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. Larry

    This gets the "WELL, DUH!" award. Dems spew hatred towards anyone who chooses to disagree with them, attempting to demonize ANYONE who will stand up to oppose them. GOP responds in kind with vitriolic nonsense.

    Nobody has the BALLS to stand up and say, "ENOUGH – I'M NOT DOING THAT!" and ignore the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

    January 13, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  2. Barrett

    Saddened by what I am reading here. Compromise is needed, and needed badly. Why? Because whatever direction this country goes politically, economically, and militarily, its the direction we ALL go. So let all voices be heard, and let a common ground be sought. Can the Bush-Bashing and Obama-Bashing stop for one damn day? It's bad enough that one member of congress got shot in the head. The violence will continue if we keep ratcheting up the hate and rhetoric. Chill people, have a drink, and be thankful you live in a country where we all get to complain and booze as much as we do!

    January 13, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      I do not like boozing personally, but companing....now you are onto something 😉
      In your opinion, as someone who appears moderate, can Obama-bashing be "justified" by the past incidents of "Bush-bashing"? I am asking, because this is one the major "excuses" I keep hearing from the right. "You bashed OUR President, so now it is our turn". This coming from adults? I think this "tic for tac" state of mind is one of the main contributors to the current poisoned political environment...

      January 13, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      @ Tony, Conservative/Republican Bashing didn't stop when Bush left office. Ever heard of Randi Rhodes?

      January 13, 2011 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      @ Going, to be honest, I have never even heard of her, until you mentioned and I Googled her show. I am guessing she is a talk show host, judging by her website? Like I said, I have not heard any of her "material" before, but some of the things I read on her blog made sense...Things like:

      "Sad & Predictable Department: After the shootings in Arizona, there has been a huge surge in sales of the Glock semi-automatic pistol the killer used. Despite any evidence, gun buyers were afraid that Glock pistol could be banned. But then gun buyers are always afraid of something. I think that’s why they’re gun buyers. An Arizona gun storeowner explained the surge in Glock sales by saying “It’s in the news now. I’m sure the Green Bay Packers are selling all kinds of jerseys today as well.” Uh, yeah. But I don’t think any of those Green Bay Packers jerseys are going to end up killing anyone."

      A bit over the edge? Maybe. But is there a kernel of critical thought there? I think so. What do you think?

      January 13, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      @ Going, also, before I forget, I think bashing or lashing out at past politicians who are no longer relevant and lashing out at the current heads of state (for example) are not analogous. I sense a bit of faulty logic there. Bush is gone off the political stage now, and frankly I do not care about what someone says about him. We've all made out own personal conclusions about his 8 years of leadership. Bashing Bush and Bashing Obama is not the same, and Bush was bashed for his policies only while Obama haters still can't get his NAME right. I think most would agree, these are apples and oranges here.

      January 13, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. Doug Lynn

    The gap between what people expect in government services and what taxpayers can pay for without further damaging the economy is very likely to get worse and worse for a long time.

    We, the hard-working middle class are sick and tired and angry when it comes to paying for the choices of lazy, irresponsible people. We, the hard-working middle class are sick and tired and angry that our Politicians refuse to make the tough choices necessary to balance the budget. We know that our laws help wall street and other middle men get richer and richer at our expense. The hard-working middle class see the politically favored getting more and more at our expense. We see lazy, irresponsible Americans living nearly as good as we do even though they work little or not at all.

    We, the hard-working middle class know that as our local, state and national debt increases, taxes are going to be raised and government spending has to be cut. If you think our politics are angry know, just wait a few years. It is going to get a lot worse.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      But anger will not bring about any of the badly needed solutions. Ben Franklin, one of Nations Founders said "Whatever begins with anger, ends in shame". This is a applicable as ever! I think if people feel anger about politicans, they need to channel it into researching the issues, then trying to support the matching solutions. Just lashing out, ranting, or falling for bumper sticker "solutions" will get us nowhere...

      January 13, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      @ Tony, but when a group of people are angry about what is going on in Washington and they band together to work within the system to change what they don't like in Washington, they are belittled by people like you and linked to all sorts of evils that had nothing to do with them.

