Lately there has been a lot of talk about how Republican and Democrats both refuse to play nice, get along, and do their jobs. Recent articles in the Washington Post (In shutdown blame game, Democrats and Republicans united: It’s the other side’s fault), Time (Shutdown: Obama and Republicans Trade Blame as Deadline is Crossed), Fox (Partial shutdown begins: Can Congress, White House Compromise?),
and USAToday (House, Senate parry on “Obamacare” as shutdown imminent) illustrate the “balanced” notion that there is an equivalence between the behavior and politics of Democrats and Republican on Capitol Hill and in the White House. Calls to “throw all the bums out” have increased and according to a recent NBC/WSJ poll six out of ten voters support doing just that.
Anyone who has spent time reading political comments by users in social media might, after loosing what remaining faith in humanity they had left, be suspicious that the problem is limited to Congress or that there is any kind of equivalence at all between current right and left wing politics in the United States. On the far “radical” left one is likely to encounter advocacy of fringe, radical suggestions such as single payer health care, European/Canadian style gun control, significant environmental regulations, possibly open borders, steeply increased taxes on the wealthy, and so on. Shocking and scary indeed. But, on the far right, one will find repeated, frequent open advocacy of physical violence against national leaders. Stuff like “Bullets change government far surer than votes…” and “the right to bear arms, it’s in the Constitution. We need a coup, there needs to be a coup and if the United States military won’t do it, we’ll do it.” Also there is an ample dose of violence overtly cast in racist language: “He needs his brown shirts to kill Americans and these come with matching skin tones.” You’ll also find lots of TREASON and DEATH in all caps.
Apparently this stuff isn’t limited to mainstream conservative outlets such as Breitbart, I am the 53%, or any number of conservative news sites. According to the Secret Service President Obama is the most threatened president in history. Obama receives an average of 30 death threats a day, more than four times the number of threats made against his predecessor. In fact the Secret Service is having trouble keeping pace with sheer volume of death threats against the President. This increased agitation for violence on the right wing has been written about here, here, here. Peter Bergen has argued that right wing extremism poses as great or greater danger than al Qaeda and the West Point Combating Terrorism Center has issued a 150 page report on the growing danger of the far right.
Where is the equivalence between advocating the policies one believes in and advocating assassination? Where is the equivalence between political speech and hate speech? And what’s worse by claiming this equivalence we do nothing to discredit or discourage inciting violence. When you look at some of the outrageous, violent things that are being said on these mainstream websites also take a minute to look for anyone objecting to such language and comments. You won’t find it.