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. John

    What does any of this have to do with the recent killing? Nothing and while you at it you may want to look up some hate speech out of your own party.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      March 24, 2010—After voting for health care reform legislation, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) receive faxes with drawings of nooses.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      March 21, 2010—As the U.S. House of Representatives enters a final round of debate over a controversial health care reform bill, Conservative blogger Solomon "Solly" Forrell calls for the assassination of President Barack Obama on his Twitter account. In two separate postings, Forrel writes, "AS.SAS.SINATION! America, we survived the #Assassinations of #Lincoln & #Kennedy. We'll surely get over a bullet 2 #BarackObama's head! ... The next #American with a #Clear #Shot should drop #Obama like a bad habit."

      January 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Roland

      Give it up John. You got whipped.

      January 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leslie

      Let's face it, the guilty rarely admit their guilt. Limbaugh, Palin, Hannity and the lunitic Beck (among others) should be band from public service of any kind!!!!

      January 12, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • MAC

      Everyone publishing commentary blaming republicans/conservatives/democrats/liberals and the offshoot Tea Party are obviously suffering reading comprehension issues.

      By all media reports Loughner's political beliefs went in both directions, conservative and liberal. He is, by many accounts, a pot smoking atheist who believes in small government. Loughner focused on Giffords back in 2007 after meeting her and asking her a question, the answer fell short of his expectations. Loughner is the suspect tied to the events in AZ. Only Loughner knows why he became obsessed with Giffords. Obviously he did and contrary to the claims of the irrational, Palin, though I don't like her, bears no responsibility. Anyone suggesting she is to blame needs to study up on metaphors and hyperbole.

      The net is rife with stories of liberals/conservatives indulging in murderous activities, tree spiking and abortion clinic bombing to name a few. However one’s political leanings do not dictate whether or not a person will pop their cork and any belief in this direction is preposterous. The generally accepted practice to labeling half the nation racist, crazy or stupid due to their political affiliation is asinine.

      Our political environment has catapulted well beyond the realm of ridiculousness. MSM opinion pieces/talk shows fan the flames of idiocy with vitriol aimed at inciting their respective automaton following. Our politicians act like demented, infantile clowns and the masses happily follow suit. Both sides blame the other for our ills when in reality both sides are equally responsible. Both sides claim superiority of mind but neither side possesses an iota of elevated thought process.

      Intellect tempered with common sense is sorely lacking in the US as a whole. Whiny, sniveling nit picking is the norm and it will remain the norm until people start acting like adults.

      January 13, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. Keeeshawrn

    Or, has the condition of the country decayed to the point where the citizens are angry?

    January 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tony

    now eat your words John and go pray God for foregiveness and direction in your empty life. Reject hate and embrace love John. Hate is consuming you and consuming the entire country.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • End the Hating

      Tony...excellent examples...keep spreading the truth!

      January 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • jsdyson


      January 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • jsdyson

      tony: you really do seem to be very filled with hate and very specific intolerance against a selected group of people. I am incredibly sensitive to racism and avoid hate speech - never minding 'poetic' license, however. For practically every example of silly examples of right wing comments, there are almost always even worse examples of left wing comments (even Obama himself - elected leader instead of pundit, has made allusions about using a gun against his enemies.) Tony, it is exactly your kind of hate and apparent intolerance that seems to be excessively spewing from the left (note that the right made a big mistake calling the lefties as 'liberal', because the American left tends to be more narrow minded and intolerant than any right winger except for the most extreme - I mean skinhead types.) The American left has devolved into almost the skinhead level of intolerance, differing mostly by the style of dressing and the specific complaints against differing groups of people. Certainly, the American left has shown quite a bit of intellectual dishonesty in trying to connect the right wing talk radio with the loser murderer in Az. In fact, the loser murderer seems to be MORE connected with the left than the right.

      January 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chase Gentry

    Yes the politics in the U.S. have gone to far!! All the bullybashing, threatning,and manipulitive tactics of government canidates around election time has to stop first of all! Americans are tired of the campaigns trashing of one another!? there is no sense in this hatred and rage from our top officials! something must change or it will only get worse as time goes on!? these are my personal opinions and i realize everyone has them and everyones are different!

    January 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. joe

    It is not that the rhetoric is more angry, it simply represents so few people that it sounds like anger to the majority. These idiots get up on their soapboxes and pretend they are speaking for all 90,000+++ citizens. But only a real fool imagines any person can represent 90,000+++ voters. If each representative represented maybe 40,000 voters or less, the rhetoric would not sound as angry because you at least may actually hear your views being expressed. i do not pretend to be represented in Congress. We are no longer a representative government, a republican form of government. If we were a representative gov, the shooter would have less anger, we would not have Homeland security idiots, seatbelt laws, drug laws. These are symptoms. As is the shooter, of a barbaric form of gov, that is not representative of the People. It is better for Congress to not pass a law, then to pass a bad law. When you hear a barbarian say, let’s pass the law and then find out what's in it', this is a bad law, in fact this is Communism.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tony

    I got a new bumper sticker for you yokels


    Show off your ingorance with pride!

    January 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • tarvitz

      @ Tony:

      "Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honorably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. And what country can preserve its liberties, if it's rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." – Thomas Jefferson

      Do you know what that quote means? It means he condemned Shays Rebellion because he believed they were essentially wrong about the facts, but he still considered them patriotic for making their voices heard. Jefferson felt it was important that the government be kept in check, even if those keeping them in check were not necessarily in the right. It wasn't being in the "right" that kept the people free, but rather the fact that they had a voice and used it. The last quote isn't an incitement to violence against the state but rather an acceptance of some degree of violence as a necessary element to keeping freedom safe..

