Some individuals believe that free speech is the ultimate representation of liberty. They argue that more speech is better than no speech at all irrespective of its manner of expression. However, these analysts forget that political rhetoric in the US has consequences and that sometimes it can go overboard.
The explosive climate
The American political climate is characterised by the demonization of politicians’ opponents. Although this is nothing new in politics, one must take caution when the habit becomes inaccurate and juvenile (Hunt 13). Words, in today’s political scene, are not used to achieve precise aims but to ruin everything that can possibly be damaged.
As such, clearer thoughts and fully-developed ideas get drowned in national conversations. American political rhetoric has reached overdrive levels and thus, made it much easier for politicians to practice partisan politics, or say things that they may not really mean. They reassure listeners that their opponents are much worse and this distorts reality.
A case in point was the distortion of Barrack Obama’s background. Political rhetoric led to misinformation about his religion and his citizenship. Some individuals alluded that he was a Muslim and was not patriotic to the nation. Such half-truths breed an atmosphere of accusation and disengagement, which counteract the very principles that make this nation so strong.
A number of Americans are highly distressed by angry politics in the land. Approximately seventy percent of Americans believe that the negative political atmosphere in the country is detrimental to democracy. Many people’s political expectations are diminishing owing to this state of affairs and the country appears to be heading in the wrong direction (Lawler and Schaefer 94).
A number of observations have also indicated that it is not just the political and social well being of society that will be affected by excessive political rhetoric but the physical well being as well. Political rhetoric can reach levels that manifest as violent behaviour. One such case was the shooting of Gabrielle Gifford, a representative of Arizona. The latter leader was shot and injured adversely during an interactive session with her electorate at a grocery store.
The attacker fired at twenty people, including Gifford, after the representative had tweeted that she was at that location. While investigations are yet to establish whether the shootings were inspired by the assailant’s psychological state or deeper political issues, it is still imperative to remember the latter option is quite probable. The sharp, antagonistic language aimed at government has increased the likelihood of violent incidents.
Most politicians employ radio talk shows, internet blogs, social networking websites like Twitter, television shows and many more to disseminate vicious rhetoric. In the case of Gabrielle Gifford, the state of Arizona had become highly polarised before her attack (Kaplan 22). Many residents in this state mistrusted government and were paranoid about their healthcare laws. This daily exposure to destructive rhetoric through various media outlets may have had a violent impact on the people of the state.
It was especially probable among unstable individuals than well-balanced ones. Increasing verbal attacks in certain political debates has heightened security concerns. Many protests have turned violent during public meetings. One such instance was the healthcare debate that took place in 2010. Even death threats against congressmen were not uncommon.
The use of political rhetoric for selfish gains among politicians has bred an atmosphere of divisive and violent politics. This has been manifested through disengagement and violent confrontations against political leaders.
Hunt, Geoffrey. We need more political rhetoric, not less. 12 Jan. 2011. Web. 2 April 2012
Kaplan, Marty. 2011 January 8. “The lock and load rhetoric of American politics isn’t just a metaphor.” The Huffington Post 8 Jan. 2011: 22. Print.
Lawler, Peter and Robert Schaefer. American political rhetoric. NY: Rowman and Littlefield publishers, 2000. Print.