THE PLANK OCTOBER 28, 2009
Randall Terry is clearly full of it when he says his ghastly "Burn In Hell" contest, which invites Halloween revelers to submit videos of themselves burning effigies of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, aims to help frustrated Americans "peacefully vent their rage." Terry's goal has always been to pour gasoline on the frustrations of the pro-life populace until it is hot enough to burn down the entire nation in God's name. He needs their rage like Fox News needs GOP press releases. Without it, he is lost.
But Terry's insanity does once more raise a question--applicable to any number of political bomb-throwers these days--about the broader issue of venting vs. stoking.
When people are goaded into acting out, whether by burning images of their elected leaders, unleashing purple-faced tirades at town hall meetings, or replacing the toilet paper in their local Starbucks with pages from Glenn Beck's book, does this make them ultimately more or less likely to grab an assault rifle and scale the nearest clock tower?
Even if the former, obviously vanishingly few would ever indulge such an impulse. But what does the preponderance of research say about the general impact of such calls to arms?