Did Glenn Beck's rhetoric inspire violence?
Glenn Beck's attacks on the Tides Foundation are being linked to a heavily-armed man's attempt to assassinate the progressive organization's employees. Rhetoric has consequences, critics say.
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“While we may agree to disagree about the role our citizens and our government should play in promoting social justice and the common good, there should be no disagreement about what constitutes integrity and professionalism and responsibility in discourse – even when allowing for and encouraging contending diverse opinions intelligently argued,” Tides founder and CEO Drummond Pike wrote. “This is not a partisan issue. It's an American issue. No one, left, right or center, wants to see another Oklahoma City.”Skip to next paragraph
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“What was prescient about the film is that the main character, Jack Lucas, played by Jeff Bridges, is an arrogant, self-serving, egocentric shock jock talk radio host who enjoys baiting his callers and indulging in personal ideological comments that often have no basis in fact,” writes Mark Axelrod, professor of comparative literature at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., on Huffington Post. “The upshot of all of that ‘free speech’ is that an off-handed, on air comment prompts one of his regular callers to commit multiple murders at a popular Manhattan bar.”
None of this seems to have turned Beck away from rhetoric that implies violence.
Railing about a hypothetical situation in which children would have to take flu vaccine or be removed from their families, Beck said this week that his response would be “meet Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson,” a reference to the gun manufacturer.
History of violent political speech
The implication of violence in political speech is as old as when lawmakers beat each other with canes on the floor of the House of Representatives. And it’s bipartisan.
On a radio show the other day, President Obama warned that a Republican takeover of Congress would mean “hand-to-hand combat” for the next two years.
But he quickly added, “To the press, that's a figure of speech.”