Words matter. When you publicly castigate your critics as traitors, “enemies of the people” to be “locked up”, or “saboteurs” to be “crushed”, then you set the tone of political debate. When you are in public office, you are naturally held to a higher standard than the average troll on Twitter. You have a responsibility to the public and a duty to your office to behave with dignity and civility.

At least, that’s the theory. Many politicians today, perhaps taking cues from the electoral success of Donald Trump in the United States, seem to believe the rules have changed. For them, “dignity” means weakness (because the best political strategy is: attack, attack, attack) and “civility” means behaving like elites. They argue that their robust language reflects genuine public anger at the political class, and that straight-talking equals authenticity (even if a few feathers get ruffled along the way). And, if all else fails, they can blame the media for taking their quotes out of context.

But has it all gone too far? The recent letter bombing campaign in the US against high-profile Trump critics has definitely pulled this question into sharp focus. It’s also not just a debate for the US; the new President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has a long history of publicly making extremely misogynistic, homophobic, and racist comments. In Europe, critics have blamed the inflammatory language of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini for a surge in racially-motivated attacks.

Does aggressive political rhetoric lead to violence? Or is it just part of the rough-and-tumble of democracy? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – mikeledray


30 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Franz M

    Yes.
    Trump may not intend to, but there are always stupid people who belive all of it and may “take action”, and every politician should be aware of it. Same for media which spread lies that enhance fear and anger at the political fringes.

  2. avatar
    Christophe

    Back in 1917 a new political establishment in Russia led to the death of upwards of 60.000.000 people. The Cheka murdered people in the cellars The Bolsheviks used torture, rape, Regicide to wipe out millions. The NKVD wiped out millions… what was the question again?

  3. avatar
    Nikolaos

    It is not thanks to the aggressiveness of the speech, but thanks to the bloodthirsty ideologues that blindly listen to it

  4. avatar
    catherine benning

    Does aggressive political rhetoric lead to violence?

    Those who commit violence are unused to political points of view being aired in a democracy, as they should. As a result of being asked, in an adult society, if they are aware of or agree to a political policy they decide to commit murder, in the hope they can influence what the feel is going on against them. Those in question are unfit to be part of a functioning democracy, as mentally they are unstable. What are you suggesting? Because a nut case or uncivilised person decides a working political system is beyond their remit, it should be removed from the millions who know it is the best system on the planet? So those who are spinning a lying line can have it easy and be unaccountable for what they do?

    I somehow feel this is the ‘global deep throat’ once again trying to remove any truth from our information on those who are at the back of what we have now had to put up with for decades. Well, you would wouldn’t you. An easy way not to have to run for office and be elected via the will of the public.

    The question lies in those who win office and do not carry out the offered policy in their run up to election. And or those who change that policy once in office and expect the public to endlessly swallow their deceit.

    However, the problem lies in those who are mentally ill, both having access to an arsenal and the ammunition to use it. Who on earth is responsible for the feeble minded and their twisted minds? Unless you want to blame all deceitful politicians who play the game of money for power. Which is the majority of them in one way or another.

  5. avatar
    Karina

    Yes! Just like is happening in Brazil.

  6. avatar
    catherine benning

    Does aggressive political rhetoric lead to violence?

    This morning on RT news we have an American man distressed by the prospect of financial re-balance in US political agenda. Selling the notion that ‘Trump’ is the cause of their present high level of mass killing. He spells it out in no uncertain terms. He tells us that ‘white men’ who vote ‘Republican’ are the biggest killers in the terrorism stakes they experienced. Somehow, 9-11 escaped his memory. Was it 3,000 or more killed together in the Twin Towers that day?

    If counting the number of dead due to ‘race’ is now to be heralded as, ‘those not fit for remaining in a country,’ or, ‘being accepted in any country via their borders,’ I think publishing the number of deaths from ‘violence by race’ should be plastered on a flashing board in Times Square and outside Parliament Square in the UK. Anywhere in central Europe that can highlight the problem would also be a good start. Perhaps in the centre of the Vatican.Then add another advert for rape, again giving the race of the offenders. Not forgetting the ages of those raped and by race in their numbers. That way, we, the public, would find that at last we have some honest facts on what is going on in our community. Then we can decide how to make those who commit these crimes accountable. Surely we are entitled to some clarity as we pay highly for political infamy surrounding the dishonesty we suffer via these simpletons running our governments.