      January 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sandy

    It's no wonder! These politicians are doing whatever they damned well please, regardless of what the people (their bosses) are telling them to do. Take a look at Illinois - as a perfect example! We're in a recession; people are losing their homes to corrupt banks; others are struggling to keep them; so many are jobless and those who have jobs have had salary freezes, cuts, etc. and they raise the state income taxes by 66%!!!! In an overnight session with the lame duck House who have nothing to lose because they are not running in an election. And they want to take away free rides for seniors on public transportation too. Illinois has always been very corrupt - and they are very arrogant to boot! More so now than ever. They spend way beyond the budget and we have to pay for it. One stupid Illinois legislator had the nerve to say "it's time to be adults"! Why didn't they do that years ago when they were overspending? It's this type of arrogance and abuse of power that's creating the violence and anger. Americans are wising up - and tthey're doing something about it.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      ...like shooting people?

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

    Crazy is as crazy does. It makes a reason, and no sane person can really be held to blame.

    Mark David Chapman shot Lennon in the back four times at the entrance to the building.Earlier that evening, Lennon had autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman. Chapman bought a copy of The Catcher in the Rye from a New York book store, in which he wrote "This is my statement" and signed it "Holden Caulfield", who is the protagonist of the novel.

    Charles Manson told his followers that White Album songs including "Helter Skelter" were a part of The Beatles' coded prophecy of an apocalyptic war

    So should we ban or censor anything that some looney finds as inspiration to commit atrocity... No.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      no, we just need to adhere to a civil standard. the kind Republicans are now crying for. Where one must speak FACTS, not opinions or hate.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • anopinion


      No mention of all the left wingers carrying signs calling for Bush to be shot during anti-war rallies. You're a typical partisan hack who believes the newws he wants to here, and ignores everything else that contradicts it.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      @ Tony, so you would ban opinions, but not facts? Aren't opinions personal interpretations of facts?

      So, after reading many of your posts, I think what you would really like to ban is non-sanctioned interpretations of facts. Who gets to determine which opinions get banned? I am assuming that non-compliance with the opinion ban would result in punishment. Punishment is a form of violence. Violence is something that you claim to hate, but you are willing to engage in it to reduce violence. You are a walking contradiction.

      January 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LeeCMH

    G. Gordon Liddy, hateful Christian right-winger in an exchange with a caller in his radio show.

    Liddy: Arm yourself. Get instructed in how to shoot straight.
    Caller: I've got weapons.
    Liddy: Absolutely. And don't give 'em up, and don't register either.
    Caller: No way. And I'm aiming between the eyes.
    Liddy: There you go. That way their flak jackets won't protect them.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • GS

      This is typical Liddy, I heard him tell someone to shoot government agents in the head for the same reason.

      January 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pete

    I think Palin should concentrate on actually getting one of her children admitted to a college. Leave the politics to the grown ups. It doesnt matter how the Tea Party defends itself. The public perception has already been established. The political rhetoric has encouraged violence. The shooting didn't happen in a vacuum. 10 point jump for Obama, so sorry Sarah!

    January 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tony

    Notice how the assrted right wing nuts dissapear when you call them on their lies. I hope they are praying though, not oiling their guns...

    January 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • LeeCMH

      They pray while oiling their guns.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      must be...I hope they are holding the guns upright...

      January 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Willie12345

    If the government tries to pull a fast one on the baby boomers that were forced to pay into SS, ........ you'll see some real anger. Perhaps, pitch forks, tar and feathers kinda anger.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      Aww poor baby boomers...most spoiled generation in American history. Yes, you're going to have to pay your fair share of taxes. So sorry.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      where have you baby boomers been YOUR ENTIRE LIVES? Have you just arrived from Mars, holding Obama is Hitler signs? No, really, pray tell...

      January 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harry


      January 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sherri W.W.#1~ILLinois

    As for Congress now~I EXPECT them to WORK TOGETHER,and to make things GOOD again. And,that includes jobs,health care,and mental health care,that wont take away everything you work for all yr life whenyou need it! That includes food and warmth for ALL,and caring always,for those less forturnate~and today MANY of those are simply out of work!~So we help until they get BACK to work.THAT IS WHAT THIS nation was built on,and a congress or senate person who does not do that~VOTE THEM OUT~I dont care WHAT party they Are! But~DONT be against OUR President~he IS the best thing we have going for us right now for sure,and we NEED him in there until 2016,so he CAN get things fixed up for us~2yrs is not NEAR enough time,and we owe it to OURSELVES AND OUR CHILDREN,to let him keep working at it.There is NOBODY else for now,who knows enough,or CARES enough,to get it done for us! You better believe the President is trying to make the best world possible for his OWN 2 little girls~and so he will do as right for us as he can~BUT CONGRESS HAS TO HELP HIM!

    January 12, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. joe

    Anyone suggesting that words caused the idiot to act, are no different then the Salem witchburners yelling and screaming hysteriacally about some 'witch' causing nightmares and biting their neck. Just blame the PERSON for their ACTS. Don't give them an excuse. Make them accountable. Make them responsible.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      The person is responsible for his actions. The people (if any) who incited him to those actions should also be held at least partially responsible. If Person A gets on a radio show for instance and says "I think someone should shoot Person B in the head because he believes in pink elephants" and then Person C does exactly that, I think that Person A should be thrown in jail as an accomplice to murder because that's exactly what he is. This does not absolve Person C in any way of course.

      January 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. a2rjr

    Still no crime statistics Tony. But keep trying.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      no free education. sorry. your self sufficient right wing butt gonna limp along, whatever way you can. bye.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
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