Posted by | January 11, 2011 15:28 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

I’ve been thinking of a post attacking the “both sides use dangerous rhetoric” meme that the right has been pushing so hard in the past few days but Kevin Drum and David Corn beat me to it.  Drum:

The big difference between right and left, as I and others have noted repeatedly, isn’t just in the amount of violent rhetoric, but its source. On the liberal side, it only occasionally comes from movement leaders. On the right, it regularly does. It comes from opinion leaders, political leaders, and media leaders, and the more heated they get, the more popular they get.

and Corn:

In the past 2½ years, prominent Republicans have stoked the fires of extremism. During the 2008 campaign, Palin accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists.” A dozen House Republicans have backed the birthers who claim Obama was not born in the United States. In 2008, Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn.), who now leads the tea party caucus in the House, called on the media to investigate “anti-American” House members. She also noted she was “very concerned that [Obama] may have anti-American views.” Have Democratic officials called for such witch hunts of political foes? Have they embraced and advanced the nutty talk that can pop up on the far left?  By the way, what do you do with anti-American terrorist-pals who have conned their way into the ultimate power?

When Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Sharron Angle or Michele Bachmann says something, it is different than when a commenter on a lefty blog or a diarist on Daily Kos says it.  To paraphrase Spiderman, “with power comes repsonsibility.”  For politicians and media hosts that responsibility includes avoiding language that trivializes or rationalizes violence.  Again, I’m not drawing a straight line from Palin or others to Loughner, but words like those cited above (and Corn has many more examples)  create an atmosphere where violence is more likely.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.