BOSTON (CBS) – We really don’t know what was going on in the mind of the Virginia shooter Wednesday, but there’s enough circumstantial evidence that he was motivated by political anger and targeting Republicans to at least engage an important discussion – how did we get to this disgraceful and disturbing state of affairs?
Donald Trump didn’t start the degradation of political discourse by any means, but he did exploit it during his campaign, inciting his followers against protestors and demonizing ethnic groups.
And remember the 2011 campaign ad at the height of a debate over proposed Medicare cuts, depicting a Paul Ryan-look-a-like wheeling grandma to the edge of a cliff and disposing of her?
That’s the kind of overheated rhetoric that apparently moved the Virginia shooter to write angry letters and social media posts; if it also moved him to attempt mass murder, then it’s a problem.
I spoke with the head of the Dangerous Speech Project which explores the link between political speech and violence. She said the situation keeps getting worse as the internet provides an easy outlet for vile commentary and threats. And she suggests the only real antidote may be a renewed effort by politicians and other civic leaders to hammer home the message that however sharp our disagreements or rhetoric, violence is never an acceptable response.
To me, that only seems viable if the media, including Hollywood and internet content providers, and parents are all part of that crusade.
And I’m sorry to say that kind of consensus doesn’t seem likely.