"Stochastic terrorism" is an enigmatic and awkward phrase, but following the brutal home invasion assault on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband in San Francisco last week, it quickly is gaining currency in the nation's political reporting.
"Stochastic terrorism is defined as violence committed by an attacker who, though acting on personal volition, is inspired by language demonizing the target," is how the New York Times put it this week, in a must-read piece examining the mindset and motives of David DePape, the strange man addled by right-wing extremist conspiracies who beat Paul Pelosi with a hammer in the early hours of October 28.
The sickening episode, coming amid mid-term election campaigns marked by white-hot, hate-filled rhetoric, serves as a marker, if not an historic watershed, of America's awful political moment. This week's edition of Newsmakers TV features a special guest appearance by Phil Matier, San Francisco's preeminent political reporter, who's covered the Pelosi story for KGO-TV and KCBS radio, with some on-the-scene insights and perspective about the incident.
The conventional wisdom, Beltway narrative swiftly framed the crime as yet another chapter in the ongoing cultural and tribal warfare in the U.S., However Phil's reporting casts it in more complex and nuanced terms, a story that not only raises important questions about where mental illness ends and political barbarism begins, but also asks who is responsible when language that dehumanizes opponents leads to predictable, if seemingly random, acts of violence.
Our all-star panel panel of top journalists also, as always, has the top local stories of the week, as Nick Welsh and Josh Molina break down the latest business vs. City Hall conflict over State Street (think: teeming nests of rats beneath restaurant parklets); the effort to ease the outrage of Modoc Road neighbors over plans for an expanded bike path (despite appearances, this one's not over yet); and the latest fix-is-in approvals of cannabis projects at the county ("a rolling due process violation," one opponent memorably termed the baked-in, institutional pro-pot bias).
Plus fearless forecasts for next Tuesday's election - and Henry breaks the fourth wall, suddenly and stunningly transforming the Genial Host into Mr. Cranky Pants.
Image: David DePape; Nancy and Paul Pelosi.