Opinion | Civil Rights

Why are we turning a blind eye to right-wing incitement of violence?

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

In the span of 24 hours, a Republican state lawmaker in Texas threatened to gun down Beto O'Rourke over the former Congressman's assault weapons buyback proposal, a conservative PAC put out an inflammatory ad featuring a photo of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) face on fire to reveal skulls, and Tomi Lahren suggested the need to shoot immigrants on Fox Business.

Most normal people would call this rhetoric and incitement of violence a problem. But the right-wing call it Friday. Luckily, Lahren apologized after there was enough backlash toward her comments. But rhetoric has consequences, and it's important for everyone with a platform to understand how language in public spaces influences the behavior of others.

Considering that El Paso, Texas just experienced the tragic aftermath of a politically motivated shooting, which was carried out by an anti-immigrant lunatic, one would think Republicans would temper their language to prevent additional unhinged maniacs from murdering innocent people. But clearly, they've learned nothing and have done just the opposite.

Not only do conservative lawmakers fight vociferously against any possible gun control, they refuse to stop fear mongering about powerless, disenfranchised groups. Their words instill fear and paranoia among their supporters, and we're already witnessing the ramifications.

Recently, Lou Dobbs defended running over peaceful protestors, as one prison guard did in Rhode Island. No one cared. There was little to no outrage, and Dobbs remains on air to spew his disgusting disdain for Americans practicing their First Amendment rights.

At the same time, traditional media coverage of this issue goes to extreme lengths to draw false equivalencies between the right and left on this issue. But while there have been a few condemnable instances of violence by Antifa, the reality is that right-wing extremism has led to dozens of deaths. The two sides are not the same, and anyone claiming they are isn't being honest. 

The shooter in El Paso gunned down 22 innocent people at a Walmart after posting an anti-immigrant manifesto online. Before that, Caesar Sayoc, an avid Donald Trump supporter, sent pipe bombs to politicians and media figures who were regularly attacked by the president he loves so much. The earliest casualty of the Trump era was Heather Heyer, a young woman who counter-protested the white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017.

Let's also be honest about how the two sides respond to any incitement or act violence. If and when Antifa does anything remotely physical, they're condemned by the vast majority of voices on the left. Remember when Kathy Griffin posed with what appeared to be Trump's decapitated head? She was criticized by everyone, including her longtime friends like Anderson Cooper. 

The same cannot be said of the right, and they deserve to be held accountable for it. This isn't about demonizing conservatives. But it is about holding them accountable, especially when they refuse to acknowledge how their words play into the horrific behavior and division we're experiencing today.

Ana Kasparian is the executive producer and host of The Young Turks and No Filter. Kasparian also teaches journalism at California State University Northridge.

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