This post was in answer to a Facebook post by a friend of mine, Who quoted:
“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Ronald Reagan
I am a big believer in individual responsibility and agree that each individual is accountable for their own actions.
However, I also agree It is also time to tone down the rhetoric and half-truths that all sides use to influence others to follow them, their agendas or beliefs. If you use inflammatory speeches, “newscasts”, Internet or other forms of communication to incite, manipulate or subtly influence (sometimes not so subtly) someone to act upon their rhetoric or inference towards violence, do they not also have some responsibility for the actions that might occur?
Putting Crosshairs on a public figure or where they represent, is an inciting and influential image to many people wherever they may live, especially when done by other public figures. Did something like this influence what occurred last week, we will never know, but at the same time it might have.
The person using the rhetoric or inferences may not have specifically told someone to do something, but at the same time do they have the responsibility to stop and think about the consequences of their words and what could happen? It seems very ironic that many sites that contained strong rhetoric and questionable calls for action by public figures before last week have now been scrubbed of those words?
Should the person who says or writes things to purposely influence or manipulate others, own their words and should they be held accountable for actions by others who act upon their words?
If a person yells out “Fire” in a crowded theater, causes a injury or death to others, they are and should be held accountable for their actions. Is inferring the threat of violence against others who do not agree with your position very different from yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, when you are a public figure? I don’t believe there is a great deal of difference, it is simply a difference of “who” and “where”.
However, most will never be held accountable for those words, but their mere words and images they use do and can have influences in other people’s actions. They claim that the person involved simply misinterpreted what they meant and thereby absolve themselves of any quilt – does it?
When working at GWH we saw how some students could use their words to manipulate other students to do their dirty work and then stand back and say I didn’t do anything. Is what is happening in some instances any different than that, only on a larger and potentially more devastating scale.
Words are powerful and need to be used judiciously in order to avoid unintended consequences or if what happened was the intended message of those words, the person using them needs to be held accountable.
Public figures especially need to choose their words wisely and understand that there is a segment of the population in our Country, that could act upon their words literally.