Have politics in U.S. become too angry, hateful?
Columnist Jesse Mathewson sits outside his Sierra Vista, Arizona home. The town is one of the closest to the Mexican border.
January 12th, 2011
10:13 AM ET

Have politics in U.S. become too angry, hateful?

The question is echoing this week, after Tucson area Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told reporters that words used in political debate have gone too far and can lead to unbalanced individuals erupting in violence.

But how can you honestly answer such a subjective question?

In a three-part series, CNN Radio's Lisa Desjardins speaks to people from the right and the left who use strong and sometimes extreme words against each other, including Jesse Mathewson, a columnist in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Mathewson calls himself a pacifist but has used some extreme words in his opposition to border protection groups, including the Minuteman Civil Defense Project. He has called their founder, Chris Simcox, a "racist bigot."

Desjardins also talks to an expert in extreme speech to find out more about how, and to measure, the way society and individuals talk.

Listen to the first piece in the series here:

You can also listen to the CNN Radio Reports podcast on itunes or subscribe to the podcast here.

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Filed under: Politics • U.S.
soundoff (545 Responses)
  1. Daniel

    The answer to that question is definately Yes! If not,then why do do many of them support the obnoxious war in Afghanistan with it's unnecessary bloodshed? The fact is that most of these self-serving,money-grubbing politicians care only for themselves and will say or do only what is politically correct.

    January 12, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      .…so, an anti-government, anti-federalist kook exercises his second amendment remedies against a Democratic elected officials….But let’s work hard on “not jumping to conclusions”. I thought “if the shoe fits” was a very successful “Obama is a socialist” rant for the right wing? So let’s continue using that!

      There are HUNDREDS of Tea-Party inspired Jerrods out there:




      January 12, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • cdb

      the war in Afghanistan is not a waist of time. Stop watching fox news. If we leave then we leave a wrecked country. It is now ou job to stay and help rebuild. The majority of the people in Iraq and Afghanistan thank the troops for what they are doing. Yes there is a few that get shot in the cross fire and blame the us> The should be blaming the terrorist hiding behind them. Think of it like this. In small town in the US everyone knows everyone and knows what they are up to. There is no difference from the small communities in Afghanistan. The actually know a lot more since they dont spend there days on the couch. They talk to there neighbors. The ones still living in Afghanistan are the brave and dumb. If it was me I would never stay in a war zone with my children. I understand not wanting to leave everything behind. But it sure beats death. Would you of rather we not did anything about the attacks on Sept 11th? If we would of coward down then we would of been open to a lot more attacks.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      That's funny that you should bring that up,cdb. 30 years ago the Russians were saying the exact same thing about their being in Afghanistan. The Americans,however,through their arrogance and self-righteousness do believe that they can do better there than the Russians did.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • R. A. Williamson

      It really is a shame that We the People can't have one reset - sending every single politician home without pay. Period.
      Don't even think about thanking them. They have failed us.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Not every politician. The corrupt ones who rely on anti-government vitriol to gain votes...and receive government pay.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Yes, definitely YES.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      @ Tony
      Funny how none of what you said about the shooter has been proven. It is just the liberal lies brought out to accuse the tea party, because you couldn't stop them at the elections.

      But to go with your train of thought... Let's see. You progressives love to protect the Muslims, yet all the terrorists are muslim. Therefore it is not a religion but a terrorist organization, and there are way more " Hundreds of Jerrods" muslims.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ancient Texan

    There's entirely too much strong, hurtful talk from Both sides of the poliitcal spectrum, but this opinionated sheriff is way out of line and should keep his speech directed to the evidence and facts in the case. He added to the heated partisan debate that should have never occured, given the fact the shooter was a mentally disturbed person that doesn't indicate he was affiliated to any party or policy.

    January 12, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      Sheriff Dupnik may have made his career ending move, but he was exercising his freedom of speech, which Glen Beck would surely defend! There is no evidence that the current vituperation contributed to this killing, but that we do need to look at how speech has shaped the divisiveness in this country.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      No, there is not equvalency of hate speech between right and left, it never was. Hate speech has been very well correlated with the election of Democratic Presidents last 30 years. Last 2 years hate speech is 90% right wing propaganda!

      Let's be honest!

