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. Tony

    Our sons, mothers and daughters will continue perishing as right-wingers continue scoring points by violent gun rhetoric, wrapped in consitution and "marxist" demonization.

    csgv.org/issues-and-campaigns/guns-democracy-and-freedom/insurrection-timeline

    “TEA PARTY – WATERING THE TREE OF LIBERTY WITH BLOOD OF INNOCENTS SINCE 2009″

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

    Politics has become extremely divisive, but the People are basically still middle of the road. This is the same situation ancient Rome faced when the Optimates and the Populares squared off against each other. That ended in numerous civil wars and an eventual dictatorship. America, learn a lesson.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. Richard in Texas

    Was the timing of his statement wrong? I agree. Was his statement true? Most definately yes! I found it interesting that not one person defended any of the quotes by Bachmann, Palin, Angle and the rest. Instead misquoted quotes by the President was continualy repeated.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. John

    Tony the only thing I see as fake is this delusional outcry about Palin. Democrats over the years have used similar terms yet the liberals refuse to acknowledge it and cast their blame on a person because of their own personal dislike. It truly is pathetic how low some of you will go

    January 12, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      She will be regretting the "blood liebel" more than the target map in the days to come. This woman does not know what words mean. Kind of like Jerrod Laughner.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ange

    YES, YES, YES!!!! It is not only angry, but vidictive and sinister

    January 12, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      How DARE you say that, you %$#@ing &^%$er &%^$#$er!!
      Just kidding.
      Debates are now focused more on zingers (and winks) than on policy issues.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  6. palintwit

    Palin political aspirations – meet Mr. Toilet. Mr. Toilet – meet Palin political aspirations.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Laura

    I have seen the problems of the 60's but never have I seen such hatred as there is now in politics. I was raised republican but would be ashamed to call myself one these days. The last 10 years have seen an increase in the hatred spewed especially on the republican side.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Thank you for being honest and respect! I too voted to Bush (twice), but now I see the errors on my way. We are all human.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  8. Olympia

    Anger solves nothing and only hurts the person holding the anger.
    If we stop FIGHTING for everything and start working towards our goals we would build solutions instead of tearing ideas down. We might actually get somewhere. Life is all perspective. The only way we can survive as a species is to stop holding so much anger as individuals. It just doesn't make anything better, it just makes things harder to deal with.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      It's not about fighting. It's about justice and holding the duschebag hate spewing politicians accountable, FOR ONCE! Otherwise, let's not punish criminals. Who needs "finger pointing" and "demonization", unless it's used daily against the Evil Kenyan?

      January 12, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bird

    Not so much angry…just tired of all the millionaire politicians.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ron

    Politics in this country is played like a War! Anything goes as long as you win. Lies, lies and lies coupled with catch phrases that are in themselves lies! Now everyone says it is just a difference in philosophy between Republicans and Democrats. Btu it really isn't, the Republicans will fight anything that helps the poor and keeps the poor down. A difference in philosophy would have a better Health care plan, not just Repeal, Repeal. The Republicans are about the Rich remaining richer and the Poor remaining poor, it is as simple as that! The Dems are no angels but more help for Poor and Jobless come from the Dems, a simple fact again. As long as this Wrong vs Right battle wages then attacks like Loughners will continue. Maybe not a reason to attack but his justification in the eyes of a Mad Man.Obviously this young man was failed by everyone, Parents, Schools, everyone! The Republican desire to not have Universal Health Care in this country coupled with their make the rich, richer and the poor, poorer is creating millions of this same scenario! The Virginia Sniper, two young men with Mental Health issues; Virginia Tech, a young man with mental health issues; Now, Arizona, a young man with mental health issues. Then when you add the constant venomous rhetoric from the shock jocks and the instant and overwhelming information or misinformation available from every source, it is dangerous out there and will get more so. The poor and Mentally unstable or poor jobless family members dying who have no health care, will eventually bite us in the ass. Survival is a strong emotional motivator that can rationalize anything that works or gives them a sense of justice. Survival emotions trump the law, logic and Right and Wrong! Just like the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the poor and hopeless can be used and directed to do almost anything by those feeding on their insecurities.Congress will miss the whole point and in the midst of the majorities demand for smaller government, will instead add more government to protect their asses! And all the money spent on Prosecuting this young man will be wasted! He is insane! If he is convicted of murder, means nothing to him. If we don't convict him of murder, others will use his situation to kill more. And we will have all missed the point. People need help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 12, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Thank you Ron! Very well said! Now republicans and their hate spewing outlets are "finding religion". All of a sudden. I guess it takes a certain body count for them to be civil. The violent anti-government gun rhetoric would get a child expelled from school, but they can turn on the TV and hear the calls for revolt and violent overthrow of the democratically elected government, coming from the Right Wing politicians all day long. All because we want to make sure people have access to health care and the cost concerns are addressed. Now it's Republican House majority, as a cost of 6 innocent lives, and perhaps more is to come as our country teeters on the brink of civil war. Thank you Republicans! Was that your "Pleadge to America"?

