The claim against any evidence that somehow President Trump has become something of an garden industry in some quarters. Indeed it has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When Bernie Bro James Hodgkinson tried a decapitation assault on the GOP Congressional caucus, President Trump was to blame. When a homeless male stripper sent unworkable simulated bombs to several high-profile lefties, President Trump was to blame. When a guy who hated President Trump killed eleven people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, President Trump was to blame.
After the Scalise shooting we had a national conversation about the dangerous rhetoric of … conservatives! Heads they win, tails you lose. Ppl playing dumb in my mentions are beclowning themselves and I have no patience for it https://t.co/jw70t4E6h3
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) October 24, 2018
So the results of a poll that ABC News sponsored on that subject probably came as one helluva shock
Half of registered voters think Pres. Trump encourages politically motivated violence in the way he speaks—and essentially as many say the media do the same in how they report the news, new @ABC News/WaPo poll finds. https://t.co/UlmupFQRfS pic.twitter.com/vAnioyfv6N
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 2, 2018
The sample is nationwide and consists of registered voters. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.
A deeper look at this reveals some interesting items.
The nation sees Trump and the media as being equally responsible for encouraging violence. But more people, outside the margin of error, think Trump DISCOURAGES violence. And, if within each group you subtract the “discourages” from “encourages,” President Trump comes out marginally better than the media, though within the margin of error.
And there is this nugget:
In another sharp division, 68 percent of blacks see Trump as encouraging violence in the way he speaks; many fewer whites, but still 45 percent, say the same. And 51 percent of whites see the media as encouraging violence in the way they report the news; that falls to 30 percent of blacks.
I’m not sure this means what they are trying to imply it means. Only 9% of American blacks, according to 2016 exit polls, voted for Trump. One would expect the number holding him responsible to be much higher unless the warming of blacks to Trump that has been hinted at in several polls is real. Interestingly, there is not comparable number available for Hispanics in the tabular data released with the news story. The implication is that the poll didn’t reach enough Hispanics to create a sample…which calls into question the rest of the poll…or that number was not something ABC wanted to talk about.
Naturally, President Trump had a comment:
Reporter tells Trump at White House “You’re encouraging politically motivated violence with the way you speak.”
Trump pointed at the reporter, “You’re creating violence by your question.”
The reporter gasped, “Me?”
Trump “You are creating — you.”
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) November 3, 2018
As a believer in free will, I think that as sentient beings we are ultimately responsible for our own acts and unless words cross the line into actual incitement to violence, no one is to blame but the perpetrator. There are disturbed people out there who believe all manner of exotic things. John Hinckley thought killing Ronald Reagan would win Jodie Foster’s love. David Berkowitz claimed that he received his orders from a dog named “Harvey.” Mark David Chapman claimed he killed John Lennon to get more people to read “Catcher in the Rye.” Them glomming onto a political argument is not unexpected. Jared Loughner had some sort of obsession with Gabby Giffords.
Having said that, there is a difference between President Trump using the press as a foil and what the press does in return.
It defies logic to expect President Trump to daily be characterized as a racist, as the second coming of Hitler, and just take it. We saw with George W. Bush that if you don’t push back against the narratives constructed by a hostile media that their narrative becomes conventional wisdom.
You can’t label your political opponents as racists and bigot and Nazis and not expect some number of the people listening to take the characterization seriously and figure that they will get the thanks of society if they act. When a guy tries to gun down staff at a nonprofit advocacy group because of their stance on homosexual marriage, or the guy who tries to slaughter the political leadership of a political party is shouting, “This is for health care,” you begin to think that somewhere along the line they thought this was what society expected them to do. And they received that message from some place that wasn’t Donald Trump.
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