      I think what you really believe is that people should work together and journey towards liberal/progressive ideas. All other ideas should be shunned and people that hold those beliefs should be reminded how stupid they are and should be ignored. In fact, those ideas are dangerous to Government and, therefore, treasonous. That about right?

      January 13, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      I am all for banding, just without carrying gun collection to a rally, or calling (or implying) for targeted assassinations. That agreed, I think you are spot on!

      January 13, 2011 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. Corey

    The man who went on this rampage is obviously mentally disturbed. Immediately after the shooting, we had krugman and that sheriff telling their version of what and why this tragedy happened. Now, everyone looks at that version of the truth as the de-facto theme for this massacre. Has there been any proof given of what the shooter's motivation was? Any? If there is (and not just subjective opinion from far-left zealots), please present it here. Typical of the left, they will never let an opportunity to bash conservatives as "hate-mongers" with nothing other than innuendo and no real proof of their contentions. Since the train has already left the building in this event, we continue to see this false representation of what the facts and motivations of this sick individual are. The left has looked at this tragedy not for how awful it is, but rather as an opportunity to frame an attack on conservative political thought as "fear/hate mongering" or "bigotry." I'm just waiting now for an attempt to revive the "fairness doctrine" idea advanced a few years ago-since the left is tired of continually getting their lunch handed to them by talk radio (just try and name one well know successful left-leaning nationally syndicated, popular radio talk show). The truth will set us free

    January 13, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. Heinrich

    "Hey leave me alone, that's my milk money"
    "I think you broke my nose."
    Sorry folks but it is about like that. The pathetic thing in all this is that when they get sent to the principals office the bullies are now trying to spread the blame around..."his head hurt my hand and he says his blood on my shirt is my fault – he started it – its not faaaaiir"

    January 13, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. patch vader

    It's all about winning and losing, making money or not , ratings or not. when you think about it, the elections are statistically very close, 51/49 52/48 etc- with margins that thin, who wants to say ' if I had said this, I might have won"? We have a legal system that is adversarial, our biggest tv day of the year is the super bowl. We have gone from marques of queensbury to mma in politics- too much at stake to lose-

    January 13, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dwane

    Politicians are the same today as they were 50 years ago. The change is in the media coverage. The media used to report the news, but because they are now competing in ratings, they've become biased and will try to inflame the public to continue to get ratings. Every news cast will report a murder as a murder. But more people will tune in if you cross the line and cast blame to one group of people. It took less than an hour for the media to cast complete blame for the Arizona shootings on Palin. I am sick of hearing about Palin. It's like she is on the news every day. The media has made her larger tham life, and they do this for the ratings. Only now are we finding out about the kid who pulled the trigger. If Palin was to blame, there would have been thousands of murders by now, and that just isn't the case.Reporters should report the facts and then let the investigators do their job, before stating your opinion as fact.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. Marc L from NY

    Read your history. American politics hasn't really changed. The difference is we the people. In the age of the internet, we are so much more educated, right? Wrong! Thinking you know something doesn't actually mean you do know. And knowing something doesn't actually mean you understand it either. Understanding what you know means accepting it as truth, as ugly as the truth may be. Politics has always been dirty, in America and everywhere else. Was rhetoric to blame for the assassination of President Lincoln? There is no difference between that and what happened in Arizona. The bottom line is there will always be people who are psychotic. Politics was just his excuse to commit murder.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. D Gannon

    The individual who committed this violent act would have "gone off" at sometime no matter what. He simply used a political gathering to do it. Ii does seem to me that all Politicians, D&R, have forgotten that they were elected to do the bidding of the people. All they want to do these days is preach their personal or party views without any concern for the people.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      I hope you are able to keep the same level headed outlook should, God forbid, anything similar happen to any of the right wing politicians. The reason I am saying this is that somehow I highly doubt that the politics of hate would change or go away. We are stuck in the quadmire of our own making, and purposefuly keeping our eyed wide shut.