      January 12, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob from Pittsburgh

      Ron you stand correct..

      I am living here for the last six years and here are things that surprised me..

      Hungry children
      Lack of heath care (Costa Rica has better system)
      Support our troops, but I drive by Walter Reid in Washington and I spend 20 to 40 dollars on vets with obvious mental problems begging for a meal, that is how you support your troops.
      Poverty in most of the country that compares to a third world country
      Lots and lots ol old people still work at McDonalds Wal-Mart etc, because their retirement money is not enough and doesn’t cover medical bills.
      Bus after Bus loaded with seniors at the border with Canada to fill their prescriptions because they could not afford to di it here in the US.
      Mentally disturbed people allowed buying guns and ammo.

      I could go for a long time, but no time right now..

      An yes I am leaving this country soon..

      January 12, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. The Truth

    Those who don't take some time to learn about this country's history have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to anger and politics. We have become very polite and civilized in our politics compared to our forefathers. The straw that broke the camel's back in starting the Civil War was Abraham Lincoln's election as President. Andrew Jackson fought duels while President, at least one was even setup by his political opponents. Alexander Hamilton died from a duel that was over politics. There have also been countless riots and murders in this country over politics since its founding. Do we need to examine our ways and improve how we deal with politics, yes. What we should not be doing is using an incident caused by a crazy person as a basis. The only lesson that needs to be learned from this is we should not give a crazy person the means to go out and kill a bunch of people.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Anti-government kook exercises his second amendment remedies against a Democratic elected officials, "targeted" by the right wing….Don't jump to conclusions!

      Cyg, look at the calendar and come out of your cave! Put the old manuscripts away from just one second. The only "tyranny" we need to be afraid of is the one coming from the gun rattling right wing.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. Cyg

    US politics angry? You bet, just like the rest of the world – we're finding out we're not above it. Combine true philosophical differences in policy and proceedure between the parties; and then finding out no matter what party you voted for, you got screwed over because they don't really care about you (along with the IRS changing rules as they go day by day) – yes, I'd say politics are angry – we are angry – and we have EVERY RIGHT TO BE.

    January 12, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      We know. Republicans and tea party run on anger and emotion, not facts or actual data. This is why Republicans are scared to death now. If their right to un-inhibited hate speech is questioned, what's left of the "party". Think about it.

      January 12, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sherri W.W.#1~ILLinois

    And yes,you can also most certinly put some big blame on our movies and VIDEO GAMES~worst thing we ever invented~we have seen it with chilren in our own family~only 8~9 yrs old~where Drs. said"GET THEM AWAY FROM ANY VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES~WHAT DOES EVERYBODY THINK "makes criminals?" THE THINGS THEY SEE AN HEAR AS THEY GROW UP! That is what shapes a child.I would bet that ,with this gunman,it ALL had a bad effect on him~from the crazy talk EVERYWHERE,plus the guns&violence,and,TV&Video games! WHEN DOES ANYONE THINK WE SHOULD START CHANGING THAT SORT OF THING IF NOT NOW? My daughters have not permitted more than 1 hour of sane tv,or ANY violent video games,in their homes in years,some never! Not since one took her sons`violent sounding"music"tapes,cut them all up and trashed them years ago! Today that son is a newly graduated Police Officer,after 6yrs in the Navy~not a troubled young man~thanks to his Mother and Father! Isnt that what YOU want for YOUR CHILDREN?Or would you like to be in your house crying one day,as the gunmans family is today! BEST THINK IT OVER REAL HARD FOLKS! Lets move the nuts stuff out of childrens lives NOW TODAY!

    January 12, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. Joe

    if you accept that people can lead and influence then you also must accept that their choice of words can influence good and bad responses in others.

    We are adding this trailer into the discussion http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=424Z5frs70o

    January 12, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. gerald

    An incident egged on by Several crazy people Palin,Beck,Limbaugh,Angle......

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