Last month, America woke up to the news that explosives were sent to the households of prominent left-of-center political figures including the Clintons, the Obamas and George Soros, as well as the offices of CNN, which has been critical of President Donald Trump and is one of his favorite targets on Twitter.
In San Diego, the building housing the Union-Tribune newspaper had a bomb scare when suspicious boxes were found outside its downtown offices, but the packages turned out to contain nothing more than children’s books, shoes and other miscellaneous items.
Later that week, a white man shot two black people in a supermarket at Kentucky, and allegedly told an armed bystander, who was white, “whites don’t kill whites.”
After that, there was another shooting, this time at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
The shooter, who posted anti-Semitic remarks on his social media and told police he wanted all Jews to die, killed 11 worshippers and wounded several others
The events of this last month — two shootings and a bomb threat prove — that fear-mongering speech and the promotion of right-wing conspiracy theories by the American right-wing leads to violence.
These attitudes didn’t start with Trump’s campaign or presidency, but his rise legitimized the hateful speech he used to gain support, and as a result, encouraged further hateful acts.
The far-right has used George Soros as a scapegoat for any far-fetched left-wing conspiracy they can concoct, accusing Soros of funding everything from election fraud to government sabotage of Trump programs to the recent migrant caravan.
Soros is Jewish, having survived the Holocaust in his youth while living in Nazi-occupied Europe.
While much of the language framing Soros as the backing force behind these false claims about left-wing conspiracies isn’t explicitly anti-Semitic, allegations of a global Jewish plot to control the world is a common anti-Semitic trope, and Soros and “globalists” serve as clear stand-ins for the Jews in this scenario.
Stoking anti-Semitic attitudes will lead to acts of anti-Semitic violence like the Pittsburgh shooting.
Racism against African-Americans and other ethnic minorities has been used as a tool to consolidate power since the colonial era, with the Virginia Slave Codes of 1705 enhancing the position of the white working class while stripping the few rights that Africans possessed.
This allows elites to retain their power by keeping the white working class allied with the rich instead of their fellow workers.
The spread of these attitudes has also led to violence, as perpetuating stereotypes of the inherent violence of minorities is used to justify police brutality, widespread incarceration for minor crimes and rising white supremacist attitudes.
The latter likely played a part in motivating the Kentucky shooting.
Now, the demonizing of groups to preserve right-wing power has spread to those they view as political opposition, such as journalists and left-of-center politicians.
Allegations of “fake news,” liberal bias in news and vast conspiracies to undermine the right has allowed conservatives to discredit criticisms of their policies in the eyes of their base
The hatred this kind of speech provoked preceded acts like the wave of suspicious packages sent to news organizations and liberal politicians, along with the shooting at the Maryland newspaper Capitol Gazette’s headquarters in June.
Plenty of people, including politicians from both sides and news organizations, have drawn similarities between the far-right and far-left.
However, this is a false equivalency.
The left hasn’t used language targeting certain ethnic or religious groups, or women, or right-wing politicians and news organizations.
There hasn’t been a spate of violent acts conducted by those on the left.
Perhaps it isn’t the explicit intent by many or even most right-wing politicians to spark violent acts or extreme hatred toward these groups.
But at this point, the intent of the speakers doesn’t matter; what matters is the impact of the words.
Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-journalist, anti-liberal speech sparks violence towards the group that speech demonizes.
Those on the right must immediately denounce this language and call for the president to stop encouraging these violent and dangerous attacks on the media, politicians and the American people.
Chance Page is a senior studying journalism.