Manufactured outrage and suckers who engage

by | May 8, 2023 | Editor's Blog | 3 comments

This weekend, the term “stochastic terrorism” came up twice in my Twitter feed, once accusing me of it and once accusing Governor Roy Cooper of it. I didn’t really know what it meant. I’ve heard the term in the back-and-forth on social media, but only had a vague sense that it meant encouraging violence through rhetoric. If you had asked me what it was before this weekend, I could not have told you.

If I’m not that familiar with the term, I doubt much of the general public is, either. In fact, I doubt seriously most Democrats know what it means. However, apparently most conservatives know exactly what it means and believe they’ve been widely, and unjustly, accused of stochastic terrorism.

When I Googled the term, I found three broad categories of articles. The first were academic papers, discussing the definition and debating its legitimacy. The second were accusations of stochastic terrorism by a relatively small number of mainly left-leaning activist groups and publications, usually in relations to hate crimes. And third was a bunch of articles by conservatives denouncing being accused of committing stochastic terrorism. 

Let me say here, that after reading about it, I don’t believe stochastic terrorism is really a thing, no matter what the academics say. Speech is not violent and people have free will. They can be incited to violence, but until someone says to do something, no amount of badgering or hate speech can be responsible for the actions of individuals or mobs. Actions or calls to action, not mere opinions, no matter how disgusting, are punishable, not speech. If we start prosecuting people for what they say, we’re heading down a slippery slope toward seriously curtailing free speech and the First Amendment. 

Stochastic terrorism is another manufactured outrage by the right. They are victims again, this time for being called out for using racist or demeaning rhetoric. They are using it to fire up their base and justify their victimization and bad behavior. 

That said, the left are suckers for these types of arguments. They get pulled into fights over stuff that most people know little about. It’s helped define the left, and by association the Democratic Party, as out of touch. 

In this fight, most people never hear the details. All they hear is that those on the left want to limit free speech and then activists and academics trying to defend and clarify their positions. The right wants to keep to talking about it because they know the argument defines the left as intolerant in the minds of many people in the middle. 

Critical Race Theory was a similar fight. It served its purpose to drive a wedge between middle-of-the-road voters and Democrats in the Virginia governor’s race. Most people barely heard the argument but what they heard was that activists wanted to teach a version of history that shamed White people. Fortunately, the CRT debate seems to have largely run its course as a campaign issue even if fights about curriculum will continue. 

Another of these fights is drag queens. Most people don’t care about drag queens, but most people also identify drag as adult entertainment. They don’t necessarily think its overtly sexual, but they also don’t think it’s appropriate for children. For some reason, the left decided to embrace drag queen story time for children. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Personally, I could not care less whether someone takes their kids to shows with drag queens. I probably wouldn’t take my kids, but that’s because I’m not interested in drag shows of any kind. Other people, though, see the whole phenomena as bizarre and a reflection of values they do not share. They don’t want their elementary school-aged kids being entertained by drag queens. The right is successfully driving a wedge between a middle that hasn’t thought much about drag queens and a left that thought it was worth elevating the fight.

Finally, the fight over care for transgender kids is another fight that the right will win with the middle, at least in the near term. Again, most people aren’t thinking much about gender dysphoria or transgenderism. However, the majority don’t believe we should be performing surgeries on teens. The left took the bait and are loudly declaring that anyone who questions hormone or surgical treatment for teenagers is anti-trans. That’s a pretty big majority of voting age adults.

The right has become very good at starting fights over concepts and problems that don’t affect most Americans and then suckering the left into elevating the debate. Stochastic terrorism and Critical Race Theory are more academic debates full of nuance, but the right has dragged them into the public sphere as examples of the left either shutting down speech or imposing their views. Drag queens are a form of risqué entertainment that used to be performed primarily for gay men. For some reason, the left wants to try to make it wholesome. I don’t really get it. Treating teens for gender dysphoria and transgenderism really should be for doctors and the very small portion of the population being treated, but it’s become a national debate that the left has already lost in the near term, even if they don’t know it yet. 

While the left should learn to pick its fights better, opinions may start shifting toward Democrats. Abortion bans and gun control are becoming more important in the minds of middle-of-the-road voters than these more abstract concepts like stochastic terrorism or CRT. Voters are mostly self-interested and if they believe school shootings are more of a threat than drag queens, even if they don’t like drag queen story hour, then they will vote against the party unwilling to protect their kids.


  1. Sillyme

    government overreach is real folks! I can only hope that someone sues the United States for government overreach due to the fact that the government has no place between me, you, us and my, yours, our medical needs anytime anywhere! If men could have abortions, they would make them into sacraments. I think the Republicans have got to be some of the most miserable sad citizens in this country to continually drag up things and beat the drum over and over and over again! How dare the world evolve right in front of them! All of them victims in this unjust world!! What is God thinking? I would dare to say god’s not saying ban everything you find offensive. The list would never end.welcome to the new Victorian era 2.0. Soon, enough, sharia law won’t look so bad after all.

  2. cocodog

    Justice Holmes defined the limits of free speech “during war time” in Schenck v. United States. The accused was a fellow who wanted to obstruct the draft. He would appear at a recruitment center an encourage draftees to refuse induction during a time the United States needed to raise troops to fight a war in Europe. He did this by passing out flyers and verbal statements. He was arrested and charged with violation of the Espionage Act. His defense was a right of free speech as guaranteed under the First Amendment. Holmes disagreed, writing free speech does not mean you have the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. The defendant, by his speech, encouraged conduct that obstructed the performance of a lawful government function.
    Later cases involved an individual who wrote four letter words on the back of his jacket and paraded around a court room during an active trial. His arrest for contempt was not sustained as he did not disrupt the proceedings, just made a statement which the judge found objectional. It was not intended to disrupt the proceedings.
    Encouraging another to commit a criminal act is solicitation, a crime. Free speech does not protect criminal acts. If the other person agrees to join in the commission of the crime, a conspiracy is formed.
    We will see these concepts appear in the upcoming Jan 6 Trial.
    Drag Queen performances as entertainment may be offensive to some. But those who object, not forced to attend. It is not something that is being forced down their throats. Nor do they have a right to force their views down another’s throat.
    Personally, I can think of better forms of entertainment, but that is just me.
    Stochastic terrorism, a term I have never really understood, for several reasons, among them clearly defined parameters. Perhaps a better term would be solicitation. CRT is another one of those phrases designed to be used to accomplish indirectly what cannot be accomplished directly. It is confusing but has elements that appeal to the low knowledge folks. I agree with Thomas, this is concepting that Democrats should steer clear of as they only allow the conservatives to muddy the waters. We do not need anything that detracts from the purposes of the Democratic Party which is restoring common sense and compassion for other folks.

  3. ringlet86

    Heretic! Obviously you’ve been co- opted by the MAGATS! Prepare to be “Cothamed!”

Related Posts


Get the latest posts from PoliticsNC delivered right to your inbox!

You have Successfully Subscribed!