    https://www.rt.com/usa/442756-don-lemon-racist-white-men/

    I wonder how he accounts for murder, violence and rape in countries where race not an issue with the people who reside in them? The way it is in the US and has been since its conception. Historically, at one point, the US government wanted to return all black slaves to Africa. White, mostly Irish, slaves were not listed in the freedom stakes. Now I wonder why that was?

    https://www.amren.com/archives/reports/the-color-of-crime-2016-revised-edition/

    Now why does he think this terrorism is a white man thing? Don’t chant poverty as that burden is just as high in other races in the US as it is in black communities. When you count the % of those in dire financial distress they outdo blacks. And ask why are politically motivated polls massaging facts to produce lies? Why are they trying to balance crime by race? What is the objective and who is behind this pretence? Who gains from the cover up? What is it they glean by doing this to their fellow citizen?

    Look at South Africa, why is their murder situation being manipulated and covered up in the Western world? What is it about South Africa they want to keep in the dark? Again we have to take note, why is it not seen as ‘politically’ in whose best interests to reveal what goes on there that didn’t go on before? What has promoted this change? Or, is it change? And why is it trying to be concealed? In whose interests is it to keep it quiet? Do South African leaders have aggressive political rhetoric? Would that be it?

    https://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/world-economy/south-africa-farm-attacks-brutal-crimes-landowners-face/news-story/dfaabafca743056b6d6656ea1fff49eb

    If the guy who likes to make jokes wants to educate himself on the history of his country he should start here. Facts are not always welcome in those who wish to manipulate opinion.

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/who-led-the-1st-back-to-africa-effort/

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/free-blacks-lived-in-the-north-right/

  7. avatar
    Magdalena

    Hitler’s definitely did. It depends on the educational level of the audience as well.

  8. avatar
    jthk

    Democracy theoretically is a more peaceful system , in which, largely using rational discussion and voting to determine the political outcome. As we have seen that Socrates was killed in a democracy, nothing in democracy has ever promised rational and peaceful as long as it is a system manipulated by man. The goods of democracy has been overly exaggerated during the ideological confrontation of great powers. As a matter of fact, both democracy and communism are political ideologies that painted a very beautiful picture to gain support. They are just utopias that have not and would never exist in real.

  9. avatar
    George

    Funny, that you have Trump on the picture, but the most political violence comes from ultra-left groups, like Antifa.

    • avatar
      Jarlath

      George really? After the last week? Antifa doesn’t have any political power in government. Once we see some demagogue being worshipped by thousands of antifa activists and is representative of their beliefs then you’ll have a point.

    • avatar
      Любомир

      Jarlath I can only imagine how many corpses there would be if ANTIFA had the political power. 2 years after Trump came to power we still haven’t seen any sign of the “fascist state” they all whined about in 2016.

  10. avatar
    Anelia

    The mainstream media does !!!!

  11. avatar
    David

    Funny that pretty much all the political violence comes from the left…democrat supporter attacking Republicans , Antifa attacking any one who disagrees .

  12. avatar
    Michael

    Absolutely. When elected officials engage in violent rhetoric it becomes mainstreamed. But it’s not just Trump. Obama era officials threatened to assassinate Edward Snowden. Then we got the Novichok attack in the UK. Then Khassogi. We are heading towards a lawless, savage world and our leaders are mediocre at the best of times.

  13. avatar
    Civis

    Sure it does – it has done so since the Jacobins’ hysteria in revolutionary France and the massacre of moderates and royalists in late 1792.

  14. avatar
    Любомир

    Depends entirely on what exactly you mean by “aggressive political rhetoric”. There is a significant difference between “aggressive”, “hateful” and “violent”.

  15. avatar
    Stephen

    It’s funny that Trump is on the photo, should be Junker or Guy Verhofstadt.

  16. avatar
    Theodoros

    Absolutely. We have seen this way too many times.

  17. avatar
    Mathias

    I’m sorry but that is a stupid question. Dont we ha enough evidens of that already?

  18. avatar
    Manuel

    absolutly…
    but people loves it, and understandable after all sh*tty work tecnocratik are doing

  19. avatar
    Livia

    This is a tricky question. But Europe hasn’t heard of freedom of speech. If I say something that the officials at Bruxelles would redeem as “violent”, just to shut me down, does it really qualify that it is? And even if it is, where do they draw the line? Is there a line to be drawn to freedom of speech?

    Ofc e.u. wants us all to just shut up and be obedient. This is their wet dream.

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