      January 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • mat

      Freedom of speech has nothing to do with an elected official commenting on a murder case. Look at the backlash already. The left who aren't blaming the right are openly admitting that they wished it had been. First the guy was a tea party member. False. Then he was a white supremacist. False. I guess freedom of speech is code for freedom to lie. So be it.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      ....anti-government crazy killer bears his 2nd amendment remedies against a Democrat, previously targeted by right wing...
      ….But let’s work on “not jumping to conclusions”.

      There are HUNDREDS of Tea-Party inspired Jerrods out there:



      January 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • sowgoodseeds

      I'm as guilty as the next person of using strong and hateful language in my online political comments. I've made a choice to correct that, and I apologize to anyone who I probably misunderstood.
      With that being said, when the shooting first occurred, a lot of evidence pointed to this being politically motivated. I mean, it happened at a rally! So I don't think the police chief was out of line to say that the political rhetoric led to the violence. And now, we're hopefully more aware of the things we've said to one another and hopefully we can all take steps to remedy the great divide in our country. I. for one, take a vow to give the benefit of the doubt from now on, and not to stir the pot. Afterall, I think we all want what's best for the country and everyone who lives here!

      January 12, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ThomasD

    'Desjardins also talks to an expert in extreme speech how to find out more about measure the way society and individuals talk'. Nice sentence. Are you actually making money writing for CNN? Hatred is within each of us. Every human. The fact that it manifests itself in government, in politics, is irrelevent. It is a human condition that will never change untill every one of us looks inward for the answers rather than out.

    January 12, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • OGonzales

      Why can't we blame the shooter AND look at the political environment? The tactics of the right even before Dick Armey that make the 'guvmint' the enemy are what could reasonably be called amti-american. That's what bothers me more than even this tragedy can: the nuances of ideas, the complex problems...these things need to constantly change, and to be seen as part of a constructive process, and the aspect of politics that has to do with winning at any cost, with means to an end, is dominant now, and combined with lobbyists paying for campaigns has led to a totalitarian atmosphere. There seems to be little hope of being civilized, of working together. The gun rhetoric is just icing on a very crappy cake.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. terrencej38

    If this supoose to be "one nation under GOD",why hate anyway ?

    January 12, 2011 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      "One nation under gun"....here I fixed it.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sherri W.W.#1~ILLinois

    I dont believe we need to be saying one word against the Sheriff in AZ! The man told the truth and we ALL need to listen and straighten out this country~OUR COUNTRY.The Sheriff turned 75 yesterday,and has seen simpler and better times,for every citizen in this country.Where we have been headed for thw past 2 years is NOT SUSTAINABLE.It will affect every one of us and our loved ones.So~lets calm down,shut up the crazy talk and move this Nation forward! Lets put the 2004 restriction back on,that Congress simply let expire,for automatic guns and clips~a regular gun does plenty ,and NO ONE needs an automatic unless you are Police or Military~which is what the 2nd amendment meant to start with.There would be several folks alive if the gunman had a regular gun! And,it shows the priorities that we could NOT POSSIBILITY let tax cuts for the RICH expire,but NO PROBLEM in 2004 about the gun control~better let yr reps.in Wash.D.C. know that will no longer fly for we MUST return to being BETTER PEOPLE NOW!

    January 12, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      .…so, an anti-government, anti-federalist kook exercises his second amendment remedies against a Democratic elected officials….But let’s work hard on “not jumping to conclusions”. I thought “if the shoe fits” was a very successful “Obama is a socialist” rant for the right wing? So let’s continue using that!

      There are HUNDREDS of Tea-Party inspired Jerrods out there:



      Spread the TRUTH

      January 12, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • JulesT

      Very well stated. You are correct. Our politicians should be setting an example on how to get along and respectfully disagree without disdain, nastiness, rude and insulting manners using violence to get their messages across.; this behavior is not tolerated by our children whether at home or at school. If any of our childrend behaved in such a manner, they would be repremanded and suspended from school. There is a zero tolerrance in school for such bad behavor and there should be a zero tolerance in our leaders.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Adiff

      Dupnik was not only completely WRONG, he was speaking for partisan political advantage. Taking advantage of a tragedy for personal political gain is as low as it gets. It's actually even beneath ambulance chasing lawyering!

