What is a Leader?

Monday, January 10, 2011

What is a leader?

I think most would agree that a leader is someone who tries to guide or produce some sort of action out of others. 

A leader may organize and motivate employees to make a business succeed.  A leader may seek to convince you to vote for them or another candidate.  A leader may work to galvanize people around a cause, such as giving blood at the Red Cross, donating food to the local food bank, or encouraging you to swing a hammer for Habitat for Humanity.

No matter what cause a leader wants you to support, a leader uses words to try to drive others to action.  A moral leader motivates their followers through responsible, inspirational speech.  

While the average person might be motivated to vote or take up protest after hearing a metaphor promoting violent action, there are those who will take these calls-to-arms literally.  There are those who will be inspired to take violent action against communists, socialists, Grannie-killing bureaucrats, or the illegitimate holder of the oval office.

Yes, words matter.  Yes, words can get people killed.  

17 comments:

Smitty 4:25 PM  

A note on Sheriff Dupnik:

He spoke a truth. He pointed no political fingers. He *didn't* say "Tea Party" or "Republicans" when he lamented the toxic political environment in Arizona.

All he said was that when people start carrying guns to political rallies and drawing crosshairs over each others' faces, or scream racial or horrifyingly over-stated epitaphs at one another, in his experience as a cop, that kind of shit gives tacit approval to the criminally insane to act on their under-medicated, pent-up urges. Normal people see it for what it is. The lunatic fringe and the actual lunatics, though, don't.

And yet the blond, cross-eyed reporter on FOX and a bunch of Winger Congresspeople are all upset over it. People: he didn't blame YOU. Guilty, perhaps, are we? Thou doth protest too much...

Jay 4:56 PM  

The most absurd unequal comparison I have seen about this goes like this:

"...the same people who say that violent movies and video games do not lead to violent behavior are now saying that politicians using violent images does lead to violent behavior..."

Frankly, if you can't grasp the distinction between violent imagery appearing in entertainment and elected (or would-be elected) leaders using violent imagery when speaking about an actual, individual person when they are speaking to their supporters, you have some serious problems with the logic circuits in your brain.

Sigh...

Monk-in-Training 7:21 AM  

I noticed Smitty's point too. Sheriff Dupnik never said "Fox News, Palin, Beck, etc". The response of 'not my fault' sounds like they feel a bit guilty deep down.

Oh, and how Christians should conduct ourselves in public discourse, I leave you with this selection from the Sacred Scriptures.

Colossians 3:7-10 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

Whenever a right wing Christianist politician gets in your face, humbly reply with this, hopefully it will speak to them.

steves 7:33 AM  

I can't disagree more. I was watching the CBS morning news and was impressed that they were moving away from the "words make people kill" and talking more about:

1. How incredibly rare this type of incident is. A member of Congress hasn't been attacked in several decades.

2. This guy was deeply, deeply disturbed. He apparently felt some personal grudge towards his victim and acted on it. He had a long history of bizarre, aggressive behavior. The police were called to his classes on 5 occasions and he was eventually kicked out of his community college.

I think that the comparison to video games and movies is valid, in the sense that some people are bothered by games, movies, or speech, and they infer some kind of causal connection between the two. In most cases, there is no causal connection, but it is followed by some kind of call for legislative action (e.g. new laws, regulations).

Here's a nice list of incitement.

I found that list to be kind of long on quotes and short on substance. It is worth pointing out the past event described didn't involve anyone being killed, nor was there anyone there involved in any kind of threat towards any public official. I don't see the connection, but to the author, I suppose any gun owner must be a Glenn Beck follower that is just waiting to kill.

As for the incitement, I agree it should be toned down and I won't vote for someone that talks like that. Dupnik, in the interview I saw, said that our current political climate was creating these kinds of incidents. I am not so sure if I am willing to say that with the evidence that is out in this case. I would also argue that the rhetoric of todays isn't any different than it was in the past.

steves 7:37 AM  

Frankly, if you can't grasp the distinction between violent imagery appearing in entertainment and elected (or would-be elected) leaders using violent imagery when speaking about an actual, individual person when they are speaking to their supporters, you have some serious problems with the logic circuits in your brain.

Jay, so what politician specifically mentioned or named Giffords to the lunatic that shot her?

Bob 8:23 AM  

I would also argue that the rhetoric of todays isn't any different than it was in the past.

I urge you to find examples of politicians in the last century who suggested that the right or left take up arms if they lost an election. Prove it.

