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Cohen: Reckless Speech Has Terrible Human Cost

The tragic events in Tucson are not the first time we have seen the awful results of unwarranted distrust of our government. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City because of his consuming hatred and distrust of the government, killing 168 people, including 19 children under age 6. Less than a year ago, a disgruntled citizen flew his plane into an IRS building in Texas.

It is the responsibility of all who have a public platform to speak the truth. Reputable journalists and broadcasters, as well as all elected officials, must rededicate themselves to speaking the truth and exposing lies.

Death panels, government takeover of health care, bald-faced lies about our president’s country of birth or religion — these are the kind of despicable falsehoods that permeate our culture. They serve no purpose other than to incite contempt for our government.

Reckless and hateful speech often has a terrible human cost. If the horrific events in Arizona are not enough to modulate our public discourse, it is likely there will be more violence, more deaths. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima Country, Ariz., summed it up best as he has repeatedly mentioned the effect of the vitriol spewed by many on talk radio and some on television: “It may be freedom of speech, but it has consequences.”

Rep. Steve Cohen is a Democrat who represents Tennessee’s 9th district.

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