know if “Dems are just as violent as Rethugs.” My main point is that the Az guy isn’t a repub, so I hear your question like; “Hey Manju, in light of the attempted assassination of Giffords, please condemn Al Quaeda and Muslims who use violent jihadist rhetoric.”

    Its not relevant. there is no connection.

    The point of the Byrd thing is to point fingers at Clinton’s rhetoric, which minimizes Byrds participation in a terrorist group. Now, Byrd apologized for being a segregationist to be sure, but he did it in the freaking 1990s when he had already served as senate majority leader. That means Liberal dems, including Kennedy who was critical here, put an unrepentant segregationist in the line of succession. What do you call that?

  45. Julia says:

    d: The aggressive and hateful language has been pumped up here in response to a couple of posters who have the nerve to point out some inconsistencies. With the exception of only one poster (Manju) I believe everyone here is left?How ironic. .  

    Hay man please do not lump us all into some category you have somehow determined on you own. If you want to label the commenters on this site, I feel they should go like this: “Feminists” and “Trolls”–so which one are you?
    I can only speak for me, and *gasp* I am registered as a Democrat in my state. Surely, many “Feminists” are more liberal considering our views on equality.
    Also, btw, you seem pretty excited about the discussion over the topic at hand, for being very quick to point out how you are not American. Maybe you should go on and worry about your own political climate in your own country. Maybe you live here? You feel some emotion about the tragedy or something?

  46. Julia says:

    d: Is it true that there are fewer controls on American gun laws under Obama than there were under George Bush? Toning down rhetoric is one thing… . Exactly.  

    Probably has something to do with the end of a decade long national ban of automatic weapons– like the one used in the Gabrielle Giffords Arizona massacre– that President Bush allowed to expire in 2004.

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  48. d says:

    I point out I’m not American, because I have unique perspectives on this issue which I don’t see reflected here.

    I’m a pro-registration/gun-control backing feminist who hunts, and wears fur and sealskin. I speak out against hate speech against women when I see it on left and feminist blogs, which I think is a factor here, and a woman with aboriginal status who spent most of my life living in the Arctic. I vote so far left you don’t even have the right to vote the way I do.

    Different Canadians do have different opinions on American political rhetoric.

  49. d says:

    P.S. The reason I heard reference by someone from the Brady org was more directly owing to something Obama backed down on. But what you suggested would play a role, if that’s correct.

  50. Chally says:

    Julia:
    Also, btw, you seem pretty excited about the discussion over the topic at hand, for being very quick to point out how you are not American. Maybe you should go on and worry about your own political climate in your own country. Maybe you live here? You feel some emotion about the tragedy or something?  

    That sounds far too close to ‘go back to where you came from’ for my comfort.

  51. PrettyAmiable says:

    d: I point out I’m not American, because I have unique perspectives on this issue which I don’t see reflected here.

    I’m a pro-registration/gun-control backing feminist who hunts, and wears fur and sealskin. I speak out against hate speech against women when I see it on left and feminist blogs, which I think is a factor here, and a woman with aboriginal status who spent most of my life living in the Arctic. I vote so far left you don’t even have the right to vote the way I do.

    Different Canadians do have different opinions on American political rhetoric. 

    FYI, many feminists in the US and abroad elsewhere are pro-guns. I’m personally against it, but we’ve had quite a few discussions about gun control on this blog. In the US, this aspect of your personality doesn’t make you extremely “left” (as gun rights are typically a right-wing issue here) but I understand that the political spectrum represents different things in various countries. The OP isn’t even talking about gun control though so much as our right to free speech, whether it includes the right to call for violence, and whether there’s been a violation of this principle. I’m not entirely sure why you mention fur-wearing and hunting due to what I assume is need (implied by your discussion of living in the Arctic), unless it’s a comment to strictly piss off people who are pro-animal rights.

    Also, what hate speech against women?

  52. d says:

    Also, what hate speech against women?

    LOL.

  53. PrettyAmiable says:

    Oh, my mistake. I thought you scoffed earlier when someone called your bullshit disingenuous. Have you considered clicking on the Feministe’s Top Troll contest posts? People you can better identify with are featured in those posts. And I’m willing to bet that you’ll find that your “looking for a reaction” nonsense is hardly a unique perspective.

  54. d says:

    It’s the absolute lack of any feminist sensibility that’s caused me to burst out laughing. The freaking incredible irony. It’s a rueful laugh, trust me. I came here in genuine desire to talk feminism, but even I can’t push that cannonball up this mountain.

    I’ll just stop trying now.

  55. d says:

    Correction: I came here in genuine desire to talk feminism, but

    *someone better than I*

    will have to push that cannonball up this mountain.

  56. d says:

    Upon turning to my national newspaper I found this, and believe it it is something I should offer here.

    “Upon reflection”

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/cartoon/editorial-cartoons-january-2011/article1854663/

  57. David says:

    Julia: Probably has something to do with the end of a decade long national ban of automatic weapons– like the one used in the Gabrielle Giffords Arizona massacre– that President Bush allowed to expire in 2004.  

