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. Lisa

    After I saw and read the news about the memorial service I was really impressed. I felt that this was really a country-uniting speech. What could be wrong? Ok – so I am not naive but was hoping to see some short-term impact of the speech on this somber occasion. I guess I wanted believe that for my country’s sake. So when I began to visit some usual blogs at CNN, Yahoo and Fox News I came crashing down to the earth. Haters keep on hating and it is on both sides. Nothing affects these people. Their hatred is in their DNA. They found faults with the speech, doubted the intent and sincerity and even his patriotism. This President will never catch any break from this group. I never hated Bush – disliked his policies not his color, disliked his wars but not his character. I never wished injury or death to him in any form. My son memorized his 9/11 speech. The rhetoric is up several notches today and almost irreversible. This may be the Time for the moderates to stand up and be counted.

    January 13, 2011 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      great great point

      January 13, 2011 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. Sandra B

    Seems like they need the national guard there.

    January 13, 2011 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Sandra B

      maybe we should move one of those military bases to Arizona. They seem to need some help there.

      January 13, 2011 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |

    I am an American. Democrat supporting Americans, Republican supporting Americans, you are my brothers and sisters. I am not into the hippie type peace and love crap, but seriously, we are not enemies. We need to unite as the people, and ask ourselves why we even listen to the politicians that are causing this divide. We are becoming polarized and it is sad. People on both sides are spewing hatred.

    January 13, 2011 at 4:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      "piece and love crap"....but "let's unite".

      January 13, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ade

    Americas problem with politics doesnt just exist inside America, their foreign policies have alienated them even more. How can the normal joe believe in a politician that is surrounding by hollywood (fake) you have lost the little man here. Every time I see Sarah palin it makes me shudder with anger, is she a politician or an actress?? The country is a complete mess

    January 13, 2011 at 6:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jack

    I love these modern world view definitions, such as "unbalanced individuals." Two hundred years ago they would have called them individuals who are without hope because they have not been taught of the grace of God in Jdsus Christ. And who do you think is at fault for that? You guess it! It's the American Civil LIberties Union (ACLU) which has been fighting violently for their god, the Devil, for the last 70 years to remove anything to do with God from the public sphere.

    January 13, 2011 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
    • standingwave

      No Jack.The ACLU has been fighting to give voice to those who are too weak and small to resist exploitation and oppression by the more "godly" among us.

      January 13, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    You incorrectly assume that political discussion in the US sparked this tragedy. I see no political party in the US using Mein Kampf, which was one of his favorites and motivators. The problem has been in the backlash in the wake of the tragedy. First, you have pundits claiming the conservatives caused the tragedy. This is the definition of hate speech, and I am sad that this occurred. This was returned by some (not as many, thankfully) with a call that liberals were the real motivation, since some of the reading material behind the madman was from the extreme left of European politics. This too is hate speech. The truth is that a madman committed these acts because of his mental deficiencies. And, to answer your question, YES, American politics has grown too heated. When liberals blame conservatives of murder, and the response is to claim the same of liberals, things have gone too far.

    January 13, 2011 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. karek40

    If you honestly believe that socialism is the best course for the nation or just the opposite that socialism is the worst course for the nation how does one try to convince the other they are wrong without stressing the one being told you are wrong. The stronger one of the believers makes their argument the greater the stress and stronger the other feels compelled to defend their position. So to answer the question "Have politics in U.S. become to angry, hateful?" the answer is it has always been this angry and hateful. In the past there were duels to the death over different political views, the difference is today through television and the sensationalism created by the media everyone is pulled into the conflict. Perhaps a better question is – is the media partially responsible for the violence and that is the debate going on at this time.

    January 13, 2011 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      good point. we need to agree on definition of socialism by the way, because some people look like they can't read on their own.

      January 13, 2011 at 7:54 am | Report abuse |
  8. Luis Teixeira

    Is a fact that this not happen if some policies are not so radical, only you have to take all that facts that Arizona have the worse policies anti immigrant that a llow the police to act agains hispanics, the media hit all the time making look criminal to allthe hispanics in the states, reaction of the entire world comparing arizona with the holocaust nazi in germany and rejecting the republican policy, the republicans feel that they been hit for all that don't think like them make gulty tothe goverment for not act, the constant matchs fromthe immigrants and the citizens of this nation asking for a solution the is been ignored and rejected by republicans partisan....Really any guy with a small mental ill gan take a gun and do this.....and other states want to take the same republican policies in other states.....wehave to be blind and hartless....

