Conservatives have a great deal of experience with the political Left’s habit of manufacturing connections between our words and specific acts of lunacy. We’re therefore sensitive to the distance between rhetoric and incitement to violence. The line at which speech becomes action moves with context, speaker, audience, and more.
Part of the defense of free speech, therefore, is our shared responsibility to hold people rhetorically responsible when they approach dangerous territory. Challenging people on the things that they say and write is a critical method of preserving boundaries, as well as maintaining our ability to communicate despite differences.
With the apparently targeted shooting of Republicans at a baseball practice in Virginia, it’s clearly time for the Rhode Island media to begin challenging our top politicians — particularly the four Democrats in our Congressional delegation — on their rhetoric. As a start, journalists shouldn’t let Congressman David Cicilline and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse off the hook with their canned statements on the attack. Cicilline is “shocked and angered”; Whitehouse is “shocked and disturbed.”
Last month, Cicilline made news with his declaration that the Republican health care bill would kill “tens of thousands of Americans,” and a March fundraising email from the congressman insisted that “We cannot, under any circumstances, let a bill like this become law”; subject line: “before it’s too late.” An April fundraising email with icons representing a burning planet in the subject line warned recipients:
It’s our duty to protect the planet – and we cannot go backward in the fight against climate change. If we wait any longer, it could be too late. The effects could be permanent and devasting [sic].
On that topic, Whitehouse recently declared that President Trump “is betraying the country.”
The broad social media writings of the GOP-baseball shooter, James Hodgkinson, that have been flitting across my streams are entirely in line with this sense of urgency and extremity that Democrat politicians have been stoking, but here’s one that particularly evokes the statements of RI’s fire-breathers:
Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.
The news media is simply not doing its job if it does not force (at a minimum) Cicilline and Whitehouse to address the odd spectacle of their being “shocked” that a fellow progressive who agrees with their political rhetoric would take the step of violence under the urgent mandate to stop politicians who have “betrayed” their country, “under any circumstances.”