    Pardon me, but have semi-automatic pistols (like the glock) ever met the definition of an assault weapon?

    I know that magazine extenders would make it qualify if it wasn’t attached at the grip, but I’m not sure if there is enough information about what was used to, again, make that call.

    Do we have a picture of the gun, an opinion of an expert?

    Thanks.

  58. PharaohKatt says:

    Julia,

    Seriously? Seriously!? I didn’t realise this blog and this discussion was for US peeps only. My mistake -_-

    Also, I’m seeing a lot of vitriol directed at d who, as far as I can see, has simply tried to explain that this isn’t a left vs. right issue, rather an issue about violent rhetoric and whether or not it incites people to violence.

  59. David says:

    PharaohKatt:
    Julia,
    Seriously? Seriously!? I didn’t realise this blog and this discussion was for US peeps only. My mistake -_-
    Also, I’m seeing a lot of vitriol directed at d who, as far as I can see, has simply tried to explain that this isn’t a left vs. right issue, rather an issue about violent rhetoric and whether or not it incites people to violence.  

    d has committed the ultimate crime: that of original thought.

    Props to Chally, however, for calling other people out on their shit.

  60. Tif says:

    Although I couldn’t agree with this post more, I do find it a bit hypocritical given the fact that there is an image of a little pigtailed, blonde haired, white girl holding a giant gun on this site. This is my first time here, it was the first thing I saw and I was immediately offended. That image not only perpetuates the culture of violence, but also the homogeneous images of women in media that we struggle against. Maybe it’s meant to be ironic. Maybe I’m missing something. If so, please PLEASE enlighten me.

  61. Julia says:

    Chally:
    That sounds far too close to ‘go back to where you came from’ for my comfort.  

    MODERATOR~~
    NONONO!!!! Not AT ALLL!!!!
    d just seems so excited getting real worked up.
    Loves me some non-Americans!
    My deepest regrets if I offended.
    Unlike with d, it was never my intent to offend anyone.
    I think for sure this dude is a TROLL 100% based upon his awesome “seal pelt wearing feminists” bizzaro comments.
    Seriously seriously.

  62. Chally says:

    ….. okay, I am too tired for this shit, now break it up, folks.

    Tif, see Jill’s comment at 24.

  63. PrettyAmiable says:

    d, I appreciate that you consider yourself the internet’s one true feminist, but if you’re not engaging any actual thoughts that are being presented and are screaming on about how your feminism is better than everyone else’s, then you’re just being a troll. I’d love to know what your actual thoughts are on the post. Saying, “OMG THE DEMOCRATS ARE JUST AS BAD” is irrelevant when the point is that everyone should be held responsible when they cross the violence inducing line (also, disliking US Democrats’ actions is not particular to you).

  64. Tiferet says:

    I don’t think we have to ban speech to recognise that it can be harmful and that the harm needs to be redressed. Jared Loughner chose to pick up a gun and shoot people, and he is responsible for that. Most mentally ill people are not violent, and guns don’t shoot themselves. Nor do I think Sarah Palin’s responsibility is the same as if she had paid him $500 to do this.

    But if you have enough power to get people to send you money or to vote for you, and you go on the internet and essentially ask people to do things or give you things, you bear a share of the responsibility for it if they do. There ought to be some way that we can address this in our society, either through civil or criminal procedure. She is not a murderer, but if it can be proven that he acted on her rhetoric, she’s guilty of something.

    In 2011, we ought to be able to recognise that when you ask for things on the internet people will give you what you want sometimes, and the more important you are to people you don’t know the more likely it is to happen, and therefore that it’s part of our responsibility not to ask people to do evil things.

    These hit lists (Palin’s, the anti-choice ones, the animal rights ones) are not fiction. They are not vague abstract discussions about the right of peoples to revolt against governments they no longer support.

    They are just barely this side of deniability from “please go out there now and kill these people” and they often include helpful information about these people’s homes, lives, families and schedules “just in case” someone decides to get out there and do God or Gaia or Palin’s work for them, even though the people who post them insist that they never intended for people to take it on themselves to exact the judgements they are calling for.

    While it is entirely possible that some killers are cynical enough to look for things like this to justify their actions, most of these guys seem to truly believe in whatever cause they think they are killing for. If they come up with the plots all by themselves then nobody else is responsible, but posting a hit list on the internet with names and locations is really a very far cry from writing violent fiction, or video games, or some of the other things people who like censorship complain about; things that are clearly created for entertainment and are not real are therefore protected speech. And nobody’s saying that you shouldn’t be allowed to say that sometimes revolution is justified.

    We’re saying that if you post a detailed hit list with names and locations and instructions thinly disguised as a prayer to the Divine while knowing that the Divine tends to work through human agents of varying socialisation and stability, you probably know what you’re doing and should be held accountable for that.

