We sometimes try to absolve ourselves of the consequences of our words and actions by trying to convince ourselves and others that we are “only passing on” what we heard or read and that those who have heard or read what we have sent to them are responsible for their own actions. We forget that in the mere act of passing on things we have endorsed them. If people are our friends, they tend to put faith in what comes from us. “My word is my bond”. We want people to believe what we say and people have a natural tendency to believe that what comes from us is what we believe. This is the natural process in which we influence others, the process that makes us teachers and mentors not only when we consciously intend to be in that role but at all times and in all things. Both our intentional and unintentional mentoring can and does have far reaching effects. It behooves us to live and reflect our lives and what we do or say to have a positive effect on the world around us.
People like Rush Limbaugh are what I call “rabble rousers”. He makes big bucks using half truths and dubious “facts” to incite those who are easily incited to repeat his mantra and to act on his fanatical assertions. He will claim to have no control of what people do, and what they do is their doing. But at the same time he thrives, financially and egotistically, on his ability to influence people.
Where did Jared Loughner get is perverted ideas that led him to kill in Tucson? His mind may have been weak and he may have had distorted values but what influenced him to act the way he did? I believe very strongly that people who spew hate through their irresponsible “rabble rousing” bear a heavy responsibility.
We champion Free Speech. All very well and good. But with free speech comes responsibility. We do not shout “Fire” in a crowed theater. We do not incite riots. You will note that the rabble rousers do not participate in the actions they incite. They stay safely behind their shield of Free Speech.
I, for one, will not be a rabble rouser nor will I assist them by “sharing” their retoric and furthermore, I will not be one of the rabble who is incited to follow their poisonous ranting. I try to be better than that.