Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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Animes and Accountability: The System Isn’t Doing Enough

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Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) retweeted a video on his Twitter account, showcasing an edited version of the opening credits from the anime Attack on Titan. The video depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and swinging two swords at President Biden on Nov. 8. 

Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) also appear beside Gosar, implying that his allies would support a violent proclamation of their ideals through oppressing their colleagues. This depiction of murder of a U.S. Representative and a violent attack on the sitting president prompted backlash from the public, and indicated to Gosar’s colleagues that he had no respect for them — especially if he was willing to publicly share such a violent video. 

On November 17, as a result of the public’s disappointment and subsequent calls for the suspension of Gosar’s social media accounts, the House reprimanded him with a censure and removed him from his committee assignments, which saw him removed from his positions on the Committees on Natural Resources and Oversight and Government Reform. 

However, the idea of a censure has no other punitive measures for the member upon which it has been sanctioned. Since it relies on the public reaction and personal desire to make amendments, it cannot be guaranteed to incite a truly effective way of reprimanding someone. The House resolution that was voted upon included clauses not only about his support for violence against women, as demonstrated by the video he retweeted, but also about how such portrayals of violence from an elected officials can inspire their followers and endanger the safety of their peers. 

Greene, an ally of Gosar, had also been censured in February, after her support for multiple conspiracy theories and sharing of extremist posts on her social media accounts. Her misuse of a public platform to support baseless theories and encourage stereotypes and hate-based speech was also met with backlash. Her defense sounded eerily similar to the manner in which Gosar attempted to defend his instigation of indirect violence through his posts. Just like Greene, Gosar tried to defend his provocative posts with the justification of humor and that his actions were never publicly condemned by the GOP. 

These forms of hateful rhetoric are not limited to the United States. They have been observed in multiple countries, and have been proven to correlate with a direct increase in domestic terrorism and the number of hate crimes in a region. The polarization of politics creates a stark contrast between the traditionalists and the progressives in any given government, and this division is prominent in the American governmental structure. 

Within the vote to censure Gosar, two Republicans voted with the Democrats against him — making the vote the narrowest margin in history for the censure of a House Representative. This implies division within the parties as well as within the mentalities of those that create the formative policies of the country. If they cannot agree upon the necessity of respect for one another despite a difference in political viewpoints, how do they expect the population to come together to enforce cohesive laws? Especially after the nation has faced the worst tragedies in the wake of the never-ending pandemic? 

Facing the importance of maintaining one’s humanity in times of confusion should be a priority for lawmakers — not fueling the flames of the fire of division that have already been growing at a concerning rate. Such incidents also bring into question the legitimacy of electing inexperienced politicians. Those that have most popularly denoted the effects of the use of violent rhetoric have not faced nearly enough punishments equivalent to the damage they caused, or have the potential to cause. 

Many elected officials  later show how their lack of political knowledge or governmental experience affects the methods through which they appeal to their supporters and present themselves to the public. 

For example, Gosar used to be a dentist with a successful practice — his switch to the political arena highlighted his lack of exposure to the policy-making world, and showed that he did not know how to approach the relational aspect of his work. Similarly, former president Donald Trump — a former businessman — and  Greene — a  failed businesswoman and Q-Anon conspiracy theorist — were uninvolved in even local politics before seeking election. They are to be blamed for the manipulative rhetoric tactics utilized by them in order to gain a voter base that believes the same baseless ideas as them. 

Such baseless tactics were also employed by Gosar to attempt to defend himself against the claims regarding his incitation and support of political violence against other representatives. 

His spokesperson stated that the left failed to understand “meme culture,” and that his intentions with sharing the video were not violent, and according to Gosar himself, he meant to use the video as a way to symbolically represent his fight against the immigration policy supported by the Democrats. 

If these misinterpretations of his so-called “non-violent” intentions behind posting the video are the main perspective of Gosar and his supporters, then no form of censure and punishment other than expulsion from Congress is enough. Any other workplace would immediately terminate an employee that directly or indirectly threatens to kill or support violence against their colleagues. Why should Gosar get a free pass? 

The house is empowered to expel any member that exhibits “disorderly behavior.” Gosar’s misuse of his platform and extremist ideals are leaps beyond what the socially acceptable behavior standard is. His own sister believes that no one holds him accountable. While public figures receive such threats on a common basis, something from their own colleagues present a real danger of apprehension to them, indicating that he should be investigated for any other such support of violence, and even be questioned for instigating forms of assault

Such actions by any other individual would prompt the involvement of law enforcement, showing how the system in place for reprimanding politicians is clearly weak — and unless real outrage is presented against them, there may be no real change to the way punitive measures are agreed upon and implemented. 

When people ask about the kind of harm an animated video can present; this is the example that needs to be shown. Violence doesn’t just mean physical harm — it means the potential to harm, and any mindset that puts humanity and basic morals at risk.   

Nandini Sharma is an Opinion Staff Writer. She can be reached at nandis2@uci.edu