Jay, so what politician specifically mentioned or named Giffords to the lunatic that shot her?

One on one? Nope. Indirectly, there were many who recommended violence in the event of a loss of the elections. Giffords was one of the few D's targeted by a tea bagger who held onto her seat.

steves 10:09 AM  

Prove that this was in any way connected to rhetoric. This guy wasn't in the tea party. He was a registered Democrat and his shooting Giffords, as fair as I can tell at this point, had more to do with him being crazy.

Jay 10:17 AM  

Steve:

I did not suggest that there is a causal connection between anyone mentioning Griffith and her being shot. What I suggested is that there is a very real difference between a leader using violent imagery and urging their followers to "target these individuals" and a video game depicting violent acts. And I feel quite strongly that anyone who equates those two dynamics is not thinking very clearly.

Jay 10:21 AM  

Sorry, Giffords.

Names and my brain do not get along very well.

steves 10:58 AM  

The FF's certainly (even post revolution) expressed the notion that armed rebellion was necessary under some circumstances.

As for other wild rhetoric. In the 1800 election, Adams said that Jefferson would "destroy Christianity" and that
"prostitutes...will preside in the sanctuaries now devoted to the worship of the Most High."

John Quincy Adams distributed a pamphlet that said
"Jackson is to be President, and you will be HANGED." In other words, if you vote for Jackson, you will all die.

Andrew Jackson said, "I have only two regrets: I didn't shoot Henry Clay and I didn't hang John C. Calhoun."

If you are wondering, Henry Clay was the Speaker of the House and Calhoun was Jackson's VP.

"No more Brothers in jail! OFF THE PIGS!
Pigs are gonna get killed! OFF THE PIGS!
No more pigs in our community! OFF THE PIGS!
No more pigs in our community! OFF THE PIGS!
The Revolution has come! OFF THE PIGS!
Time to pick up the gun! OFF THE PIGS!"
– Black Panther Party anthem

There are others. I am not defending the rhetoric from Beck et al. I think it is asinine and idiotic. I just question the notion that there is a rise in violent or extremist rhetoric or that there is even a rise in violence towards gov't. The same panic occured in the 90's when it was militias. That failed to materialize.

steves 10:59 AM  

Jay, you are correct. I think there is a difference in media violence and a leader telling their followers to go kill someone.

Bob 12:40 PM  

Let’s put aside some of the indirect comments, such as those that dehumanize political opponents or seek to make them seem anti-Christian, anti-American, or a threat to Americans’ rights. Let us concentrate on the direct calls to violence for a moment.

In light of the shooting in Arizona, do you think it is appropriate or responsible for a leader to say any of the following:

"I hope that's not where we're going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out."

"Don’t retreat. Instead — reload!"

''Our nation was founded on violence. The option is on the table. I don't think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.''

''I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. ... No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out.''


If it isn’t OK to say it now, it wasn’t cool for any of the congressional candidates and “journalists” to say it before.

Bob 12:41 PM  

The same panic occured in the 90's when it was militias. That failed to materialize.

Except the blowing up of that little building in Oklahoma.

Bob 12:58 PM  

To Steve's main point. It is true that there is no direct evidence that this guy actually listened to any of the above nutjobs and their pro-violent rhetoric. There never may be.

But a wimp-ass response to this lets people off the hook. No one can say the tensions in the U.S. are normal. You would never have heard Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan or either Bush speak like that.

There are assholes coming to health care events with guns and are being driven there in the belief that death panels appointed by our communist president will kill us. That is just fucked up. It’s HEALTH CARE people, put down the gun. The death panels lie was driven by those currently in office, not fringe groups.

There are candidates nominated by a mainstream political party urging violence if they lose. That is really screwed up.

There is an entire 24 hour news cannel that spills out this shit, that isn't the same as the past.

The Oklahoma City bombing was the same damn thing. Nobody in office commanded the guy to blow up a building, but back then repeated messages made crazies think their rights are being taken away, or that black helicopters are coming, or (like the recent shooting in Pennsylvania) that the President was going to take away their guns.

It’s all the same, so quit letting these assholes off the hook.

steves 1:12 PM  

Smitty, those are all good points and I tend to agree. The Right is way more guilty when it comes to wacko violent comments.

Bob, the militia scares were all post Oklahoma City, which I should point out was carried out by Tim M., not a militia. Those comments that you mentioned are indefensible and idiotic. My point was that it is one thing to say they are bad and should not be used, it is another thing to say that those comments cause people to kill other people.

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