People don’t commit violence against other groups - or even condone it - spontaneously. First they must be taught to see other people as pests, vermin, aliens, or threats. Malicious leaders often use the same types of rhetoric to do this, in myriad cultures, languages, countries, and historical periods. We call this Dangerous Speech. Violence might be prevented by making it less abundant or less convincing. We work to find the best ways to do this – while protecting freedom of expression.
When people describe government policy as evil or even criminal, and then others attack facilities where the policy is carried out, is that Dangerous Speech?
Individuals who carry out attacks such as the one in El Paso are not only audience members who have heard Dangerous Speech and have been convinced to commit violence. They are also speakers themselves. Their words (through manifestos and social media posts) and their actions (the shootings) are performances designed, at least in part, to move others to commit similar atrocities in the future.