      And now we here Democratic lawmakers calling for Soviet style censorship of political speech.

      Have you folks lost your minds?

      January 12, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. tom

    U.S. politica has not become to angry and hateful, but Republican politics has. That's not to say Democrats don't also use charged language and personal attacks, but for every instance a Democrat uses such language, there are dozens of examples of the GOP using more vitriolic and targeted language and imagery. It is also more common from leaders of the Republican party where as Democratic use of such language comes for the most part from supporters, not the elected leadership or the top of the Democratic media. Both sides are guilty, but the GOP in particular has soured political debate and the news media is too afraid to call them out on it.

    January 12, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob from Pittsburgh

      Tom: please read what the man is saying.. your rant is not needed, is exactly what is not needed..

      January 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob from Pittsburgh

      Sorry I mean Tony...

      January 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Radical Republicans are no different than radical Muslims!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      January 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      They are worse. Their religion say to LOVE, not hate and incite to kill.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Republicans? Really? Democrats use the targeting bullseye maps, it's called targeting!!! Stop picking one side out over the other, war/fighting references are used by both sides, it's politics of old and new, no changes. Wasn't it Obama who said, "if they bring a knife to the fight, we'll bring a gun". Why aren't you referencing that line when you lambast republicans. Does that not fit into your one sided story? Bush was hanging from a noose wearing a hitler mustache at nearly every protest rally during his 8 years in office, was that inciting anger? There's one thing to be partisan, and another to be blind to the facts. Lame.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      so a line from a movie being compared to explicit call to gun violence (second amendment remedies) against political opponents? That tells us you are very objective. Go away now.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luciana

      Well said and exactly my thoughts.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adiff

      Where was Dupnik when crowds hanged Arpaio and Pearce in efigy? Where was all the outrage when there were death threats against Pearce and the Arizona Governor?

      This is pure partisan politics of the most cynical and destructive kind, and it's an insult to the victims of this tragedy.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Religious Sects

    Politically motivated assasinations (attempts) have been around forever.
    But yes, there is too much anger in politics, by both politicians and the public Our representatives should be part of a cooperative system not an adversarial system. The basic format of our government and legal system has a flaw that causes this.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. Fatigued

    The political conversation in this country has gotten way out of hand. I think politicians often will say as much as we citizens allow. We need to hold them to a higher standard than we've been allowing in the past. I think we've been permitting them to divide and conquer as a electorate. My family and I have very different political opinions, but we would never talk to each other the way some of the politicians and reporters talk about the opposition. We just have different opinions, but you can't convince me that a family member who votes differently is evil or going to bring down civilization. Let's write the politicians who represent our respective parties and let them know that if they can't speak civilly they just won't get our votes.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • abby

      Good posting. Common sense. How refreshing.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adiff

      Politics in the U.S. has always been a rough contact sport. At least we don't have gangs of thugs attacking and intimidating our opponents, or fight duels any more....but that wasn't unusual in the U.S. not very long ago. Discourse today is actually far more civil and polite than it's been for most of our history. This is nothing, and it's incited no one to anything. And even if it did....it's no good reason to destroy freedom. And that's exactly what some are doing for partisan political ends or because their faint-hearted namby-bambys.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • jpowell1013

      well said! i would much rather listen to someone who makes me think, than to someone who would make me angry at or about another's viewpoint. c'mon folks...we have all sinned in thought, word and deed; by what we have done and by what we have left undone. own up to your mistakes, left AND right, fix it, and let's get back on track with truth and fact, not emotion.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sharon

    I'm afraid the underlying problem is far worse than hateful speech; rather, it is a lack of honor among those supposedly representing us. Honorable men and women would understand they are elected to represent all Americans and while they may attack different viewpoints than their own, never would they stoop to attacking the personage of the opponent. Are the belligerents the people you want to be role models for the citizenry and the children of this country?

    January 12, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • abby

      I concur with your comments.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Switch on faux news any night and tell me one time that you don't hear hateful rhetoric fron both hosts & conservative guests. Orally tries to out-shout everyone, Hanratty, the same & Beck is just plain scary because I truly believe that he thinks he's a preacher, spreading his words of hate. Yet the sheeplle listen to this crap and thinf that since they heard it on tv it must be true. Kind of like if you read it in National enquirer it must be true.

