Violence is rooted in rhetoric

In the aftermath of the tragic Planned Parenthood attacks, the actions of the gunman responsible have been linked to the media backlash (and subsequent defunding) of Planned Parenthood. In spectacular fashion, Republican candidate (and huge Planned Parenthood opponent) Carly Fiorina denounces common sense and suggests that there’s no connection between rhetoric and violence.

In response to the idea that there is a link between the Planned Parenthood shooting and anti-abortion rhetoric, Fiorina gives an interview on the dumbest channel on planet Earth and says the following: “This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing a messenger because they don’t agree with the message.”

There are so many things wrong with that statement. If I could telepathically slap common sense into people, Fiorina would be the latest victim.

Point #1: Conservatives thrive on demonizing liberals.

Both sides are guilty of doing it, but many conservatives thrive on demonizing anyone they disagree with.

We saw this in the constant coverage of the video “proof” that Planned Parenthood sold fetuses, which has since been debunked. We’ve seen it in every attack on the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare”, which in reality is based on Republican ideas.

We’ve seen it recently when right-wing politicians and media personalities declared war on the #BlackLivesMatter movement, calling it a hate group. We’ve seen it in the media classification of political refugees as “terrorist allies” and victims of police brutality as “thugs” while seemingly deeming every white American terrorist as a “troubled, lone wolf”.

Now, with the latest backlash, we shouldn’t proverbially shoot the messenger if someone actually takes the message and shoots someone. Pot, meet kettle.

Point #2: Violence begins with rhetoric.

Every hate crime began as hate speech that connected with the perpetrator. While the Charleston shooter hated black people and the Isla Vista shooter hated women, the Planned Parenthood shooter hated Planned Parenthood and its supporters.

The shooter referenced “baby parts” from the now-debunked Planned Parenthood tapes plastered all over the media by “pro-lifers”, whose main goal is to make abortions illegal. Yet, the same individuals who used their platforms to demonize those who believe in pro-choice are distancing themselves from those who actively bought into their propaganda and acted on it.

Moral Of The Story

It is ridiculous and very dangerous for Carly Fiorina (and anyone else) to suggest that there’s no connection between violence and rhetoric.

Just like systemic racism and its many factions are based on white supremacist rhetoric, the Planned Parenthood tragedy is a direct effect of the demonization of the non-profit and those who believe in pro-choice. To think otherwise is ignorant.

Robert Reich wrote a brilliant post on Facebook that says it all:

On Friday, a gunman killed three at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, later telling police “no more baby parts” while discussing his motive.

Last Monday, gunmen opened fire on Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, the FBI reports an upturn in threats on mosques and Muslims in the United States.

These are all forms of domestic terrorism.

The inflammatory rhetoric of certain presidential candidates hasn’t helped. Carly Fiorina continues to allege, despite evidence to the contrary, that Planned Parenthood is selling body parts of fetuses.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, says Muslim-Americans should be tracked, undocumented workers rounded up, and that a Black Lives Matter protester at his rally “maybe deserved to be roughed up.” Last August, when a man arrested for beating a homeless Latin man told police “Donald Trump was right — all these illegals need to be deported,” Trump didn’t condemn the violence. Instead he said “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

I’m not suggesting Trump, Fiorina, or any other presidential candidates are directly to blame for the hate crimes erupting across America. But they have fanned the flames of hate. And that is despicable.

*updated on 11/30/15 to add the Robert Reich quote