Violent Rhetoric & Hate Speech

What is and is not protected by the First Amendment?

I’ve asked the Southern Poverty Law Center to let us all know whether there have been instances with legal precedent of public speech by public figures in the media or in politcs that have incited violence and whether or not those instances are protected by the First Amendment.

Our First Amendment rights are extremely important, and I’m not trying to limit them. However, we all know that it is unlawful to yell “Fire!” in a crowded place when in fact there is no fire, so I am curious as to any legal precedence of other instances of speech that may not be protected by the First Amendment, particularly regarding speech that is “hate speech” or that incites violence. If there are such examples, we  need a national education program as to what those are.

I will ask the DOJ to investigate the following people to determine whether or not they are guilty of inciting violence with their very public violent rhetoric:

1. Sarah Palin had a map on the web with rifle crosshairs on the voting districts of 20 Democratic congresspeople whose names were also listed. She also repeatedly used the phrase “Don’t Retreat! Re-load!” She also spoke frequently about her fierce devotion to the 2nd Amendment.

Palin now says those were not rifle crosshairs but “surveyors marks”. If this was true, why didn’t Palin correct the perception that everyone had more than six months ago that these were in fact rifle crosshairs? Why does she not point this out until after Representative Gabrielle Giffords is shot by one of her constituents in AZ on January 8, 2011?

If Palin didn’t mean this, why has she scrubbed all of her web presences of her tweets about “Reloading” and of this map? If these had nothing to do with inciting violence, why remove them the day of this shooting? Palin admitted political discourse can cause violence |

11 of 20 Congressmen on SarahPAC hit list received death threats; 1 assassination attempt  

2. Michele Bachmann said publicly that she “wants people armed and dangerous” in response to Democratic policies. This is a call to violence by a public figure who sought political office. I am asking the DOJ to investigate this. Michele Bachmann scolded on House floor for “armed and dangerous” talk [VIDEO]

3. Sharron Angle, another public figure running for the Senate, told the media and potential voters that “I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who’s in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical… ” and “Well it’s to defend ourselves. And you know, I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems”.

She repeated this phrase several times in her campaign speeches. 

4. Glenn Beck’s Top Ten Reasons To Kill Your Congressman

Freedom of Speech is important. Removing freedom of speech is a dangerous and unwise thing to do; I’m not suggesting we do that. I’m not talking about comedy, satire or opinion. I’m talking about what is specifically defined as violent rhetoric and hate speech by those in public who have influence.

I am asking our DOJ and other legal experts in this area what legal precedents exist around speech that is not protected. I believe that if we are able to teach all Americans from their teen years that yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire that we should also be able to make it clear that we do NOT use “2nd Amendment remedies” in our system of government; instead, we vote and we participate in our democracy in a civil manner that is devoid of violence in speech, metaphor, and actions.

Perhaps we should be teaching this lesson to all US students instead of spending any time asking any of them to pray.

At the very least we need to teach ourselves and our kids that there are consequences for the things we say and how we say them. Saying certain things WILL get you suspended, expelled, fired or – if they’re threats or unlawful – arrested.

The link to ask the DOJ about this is Be sure to ask this as a question and not report it as a crime. You do not want to get in trouble for reporting something that is not a crime, however, you do want to say that you think the above incitements of violence may be crimes and you are asking the DOJ to investigate.

There have been untrue statements in the media since yesterday’s deadly shooting in AZ that there is somehow an equal amount of violent rhetoric on both the left and the right. This is untrue. While Keith Olbermann has been gracious enough to cite and apologize for one of his comments from prior to the 2008 election as evidence that he himself crossed a line with a comment, there have been no such admissions from the right that I have heard:

In the wake of the deadly assassination attempt on Representative Giffords that has so far resulted in the deaths of six people and 14 others seriously injured, Olbermann wisely called for an end to violent political rhetoric in the media and from candidates. It will be important to watch and listen to the responses to his call from all political candidates, pundits, media outlets and elected officials.

While it may seem petty to some to argue over who has more violent rhetoric, the left or the right – it is a matter of accuracy and there does need to be an honest accounting of this.

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and others are just as guilty of violent rhetoric as the public figures who ran for office quoted above.

Even if the violent rhetoric of these people is found to be protected by the First Amendment and there are no charges filed against them for speech that incites violence or for Hate Speech, they all need to remember that the First Amendment does not protect them from our responses to their violent rhetoric.

