As Right-Wing Rhetoric Escalates, So Do Threats and Violence

Despite that threat, one day later, when the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News published the warrant underlying the Mar-a-Lago search, it did not redact the names of the F.B.I. agents on the document. Almost immediately afterward, posts on a pro-Trump chat board referred to them as “traitors.”

According to the F.B.I., there are now about 2,700 open domestic terrorism investigations — a number that has doubled since the spring of 2020 — and that does not include lesser but still serious incidents that do not rise to the level of federal inquiry. Last year, threats against members of Congress reached a record high of 9,600, according to data provided by the Capitol Police.

Nonetheless, it is exceptionally rare for most adults to willfully inflict harm on other people, especially for political reasons, said Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow in the democracy, conflict and governance program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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

If political aggression is set in the context of a war, she suggested, ordinary people with no prior history of violence are more likely to accept it. Political violence can also be made more palatable by couching it as defensive action against a belligerent enemy. That is particularly true if an adversary is persistently described as irredeemably evil or less than human.

“The right, at this point, 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 charged in the riot have said they were moved to act by Mr. Trump’s words. Still, many Republicans have sought to minimize his role.

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