The Rise of Dangerous Speech in the U.S.

In these times of heightened political tension, the IMCP Hill Working Group invited experts [1] in the field of dangerous speech to help us understand the context in which our country’s political dysfunction is evolving.

Focused on the outcome it produces rather than the motivation behind it, researchers define dangerous speech (DS) as speech that inspires people to commit or condone violence. Five factors can increase one’s propensity for violence:

  • Speaker: does the speaker have qualities (ex: charisma, force…) that make the message more persuasive?
  • Audience: is the audience primed (ex: grievances, trauma, isolation…) in some way?
  • Content: are words (ex: cockroach, demon, weeds…) being used that dehumanizes the other?
  • Dissemination: are people exposed to only one source of information? Is the language being used one that resonates?
  • Social/historical context: is there a history of violence between the two groups? Or are there norms that would prevent violence?






[1] Speakers: Lucas Wright, Researcher at the Dangerous Speech Project; Rachel Brown, Executive Director of Over Zero; Jessica Gonzalez, Deputy Director and Senior Counsel at Free Press; Henry Fernandez, CEO of Fernandez Advisors and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. The event was hosted by PeaceTech Lab and organized by Communities in Transition.






When in December of 2016 the cover page of Time Magazine labeled this country the "divided states of America,” it felt true. A harrowing 2016 U.S.

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