And if these statements are not crimes, then we all have a responsibility to respond to these statements with civil disagreement.

I hope that Americans will vote with their feet and their dollars and boycott Fox News, Limbaugh, Palin, Angle, Bachmann and Coulter in response to their violent rhetoric. I also hope that teachers and parents will discuss Olbermann’s commentary with their students and children who are old enough to understand these issues.

As for the gunman in yesterday’s AZ shooting, he is a 22-year old white man. Many people have noted that if he were not white, Fox and others in the media would already be calling him a terrorist, not a “deranged” “lone gunman”.

Legal authorities have confirmed that Represenative Giffords was the target of the gunman. This was a politically motivated shooting, which does make the shooter a domestic terrorist and does make his shots an assassination attempt. The media  needs to get clear on this and use this terminology.

The investigation will continue to unfold; we will learn more about the shooter, his motives, his beliefs, how he was able to get a gun so easily given that the US military would not admit him as a soldier, and we will hope for the healing of those who were gravely injured.

We will remember the six innocent people who died during this domestic terrorist’s assassination attempt.

Will our media and public officials learn from this and change their rhetoric in the future?  We are not powerless; write and call your elected officials and ask them to ask the DOJ to investigate those listed above. Write the DOJ yourself and ask for this as a citizen of the US.

Subscribe to and follow the Southern Poverty Law Center and teach yourself and your children or students about Hate Speech. Learn about and teach your children and students about how terror groups operate in the same way that cults do.

Use the teaching materials the SPLC has on their website.

Stop ignorance and hate wherever you can. Introduce these materials at your PTA meetings, your house of worship, your parent groups, your workplace HR Executives for future trainings, and among your friends. Send these kits to the media you watch and listen to.

Ask your elected officials at your city, county, state, and federal level to incorporate the SPLC’s training materials into trainings with their staff and to help them inform their own understanding of issues in our world.

Love your children and your family in the healthiest ways possible so that none of them are hurting and vulnerable enough to seek out a false feeling of belonging with a cult-like terror or hate group.

Yes we all have the freedom to make our own decisions about how children are raised and how families interact, just as we all have the freedom to determine what we will eat or not.

What we put into our bodies MATTERS; what we put into our own and out kids’ minds also MATTERS.

Let’s STOP this disdain for knowledge and intelligence now.

Do not willfully feed children sugar cookies just because our First Lady has chosen to raise awareness around the US epidemic of childhood obesity – especially since some of those children may be diabetic and unable to safely eat those cookies. Do you want your children to be healthy or obese?

Yes, think for yourself but use LOGIC, critical reasoning skills, emotional intelligence, FACTS from credible news sources and be aware of corporate bias and your own psychological defense mechanisms. I discuss this further at

Not all thinking is created equal. It is wise to get medical facts from highly-trained MDs, climate facts from highly-trained climate scientists, and on and on. And it is important to know if any expert is being influenced by money, religious beliefs or political affiliation that impairs their expert opinion. Those who have studied statistics or peer-reviewed scientific journal articles know the importance of ensuring that information is free from such influences. We all must be sure the info we consume is free from such corrupting influences as well, so we can have the most accurate info informing our opinions and conclusions.

Humans have the capacity to truly THINK; let’s do our best. Thinking is not the same as making decisions based on strong emotions. In fact, human IQ lowers significantly when we are flooded with strong emotion. Look at FACTS. It is our duty as citizens to consume news that is untainted by inaccuracies and agendas.

If we know from experts in the fields of Nutrition and Medicine that eating a healthy diet will result in better health, less obesity, and longer better quality of life, then those who value personal responsibility need to also start valuing what experts have to say.

If you need surgery on your spine, you want an expertly trained spine surgeon, not Sharron Angle   or Joe The Plumber to do the operation.

Knowledge, Education and Expertise matter. I will write more about this in the future.

If you want to understand how Hate Speech and Violent Rhetoric affect us all, read what the experts at the Southern Povery Law Center have to say.

I was taught in grad school for psychology that moral arguments are often ineffective when addressing issues of social change and that what has been effective is appealing to people’s self-interest. So: help your kids and yourself not get expelled, suspended, fired, or arrested. Learn what is allowable and what isn’t. Learn what is legal and what isn’t. If you disagree, use non-violent means to express this. Please.

What is True and Not True About the US Government:



Copyright Denise A. Romano 2011. Republication permitted with copyright intact. Thanks.

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