Police officials in Tennessee announced today they had arrested 35 year-old Wendi Wright on charges of felony reckless endangerment. According to WPSD-TV 6, Wright tailed and followed Representative David Kustoff and his aide as they were leaving a Town Hall Meeting at the local University of Tennessee branch.
Wright allegedly tried to force the Congressman off the road. Kustoff pulled into the driveway of a friend's home when Wright pulled in behind them, blocking them in. She came screaming out of the car, banging on Kustoff's vehicle, grasping at him through an open window and bellowing obscenities. Kustoff called police, but Wright escaped before their arrival. She was later arrested at her home after boasting of the deed on a Left-Wing social media site.
According to authorities, Wright was angry at Kustoff for his vote to repeal Obamacare.
At some point, there's going to have be a serious national dialogue addressing these kinds of outbursts because they are becoming all too frequent. It was reported yesterday that the FCC has been under a sustained troll attack since pundit John Oliver called for a protest over some proposed Net Neutrality policies. The extremist rhetoric coming out of people like Keith Olbermann and Stephan Colbert is clearly calculated to push unstable people like Wright into violent actions.
This is not to say, either, that the Far Right isn't guilty of doing the same things. We've documented numerous cases of their pundits inciting violence and other despicable acts. As Pope Francis said, the tongue is a dangerous weapon and can even be the most potent weapon in the hands of political terrorists.
In terms of social psychology, it's well-known that a certain percentage of the population---either through lack of education or psychological problems---are very susceptible to the influences of those they consider leaders. When they hear hyperbole they are bound to take it literally and act accordingly. This is why Codes of Professional Journalism in the past forbade language like that. In an even broader sense, these acts can encourage copycats---as we've seen with the increased number of attacks on police since the Dallas shooting last year. It can also lead to mob violence, and we've seen that in places like Berkeley and Portland recently.
What should happen via a national dialogue is for leaders in the Media to start policing themselves. Some media watchdog groups are doing that already; but their influence is very limited.
Some may object at this point that there's no proof that Wright's actions were motivated by media extremism. It may be so, but the fact that she posted this on social media suggests that she was seeking the same kind of validation in the same venues.
It's a complicated problem, because what we are seeing is the First Amendment being badly abused. This situation---if allowed to continue---cannot possibly have a positive outcome. The universal tendency of all governments (and ours is no exception) is to restrict freedom when it becomes a public nuisance. When the Right of Assembly constantly ends in destructive riots; the Right to Petition ends in troll acts; Freedom of Speech and Press ends in attacks on Congressmen and mass-shootings; then the Government will not only move to restrict freedoms but will do so with the full blessing of the general population. We've actually seen this historically happen during the US Civil War and both World Wars in America.
What has to be emphasized and exposed in public discourse is that the demagogues at both ends of the political spectrum actually desire that outcome. A government of either Red Pill or Antifa types is unlikely to be sympathetic to First Amendment liberties once in power itself. They actually would like nothing more than to force the Government's hand to restrict such freedoms (against their respective enemies, that is). Then they can also sit on their perches and claim that the Government has become a tyranny and needs to be overthrown.
Once people understand that these demagogues are simply using them for their own purposes, their power will largely be diminished without the need for restrictive new laws. But it's going to take leaders in the media and government to put aside partisanship and speak out from the bully-pulpit; because if they don't there may not be a pulpit to speak from.