When the dialogue ends; the coercion begins.

— Steven Thayn

Violence inducing political rhetoric continues to increase lead by a few national political figures and the mainstream media. What is political hate-speech and what can be done about it? For example, Bernie Sanders just told one of his followers: “So Mary stand up and fight back in every way you can.”

I would like to explain why this advice is deficient and why it is dangerous. It is dangerous because he does not define peaceful ways to “fight back” leaving the door open to violence.

Disagreements and differences of opinions is part of the democratic process. However, there is a certain etiquette that, if followed, allows for discourse, reduces anger and frustration. When the proper etiquette is not followed hate-speech becomes likely, then the norm, then common, and eventually turns to violence. We are in the common phase. If it is not turned around; it will turn violent. There are things to do to defuse the escalation of political hate-speech and return to dialogue.

First, what is hate-speech? Hate-speech is when a person attacks the character, intentions, moral fiber, or disposition of another person who holds different political beliefs. For example Senator Elizabeth Warren has called republican “cowardly and cynical.” Character assassination is a form of hate-speech.

I am saddened when a person is mocked, ridiculed, and made fun of simply because they have a different political viewpoint. Saturday Night Live exists by using these techniques. SNL is one of the most watched TV shows indicating how widespread the problem has become.

What should be done? How should politics be discussed?

A peaceful society that values varied opinions is lead by those in the media, politics, and academia that focuses on issues; not personalities. It is totally acceptable for Republicans and Democrats to disagree on health care, ways to deal with poverty, climate change etc. It is totally unacceptable for either side to disparage the intentions, personalities, or character of someone with an opposing point of view.

A society that sticks to logic, persuasion, and reason can work together.

A society that devolves into character assassination, innuendo, and hate-speech will eventually tear itself apart.

  1. What can you do? I discuss this issue in greater length in my book “A New Political Covenant”; get it and read it.

  2. Exercise self-control and learn to stick with issues. Resist the urge to call people names or assign less than honorable intentions. Invite your friends to engage in politics of ideas and resist politics of personalities.

  3. Most important, never vote for anyone that engages in character assassination. Vote for the person who to listens, engages in discussion, and tries to find win-win solutions. The process is more important than the party.