If you criticize an individual or a group or make a controversial statement regarding that group, and that person or group finds themselves the subject of an attack, do you share responsibility for that attack?
My answer would be that unless you directly suborn people into attacking others (see: Waters, Maxine), the answer should be no. On the left, the answer is usually yes.
This is most often seen when President Donald Trump’s “rhetoric” somehow inspires incidents as disparate as random hate crimes to mass anti-Semitic murders apparently committed by a man who hated Trump because he thought he was a tool of a Jewish cabal.
Sometimes the shoe falls on the other foot, however. Witness the case of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose house was besieged by a group called Smash Racism D.C. on Wednesday.
“We want you to know, we know where you sleep at night,” one person in a now-deleted video can be heard saying, according to The Washington Post. “Tucker Carlson, we will fight! We know where you sleep at night!”
That brings us to Don Lemon.
A few weeks ago, the CNN host uttered this statement, which managed to be both self-contradictory and inflammatory: “So we have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them.”
It’s worth noting that Lemon has targeted Carlson in some of his segments — although certainly not with the same kind of language — so there’s also that.
Scott Adams, “Dilbert” creator turned political pundit, wondered whether the same rules about blaming “incivility” and “rhetoric” for attacks like this applied to the left, too:
Has anyone asked Don Lemon if he feels responsible for the Antifa terrorist assault on @TuckerCarlson ‘s family? Seems a fair question.
— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) November 9, 2018
Twitter users noted that Lemon was hardly the only one who could be blamed for something like this:
Not just Lemon, just a few weeks ago Cupp and Levy did a whole segment where they compared Fox News to the KKK and yet she’s shocked that an angry mob shows up at Tucker’s house calling him a racist. https://t.co/j0obCcs3ev
— Nathan (@NATHANINSOCAL) November 9, 2018
Or if we acted like CNN does, we’d ask Don Lemon if apologizes for inflaming ANTIFA with his rhetoric.
— atheist4thecause (@DraftHobbyist) November 9, 2018
Now, let’s be clear here: The answer is no, of course Lemon shouldn’t feel responsible. It’s worth noting that the CNN host received death threats of his own this week.
There’s a reason for that, and it’s not because of rhetoric. Rhetoric is a lagging indicator of culture, and our political culture has gone to pot. We’ve become more accepting of radical, hateful ideas. That’s why you have Antifa members doxing and terrorizing the Carlson family or anti-Semites committing mass murder in Pittsburgh.
Don’t blame the rhetoric of public individuals like Trump, Lemon or anyone else. Blame, instead, what’s inside the very private corners of our hearts.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.