Political scientists say there are three main functions of political speech, David Fahrenthold says at the Washington Post: claiming credit for something, taking a position on an issue, or simply advertising, as when an elected official congratulates the local basketball team.

To these, Harvard Prof. Gary King adds a fourth: taunting the opposition.

King, an expert in using computers to find patterns in large amounts of data, and two graduate students analyzed 64,033 press releases sent out by U.S. senators from 2005 to 2007. They used a computer program to sort them into different categories, based on their content.

More than a quarter fell outside the three traditional categories, King said, and into the realm of deriding the other side. “I think most people would say that this is not a good thing,” he said.

“The entire government may go bankrupt, I guess. This week, right?” King told Fahrenthold. “We probably want our representatives to be listening to each other rather than calling each other names.”

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