Can You Advocate Violence & Not Mean It?

Words have impact, especially on non-critical-thinking hordes & minions. People with aggressive tendencies (whether overt or just in their daydreams) are particularly susceptible. Rhetoric that borrows from the vocabulary of violence & war BREEDS thoughts of violence in these same hordes.

I often bring up how the words one chooses to convey or understand his world are from a vocabulary that aligns with how one thinks about his world.  If you believe that time comes in finite chunks and time you dedicate to yourself is holy, then giving up that time is “sacrifice.”  It’s a “frame,” a way of thinking.  Like a box.  If you’re thinking something is a war (your frame), you’ll refer to that thing in warlike terms.  And you can pass that frame along.

You cannot say “we don’t advocate violence” but imply armed conflict if you don’t get your way, blatantly say the opposition (the Left) is preparing for armed conflict against you (the Right), use images and frames of war and violence, and speak in terms of revolution.  If you do these things, you ARE advocating violence by framing your message (and, therefore, the solutions) in terms of violence.

Advocate: to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly.


Every word is defined relative to a conceptual framework. If you have something like “revolt,” that implies a population that is being ruled unfairly, or assumes it is being ruled unfairly, and that they are throwing off their rulers, which would be considered a good thing. That’s a frame. (George Lakoff)

You have a choice about how to frame the content of your messages. You choose your frame (of reference) in order to bring across connotations, emotions, and reactions associated with the frames. (But maybe “choice” implies consciousness of what one is doing and what his/her options are.)

In the case of using frames of war & violence, once that frame is in place in the minds of the minions, they are limited as to the options — the “solutions” — consistent with that frame, and their emotions are engaged to support decisions to fulfill the connotations of the frame.

If I’m in a war, shouldn’t I be using bullets?  Shouldn’t I forcefully and willfully fight the aggressors for the benefit of my children, religion, and all of good society? What are the stakes if I fail?  Obama’s is a tyrannical regime, and we should fight a revolution over tyranny.

“The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees, in every object, only the traits that favor that theory.”
~ Thomas Jefferson

The fact is, the concentration of heated and heating rhetoric has created an “atmosphere.”  How many of us are conscious of something that, at the same time invisible, is not noticed as part of one’s environment.  Are you conscious of air?

We become unconscious of things we get used to — it has to do with the brains approach to handling repetitive stimuli.  And when we’re unconscious of something, we don’t see it or recognize it.  It’s just “how it is.”

We get an atmosphere, a climate, of types of thinking, emotions consistent with the thinking, uncivil tensions, and belligerent frames of reference to guide acting on agendas.  The atmosphere comes with its own standard of energy that exists to keep its native lifeforms viable and healthy.

It’s a “mood,” if you will — and we know how we can behave and feel given different moods.  And it feeds on itself.

Or maybe it’s a mode, one where the fabric of civility has given way to more primordial, less mature ways of dealing with differences that make up the richness of our nation as a whole.  A way of interacting where violence — explicit & implicit — are offered as a solution, whether serious or not, for getting one’s way.

Agenda Trumps Intellectual Honesty

I’m mad as hell over the shooting of a congresswoman in AZ a couple days ago.  I’m mad at the attitude that assassination and violence are appropriate ways to handle differences in civilized society.  And I’m mad at the demagogues that plant those seeds and water them with their rhetoric and appeals.

A friend sent me a link to for a list of liberal/progressive hate speech that both he and she point to as some sort of proof that the left does it worse and more than the right. But if you look at the list, you see it compiled mostly from blogs and left-wing extremists — one offs, if you will — not from people with a massive reach, large following, and credibility with so many. The quotes from Obama were from him trying to look strong and in touch with the issues; and they were also one-offs, whereas you have people of Palin’s stature and presidential aspiration syndicating their violence-framed perspectives.

See the quote below from George Packer of the NY Times.

I frequently listen/read Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, and Coulter just to hear what others are listening to and often times soaking in. The words, images, and references they like to use are in terms of violence, war & sedition — especially Beck.  These are topmost on my  mind since, as much as I watch “liberal media,” I don’t come across the type of messages these offer.  Their reach and influence are remarkable, and as such, make them prime examples for how fomentation and demagoguery work.

It also makes them more responsible.

It is, to me, highly intellectually dishonest to deny that constant violent & armed-struggle references don’t have any sort of impact while at the same time, deliberately using words (and frames) to communicate your agenda on radio shows, talk shows, and print as though you are unaware of their impact.

For instance, a couple weeks ago, a guy by the name of Bruce Cain, when referring to the Tuscon incident and gun control says,

“What our founding fathers knew perfectly was that, at some point, we would need them to depose a tyrannical government such as the Obama Administration.”

Um, we vote to depose any government, so why would we thread 2nd Amendment-argued gun possession into the discussion?  The frame of reference of a tyrannical government seems innocent and sincere enough as an exaggeration of a real-life situation, but the linking of getting rid of Obama with why we have the right to bear arms seems pretty clear to me.

