01/10/2011 01:06 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Right's Rising Tide of Violent Rhetoric

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords appears be the latest victim of anti-government violence that has taken hold in America since 2009. It's a wave of violence that's cresting along with a tide of hateful, insurrectionist rhetoric that far too many conservatives refuse to condemn. Instead, the toxic talk is routinely defended as being nothing more than spirited debate.

It's not. It's deadly. And until those in positions of power say so, the dangerous rhetoric is likely to continue.

Whether that rhetoric played a role in the gun massacre that erupted at the Tucson shopping center on Saturday, we don't yet know. Note that over the weekend the local Arizona sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, condemned "the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business," and especially the influence it may have on "unbalanced" people, like the Tucson shooter.

What's undeniable is that the attempted assassination of Giffords took place against a right-wing media backdrop that has been targeting the government, and specifically Democrats, in an unconscionable manner:

As facts of the Giffords shooting continue to come in, let's understand what has transpired in recent months as right-wing partisans have rushed past any sense of common decency and responsibility to endlessly attack and condemn Democrats.

For instance, let's recall that last March when Congress was preparing to vote on passing health care reform, partisans in the far-right press denounced the vote in apocalyptic language as they depicted Democrats as monsters who deserved to be physically tortured.

Recall that at the same time, a surge of political violence erupted across the county as Democrats became the target of what were essentially terrorist attacks.

But rather than unequivocally condemn, or even rationally discuss how the violent rhetoric had become increasingly indefensible, and rather than encouraging partisan activists to dial it down before somebody got hurt, conservative pundits urged followers to forge ahead with their calls to arms, even blaming Democrats for bringing the deadly threats and acts of violence upon themselves by voting in favor of health care reform.

Read the entire Media Matters column, here.