If Paperhouse has got a theme, and it sort of does, it’s that the way you say stuff matters. Ideas and language grow together, and actions grow out of ideas. The terms you set on a debate decides the range of likely outcomes. In the most extreme cases, violent rhetoric facilitates violent events:
A sizable minority of Americans is irrationally fearful of the fast-moving generational, cultural and racial turnover Obama embodies — indeed, of the 21st century itself. That minority is now getting angrier in inverse relationship to his popularity with the vast majority of the country. Change can be frightening and traumatic, especially if it’s not change you can believe in.
We don’t know whether the tiny subset of domestic terrorists in this crowd is egged on by political or media demagogues — though we do tend to assume that foreign jihadists respond like Pavlov’s dogs to the words of their most fanatical leaders and polemicists. But well before the latest murderers struck — well before another “antigovernment” Obama hater went on a cop-killing rampage in Pittsburgh in April — there have been indications that this rage could spiral out of control.
When bad things happen, the easiest thing is always to ram them into whatever ongoing narrative of decay you happen to subscribe to: people have put the Holocaust museum shooting down, variously and tortuously, to evolution, unrepressed Islam, Obama visiting Egypt, and people who hold the idea that “the west can only be the criminal and never be the victim of crime”. Even when faced with a hate crime, there are many people who will breezily condemn it and then scoop it up and add it to whatever little store of loathing they’ve assembled. It’s a tactic designed to damn opponents rather than debate them, and it’s a fatally unself-critical one.