It works the same way with any pundit that sets up the strawman enemy out to destroy you, your life, your government, your children, your religious freedoms or any freedoms.  When you identify a person as a mortal enemy and then evoke the right to self-protection or national security, what do you expect … no, I mean really … what do you expect?  Are we talking brain surgery here?

We are bombarded in the media with what we call “advertising” — why?  Because ords matter.  They matter to affect or even change behavior.  Preachers use it to invoke godliness.  Union members carry signs and chant slogans … of course, with no expectation that their message has meaning and will affect discussions and procedures in target business. And we’re all aware of how little influence words have on children and the susceptible.

(An argument that violent imagery or framing the imagination with violence with words is harmless utterly invalidates arguments about how such content on television affects our children.)

You wouldn’t have a following if you weren’t doing something to attract your constituents in a way that appealed to an affinity, whether anger, sedition, threat of war, etc.  The whole idea for a politician (or anyone trying to rouse the rabble) is to whip the audience into an ideological frenzy.

And aren’t anger and fear two of the most primal reactions demagogues attempt to stir up in order to achieve the ideologically based motivations to do anything?  After all, you’re trying to paint your opponent as an enemy of something. Tap into fear and anger, and — call me crazy — but you are tapping into the irrational with predictably unstable outcomes.

The double-standard would be laughable if it weren’t so grave. Can a thinking, reasonable human actually believe the perpetrators of framing aren’t conscious of what enacting the frame they’re instilling might bring?  Could it be that they are really so stupid?

I don’t think they’re stupid — only that they’ve been snared within their own agendas thinking that they’re being altruistic by using angry frames to foment anger, and militant frames to course correct.  A snowball of self-interest rolling down the hill to become a monster-sized, cult-nourished wrecking ball of of evil. Their rhetoric has worked thus far, and now they have to maintain or increase that momentum within the same frame.

Or maybe it’s as the Slacktivist suggests: that the people spouting the imagery really don’t believe the problem-solution tact their taking is real — it’s just a political game, and people who act like it’s really real (and shoot someone), they’re just loons.

Smart people doing evil is the worst kind of evil, whether it is conscious, deliberate effort or it has merely been incorporated into the mind so deeply it can no longer be distinguished from self or cause.

Disingenuity and Its Support

I visited Palin’s Facebook page to read her condolences and to see if she had removed the image of a target and her target list as she had done on her website. She had. I read her condolences, and then I began to read (as much as I could stomach) the comments of her minions, admirers, and supporters.

Of course they said the “Liberal losers” were going to try to pin the AZ consequences on Palin, and they were losers, idiots, and a whole lot of other abusive epithet for thinking anything Palin could have said or done might have contributed to the atmosphere and the frame of violence further fomenting and animating anger & violence.

Blind faith and willful stupidity.  And she cultivates this.

I agree that Palin didn’t “cause” the shooting & murders in the sense that she is immediately responsible for this single act. But she, along with Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, some Tea-Partiers, and others are responsible for creating and sustaining the violent frames they have used to hammer home their message and animate their followers.

As George Packer of the NY Times writes,

Only one side has made the rhetoric of armed revolt against an oppressive tyranny the guiding spirit of its grassroots movement and its midterm campaign. Only one side routinely invokes the Second Amendment as a form of swagger and intimidation, not-so-coyly conflating rights with threats. Only one side’s activists bring guns to democratic political gatherings. Only one side has a popular national TV host who uses his platform to indoctrinate viewers in the conviction that the President is an alien, totalitarian menace to the country. Only one side fills the AM waves with rage and incendiary falsehoods. Only one side has an iconic leader, with a devoted grassroots following, who can’t stop using violent imagery and dividing her countrymen into us and them, real and fake.

So, upon reading her condolences, my first thought was, “these condolences are disingenuous and contain no remorse or recognition at all for the part you play and have played in fostering the frame of anger and violence.” Of course, it would not make sense to admit guilt of any sort in a condolence, but for a person who aspires to higher office, I expect higher standards of conduct, ethics, and intellect.

I would have expected a repudiation of violence and the frames that inspire and incite it.  Apparent sympathy without repudiation of what caused the problem is disingenuous.  It says to me, “Oops…Sorry! But there will be casualties, and I’ll feel sorry for the families and all, but, ya know, the fight has to go on.”

I expect leaders to not be followers, since it’s the leaders that set the tone and tactic for an entire nation. Our leaders must be role models. We need them to establish the means and tone of dialog, and show us how to attain and maintain a higher level of debate and concern for the nation as a community of different people.

Instead, she follows up her message with the “blood libel” message, where she continues to maintain a distance between how & what she says and how those things affect her listeners.  Again, this is  her way.   She points to personal responsibility apart from climate, fomentation, and militaristic framing as though the fact that people’s minds, thoughts, and opinions are not affected by our peers, affinity groups, community, society, or people who we hold as authority & look to for leadership don’t exist — and that she doesn’t capitalize on that same fact.