    There are situations in which, while it’s not necessary to ban speech, people can be held responsible for the results of their speech–harassment, bullying, cyberbullying, yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre, making false accusations, libel, slander. This is, in my opinion, very similar. I know that in some parts of the internet, I have enough of a following that people sometimes send me unexpected things from my Amazon wishlist or offer me help when I’m having a problem. If I’m as small a fry as I am and recognise that this means I have a responsibility not to ask people to do bad things on the internet, I fail to see how Sarah Palin can have missed that.

  65. Tiferet says:

    I’m not the Tif who posted up above about the logo. (And I’m saying this because some of my friends who call me Tif may be reading this. And because when I saw the mod comment my first response was “omg what did I do” — self-centred much? I know.)

  66. Tif says:

    I find Jill’s response in comment 24 vague and elementary. If the image of a girl holding a gun isn’t an “incitement to violence” what is it? And what other “things” do guns symbolize besides violence? Revolution? Yes, revolution by means of violence. If the image is meant to be ironic, what other meaning than the literal one are we supposed to gather from it? Would the meaning change if it was a non-white girl holding the gun? Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not here to argue. I’m simply trying to understand.

  67. GallingGalla says:

    Tif: I find Jill’s response in comment 24 vague and elementary. If the image of a girl holding a gun isn’t an “incitement to violence” what is it? And what other “things” do guns symbolize besides violence? Revolution? Yes, revolution by means of violence. If the image is meant to be ironic, what other meaning than the literal one are we supposed to gather from it? Would the meaning change if it was a non-white girl holding the gun? Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not here to argue. I’m simply trying to understand.  

    Yee gads. Because: (1) The gun isn’t pointed at anyone; (2) it’s obvious to almost everyone but you that it’s irony (“But, but, she should be doing ladybusiness!”); (3) there isn’t a list of 20 people to target; (4) there isn’t a map with crosshairs where the people live or work; (5) there ESPECIALLY isn’t such a map where three of the targets are red, indicating a successful “kill”; (6) there ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY isn’t such a map with the words “time to take a stand” and “let’s take back the 20” in combination with the blatant imagery of targeting people through gunsights.

    The image is of a girl shooting a gun off into the air, nobody’s being targeted, and there’s no words at all except for the title of the blog. Got it now?

    Tif: Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not here to argue. I’m simply trying to understand. Tif

    Actually, I think you’re here to derail.

  68. PharaohKatt says:

    Chally;
    I’m sorry for my part in that. I was cranky and angry and feel like I’ve been thrown under a truck, and I just snapped. That doesn’t excuse my actions. I shouldn’t have brought my ill feelings into this thread. I’m sorry.

  69. David says:

    Tif: Bringing up the blonde girl with a gun is about as relevant to the current American political situation as who wins America’s next top model. Nobody cares.

    Tiferet: I’m inclined to disagree with you. I’d rather arrest or fine idiots with guns that openly carry them near politicians. If speech is to be restricted, I’d rather see it done with currently existing laws curtailing threats – rather than creating a slightly bigger zone in which speech can be limited.

  70. Julia says:

    David:
    Pardon me, but have semi-automatic pistols (like the glock) ever met the definition of an assault weapon?I know that magazine extenders would make it qualify if it wasn’t attached at the grip, but I’m not sure if there is enough information about what was used to, again, make that call.Do we have a picture of the gun, an opinion of an expert?Thanks.  

    Um duh. we do not need a picture of the actual murder weapon to assume what type of gun was fired in minutes injuring/killing twenty people.

  71. David says:

    Julia: Um duh. we do not need a picture of the actual murder weapon to assume what type of gun was fired in minutes injuring/killing twenty people.  

    A glock is a semi-automatic pistol which means one shot for each pull of the trigger. This covers most types of modern weaponry. Barring this particular model having other characteristics that I don’t know about, it wouldn’t fit the definition laid out in the assault weapons ban.

    If we knew more about the model, or knew from someone who has studied the ban in more depth though, we might be able to come to a different conclusion.

    Sadly, there are plenty of weapons which can produce a high body count which are by all intents and purposes of the law : legal to carry.

  72. Chally says:

    No no PK, s’all good.

  73. Aaron Baker says:

    The thing about anti-choice people is that if you accept their premises (that the fetus is a person with rights) then their use of rhetoric is really not at all out of proportion with what’s going on, in their view. So calling legal abortion “mass murder” is an accurate description of their subjective views. Comparing it to the Holocaust is probably somewhat overheated, because of the added racial and totalitarian overtones.

    That said, I think they’re wrong. But I think the comparison doesn’t really work. Abortion-related terrorists are wrong in their substantive views which leads them to overheated rhetoric, while the Right is just being massively alarmist about relatively minor problems, even if you take their philosophical commitments seriously. The “oh noes!!!1! socialism!” crowd is completely disconnected from any substantive critique of real things that have actually happened – they’re responding to stuff like death panels and race-baiting and Fed conspiracy theories.

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