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I have been considering a series of new topics/columns here on MosaicPlanet.org for some time now (even before this site was born) that would effectively examine themes of American life rather than actual subjects.
One such theme is what I call our “culture of cruelty;” wherein we would look inside the aggressively competitive nature and often haphazardly deliberate victimization of fellow citizens and how – as a society – we have become overwhelmingly numb to the ill-effects of violence, degradation and dehumanization on scales both large and small.
So when the story broke of Montana Republican Greg Gianforte’s special election win, it was like the stars aligned and the very first Culture of Cruelty post was born.
If you are not up to date, Gianforte was a highly-contested Republican candidate for Congress in red-state Montana who – less than 24 hours prior to the election – literally and physically bodyslammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for asking his opinion on the AHCA’s new and disastrous CBO score. The congressional candidate was pressured to answer the question by Jacobs due to Gianforte’s previous insistence of not giving his opinion on the bill until after the CBO score was released.
Although not caught on camera, an audio recording of the scuffle does exist, and its full transcript is here:
Jacobs: …the CBO score. Because, you know, you were waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill and it just came out…
Gianforte: Yeah, we’ll talk to you about that later.
Jacobs: Yeah, but there’s not going to be time. I’m just curious—
Gianforte: Okay, speak with Shane, please.
[loud scuffling noises, an even louder crash, repeated thumping]
Gianforte: [shouting] I’m sick and tired of you guys!
Jacobs: Jesus chri—!
Gianforte: The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing! Get the hell out of here!
Gianforte: Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing! You with The Guardian?
Jacobs: Yes! And you just broke my glasses.
Gianforte: The last guy did the same damn thing.
Jacobs: You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.
Gianforte: Get the hell out of here.
Jacobs: You’d like me to get the hell out of here, I’d also like to call the police. Can I get you guys’ names?
Unidentified third man: Hey, you gotta leave.
Jacobs: He just body-slammed me.
Unidentified third man: You gotta leave.
Again, this was less than 24 hours before the election. And guess what? Gianforte won.
Gianforte was elected to the U.S. Congress to represent the interests of his fellow Americans even after he is documented on digital recording (and witnessed by others) as having shouted at and attacking someone who calmly and justifiably asked him to clarify his thoughts on his own party’s health-care plan.
In my opinion, the “hard to digest” part is not that Gianforte won; as nearly ⅔ of the Montana vote were already in prior to the assault. No, the damning criticism is instead two-fold in regard to the aftermath of the attack.
First, he was allowed to remain in the race even with being charged by police with misdemeanor assault.
Second, his constituents outright and immediately forgave him for his physically attacking a member of the press simply because he did not want to give a reply to a question that he really, really needs to answer.
This man went from giving a statement to police on why he physically slammed a person to the ground to being named Congressman in a matter of hours, and his voters were totally cool with it.
Although shocking, the Gianforte/Jacobs incident is no isolated occurrence; earlier this month, a reporter was arrested for daring to shout a question at Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (again in reference to the AHCA) while another was physically shoved and held to a wall for attempting to ask a question of FCC Commissioner Michael P. O’Rielly.
Beyond just the press, Gianforte’s brazen, cowardly behavior exemplifies a level of political buffoonery now remarkably present under President Donald Trump that is so far removed from the commonality of humanity that it will literally look the other way when the crime happens before its very own eyes.
In an era where the current president has declared the press to be enemies of the people, Gianforte’s actions and their subsequent responses from the public are indicative of the wider problem that has and continues to weave its way through civil American discourse; where cruelty is declared as a strength and the unjust is deemed acceptable.Click here for reuse options!
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