Monday, July 18, 2016

On Tempering Rhetoric

Yesterday, after an ambush shooting of police officers in Baton Rouge, President Obama gave a wonderful speech about how Americans need to tone down rhetoric and seek unity.

Shortly after Obama's speech, the press released the fact that the perpetrator was a black activist.

The question in my mind is: Would Obama have given the same speech if the perpetrator was a white right-wing militia member?

I am certain that Obama knew the race of the perpetrator before his speech.

It is certain that the police knew the race of perp either during or shortly after the shooting.

Obama spoke to the police department and it is inconceivable that the police would not have mentioned the race of the shooter to Obama.

In my post yesterday, I lamented the fact that we've been trained to use sensational events like this ambush shooting of police officers in our rhetoric.

As everyone waited for the press  to release the name of the perpetrator, I imagined how the event would play out in different narratives.

The second the name was release, people rushed to read his twitter feed and blog. Apparently Gavin Long was a former Marine who joined the Nation of Islam. He called himself a "sovereign citizen." It appears that he was radicalized by the rhetoric associated with Black Lives Matter.

This case fits the narratives of the people opposed to Obama and not the narratives that Obama has been pushing.

Although I personally agree with the call to moderate rhetoric. Obama's call to moderate rhetoric when facts don't fit his narrative comes off as partisan and falls flat.

Divisive rhetoric is not simply about the tone of the voice or the words used. Division is often created by the timing of one's argument. We see a paradoxical situation here where Obama's call for moderate rhetoric itself comes off as divisive.

No comments: