Thursday, June 15, 2017

Speech, Rhetoric, and Violence.

In the wake of a nut job deciding to try to shoot up a practice for an annual Democrat Vs Republican charity baseball game, there has been a lot of finger pointing. There has been a lot of blame thrown around about the toxic rhetoric of the Left, and the political violence that is sweeping America. There are criticism, and accusations. Some are legitimate, most are simply being made in the heat of the moment when passions are high.  Generally speaking you have to ask yourself if Freedom of Speech is unlimited, or if there is legitimacy in silencing certain voices. 

I'm not even going to start talking about the gun issue and the Virginia governor's truly insane statement that 93 million people are killed every day in America due to gun violence. That's basically WWI and WWII combined (give or take). My own take is, if I were a congressman or aid on that field, hiding behind plastic barriers like a rabbit waiting for a wolf, I'd have wanted a gun to shoot back. 

But we really do need to examine what the hell is going on. There are some people that are using "violence" to shut down speech of people that disagree. The term "Social Justice Warrior" is often used with derision, but there are people who truly believe that disagreeing with progressive policies is a form of violence. If you truly don't understand Transgenderism,  and ask questions on the how or why, or if you believe there are only two genders, you are conducting an act of "violence" against these people. In Canada if you refuse to use the person's preferred gender pronouns you could potentially go to jail. 

That attitude is easy to lampoon. Speech is not violence. I don't care what you say, simply speaking to a woman is not even remotely equivalent to raping that woman. Free Speech advocates are right to lambast people why "No-platform" or try to filibuster intellectual debates. The scary thing is that the people who are talking about speech as violence are themselves turning to violence when their speech is not being effective. 

This is where we run into a serious grey area. We have seen the AntiFa (Anti Fascist) group spew truly toxic rhetoric about the "Nazis" that supported Trump. This is a play on Hillary Clinton's words describing Trump voters as a basket of "deplorables." Even Bernie Sanders' own words about how the rich are viciously taking advantage of the poor will create a toxic environment. The problem with hyperbole is that, said often enough, it begins to take on a life of its own. 

Much like the racial situation or the battle of the sexes, one side has found that it is easy to shut down debate by simply throwing out the "sexist" or "racist" label. The problem is that a lot of people, the people who have gotten intellectually lazy because of this tactic truly believe it. If a person thinks welfare is terrible than it is assumed that they hate the poor. In truth there are a lot of legitimate criticisms of welfare, but if you can boil down the debate to "hate the poor vs. want to help the poor" you remove any nuance and turn rational individuals with a difference of opinion into unthinking uncaring monsters. 

We've entered an age of low information voters. Often times the Smart Phones seem smarter than the people holding them. Policy debates have been reduced to tribal squabbles. Democrat Vs. Republican has become a more intense version of Patriots vs. Stealers. As high as passions get during that experience, how much higher do you think they would get when there is the perception that there are actual lives on the line?

Rhetoric can be dangerous. Freedom of Speech is a fundamental value to our society. We also have to acknowledge that at one point Adolf Hitler, and Vladimir Lenin only had rhetoric. Rhetoric has the ability to do a lot of damage when we give that rhetoric power. How do we find a balance? AntiFa is certainly acting like the Red Guards or the Sturmabteilung, and we need to treat them like what they are, a legitimate threat to our way of life. Political violence is extremely dangerous.

More than that we need to acknowledge that the more toxic the rhetoric, the more crazies will pick that up. The shooter who tried to kill republicans, was clearly an intolerant angry man. His clear love of senator Sanders and belief that ending the Affordable Care Act is going to cause actual deaths. It seems clear that in his own mind, Republicans are truly evil, and only by killing them could he prevent a disaster. Our own rhetoric allowed him to pick up that thought and run with it to its sad and unfortunate ending. 

In the end, all we can do is chill the hell out. We need to calm down and act like adults. Stop pointing fingers and start reaching out to each other. Rather than making statements, ask questions, and truly listen to the answers. Unless we can calm our rhetoric, we will soon find ourselves in the middle of an extremely violent experience. 

1 comment:

K~ said...

"Stop pointing fingers and start reaching out to each other. Rather than making statements, ask questions, and truly listen to the answers."

Yup. Watching out for and listening to one another is powerful.