      January 13, 2011 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. calico

    As a whole culture, we've become too violent. Children watch hundreds of violent acts on TV in any week. We not only accept psychopathic games such as Grand Theft Auto, we embrace them. Pop music is all about abuse... top of the charts is Eminem's hugely popular song about beating, lying, and possibly killing his girlfriend. Dog-fighting growing in popularity. NFL players beating their girlfriends and bringing guns to nightclubs. The gang problem is only getting worse. Those seeking help find it hard to get assistance through mental health services.... and may be treated as mistaken for wanting help with serious aggression. And now we have some extremist politicians who use fear, violence, and anger to manipulate their followers. No, it's not ok to put up a map of rifle cross-hairs on a map, showing where the "enemy" (politicians) live. It's not ok to brag about bringing guns to political rallies or to "reload" when you lose an election. America is starting to look more like a wild bunch of barbarians.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. warlord

    Someone hit the nail on the head, yes bush and cheney destroyed this country. Anyone who spoke out during those years where defacto investigated and renditioned. Everybody knows that, they are all just in denial.The pailins and the limbos and alike stoked the hate after obama was sworn in. At no time during bushes reign would anybody have attempted to speak out. They know they would have been jail or disapeared. What we are seeing is a bunch of pent up hatred that people held in during the previous dictatorship. Plain and simple. So why do we have a deficit. The answer is so simple. Its like the nose on your face. We have been occupying to countries for almost TEN 10 years at a cost on the low end of about 2 TWO billion DOLLARS a MONTH. Do the math. Yeah WALL STREET SCREWED US. BUT BUSH/CHENEY DONE US IN. Real simple. Accept that, then you can move on with your life.

    January 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Alex

    The right wing are responsible for that. To make it even worse, add their love of guns into the equation.

    January 13, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sweepkeep

    ♦☺☻☺♥ ◘○☺

    January 13, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. sweepkeep

    ♦☺☻☺♥ ◘○☺♦☺☻☺♥ ◘○☺

    January 13, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Gary

    While we contemplate the vitriolic debates, keep this in mind. One of Obama's top financial "rainmakers" was Vernon Jordan, a Democratic Party operative from the Clinton days who was Senior Managing Director at some major Wall Street banks. He worked for the late Bruce Wasserman, whose brother-in-law was Mitch McConnell and whose sister-in-law, Elaine Chao, was Bush's Labor Secy. Vernon Jordan was also a member of the Iraq Study Group with James Baker, who was the key attorney arguing against the Florida recount in the Supreme Court in 2000. Also onboard were Leon Panetta, Ed Meese (remember him from Reagan days, going after Playboy in 7-11 stores?), and several others.

    This stuff's more BI-partisan than we know. Source: Littlesis.org profiling the power brokers' "Friends" network.

    The "socialism" of Obama is somehow completely in service of Elite Wall Street wealth. Redistributing income? Yeah, to the Super-RICH!!!! With Obama's appointees Geithner, Bernanke, and Paulson before plus his advisors Rubin and Summers, over $13 Trillion in cash and guarantees was given to Wall Street in 12 mos. This is more than the entire history of US Gov spending. Michael Hudson described it as a wealth transfer comparable to the Norman Conquest!

    What a trick it has been to get a loud 40% of the population to be upset about unemployment benefits, after allowing most of the equity of this country to be asset-stripped, mined for cash/credit, and shipped overseas and to offshore banks and holding companies. People argue about this money and socialism and - on both sides - seem utterly clueless about the economics of reality. Even those who make the case of inequality of wealth usually understate it. Early idealists of Free Markets MEANT for it to be a system of rough equality of income, not one of a parasitic wealthy oligarchy ruling over the masses and LOANING them the means of survival, at interest. THAT is the Road to Serfdom - finance capitalism, which means DEBT-capitalism.

    For a déjà vu experience, check out - whether you like him or not - Noam Chomsky from 1994 writing about Clinton, NAFTA, and the myths of "free trade", actually sold as "protectionism" for corporate elites. While Clinton wavered and compromised on every promise, he held firm on protests against NAFTA which amounted to a dictatorial imposition of this oligarchic agreement for outsourcing our wealth. Today, finally, a few conservatives oppose this like it was a "Liberal" idea, ignoring that it was developed under Reagan-Bush and ultimately signed by Clinton.

    The point of creating the DLC within the Democratic Party was to push the Democrats in the direction of Reagan and Reaganomics, a war to make the working class poor in order to consolidate wealth. If there's such a thing as a "new world order", this is it.

    January 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
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