You know how Nancy Pelosi recently expressed concern that vicious political rhetoric could spark violence? And you know how some people said she was being hysterical? Well, at least 5 former Secret Service, FBI and CIA officers think she's right.
In interviews with Politico, the law enforcement vets say that massive social change (e.g., first African-American president) + rageahol = scary shit. The typical profile of a presidential assassin (or would-be assassin) might be a whacked-out loner with no coherent political views, but even those "can be influenced by the atmosphere around them. Some of the security experts said angry rhetoric and images in the culture can agitate and inspire those loners to cross the line from anger to violence."
And yes, talk radio rants and even Joe Wilson's infamous tantrum count as potentially dangerous "examples of fraying American nerves." Former Secret Service agent Ronald Williams told Politico, "When there are vitriolic comments, acrimonious commentary and anger, the likelihood of violence escalates." Williams then added, "I'm not a real big fan of Nancy Pelosi's, but she is correct."
Speaking of out-of-control anger and "acrimonious comments," David Neiwert at Crooks and Liars notes that "ACORN" has pretty much officially become a euphemism for the N-word, as demonstrated in a video from the 9/12 Teabagger protest. The video shows a foaming-at-the-mouth middle-aged white dude chasing three African-Americans (there to sell "Don't Tread on Me" flags) out of the protest, screaming the whole time. Neiwert:
As you can see, the man — who identifies himself as Tim Jones — shouts after them: "ACORN! These people are ACORN!!! They are frauds!!! ACORN is fraud!!! Obama sucks! This woman sells signs for profit of ACORN!!"
It attracts more harassers, and it verges on the point of an outbreak of violence when the D.C. bicycle police show up and break up the scene.
The whole thing is worth watching, but the highlight for me is around 5:30, as Jones is recapping the incident for the camera. He says one of the women smacked him in the face and adds, "They were getting very aggressive — of course, that's the nature of these people! They try their best to incite you, so that you will act in an inappropriate fashion, and then they will blame you for your actions."
Call me crazy, but I'm not nearly as concerned about a few young flag-sellers inciting violence as I am about raving middle-aged white guys, from Tim Jones to Glenn Beck. As another former Secret Service agent, Joseph Petro, told Politico, "Politically inspired violence is a real problem. If you add in racism, the bandwidth of potential violence expands exponentially."