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. Lance

    Isn't it so sad that all of them are in denial.After 25 years of hate spewing and self denial,"If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.Then it is a Republican in denial."

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

      if walks like socialist and quaks like a socialist then the president is a naive idiot. well said lance. i agree with you 100% that the liberal agenda is over.

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

      Anti-government kook exercises his second amendment remedies against a Democratic elected officials, "targeted" by the right wing. If the shoe fits...What was your excuse again?

      January 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. marxist

    america is only angry by buyer's remorse for electing that man to the whitehouse. i have never be so ashamed to be an american. i think he's almost worse than jimmy carter.

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

      and you are calling yourself marxist? do you not understand meaning of words like Jarrod Laughner?

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

    Obviously the responders did not live through the 60's. The shootings of MLK, JFK, and RFK were political acts, not those of a madman. The anti war riots carried on by the left and the actual fights between the left and the right were common place and in some ways encouraged by the media. In many ways, the rhetoric has toned down. Does that mean that I am satisfied with how it is now? No. But those condemning the right need to look at some comments made by those on left; and those blaming the left need to do some self reflection also. Neither is blameless. I am always amazed that neither the left nor the right can win any election without the middle, but they always seem to be ignored or treated like idiots.

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

      Look at the calendar and stop living in the past and use old excuses to justify current crimes perpetrated by right wing politicans and media pundits.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      See, Tony, you have made my point. The questions is "Have politics in the US become too angry.' To respond to that implies that one must consider the past and compare it to the present. Someone that has no ax to grind says, "In the 60's things were worse than today, so I would say the answer to that is no." Someone who has an ax to grind says "Ignore the question, blame it on the right wing, and move on."

      January 12, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ProudLiberalVeteran

    Israel, here I come. Mazel Tov, America

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

      Don't leave. Palen is joke of the week. Gone tomorrow. Come on... you gotta admit, she's good for a belly laugh.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ProudLiberalVeteran

    Marxist – your facsist policies are better? Oy!

    January 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      you spelled some words correctly, but most likely that was by accident.

      January 13, 2011 at 3:11 am | Report abuse |
  6. Dave

    Mostly it's due to the incredibly polarized political system where the media attempts to actively pit one side against the other depending on the news agency. Politicians do this as well.

    Worse yet? People are too ignorant to realize it and they let themselves get overwhelmed with emotion, causing them to decide their views with anger on a subject they don't know much about.

    January 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. duke

    "Jimmy Rebel"
    So I'm afraid of SS Sarah??
    Well your right,myself and most black people are afraid of another reagan revolution,
    We almost didn't make it out of the last one(crack)!!
    Besides you Palin defenders are giving this dude an air tight defense"he's crazy"
    He'll be home before his 44th birthday,thanks to you "Jimmy Rebel"!!

    January 12, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      I'm sure the left will do what ever they can to keep this guy off death row.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Left, right.... let someone in the center, someone sane decide this.
      He shot a 9 year old. Give him the chair.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brieske

      duke. Like I have always said, you are not very intelligent. I try to adjust to that for our interactions but lately have been unable to find any pot.
      The fact is the shooter was able to get to the crimescene, take aim and shoot his victims. This means he is not crazy. In fact, he is cold calculating murderer. Who should be executed fast using sharks.
      Sending a strong message to other potential murderers. You murder, you get your penis and internal organs eaten by sharks live on television. That's American and a brilliant deterrant.
      And it's what God wants done. Otherwise, I wouldn't be saying it. And a failure to comply will bring about more proof of this fact.

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

      Jim, whatever, just don't shoot anyone.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brieske

      Tony. I don't own a gun. I don't hunt. I own a fly fishing pole and reel. Please come to my house, I will beat you to death with it. The headline will read, Man Killed By Fishing Pole Wielding Murderer, First Time in the History of the Planet.
      The first line will be: A wimpy man named Tony was killed by a fly fishing pole wielding powerful man named Jim Brieske. Of course it would continue: Nasa scientists who are experts in inertia, will be trying to recreate the amazing event.
      Finally the story would end: Tony's sister Soni said, Tony always had a fear of fishing. One time when I was 12 and he was 18, we were laying down by the river, he refused to fish. Said he was afraid the fish might get him and he rather just lay there under the blanket with me where it was safe. His hands sure were cold.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ProudLiberalVeteran

    That Conservative agenda worked for me. It only cost ME my wife's life, courtesy of an insurance company death panel

    January 12, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brieske

      We all die. Your wife is in Heaven.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. CMS

    It's particularly pathetic when you consider that both of these supposed "sides" are essentially the same thing – and they're not on any of our sides. It's amazing the views that otherwise potentially intelligent individuals will take just because they align themselves with the party (which is essentially a politicians' employment union) instead of the person.

    Both parties want big, controlling government. And they've accomplished quite a bit when it comes to controlling thought. Just one example – consider the origins of the root word "liberal" as it has been redefined, vs. its derivatives such as liberty, etc. Compare that with that same word's definition EVERYWHERE ELSE in the world – freedom, privatization, etc.

    Controlling language is the key to controlling thought. Once you control thought, you control people. There's a whole lot'a slaves out there today...

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

      Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

      January 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ProudLiberalVeteran

    No, no death penalty. Give him life, no parole, in general population

    January 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tim

    Sherrif Dupnik said what had to be said. People can accuse him of politicizing this or lambast him for taking a critical stance against the media (including TV, radio, and Internet); however, let's keep something in mind: Many elected and government officials have described an increase in the number of threats made towards them. Likewise, the number of incidences in which domestic lone wolves have taken their violence to the streets has also increased sharply in the past couple of years: 1) James Von Brunn (shot up the Holocaust museum; anti-Semite); 2) Richard Poplawski (laid an ambush for three cops; Alex Jones and Glenn Beck enthusiast/white supremacist/anti-Semite); 3) Andrew Joseph Stack III (flew plane into IRS building in Austin, TX; anti-government/ultra-libertarian); 4) Hutaree Christian militia (threatened to bomb police funeral; radical Christian fundamentalism/anti-government); and I'm sure there are more examples, and of course, the horrible tragedy in Arizona–a hotbed of anti-immigration and anti-federalist, fear- mongering paranoia.

    Should we play ignorant to these incidences of violence? Should we simply dismiss such incidences as the work of mentally deranged lunatics? Or should we take more seriously how the nation and our society have popularized and even profited from fear, intolerance, and hatred–so much so that it creates a cultural environment in which talk of "revolution" becomes mainstream, in which being anti-government can be worn as a badge of pride, in which bogus conspiracy theories are presented as facts.

    This threat of lone wolves was apparently on the Homeland Security screen when it released the 2009 report on domestic threats, which was immediately dismissed and ridiculed because it irritated those people who viewed it as some threat to their political sensibilities. Are we so attached to vitriole that we are willing to ignore the facts? And not just any facts, but those provided to us by professional intelligence analysts and law enforcement?

    Let's face it, the Internet has been, for some time, littered with nonsensical ramblings from all sides of the political spectrum, whether left or right that make UFOs, Area 51, and Bermuda Triangle look like children's bedtime stories. Here's just a short list: 9/11 inside job conspiracy, Obama's evil socialist agendas, Palin's fear of death panels over healthcare reform, FEMA camps, water fluoridation, FDA conspiracies with BigPharma, 2nd amendment conspiracy to confiscate all guns, chemtrails, the Federal Reserve conspiracy, population control, Obama's birth certifcate debacle, the NAFTA conspiracy, and, of course, the coup de grace–the mother of all conspiracies–the Protocols of the Elders of Zion–a conspiracy so heinous, it was used as justification by the Nazis to 'exterminate' Jews, and remains in some ways at the center of many branches of conspiracy theories.

    So, ask yourselves: Do you really believe that these constant streams of fear-based propaganda we watch on TV, hear on extremist radio, or read on the Internet will NOT have an impact on our society, let alone the mentally disturbed? And, putting mental illness aside for a moment, should we as a nation fall for fear-mongering conspiracies? Shouldn't we as a nation be smarter than this? Shouldn't our government and our society in general do a better job of dispelling the lies, myths, and nutty conspiracy ideas floating out there. This stuff is more than just rhetoric. We're talking a deep-rooted fear that appears to dwell in the hearts and minds of a significant percentage of Americans concerning the future of America. And some, who just so happen to be a few cards shy of a full deck are just nutty enough to take the next step, but not without first being fueled by the plethora of madness that is circulating our air waves and Internet (especially the Internet!).

    It's time our country re-enter an age of enlightenment. It's time that we, as a nation, set aside our differences and come together to work toward our "common" goals. We must distance ourselves from the hateful rhetoric and do our best to dispel outlandish claims and paranoia. We have effectively created an "us and them" mentality that is disfiguring our country.

    It's time people take off the tinfoil hats and listen to reason.

    January 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pliny

      Well said Tim.

      January 12, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Great write up and on the point. A pleasure to read. Unfortunately, we need to eliminate ignorance first, and that is a quite daunting task...

      January 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brieske

      Tim. We have the worst president in the history of the United States of America. He is unqualified thus incapable. It's not a training position in a U.S. government funded program called, Learn to be President of the United States of America.
      The Democrat Political Elite were told by the Republican Political Elite, Barack Obama can not do the job. We hire executives for our companies and would not hire Barack Obama. Please listen to us, don't do this. The Democrat Elite did not listen.
      Now they see the Republican Elite were right. The fight will continue until Barack Obama is no longer president. The best thing for this country is agreement. He must go after one term.
      And pray to God he doesn't get everyone killed 50 years from now.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Thank you for illustrating my point, Jim.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tony

    anti-government crazy killer bears his 2nd amendment remedies against a Democrat, targeted by right wing

    January 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim Brieske

      Tony. Throughout history there have been many many people murdered. It would take me years to list them all. Their political affiliations consist of just about every political organization ever put together.
      This fact makes your statement absurd and false.

      January 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. palintwit

    Check out Youtube – Twitter death threats sent to Sarah Palin. A compilation that was posted yesterday I believe. Four minutes of hilarity.

    January 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Caribou barbie is a threat to herself. Soon, she'll lash out against gravity, for "holding her down" 😉

      January 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Pliny

    There should be a gathering of people to protest this trend.

    Perhaps the gathering could take place in a notable place.
    Someplace with political significance...like maybe Washington DC.

    Maybe we could call the rally a 'Plea for Sanity' or something along those lines.

    Um...wait....my fone is ringing....why do John Stewart's lawyers want to talk with me?????

    January 12, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. 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 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • ProudAmerican

      You are a nice example of hate speech and hypocracy.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
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