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For the next few days I guess we’re going to be talking about political rhetoric and how toxic it’s become. And it has! But the problem is still with specifics. Here’s First Read, for example:

What was particularly striking to us is how activists, especially on the right, were playing the victim when there are so many actual victims — the deceased, the wounded, the grieving — in Arizona. And here’s our point from yesterday: Although it appears that Jared Lee Loughner had nothing to do with mainstream conservatism or liberalism, can’t we all agree to condemn violent, de-humanizing, or de-legitimizing rhetoric — “2nd Amendment remedies,” “Don’t retreat, instead reload,” “Gather your armies” “facism/socialism,” etc. — aimed at our politicians and government institutions?

How many of those examples do you agree are violent or de-humanizing? I’d go along with the first: “2nd Amendment remedies” has a pretty obviously violent connotation. But the second is, to me, just a garden variety political metaphor. The third is even softer. I could imagine it being part of not only a standard stemwinder on the stump, I could imagine it being part of a Sunday sermon. And the fourth? It’s stupid, perhaps, but the American right has been calling liberals socialists forever. It’s not really de-humanizing or even de-legitimizing. It’s just kind of dumb.

So where’s the line? It’s easy to say that the overall tone of political rhetoric is pretty toxic these days, but it’s the sum total of the frenzy that’s really the problem, and that’s hard to pin down. Sure, specific imagery that uses nooses, guns, knives etc. aimed specifically at a campaign opponent ought to be out of bounds, but even if we got rid of all that it wouldn’t change the overall atmosphere more than a trace. Frankly, I think the best advice any of us can give is: don’t be an asshole. But that’s pretty good advice for all walks of life, and it doesn’t seem to do much good, does it?

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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