Inciting Violence is Just the Latest in a Long Line of Phrases That Are Losing Meaning
Nazi. Fascist. Holocaust. Hate Speech. Kapo. Fact Check. Apartheid. These are just some of the latest words and phrases that have gained traction over the last several years and are now almost entirely devoid of meaning. You can add, “inciting violence” to that list as well now. Inciting violence is the phrase de jour among many members of the left and mainstream media. It is now en vogue thanks to Minnesotan Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D). She is rightfully receiving all sorts of backlash for her dismissive comments when lying about the origins of CAIR after the 9/11 attacks; referring to the terrorists and their actions as, “some people did something.” While any American (or non-American) who remembers the devastation of 9/11 should be repulsed by her comments, those who excoriated her for them are apparently “inciting violence.”
They are apparently inciting violence because they are correctly quoting her and revealing how tone-deaf she is. But merely quoting somebody is not inciting violence. Even President Donald Trump’s blunt video attacking her and her comments is not inciting violence. The only way you can long-jump to this conclusion is if you have lost all contact with the phrase’s definition. However, losing touch with meaning and definitions, in general, is nothing new. It is a scourge of the last several years and is making honest discussion nearly impossible. When that happens, we are all in a world of trouble.
The trouble started to brew several years go with “hate speech.” There is no such thing as hate speech. Yet people continue to promulgate this idea like it is fact. It is not. The whole bullet-train of incorrectly using words and phrases went off the rails when Donald Trump started to gain notoriety and eventually became President. With people losing their minds over Trump came the rise of Nazi and Fascist. Soon to follow were the “fact checkers” who started to obfuscate objective fact with subjective opinion. Now the fact checkers need fact checkers and a supposed Fascist just allowed himself to be the target of a two-year-long investigation.
Those words and phrases were just the first step in what appears to be a cycle. Inciting violence is the beginning of the second step. Step one was to inundate and overutilize particular words and phrases to the point that they lost all their meaning. The second step is to use a new phrase whose meaning can be defined with the previously adulterated words or phrases. Enter, “inciting violence.”
If you want to find the legal definition of inciting violence or “incitement,” you need to go to Bradenburg v. Ohio. In the 1969 case, “The Court held that government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless that speech is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” The key is the phrasing of incitement; “producing imminent lawless action.” Anybody with even the slightest bit of reading comprehension should realize quoting a stupid thing somebody said is in no way “inciting violence.” Even making a video juxtaposing Omar’s egregious dismissal next to that of the Twin Towers burning and collapsing is not inciting violence. Surely it is invoking plenty of emotion, but invoking emotion alone does not constitute inciting violence.
This is where the evil of watering down words and phrases comes in. To an increasing number of Americans (not to mention Europeans) who believe in the nonsensical and a-factual existence of hate speech, merely saying something derogatory is inciting violence. This is a perception based on no reality whatsoever. The only way to get to this mystical island of “correctly quoting someone in context is equal to inciting violence” is by riding the unicorn known as hate speech. No matter how many people claim so, and no matter how many people parrot the point, hate speech does not exist. Only by convincing people of an initial falsehood like hate speech can you then take the next step and claim people who castigate Omar are inciting violence. In this day and age of “your truth” and “my truth,” the truth is now malleable.
But that is why the numbers game is so important. There appears to be a concerted effort from those on the left to mimic one another when it comes to this issue of inciting violence. Whether it is an actual gameplan or just a system of a certain hive mentality is moot. The end result is the same; if enough people say the same thing over and over and over again, even if it is factually incorrect, you can get a dangerous amount of people to believe it. That is exactly what we are seeing with the Ilhan Omar and the 9/11 issue. If anybody else said something as cold-hearted and caustic as what Omar did, they would be shunned from the public sphere. But instead of everyone coming together on what should be a nonpartisan issue, we are seeing this thing break down between left and right. Between those that vow to “never forget” and those who want to gloss over the most harrowing American event of the last 20 years because it is not politically expedient.
So no, you are not inciting violence when you call out Ilhan Omar for belittling the deaths of 2,977 people. You are far from putting her in harm’s way when you shine a spotlight on the grotesque manner and tone she uses when discussing Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. She is a sitting Congresswoman and should resign if she cannot handle people hating her. It comes with the territory. But, nobody is explicitly calling for her head in any literal sense. The many people who have responded to her various antisemitic and now downright unAmerican moments are doing so because they are ashamed and angered that America is represented by someone so callous. However, that is all it is. Anger. Shame. In short, emotions. Emotions are not violence. Hate is not violence. Only violence is violence. And the sooner we all remember that, the sooner we can concentrate on achieving something historic; succeeding in the first-ever impeachment of a member of Congress.