      January 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MKEblues

    I would say that the majority of us conservatives don't hate anyone. It's the liberal socialist marxist agendas for the nation we despise. The progressive liberals in the Democrat party will always interpret it as "hating" someone when someone disagrees with them. And now a bill to limit this "hate" speech is going to be introduced in Congress by Slaughter. This kind of thinking is what we hate. I used to be centrist but I got pushed to the right. Go for it now libs!

    January 12, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      please define marxist socialist please? or do you even know what it means?

      January 12, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • MKEblues

      TONY: You. Bye now.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Thanks for confirming my point. You are ignorant, but I am a Marxist socialist. Go oil that gun.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      I know what a Marxist-Socialist is but it's the ignorant Conservative fanatics like you MKEblues,who are spewing all this vitriollic hatred across the country. My question to you is,did you ever get past the 5th grade in school???

      January 12, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      @ Frank. lol...what school? He needs no school. Fox News channel tells him what to think and who to hate, daily.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • USMarine

      Mike, Mike, Mike you are the problem, and any others that beleave you need to hate someone for public discourse. Guns and Bibles make for strange bed follows but that is what this nation has become. And u mike are the problem not the answer!!

      January 12, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      That's curious Frank,I was about to ask MKEblues the very same question. I get so sick and tired of all these right-wing fanatics spewing their ignorance on this website.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob from Pittsburgh

      Wait a second... Tony is right... these people have no idea, they have never read history, they just heard someone say it and now they repeat like a parrot, ehre is no a country in the world that follows that doctrine anymore, Marx define a economic model, a bad one but is an econmic model.. this person seems complete unaware of the subject.. is just repeating something he or she heard.. a parrot in my view...

      January 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Mike, you are absolutely right. Don't pay any attention to these uneducated lemmings.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • abby

      MKEblues, may I suggest that you enroll in some political science courses before throwing out labels of "liberal," "socialist, and "marxist?" It might help.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • sowgoodseeds

      Wait, wait, wait, everyone! MKEblues was actually extending an olive branch... in his own way. That's the cue we miss that divides us. Conservatives absolutely DO NOT want socialism in America. I don't either, and I'm a liberal. I lived in a couple of socialist countries in Europe, and while they weren't BAD places to live, I got sick of people telling me I couldn't do things (employment-wise) because of my status. And they tax EVERYTHING! And while they enjoy six weeks vacation and health care, finding work is nearly impossible and so many people don't have a PURPOSE or drive. It was my experience that the government, through welfare, actually paid people NOT to work!
      My point is, to a conservative, they think we liberals don't honor our RIGHT to work, to have PURPOSE. And we liberals just want a safety net for those people who CAN'T work – because it could be me someday!
      I'm taking a vow to REALLY understand the conservative viewpoint. Our country needs them and they need us.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Are you serious?? Consevatives don't hate anyone? Are you in a cave or a mental facility with no television or newspapers? I'm still shaking my head on your comment. Simply rediculous

      January 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dave

    As an independant, I like to see good points in both parties. McCain's attempt (just get me some good lookin' woman) to incorporate "fast food-reality tv" aspects into politics failed miserably, and now that parasite and extremely unqualified Palen is dug in like a tick. I'm rooting for the Republican party. Get some tick remover.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  12. John

    We have always had civil discourse in politics throughout our history for any party or group to use this tragedy for political gains is beyond pathetic. Our political system did not cause this problem a lone mad man is to blame. We may as well blame movies and music for the actions of this man because it could make as much sense as blaming individual politicians for the action of this lunatic.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      so, in other words, actors like Robert Deniro are the same as politicians Sarah Palin or Sharon Angle? Neither one os responsible for what they say, or how they say it? I knew you rightwingers were fake, but thanks for a confirmation. 😉

      January 12, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Funny how the target (no, no... they were survey markers) site is gone and Palen is talking about loving peace. People were killed and Palen only cares about her image. Talk about beyond pathetic.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      @ Dave. Palin is digging a deeper hole. She is talking about "blood liebel" now, a piece she took from myesterday's op-ed piece on Wall Street journal (Ruppet Murdoch owns both WSJ and FauxNews). So now she is also either pretending to be a Jew, or is ignorant of what "blood liebel" really means. In the coming days, I will be enjoying seeing her completely come undone...;-)

