Anti-Abortion Talking Heads Claim Talk has no Power to Influence Real World Behavior

Republican Candidates - becking, beckers Who incited Christian terrorism?  Not me.  Couldn’t be.

In what could be the greatest head-spinner of the season, Christianist Republicans—from presidential candidates to congressmen to Fox News bimbos to sleazy video-splicers and wild-eyed sidewalk ranters-with-rosaries—are scrambling to deny that their words actually matter or have any real world influence.

Rest assured, they say, we had nothing to do with any shooting rampage at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs . Cough. Baby killers. Cough. Body parts for sale. Cough, cough.

To those of us on the outside, the relationship seems clear.  Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains which was targeted in the CMP video hoax  has experienced the terrorizing first hand:  “We’ve seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months. That environment breeds acts of violence.”

Even Ben Carson managed, somehow, briefly,  to put two plus two together.  “There’s no question the hateful rhetoric exacerbates the situation,” he said on Face the Nation. But Laura Muzyka called Carson “sorely misinformed” and then, ironically, underscored his point by tacking on some hateful lies of her own. “The only thing that’s extreme is Planned Parenthood’s desire to see abortion without restriction through all nine months of pregnancy while they capitalize off dismembering preborn children and parting them out for sale.” She added that, “No one in the pro-life movement ever calls for violence in return.” [italics mine]

No one calls for violence?! A claim like Muzyka’s is possible if one buys into a “No True Scotsman” argument that anyone calling for violence is, by definition, not a part of the pro-life movement. True, most calls for violence against clinics and providers are veiled, but some have been pretty darn explicit. Here’s one from Popular Facebook evangelist Joshua Feuerstein (who has 1.8 million followers):  “Planned Parenthood has hunted down millions and millions of little innocent babies, stuck a knife into the uterus, cut them, pulled them out, crushed their skull with forceps, ripped their body apart, sold their tissue, and threw them bleeding into a trash bin.I say, tonight, we punish Planned Parenthood. I think it’s time that abortion doctors should have to run and hide and be afraid for their life.”

Here’s another from Troy Newman who was recently denied entry into Australia because the government feared he would incite violence there. According to Newman, the only way to purge “community bloodguilt” and protect America from God’s wrath about abortion is the “lawful execution of the murderers, which is commanded by God in Scripture.” (Newman is the head of Operation Rescue and was endorsed by Ted Cruz just days before the Colorado shooting.) In fact, anti-abortion fanatics have made so many violent threats against clinic staff and patients that Drexel Law Professor David Cohen and colleague Krysten Connon recently published a whole book of them: Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism. A clinic worker recently tweeted what it’s like to live with this on a daily basis.

But if we are to believe the Republican talking heads, all of this is irrelevant to the eruption of violence.

  • “This is so typical of the left to immediately begin demonizing the messenger because they don’t agree with the message. Anyone who tries to link this terrible tragedy to anyone who opposes abortion or opposes the sale of body parts is … this is typical left-wing tactics.” – Carly Fiorina
  • “It’s also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist. If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.” –Ted Cruz
  • “It was absolutely unfathomable.” “I don’t know of any pro-life leader — any — if you can tell me one, please correct me — but I don’t know of anybody who has suggested violence toward Planned Parenthood personnel or some act of violence towards their clinics. I’ve not heard that, not from one single pro-life person.” – Mike Huckabee
  • “It’s a tragedy. It’s, I think, a mental health crisis,” – Rep. Michael McCall, R-Texas

Never you mind that conservative Christians in high places have been fanning flames for months, calling women and care providers murderers, pretending to believe Planned Parenthood kills big-eyed babies and sells body parts for profit. Never mind that we call such language “incendiary” because it is incendiary. They are shocked-shocked-I-say, that some wingnut in Colorado actually took their becking at face value and opened fire in a family planning clinic.  Who could have possibly known that all that posturing and lying for political gain might affect someone’s behavior?! Uh, I mean, it didn’t! It couldn’t. It was just talk!

Did anyone other than the guilty parties themselves fail to notice the bizarre irony here? The people now hastening to assure us that talk doesn’t matter are people who earn big salaries talking. We refer to them as talking heads because that’s what they do, day in and day out, month in and month out. Talk, talk, talk. Why? Because they (and the folks who bankroll them) are betting that words actually matter.Stochastic Terrorism

Those most carefully denying any relation between talk and murder are politicians who spend years speechifying in order to change voter behavior, assisted by well-paid communications experts who make the big bucks because tweaking words slightly might affect what voters do. They are pulpit pounders who siphon off 10 percent of churchgoer earnings on the premise that by talking to and for God they can influence beliefs, attitudes and behavior. Talk can save souls. In fact, in the Iron Age mythology of the Bible, it can bring whole worlds into existence. In the beginning was the word. 

But a bloodbath incited by mere words? Stochastic terrorism? A crazy lone wolf who reacts predictably to the fear and fury of the pack? Words erupting into violent action and reaction? Words shattering into the staccato of gun fire, into screams of terror and anguish? Words slurring into the soft gurgle of the dying? Couldn’t be.

Someone should tell America’s politicians, ad men, preachers and campaign consultants to pack up and get jobs where they actually have some influence. If, as they claim, they’re not capable of getting one crazed wingnut among millions to pick up a gun and open fire after months of professionally crafted goading and millions of dollars of airtime, they don’t deserve their big salaries.


Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at

About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt; Deas and Other Imaginings.
This entry was posted in Christianity in the Public Square, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Anti-Abortion Talking Heads Claim Talk has no Power to Influence Real World Behavior

  1. Nan says:

    AMEN (A-WOMEN)!!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Lowell Bushey says:

    Hi, Valerie,

    Thanks for pointing out one of the most absurd things that any group of people has ever said!