    January 13, 2011 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tony

    I also wanted to add, that pandering to large corporations and transnational corporate interests is a dead end road. Over the last few decades our vibrant free market system had transitioned to a hub of top-heavy conglomerations of monopolies. Uninhibited Mergers and Aquisitions have consolidated almost all domestic industries, and as any easy money chasing scheme (or a pyramid) spilled into a more sinister process of outsourcing of American jobs, as last means of ensuring the ever increasing profits and revenue growth. Indeed, the end of this shell game in already in plain sight.

    January 13, 2011 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tony

    The American middle class has been decimated, not because of "wealth redistribution" or "illegal aliens", but illegal politicians who capitalize on their positions of power and influence as means of personal enrichment. Even the very monster corporations and Wall Street that you so agressively defend share less and less of American patriotism, as they are mostly owned by foreign interests and shareholders, and have leveraged themselves to be completely insulated from the economic downturns on the backs of taxpayers.

    January 13, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tony

    As a result, the only wealth redistribution that your Republicans aptly enable is taking money from the American middle class and give it to obscure foreign shareholders of the industrial sector monopolies that you have built. You must have felt it too, as only recently the Republican party was nearly bankrupt and out of favor with the same corporations you helped foster. The country is in deep trouble, not due to some "socialist" policies (look up the definition of this word by the way), but due to poor governance and selling of domestic interests to the highest corporate bidder.

    January 13, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tam

    They're mad that the Republicans did not win (what a choice!) and that a black man dared become President. No matter how intelligent and capable. Can you imagine our America right now with McCain and Palin at the helm?! God bless us and help us.

    January 13, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Imagine, God forbid, something had happened to Pres. McCain (purely because of his age and health issues), then "blood liebel" Palin would be our President.

      January 13, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Navybill

    It is not so much politics as political rhetoric inflamed by the news media. Here is a news flash for most folks, politics is inherently divisive, but most politicians will find a way to generally work together for common good. My argument is not with politicians and politics, but with most forms of the media. The media will generally be the one to flail around creating trouble while the rest of us, politicians included, just do the best we can. Let’s get real for a few moments and accept that most people genuinely desire to live in some reasonable sense of peace and harmony. For the media to bash one party or the other speaks ill of the media and our “outrage” should be directed at the media. How can we do that, you ask? Just don’t buy their “stuff”. Once we, as fair-minded intelligent consumers understand that the purpose and intent of the media is not to report the news, but to create the news their effort to inflame and foment will be vacated.

    January 13, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      I think your logic is true. However, we as consumers can't rule by controlling our consumption. The information is not symmetrical. We can't even figure out what's made in America these days. But this is certain, turning your TV and having one of the hate channels on gives them measured ratings and contributes to their bottom line, as they are charging premiums to their advertisers. A more active role is needed, in my opinion. Like calling Rush or Becks advertisers and complaining, telling them that hate speech taints their commercial brands and products. Maybe then they get the message, imho.

      January 13, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Dennis C. Pence


      Most politicians work together for the "common good"? I have been around 64 years and have yet to see most politicians work for anyone's good except their own. Politicians has gone from "serving the public" to serving their own agendas – I'm sure, in their opinion, they think their agenda is better for the country than what the ignorant American people think. I haven't met many politicians that I would hire to run a small business – unless I wanted to bankrupt it. I'm talking about both sides of the isle. I do agree that most "normal people" do want to live in "peace and harmony" and politicians make that virtually impossible. All of this talk about "civility" applies to everyone but them and without a return to "morality" – civility is a pipe dream. We need ti clean up this country and set an example for the world – like we used to do. We have tried to become so "politically correct" and cater to the "fringe" elements of society – regardless of their morals) and then GREED enters the equation. Share the wealth, but not mine is their motto. Take from the rich and give to the poor – that's the job of the church, not the government. They aren't Robinhood. Holding people to "accountability and responsibilty" (starting with Washington) would be a good start.

      January 13, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      @ Tony, dissenting views are not necessarily "Hate Speech".

      January 13, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. Navybill

    Tony, my personal opinion is that you need to get off the computer, hoist your fanny out of that chair and move out into the world. Consumers carry more weight that you give us credit for and to single out two individuals without pointing a collective finger at ALL media is simple-minded. Have a nice day. 🙂

    January 13, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      I did not realize that my "fanny" was a part of discussion on consumer practices. This only takes credibility out of your point, in my opinion. Have a nice day and keep it classy, Navy Bill.

      January 13, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  15. Randy

    The hate is just part of the divide and conquer strategy the elites in the country use to hide how corporations rule the country.

    January 13, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
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