Violence Promotion in the Media and Politics Must Be Ended


La Crosse Tribune—Sunday June 5, 2022


I don’t understand where the men are. Like where are the dads? You know, some teacher is pushing sex values on your third grader. Why don’t you go in and thrash the teacher?” Fox’s Tucker Carlson, on April 8. [1]

The horrifying tragedy in Uvalde leaves us all reeling, and wondering what kind of a country we live in. One factor underlying this all is the climate of violence created within our political system, and the media that reports and comments on it. Violence-fomenting has become commonplace. That needs to stop.

For the last six or seven years, America’s political discourse has been very ugly. We are marinating in a broth created by people in positions of power, employing the most vicious and dangerous falsehoods against millions of people, and amplified by people enjoying the suffering of others.

Three sources are fomenting violence through fabrications of evil:  the Fox outlet, disinformation-saturated social media, and politicians playing on resentment and fear to justify the taking of power,  by force or violence if necessary.

Enter Fox’s Tucker Carlson. Arguably the most popular cable network talk show host in the country, he is employed by the Fox outlet to spread hate-based disinformation. During his violence-promoting diatribe on Fox, the outlet posted this banner: “DEMOCRATS ARE LOSING THEIR MINDS BECAUSE PARENTS WANT TO PROTECT THEIR KIDS FROM GROOMING.” [2]

Vicious libel against America’s teachers through a charge that they are “grooming” their pupils is now commonplace. Public school teachers have been selected as the latest target in the vilify-and-attack program for two reasons: 1) They are a predominantly female group; and 2) Their mission is to promote the common good, anathema to those working to shred America’s institutions.

January 6, 2021 should not have come as a surprise. Two years prior to his “Fight like Hell” command,  then-President Trump declared that his opposition had no way to win, because he had on his side the combined firepower of Bikers for Trump, America’s  police, and the US military. [3] As we now know from Defense Secretary Esper’s recently-published book, Trump also repeatedly asked high-level aides to look into firing bullets into protesters’ legs, and lobbing missiles into Mexico. [4]

Trump had previously issued a call at a police conference for police to commit criminal assault via head-banging against those being arrested, and had offered praise to a Republican Montana congressman for body-slamming a journalist. [5] Living in infamy is Trump’s pronouncement that the neo-Nazi group that killed a peaceful protester in Charlottesville included “very fine people”.

Four days prior to January 6, 12 Republican US senators, including Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, announced their plan to violate their oath of office and constitutional duties by voting to nullify the results of the 2020 election. CNN’s Jake Tapper accurately named the group “the sedition caucus”, and pointedly named the Capitol violence campaign an attempted “bloodless coup”. [6]

Then came the violence of January 6. It took the lives of seven people, including three Capitol Police officers, injuring about 150 other officers.  [7]

Very telling, following the violent attack, was Ron Johnson’s joyful shout-out to those who had descended on the Capitol: “ I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, and so I wasn’t concerned.”  [8]

Calls for violent attacks against teachers and journalists, calls for violence against persons being arrested, and killings of peaceful protesters and other unarmed persons, all make us an endangered society. The violent coup attempt on January 6 to overthrow the constitutional order and impose autocracy show that democracy is threatened with collapse.

Violence-legitimizing has become integral to the campaigning of a major political party, with Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel on February 8 labeling the bipartisan investigation of the violent insurrection at the US Capitol as “persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse.” [9]

Unless we find a way to stop this breakdown of democratic process, we are headed for a situation like the one being imposed in the Philippines,  where armed vigilantes have governmental blessing to roam the streets to kill poor people (“drug users”), and journalists reporting on these killings are subject to repeated arrest and imprisonment. [10]

There are two things we have to do to head off the demise of the limited parts of our democracy and democratic institutions that are still standing. First, we need to be glued to our TV sets as the House bipartisan panel paints the full picture of  who was responsible for the killings on January 6, and we need to be certain that each and every individual behind the multiple killings in the Capitol is held accountable.

And then, all of us who believe that elections should be decided by the ballot box, not by bullets and bear spray– Democrats, Republicans, and independents– should march to the polls on November 8 and say “no” to the dismantling of democracy we are witnessing.