  3. carmen says:


    You have concisely channelled the anger that many of us feel about the amount of power that these talking heads have – the truly horrific aspect is that each of these has the potential to be the next leader of the most powerful nation in the world.
    Keep talking.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave Miller says:

    Word can’t influence behavior or beliefs? Don’t tell Rupert Murdoch.


  5. allanmerry says:

    In response to Nan (Nov 30, 3:37pm) re POTUS, and possibly for others. Nan, first, I’m just guessing that you’re referring to Hillary Clinton. If I’m wrong, and you meant the other surviving female Republican candidate, I apologize for this intrusion. In any event, my viewpoint on Ms. Clinton is that the widespread, firm conviction- that she and her family are vermin; wretchedly corrupt, dishonest, and horrible- is actually a “poster child” for the manner in which un-studied, unsubstantiated, destructive, absolute convictions are very often accepted and exercised by “the masses.” Probably a majority “the masses” have very little time and energy, or none, to do anything more. Beyond making ends meet and otherwise coping with “life.” Still, a sizeable sector of we “well-enough-off others,” skews heavily toward Entertainment in preference to serious thought, introspection, and validation. (And the truly wealthy, of course, mostly hoard and grow their wealth for simple pure political power; or at the least to retain personal control of the issues they choose to support). From folks on both sides of the “no time” or “Limited Interest” spectrum alleged above, I hear the “simple” Clinton viewpoint daily, wherever I go. And, as many of us- we progressives- will generally agree, the “less well informed convictions” have serious implications for many other of the most pressing, Progressive “political” issues. OK, All this said, I’m personally far from Pure in this comparison. So. Will I just trust that my Tentative viewpoint is sufficient? That the long “Clinton Story” primarily reflects HEAVY Regressive politicization over its’ course, and just vote my Democrat preference. Or will I decide it’s a case that demands some validation research, which I could do. If I had the time. :-(


  6. Steve Ruis says:

    So, all church sermons are for . . . what? You mean they are just talk and not meant to affect behavior? Then why is it a virtue to attend church?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: What was all that blubbering about personal responsibility if not this very thing? | Growing Old Ain't What I Thought It Would Be

  8. jimbo says:

    Too much looking at the trees. At the same time as all this is going on Mikey Weinstein at the MRFF is battling severe christianist infection in the military and he is achieving victories. Our civilian situation is bleak, with christianist infection in all walks of life, including our government, our schools, our networks, and especially ominous our media. Think watching a college or professional football game with getting holy shit stuffed down your gullet. Think many ‘liberal’ websites infected with an unfortunate agenda. The ultimate agenda is removal of church and state, and lying and hating and murder and war are their tools. Notice their tools are those of the devil, funny huh. It’s simple: not democracy if gods. Problem is those who are on the right side of the proposition have gods which demand adherents to convert others, and they will lie, hate, murder and war to achieve the desired ends. Tools of the devil.

    I will not shout. President Obama, it is time to confront the devil, it’s religion or America.


    • jimbo says:

      when I say ‘religion or America’, what I mean is by bringing it to the forefront then real Christians will begin to see how defeating the christianists in their midst will ensure their religious freedom. The perpetrators of this scam, in my humble opinion want all the activity to come to a head just before the Presidential election. Look at all the fronts being attacked by religion, media, schools, our financial system and economy, our government (fascists in Congress, sorry, their actions opposing governance deserve worse). Real Christians must be made aware of the truth.
      President Obama convene a conference with faith leaders to discuss the issue and help the world understand the truth. Real Christians will be better able to understand.


  9. The claim is being made that “Talk has no power to influence ‘real world’ behavior?”

    I’m very confused. Aren’t the people who are making this claim the very same people who persistently claim that the videos our kids watch and the Harry Potter books that they read are the cause of all the cultural ills they imagine? Aren’t these the same people who work diligently to censor library books and sit on school boards advocating for the removal of Darwin’s picture from science books and the placement of a picture of Moses next to George Washington signing the Declaration of Independence?

    There’s no question that all of these people live in an entire separate (and very different) universe. I used to think that it was all just their shtick. But after witnessing each and every one of them express their inanities so impeccably well, I’ve become convinced that it’s not. It’s not an act at all.

    I place below a link that speaks to the nature of this gang of people who, to put it as politely as one possibly can, have seemed to have lost all of their critical thinking skills, not to mention their connection to humanity. They are a very dangerous breed because they have, like any other run-of-the-mill sociopath, mastered the art of the con. I view them in much the same way as I view the hordes of nutbags who demanded public beheadings for the publication of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. They simply cannot (and will not) be reasoned with. They’re zombies.


  10. Linda Noel Schierman says:

    Violent xtian males VXM AND Evandalists proclaim that “Only the written Word or the Revealed Word from the Bible or as Revealed to & through the male channelers — oops, clergy — is God’s Truth and as such Only His Truth DOES Have the Power to Change human behavior in the Real World through the grace of J.C. who died on the…etc.”
    Critical-thinking LindaNoel: “Ok, please help me understand. The latest VXM believed he was Doing God’s Work, he must have Received the Directions from the Bible OR he Heard God Telling Him to Attack & Kill Women’s Reproductive Health Care people and ruin their facilities.”
    So….when does the kidnapping & then burning-at-the-stake of these health providers & seekers begin? Will you show your Unashamed-of-Jesus faces or use the white hoods at the bonfires, uh, the burnfires celebrations?
    OH! Since so many of you are hunters, perhaps, if we are lucky, Burn Bans due to current Air Pollution of their children’s lungs and Fire Hazard dangers to their hunting territories in summers will hold off the ‘illegal but GOP-encouraged” burnings. ?


  11. Paul Abrams says:

    Awesome!You should send as op-ed to NYTimes.  Worse that they can do is turn it down.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android


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