Any call to cool "inflammatory" speech is a call to police all speech, and I can't think of anybody in government, politics, business, or the press that I would trust with that power. As Jonathan Rauch wrote brilliantly in Harper's in 1995, "The vocabulary of hate is potentially as rich as your dictionary, and all you do by banning language used by cretins is to let them decide what the rest of us may say." Rauch added, "Trap the racists and anti-Semites, and you lay a trap for me too. Hunt for them with eradication in your mind, and you have brought dissent itself within your sights."Our spirited political discourse, complete with name-calling, vilification—and, yes, violent imagery—is a good thing. Better that angry people unload their fury in public than let it fester and turn septic in private. The wicked direction the American debate often takes is not a sign of danger but of freedom. And I'll punch out the lights of anybody who tries to take it away from me.
Well, at least he won't mind too much if I call him a demented, retarded pigfucker, I suppose.
Look. If you find anyone calling for legal restrictions on public speech, then by all means, let's hear your best Patrick Henry impersonation. But there is nothing threatening to the First Amendment when someone uses their free speech to attempt to persuade other people to voluntarily modify their own, or even shame them for not doing so. Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck or anyone else in that clown car are perfectly free to use guns and revolution as the one-size-fits-all metaphors for talking about political issues, and the rest of us are free to tell them to grow the goddamn fuck up and stop being such hysterical fucking demagogues. The system seems to be working just fine, so what's the problem? If Palin really has the courage of her convictions, if she really believes her own bullshit, surely she won't allow one dead nine year-old girl and some public scolding to stop her, right?
Ah, but that's just the thing, isn't it? She doesn't believe it. None of them do. I see it in the teabaggers I know personally, who rant and rave about how mundane policy battles are the razor's edge between freedom and tyranny, working themselves up into a rabid state over our impending slavery... before going back to watching Monday night football and hanging out at the bar with the rest of the boys. There seems to be a little disconnect here between rhetoric and action, is what I'm saying. I mean, if I honestly believed that a four percent difference in tax rates for people who make five times as much money as me was the difference between the U.S.A. and Nazi Russia, I think I'd be spending my time in clandestine meetings with the rest of the revolutionary cadre, fomenting insurrections, that sort of thing.
No, it all reminds me of nothing so much as a surly teenager who responds to every request to help out with chores by hollering about having never asked to be born. Of course, if you offered to help tie the noose for the little shithead, you'd likely find a sudden change in attitude, but barring that, they have a reasonable expectation that if they just act like the most shrill, obstreperous assholes in response to everything they don't like, you'll finally get weary of listening to it and just let them have their way. It's no different with the teabaggers. Their stunted adolescent response is just to holler "Wolverines!" and go polish their hunting rifles.
We don't have to waste time in fruitless arguments over the precise nature to which implied violence in rhetoric legitimizes, encourages or causes violent action in response; we can just force them to directly own up to it. Is this what you want, then? Is this what politics needs to become? No? You don't actually intend to violently overthrow the government every time you lose an election? Then shut the fuck up. You too, Shafer, you fucking moron.