She does this with some sort assumption that there only exists 100% responsibility, all of which rests on the individual. How can any of us be responsible for anything except our own actions if cause & effect or even influence originate only from within the individual.  And a group of individuals that think the same way must be merely a happenstance collection of like thinkers, not simply people who have been persuaded to think along certain lines within certain ideologies.

Again, this is hypocritical considering what must be the purpose of giving any ideological and partisan speech.  There is something ethically amiss when you can rouse the rabble with anger- & fear-fomenting speech and then patently deny any contribution to the sentiments and their frame of reference.

I love what the Slacktivist has to say (although his point is about indefensible positions being what we should focus on rather than what they say might inspire):

They’re in a tough spot these days partly because it’s impossible for them to mount the defense of their rhetoric that is true: “I am a frivolous person, and I don’t choose my words based on their meaning. Rather, I behave like the worst caricature of a politician. If you think my rhetoric logically implies that people should behave violently, you’re mistaken – neither my audience nor my peers in the conservative movement are engaged in a logical enterprise, and it’s unfair of you to imply that people take what I say so seriously that I can be blamed for a real world event. Don’t you see that this is all a big game? This is how politics works. Stop pretending you’re not in on the joke.”
~“Only a crazy person would take what we say seriously”

But I don’t point at her to pick on her. She happens to, using militaristic terminology, be in the crossfire in our society’s usual kneejerk attempt to find cause for the effect we’re deploring.  I don’t blame her for defending herself because she really isn’t the cause, and ultimately people are responsible for their own actions, including swallowing militaristic frames whole (even while she counts on it).

This really and truly isn’t about her, but her explanation about how it doesn’t involve her is hypocrisy at best.

The Blinded Leading the Blind with the Blinding

Beck and Limbaugh have gone so far as to paint people on the Left as preparing for armed conflict and the Right needs to be ready to fight or to stem it before it starts. During the campaigning, Tea Party candidates used blatant threats of armed insurrection and “second-amendment remedies” if they didn’t get what they wanted.

While their original messages and intent may have been honorable, noble, and worthy, their tactics skewed the meaning. Once they have established their meaning, they get locked into the tactic.  You touch a nerve in your audience that they respond to, and you get hooked into maintaining your pinch on that nerve. Their approbation of you and assent to your message becomes a drug.

In Beck’s case, this skewing has soaked into his fibers, creating a personality so deranged that it is scary. Like Limbaugh, his appetite for ratings, attention, approbation, whatever …  have overcome his reason.  And what reason remains is employed in the service of supporting his self-aggrandizing agenda without regard to the actual impact it has on society.  Delusion.

There are those that are saying the gunman (and his accomplice) were merely “deranged,” insinuating that there is no rational political motivation — a motivation in the logical fulfillment of the frame of violence advocated by those they’ve taken as authority.

There’s some manufactured ignorance for you. Agnotology, cognitive dissonance, or covering your ass. But if you have the deranged (Palin, Beck, Limbaugh et al.) fomenting the susceptible-to-derangement, what the HELL do you expect.

If you speak in terms of war and violence, you expect peace and love, not to mention civility?

I mean, how shallow are the concepts of free speech and peaceful change if you foment the rabble’s ideological fever with militaristic speeching and then when someone acts on it, you suddenly frame your calls to violence as peaceful “free speech,” peaceful protest, refer to those people as lone whackos, and then point to any criticism of your actions as proof of tyranny that requires revolution?

The guy who ran against the congresswoman, dressed in fatigues and sporting a M-16 to promote a campaign event of his, his spokesperson “doesn’t see the connection…”

Well, that much is obvious.

d all of good socie

5 Responses

  1. Predictably, Palin has attempted to insulate repercussions, consequences, and responsibility for irresponsible use of speech. “Vigorous debate” does not involve militaristic, disparaging, or demagogic presentation except as consistent with the debater or perspective.

    Debate involves focus on the issues; the fame one uses to present one’s perspective on the issues is one’s choice.


  2. From the blog:

    It isn’t the legal right to say what one wants to say that is being questioned — either by Congresswoman Giffords or by many others who have lodged the same concern. It is, rather, the wisdom and the judgment of people who are or aspire to be our opinion leaders that is under question. It is a claim that leaders should lead, in part by modeling the kind of respectful, civil discourse that endangers no one, at the same time affirming that the importance of free political speech is to find ways to transcend our differences, rather than tear us apart. Political arguments are almost never ‘won,’ but can often be successfully resolved when good will is maintained. For our leaders, at least, responsible speech should be as sacrosanct as free speech. For the rest of us, that should be an important determinant of who gets our vote.

  3. From the US Supreme Court ruling on the Westboro church (Fred W. Phelps) vs. Albert Snyder, page 15 of the opinion.

    Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here—inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker. As a Nation we have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.

    Click to access 09-751.pdf


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