It’s not hard to find a lot of hateful comments and threats on the Internet these days. Go to any local news station’s Facebook page and you’ll experience a deluge of people claiming that President Obama is a secret Muslim sent to destroy America as we know it, along with all caps rants about Donald Trump will “make America great again.”
Sometimes it goes beyond just ignorant comments and to threats of violence towards other individuals, including wishes for the assassination of political figures. When confronted on their remarks, these people claim that they have the freedom of speech, which obviously does not cover calls to violence or threats.
One man in California was just sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to making threatening calls and emails to Islamic offices. His defense was pretty bizarre, blaming a week of Fox News and substance abuse for his actions.
Defense attorney Michael Malowney told the judge that Weissinger is a different man today than when he made the threats.
In the voicemail and email threats, Weissinger used “horrible and evil” words and “once they went out, he couldn’t take them back,” the attorney said.
Malowney said Weissinger has problems with alcohol, anxiety and depression and had just finished watching a week of Fox News coverage on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris when he threatened the CAIR offices.
“He barks when he’s drunk,” Malowney told the judge. “He was reeling from depression and anxiety.” (Source)
I believe that a lot of the anger and hatred made towards minorities comes from situations like the one John David Weissinger found himself in. This is the culture of fear that the media constantly exploits in pursuit of ratings and advertising dollars.
Fox News is the main source of fodder for a lot of these fears, but they’re mild in comparison to vitriolic media groups like Breitbart, The Blaze and the myriad of independent websites like Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children which push the limits of the 1st Amendment as far as they can.
Then there are the political campaigns like the one that Donald Trump is running right now. While other candidates for office around the country have tapped into the fears of angry white America before, nobody has done so with such success on the national stage as he has.
Mr. Weissinger isn’t a random individual with mental issues, he is the face of a low-information demographic that the conservative media profits from exploiting. If you think it’s bad now, it’s only going to get worse leading up to the presidential election in November. Should Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton win, there will be a collective freakout from the right-wing, and the conservative media will be there to throw gasoline on the fire.