As right-wing rhetoric escalates, so do threats and violence

Despite that threat, a day later, when the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News published the warrant underlying the Mar-a-Lago search, the names of the FBI agents on the document were not redacted. Almost immediately afterward, posts on a pro-Trump chatboard called them “traitors.”

According to the FBI, there are now about 2,700 open domestic terrorism investigations — a number that has doubled since the spring of 2020 — and that excludes minor but still serious incidents that don’t reach the level of federal investigation. Last year, threats against members of Congress reached an all-time high of 9,600, according to Capitol Police data.

Nevertheless, it is exceptionally rare for most adults to willfully harm others, especially for political reasons, said Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow in the Democracy, Conflict and Governance Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Still, Ms. Kleinfeld said, there are ways to reduce the average person’s tolerance for violence.

If political aggression is placed in the context of war, she suggested, ordinary people with no history of violence are more likely to accept it. Political violence can also be made more enjoyable by viewing it as a defensive action against a belligerent enemy. This is especially true if an adversary is constantly described as irredeemably evil or less than human.

“Right now justice is doing all three of these things at once,” Ms. Kleinfeld said.

There is little evidence that Republicans and right-wing media figures have tempered their rhetoric, even as Congress and the Justice Department investigate the Jan. 6 attack. Several defendants indicted in the riots have said they were moved to act by Mr Trump’s words. Still, many Republicans have tried to minimize his role.

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