On May 24, 2017 in a high-stakes Montana Congressional election, Greg Gianforte (R) “bodyslammed” Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs and broke his glasses. If you’re asking yourself what Jacobs could have done that was deserving of physical violence, the answer is this: he asked Gianforte questions. Gianforte was apparently fed up with reporters dogging him about the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and its dismal Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score. Jacobs’ was unfortunate enough to be the question that sent Gianforte over the edge. Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna (yes, Fox News!) witnessed the occurrence and documented it the following day here. Gianforte won the election at the same time as charges were being brought against him for assault.
Yesterday, June 12, 2017, Gianforte pled guilty and was sentenced to community service, a $385 fine, and 20 hours of anger management courses. He and Jacobs also reached a settlement wherein Gianforte would donate $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Jacobs released a statement saying that he accepts Gianforte’s apology and that his sentence is appropriate.
That, however, isn’t the real story here. Yesterday also saw the release of poll results from Public Policy Polling that included a very odd question: Is it appropriate for Republican politicians to bodyslam members of the media?
It seems like a very easy question to answer, right? Notice anything strange about these results? There’s not a single 0% under any voter group – even Hillary Clinton supporters or “other,” which would probably include Bernie supporters! Not a single zero! This is the story about which we should be talking. We live in a country where you can ask someone, “do you think people should beat other people up just for talking,” and people will answer, “yes!” What has happened to us?
Given that we’ve been having debates over whether or not you should punch Nazis (if you haven’t heard Thomas Smith and Eli Bosnick discuss this, you should) and we’ve seen violence erupt at protests around the country I don’t suppose it should surprise me as much as it does that people aren’t really that averse to violence as a response to speech. That isn’t, however, how my brain works. I cannot accept that punching or bodyslamming a person is ever an appropriate response to what that person is saying. I also find it incredibly difficult to believe that this poll could have these results in a free, open society.
We, as liberals and secular humanists, should be speaking out against violence and leading the charge toward rational, peaceful existence. We should be finding ways to resolve differences without hurting people. We should be the 0%.