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. Lou

    Its about time for the parties on both sides of the aisle to set aside all the political BS and start doing the job they were voted to do by the American people. We're acting like a third world country and its hurting us in many ways!

    January 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      funny how EVERYONE noticed that now? maybe if media outlets like CNN or Faux News talked facts, covered events honestly, without zombification of ignoramuses, we could actually work on solutions? You people have electer leaders who sold you down the river. Be angry at yourselves and pray, pray, pray.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. True American123

    Yes, it's time to put aside this "free ride" "free money to the poor". You can not walk in a place and think you can change everything...Obama's choices tend to lean towards black people in america and minorites. Black people have their own tv shows, they can proudly say, "Black Power", but not white people. The solution is to get Obama out of office so we can move forward, send the illegal immigrants back to their country and stop giving our money away to countries.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      hey bumper sticker, go away.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • LeeCMH

      There sure are alot of veiled and not so veiled threats of violence in many of the comments here.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete

      "That's how good it is to be white. There's a white, one-legged busboy in here right now...that won't change places with my black a$s. He's going, "No, man, l don't wanna switch. l wanna ride this white thing out."

      – Chris Rock

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

      You do realize that white people have tons of TV networks pretty much to themselves: NBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, etc.... to just name a few

      January 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Matt

    Everyone who reads this story then posts a finger pointing post is missing the point and IS the problem.

    Stop pointing at the "other side." Vote out the extremist politicians (Pelosi, Extreme Right wingers??) and "celebri-ticians" (Palin, Obama) and get people in there who are middle of the road, goin to work to advance the country and cut the crap. We dont have time to mess around before the country fails.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Harry

    A. The baby-boomers are the ones who will break the SSA.
    B. Marching on the Government with pitchforks or any other weapon is called "TREASON."
    C. Traitors will be slaughtered in the streets by combat hardened soldiers such as myself.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      ...and liberal recruits like myself

      January 12, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rudolph

      Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu also believed his military would obliterate all opposition

      January 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      @ Harry, you are mistaken if you believe combat troops will fire on American citizens.

      You call for the rhetoric to be toned down, but gleefully look forward to picking up arms (under orders of course) against those with which you disagree or who perhaps have a legitimate gripe against the government.

      January 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrsFizzy

      ...And here we are, in the 21st Century in America. No wonder other countries are leaving us behind in the dust...

      January 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Eric

    there needs to be more anger expressed. but not violent anger.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      NOT ANGER, knowledge, facts, civility. let go of that emotion, it KILLS. Like, literally.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      @ Tony, didn't you JUST post above here that you would join in on the wholesale slaughter of Baby Boomers and now you have the audacity to call for rational dialog and civility? By the way, you never did comment on my Gladstone retort yesterday. Care to continue that conversation?

      January 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      "Let go of emotion. It KILLS. Like, literally.", says Tony as he uses emotional caps to express his point.

      January 12, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chase Gentry

    Everything that happens in life happens for some reason?! for this individual to target a state official he was obviously upset with government for some reason?! we might never know exactly what the issue was?! weather he was sane or insane is irrevalent!? he still acted out of rage for some various reason?!

    January 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • LeeCMH

      I do think right wing especially Christian haters are agitating lots to potentially violent folks, but it appears the shooter in Tucson is a purely delusional schizophrenic.

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

    Actually, the solutions are self-revealing. When the right wing rhetoric heats up, they shoot some people, then everyone "reflects", and then it's back to business as usual, trying to willify, slander, demonize our President because they disagree with his policies, while the gun rattling politicians block their implementation. You right wingers are simply pathetic beyond words.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • anopinion

      The AZ shooter was a leftist who was psychotic. It has nothing to do with right wing rhetoric. If anything, he got his direction from DailyKOS, and shot her because she was not liberal enough.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lowell

    How knee jerk is this question? Have politics in U.S. become too angry, hateful? Politics have always had anger and hate. In fact those are two primary motivators for people to get off their a$$ and get involved.

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

      I think one example that would illustrate this would be that congressman that shouted "You Lie!" during Obama's State of the Union. That just didn't happen in the modern political era. Civil discourse has been thrown out the window since 2009 with the Tea Party.

      January 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      @ Pete, Congressman Wilson has be proven correct. It is not rhetoric if it is true.

      January 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. crazy vermont

    One theory advanced as to why we have angry teens is they feel like they are ignored and have no voice. If that is true, think about the American people and what congress has decided no matter what the public wants. That doesn't in any way justify guns or violence, but perhaps if we are going to asses blame, it should be at tem and not the media pundits(either side).

    January 12, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tony

    Alright, you can have "your thread" back now. I have given about as much as I could today. Embrace peace, not hate.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      Which Tony is this? The one that says embrace peace or the one that said he would join in on killing seniors?

      January 12, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Good try. What I actually said was I was going to join the rank of recruits should right wing government overthrow take place. I am an American and a Patriot. I will always protect my country, from all enemies, Foreign and Domestic. I will resort to 2nd amendment remedies should an anti-democratic fringe group take to the streets in armed revolt. Nothing more than that.

      January 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Lowell

    Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony. Did you run out of your meds last night?

    January 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. a2rjr

    Tony is one sorry individual. Thinks he's intelligent, makes claims he can't back up with statistic. Makes up stories in his head. Those nearest him need to keep an eye on him. Sociopathic tendencies in that boy.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • GS

      It must bother you that he can think.

      January 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. a2rjr

    Pete, the Congressman spoke the truth. You have to do better than that. Nothing hateful in telling the truth.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      U try that the next time your boss is giving a presentation to an audience. Try it, just yell something out like, "You're an a$$," and see what happens.

      All politicians lie, you lie, I lie, we all have lied about something in our life, so just shut the F up with defending a classless moron

      January 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      @ a2rjr, you do know that the President isn't the boss of Congress, right?

      January 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      Of course...but the point is that he couldn't even follow the most basic of social graces: not to interupt someone while they are giving a speech...something we were all taught by our parents when we were 4 years old.

      And this poster is defending the guy like as if it was his right to yell out in the middle of the SOTU just b/c (according to him) he was telling the truth.

      Just b/c someone shares the same political affiliation as you doesn't make them infallible.

      January 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Going John Galt

      Anon, I concede your last point and state my belief that Congressman Wilson expressed his belief inappropriately.

      January 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kas

    Yes... all you have to do is read the comments on this very thread to know that politics have gotten angry.

    Do we have a right to be angry? YES... should we allow the politicians to DIVIDE us through manipulation to keep us in check? NO... We, the people should be mature enough to put aside our differences (many of which were brainwashed into us by the very people each side "defends," and come together as Americans and kick BOTH parties out of OUR Governments... most of them lie to us and manipulate us just so we can elect them and give them POWER so that they can have status and of course the kickbacks from the ultra rich are nice. Stop being naive American... neither side is FOR YOU... STOP FIGHTING FOR THEM.

    January 12, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      Smartest post of the board ^

      January 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. palintwit

    On a lighter note, there's a big Sarah Palin Support Rally at the John Birch Memorial Nascar Track and Rifle Range tonight. Plenty of trailer parking available.

    January 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      You do know that Congress woman Gifford supported gun rights and opposed the Washington D.C. gun ban. Yes even some with in the democrat party are gun owners and believe in the rights to bear arms.

      January 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
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