      January 12, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Tony: the best way to deal with Palen is let the conversation and situations play out, and watch and listen as she squirms and jives to tries and look like a star. If her upper echelon position in the Republican party weren't so dangerous it would be hilarious. I beg conservative Republicans to grow some guts and debate this "person" with logic and intelligence.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sherri W.W.#1~ILLinois

    The other thing we need to do in this country,is MOVE ON PAST S.PALIN~way past! A woman who cant come out and even TALK to the public~Good Lord~she has become someone we all need to forget in a hurry.She can make any excuse~so can Beck,Limbaugh,whoever~or on the left either~whichever~we dont NEED MORE EXCUSES. WE NEED TO FIX IT SO WE ARE ALL DECENT ACTING ONCE AGAIN! As for what MsPalin said on her VIDEO~yeah,there WAS a time folks dueled with guns~THAT WAS THE OLD WEST,when your life expenctency and your childs,was short.ANOTHER ABSOLUTE NONSENSE STATEMENT and we have to be better than that now,or we will lose this Nation as we know it. AND so will our children~forever.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Palin had nothing to do with this, using your own personal dislike of her and accusing her of somehow having a role is flat out stupid. Was there a problem when Democrats used a 2006 map of the US using bulls eyes on states they were trying to win? Of course not. Did Obama using a movie line about bring a gun if republican brought a knife do you really think he was being literal? Of course not. It is time to put your own personal dislike to the side when it comes to this tragedy.

      It has become quite transparent that those who dislike Palin will look to cast blame on her no matter what the topic is.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • USMarine

      John john john It is not that sister sarah put bullseye on the web sight, it is that u defend this kind of action that makes others think u r a nut also. please stand back and defend this women on any subject, u will see she is fake and in it for the $$$

      January 12, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Democrats use the same targeting map with actual bullseyes. The "great" Bob Beckel, liberal strategist, claims to have even invented the targeting bullseye maps! You take an irrelevent commonly used strategy and tie it to an event that has zero evidence of any connection. The killer was mentally ill without any history of politically charged rhetoric. If you don't like Sarah Palin or conservatives, argue them on the facts, not on falsely conjured up claims.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • abby

      Albeit lacking proper grammar and pronunciation, Palin is an extremist demagogue. She is sufficiently articulate to engross the less educated and/or less rational who (sadly) think as she does. However, she along with faux news (as I call Fox News) is beating the drum of extremism and hate and violence through imagery and words. Yet, she along with the others (like Limbaugh) deny culpability and rather blame the left, the "leftist" media, etc.
      We have allowed pundits and politicians alike to hijack our political discourse and engage in rhetoric without reason, sound-bites without sense.
      Our nation needs to realize that if we continue along these lines we will rend our nation.

      When extremism makes inroads, the roads lead to death and destruction.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Anothermuse

    Is this even a question? Has politics become too angry? That's all it is. Who can make the most of their 20 second sound bit with inflammatory statements. The real question,that never gets asked, is why the media fuels the fire? You can't claim you are objectively reporting issues when you put two diametricly opposed people in the room and then let them shout at each other for 3 minutes and attempt to call it news...

    January 12, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Aria

      The problem is, that kind of thing gets ratings, which is ultimately what news networks are after. FOX News's info-tainment formula has worked brilliantly for them, and other networks have followed suit just to be able to compete in the ratings race. People like Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann are going to draw in more viewers than a simple rundown of current events and politics, and talking heads screaming at each other over things they may not even understand is more interesting to people than the 6 o'clock news. And now, we see more and more of this sort of aggressive, militant behavior - behavior that wouldn't have been tolerated 20 years ago - in everyday politics. I don't know if the media has influenced some of it, but it certainly hasn't discouraged it. Any rational or moderate voice is drowned out in favor of shouting matches and name calling.

      Nobody seems to have ideas or answers to problems anymore. They just want to point fingers.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Newyorker

    Some other head-scratchers from CNN:
    – Is Obama a Democrat?
    – Do birds fly?
    – Do cats meow?
    – Is the Pope Catholic?

    January 12, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
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