Media Amplifies Violent Fringes

DOJ and Congress Must Act

We must confront the dangerous trend towards violent extremism in America.

Recently, there has been an explosion in threats and acts of domestic political terrorism. The majority of these can be traced to groups and individuals who do not accept the results of our recent election or the laws enacted or proposed by those who have been elected. They seek to undermine the democratic process through threats, intimidation, and even outright murder. They can’t accept the legitimacy of the President, or a woman’s legal right to make choices about her own medical care, or an immigrant’s right to be treated humanely under the law, so they carry out acts antithetical to American democracy, American values, and both civil and human rights.

The fringe elements that make up those who commit these acts of terror are frequently exploited by a continuous wave of right wing media advocating violence, either directly or indirectly, by commentators amplifying the talking points of extremist religious leaders and extremist political leaders. The fringes are incited on our public airwaves, and urged to take matters into their own hands, with the underlying belief that the Bible and/or U.S. Constitution justify using whatever means are necessary to oppose what they believe to be immoral laws.

We have to take a stand against this dangerous trend towards the incitement of lawlessness and violence. I strongly believe in the First Amendment right of free expression and discourse, even when that expression is abhorrent or not in line with our own beliefs. However, the First Amendment does not protect debate where one side includes the threat or act of violence.

The Department of Justice must study this trend toward the encouragement of violent lawlessness and initiate action to counter it; and investigate and prosecute those who are committing and inciting others to commit acts of violence. The DOJ must also review whether any media groups are violating antitrust laws by monopolizing media or media markets, or failing in their obligation to meet the “public interest” of their FCC broadcast licenses. It should support an update and study by the FCC and NTIA of the 1993 report, “The Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes.”

And Congress must conduct an investigation into the rise of extremism and violence and the role of the media in this phenomenon, as well as hold hearings on the responsibility of the licensed broadcast media to conduct itself in the public interest. Congress should support legislation to require diversity in media ownership, encourage broader minority ownership of FCC licensed media outlets, and otherwise reverse the dangerous trend of media monopolies allowed following the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

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