Un­civil wars

On the State of Amer­i­can Pol­i­tics

San Francisco Chronicle - - OPINION -

In­cite­ment of vi­o­lence is never ac­cept­able. It is es­pe­cially ap­palling when de­liv­ered by the pres­i­dent of the United States.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s week­end tweet that depicted a beatdown of a fig­ure with a CNN logo su­per­im­posed over the head of the “vic­tim” was yet an­other ex­am­ple of both his ut­ter taste­less­ness and his dis­dain for an in­de­pen­dent news me­dia. It’s all the more dis­turb­ing in light of the way he whipped up crowds against the press corps and pro­test­ers dur­ing the cam­paign, lead­ing to a dis­tinct aura of dan­ger at ral­lies.

The 28-sec­ond clip was adapted from a 2007 WrestleMa­nia stunt in which a suited Trump tack­led and pum­meled WWE chief Vince McMa­hon. Trump em­broi­dered his tweet with the hash­tags #FraudNewsC­NN and #FNN. It had not a whit of wit.

It did, how­ever, bring to mind the re­cent real-life body slam of a Guardian re­porter by Mon­tana con­gres­sional can­di­date Greg Gian­forte, a Repub­li­can. In pol­i­tics, un­like pro wrestling, vi­o­lence is nei­ther funny nor fake.

Also cross­ing the line was a new Na­tional Ri­fle Associatio­n re­cruit­ment video that casts the threat to Amer­i­can free­dom from lib­er­als in an omi­nous tone rem­i­nis­cent of a wartime pro­pa­ganda cam­paign. In words and im­ages from protests, it presents “them” as an evil force: “They use their me­dia to as­sas­si­nate real news,” the nar­ra­tor in­tones, darkly. “They use their schools to teach chil­dren that their pres­i­dent is an­other Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and com­edy shows and award shows to re­peat their nar­ra­tive over and over again.”

Nar­ra­tor Dana Loesch ends by im­plor­ing that the only way to save the na­tion is to “fight this vi­o­lence of lies with a clenched fist of truth.”

De­fend­ers of the Trump tweet or the NRA video would point to over-the-top rhetoric by a some celebri­ties and politi­cians on the left. Yes, there have been re­gret­table ex­am­ples of ex­cess on both sides.

But the leader of the free world, and an or­ga­ni­za­tion with 5 mil­lion mem­bers, should not be in­flam­ing an at­mos­phere that is grow­ing in­creas­ingly toxic and fraught with the specter of vi­o­lence.

Nick An­der­son / Hearst News­pa­pers

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