The false equivalency of political violence

Lumping both sides together ignores reality of the violent rhetoric of the right

Political violence seems to be far more rampant now than it has been for decades.

This violence has emerged recently in the form of bombs sent to prominent Americans who have been critical of U.S. President Donald Trump, the 2017 murder of an activist protesting white supremacy and a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

When examining who exactly is behind this violence, the obvious answer seems to indicate the violence is perpetrated by radicals from both the left and right wing.

However, empirical data shows the level of violence carried out by each side is far from equal.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, between 2008 and 2017, 71 per cent of extremist-related killings within the U.S. were perpetrated by far-right extremists. This includes white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-government militias and groups. Meanwhile, during the same time period, left-wing extremism accounted for only three per cent.

A common deflection argues those who perpetrate political violence have mental illness or are inherently evil. But the disparity in violence between the left and right cannot simply be explained away by mental illness.

The disparity and overrepresentation of right-wing extremism clearly stems from the violent rhetoric of political leaders of the right.

Trump exemplifies this rhetoric to a tee.

While referring to protestors at one of his rallies, Trump said, “I’d like to punch [them] in the face” and “Knock the crap out of them.” He went on to reminisce about the days protestors would be “carried out on a stretcher” after offering to pay the legal bills of those who carried out the violence.

Even more horrifying, after talking at a rally about the prospect of Hillary Clinton being able to appoint Supreme Court justices, he claimed there was nothing his supporters could do — with the exception of the “Second Amendment people,” implying they gun Clinton down.

But Trump only scratches the surface of all the violent rhetoric going around the right-wing.

Alt-right personalities like Alex Jones, Gavin McInnes and Mike Cernovich are all strong voices influencing the right wing and each of them has played a part in the fostering of white supremacy, xenophobia and anti-Semitism as well as political violence.

This is particularly shown in the last several years when the number of hate crimes skyrocketed in the U.S. There was a five per cent increase in hate crimes in 2016 compared to 2015 and a 10 per cent increase when compared to 2014.

It was in mid-2015 that now-President Trump announced his presidential bid by demagoguing over illegal immigrants who were “rapists” and “murderers.”

There is no equivalency to this on the left.

There is no prominent left-wing politician calling for supporters to actively commit assault, violence or terrorism of any kind. Any attempt to correlate the rhetoric of the left with the right is a flagrant lie.

However, the true colours of each group are shown after terrorism is committed in their name.

When a left-wing terrorist shot a baseball diamond full of Republican members of Congress and it was found out he had volunteered for Bernie Sanders’s campaign for president in 2016, Sanders wasted no time in condemning what he called a “despicable act,” saying “violence of any kind is unacceptable.”

Sanders never called for violence of any kind to begin with and condemned the lone wolf abhorrent enough to commit such a heinous act.

In clear contrast — and perhaps even more disgusting than the original incitement of violence — not only do prominent right-wing leaders like Trump take no accountability for actions carried out by their allies, but they show no remorse for their rhetoric which influenced the violence in the first place.

After the recent synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh where 11 died, Trump could not wait but four days before pushing the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that George Soros, a prominent Jewish-American investor, was secretly funding a migrant caravan headed towards the U.S.

Trump pretends to care when he robotically reads the carefully-worded speeches written by political strategists each time an act of political violence is committed in his name.

However, his supporters understand actions speak louder than words and his disingenuous words post-attack mean nothing to them.

When Trump and the right-wing shed their dog whistles for more overtly racist and violent rhetoric, they instigate committed racists to use violence.

Not only does this political violence work to foment deeper divisions, as supporters of Trump work to absolve him of any wrongdoing, it emboldens the right-wing to continue and expand its violence.

Meanwhile, Trump and the Republicans govern with less media scrutiny as the nation is focusing in on the violence.

Empirically, there is no comparison between the violence committed by the right and left.

It is the right-wing that is attempting to weaponize terrorism — in threats and action — to suppress its enemies.