Monday, January 10, 2011

Threats and Rhetoric

Nate Silver has a good post on assassination threats and mentions this stunning statistic:
The journalist Ronald Kessler, meanwhile, wrote in his bestselling book that there has been a 400 percent increase in the number of threats against the White House since Barack Obama took office.

That's incredible. How much of this huge up-tick in threats might be due to the rhetoric and invective churned out by the right? We don't know. Is there a simpler explanation? An obvious explanation could be racism. But would racism alone account for a four-fold increase? Possibly, until I was reminded of this other stat on threats:

The passage of the health care reform bill has resulted in a threefold increase in serious threats to members of Congress according to Federal police enforcement officers.

The health care reform debate was by far the most heated part of the Obama presidency so far, with people on the right labeling the President a socialist, a communist and suggesting that he would institute death panels. I doubt violent threats would have increased by three- or four-fold if the national debate had been passionate yet restrained, if our leaders had spent less time characterizing Obama as a treasonous communist terrorist instead of simply a political foe to be engaged.

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