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Hate Speech from the Top Can Heighten Chances for Violence

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As a nation, our population is divided into political and ideological tribes who only listen to others who agree with them and demonize anyone who is different from them, according to Dr. Scott Titsworth, Dean of the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University.
Thus, we have a nation of rhetorically warring camps who do not agree even on the basics and find the opposition to not only be wrong but dangerous and evil, according to Dr. Titsworth.
As the verbal attacks ratchet up and the name-calling and dehumanizing of our opponents escalates, a “rhetorical environment” is created that can tragically spawn violence, he concludes.
He points to the escalating verbal warfare of the pre-midterm campaigns, led by President Donald Trump, as an example of this toxicity.
Although it cannot be proven that the recent acts of violence were directly caused by Trump’s political rhetoric, Dr. Titsworth thinks that a dotted line can be drawn between inflammatory words and violent actions. An environment has been created to either encourage or tolerate violent behavior against targeted “opposition” groups.
Just last week, two African-Americans were randomly shot down near Louisville just because they were black. A would-be bomber in Florida carried out the largest assassination attempt against public figures (all Trump critics) in the history of the country and 11 members of the Jewish faith were slaughtered in a synagogue near Pittsburgh. This was the largest killing of Jews ever recorded in America.
Unfortunately, Dr. Titsworth sees little hope for a changed environment until we, as citizens, demand from our leaders more powerful messages that transcend party lines and doctrine.
Even though he sees little likelihood for change with the generation currently in power, he has hope that the generation in college now and those even younger will bring the tolerance that is necessary to break our tribal bonds and allow the free flow of ideas and differences.
Dr. Titsworth has been dean of the Scripps College of Communication since 2010. In 2009, he was named a “Presidential Teacher.” This is the highest teaching honor awarded at Ohio University.
Dr. Titsworth also produces and hosts a podcast called “Teaching Matters” where he examines new ways of learning and teaching in a technological age. The podcast has recently started its third season. Click for archives.