Skip to comments.Incivility
Posted on 03/05/2007 9:10:33 PM PST by Valin
I wanted to write something about the degenerative effects of incivility in politics in the wake of the comments and commentary today. Instead, a CQ reader sent me a link to a speech three years ago by Heritage Foundation president Dr. Edwin J. Fuelner. In speaking to the graduating class of Hillsdale College on May 8, 2004, Dr. Fuelner warned the young men and women that our democracy depends on the healthy exchange of ideas and arguments -- and that incivility degrades the social compact on which that debate depends:
This is the real danger of incivility. Our free, self-governing society requires an open exchange of ideas, which in turn requires a certain level of civility rooted in mutual respect for each other's opinions and viewpoints.
What we see today I am afraid, is an accelerating competition between the left and the right to see which side can inflict the most damage with the hammer of incivility. Increasingly, those who take part in public debates appear to be exchanging ideas when, in fact, they are trading insults: idiot, liar, moron, traitor.
Earlier this week I was in London and attended a dinner honoring Lady Margaret Thatcher on the twenty-fifth anniversary of her accession to the Prime Ministership of Great Britain. As you know, she is a good friend of Hillsdale College and has visited your campus. She was also a great political leader and has always been a model of civility.
If you want to grasp the nature of civility, try to imagine Lady Thatcher calling someone a "big fat idiot." You will instantly understand that civility isn't an accessory one can put on or take off like a scarf. It is inseparable from the character of great leaders. ...
Incivility is not a social blunder to be compared with using the wrong fork. Rather, it betrays a defect of character. Incivility is dangerous graffiti, regardless of whether it is spray-painted on a subway car, or embossed on the title page of a book. The broken windows theory shows us the dangers in both cases.
In my poor way, this was the point I have been trying to make. Readers of this blog have enthusiastically cheered when I criticized the Left for their incivility. For almost a solid week, we debated the Edwards blogger scandal, where Edwards hired two women who routinely used hateful epithets in describing Christians ("Christofascists" and "Godbags", as I recall), and people wanted his hide for it. I blasted Howard Dean for his announcement that he hated Republicans and everything for which we stand. This blog has spent the last 42 months taking on that kind of rhetoric, with thousands of posts and thousands of hours of my time.
That takes little courage, however. How brave is it to criticize those who hate and attack me?
It isn't enough to scold your opponents for their incivility; one has to have the courage to criticize their allies for it as well. That takes more fortitude, because it means alienating those who one presumes have become friends. It means weathering with some grace the kind of comments that people have thrown at me since Friday afternoon. Some may not want to generate that kind of storm, and after today, I don't blame them a bit.
If one wants to change the tone of political discourse, then one has to start with one's self, and hold one's own side accountable for their incivility. If both sides continue hurling rhetorical brickbats until the other side ceases, the incivility will continue forever. And. like Dr. Fuelner, I believe that it will degrade our democracy until the only people talking are the uncivil extremists.
Is that the kind of country we want? Does anyone want to be part of that kind of politics?
I certainly don't. I'm not quitting or going away, either. I will keep on doing what I can to fight for civility in political discourse -- and that means criticizing people on both sides who insist on using incivility to bludgeon their opponents out of the debate.
Note: I closed the comments on the previous thread because I had started to react in kind. I'm going to do better at avoiding that in the future, and I apologize for lashing out at certain commenters.
The rest? Their days should be difficult, frustrating, and painful.
Good luck with the windmills.
"Is that the kind of country we want? Does anyone want to be part of that kind of politics?"
Perhaps the author needs to study the level of political civility in the first several decades after this country was founded.
I'll agree with your post. Pragmatically speaking, I just think we win more hearts and minds with civil discourse. A little humor, too.
I look up to Margaret Thatcher. She was a true lady and a great friend to our nation. Ann Coulter is nowhere near her league. It has nothing to do with being right or being smart. It has to do with having class.
Good advice from Mr. Morrissey
Beautifully put and very true.
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
Civility has been tried, over and over, for decades. It just gets us nowhere. Did Rush Limbaugh spearhead a conservative movement through civility? Did Newt Gingrich lose his house leadership, not to mention his house seat, because he was too passionate? Is Ann Coulter a leader in the conservative movement because she's civil?
Civility is for a discussion between two honorable ladies or gentlemen. We are not engaged in a reasoned debate with such laudable opponents.
We are in a gutter fight with trash, who don't care what becomes of our nation, but fight only for their own aggrandizement and power.
Civility be damned, sir. This is a battle for the soul of the greatest nation on Earth, and now is not the time to be squeamish.
The trouble is, the uncommitted voter, arriving late to the fight, cannot determine who is the trash.
Whereas it would be easier for him to determine the right if you were responding to gutter attacks with amused tolerance (original meaning of tolerance)
Why give the "advantage" to the Dhims by freezing the terms of debate at there curent levels?
Civility like "free trade" only really works when both sides apply it. That will never happen, we need bomb throwers as much as we need "civil discourse".
The Clinton paradigm is still in effect
Any charge not responded to must be true.
And that is reality.
Yes, I agree.
Sometimes Ed Morrissey can be so Peggy Noonanny-ish. These prudish exhortations for everyone "to just get along" are terribly tedious and utopian. Dean Barnett ain't winnin' no points either.
As usual, Mark Levin had the adult perspective on the whole Ann Coulter dust-up and put it in proper context during his radio show tonight: There are powerful politicians in a position to do this country real harm every day who say far worse things about the military and about their political opponents - and then act on those words - who are never held to account. And we're supposed to get upset because a true patriot and honest-to-God conservative-with-a-brain uses a politically-incorrect playground taunt while giving a speech? Please tell me, Ed and Dean, that you're not seriously asking me to spare a moment of my life to contemplate whether I should give a HOLY RAT'S ASS about the manufactured-outrage-fallout among the Libs and the MSM. (Oops, too late, I guess that's exactly what you're both asking us all to do.)
"The Captain" does a decent job of aggregating and calling attention to some breaking political/cultural stories which makes his blog worth skimming once a day, but as an opinion-shaper he's not the leader I or any of my adult children would want to follow into political battle.
That's the truth. During the election of 1800 Federalist newspapers said the election of Jefferson would cause the "teaching of murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest." And it got worse as the years passed, especially with the attacks on Rachel Jackson and the notorious Coffin Handbill of 1828.
Buckley was Right and such outbursts were a lot more serious transgression in 1968 than now. He survived and so will Ann.
If I was going to criticize AC for anything it would be that mentioning Edwards elevates him, not that his campaign is going anywhere.
That is true only because the right is fighting back.
If one wants to change the tone of political discourse, then one has to start with one's self, and hold one's own side accountable for their incivility. If both sides continue hurling rhetorical brickbats until the other side ceases, the incivility will continue forever . . . Is that the kind of country we want? Does anyone want to be part of that kind of politics?
The choice is not ours.
I will keep on doing what I can to fight for civility in political discourse -- and that means criticizing people on both sides who insist on using incivility to bludgeon their opponents out of the debate.
A waste of time.
Some specifics which I personally remember.
The "issue" became "McCarthyism" not national security as it should have been. Why? Because of the left's 24/7 full-court press of lies, contempt and contumelies aimed at anti-communism.
There was an attempt to smear the emerging modern conservative movement by blaming it's criticism of JFK for Oswald's act. The left's lies, contempt and contumelies were not all that forceful however.
The Goldwater - LBJ election should have been the serious issue of "the direction which we are headed." Instead the left's 24/7 full-court press of lies, contempt and contumelies made Goldwater the "issue."
The issue should have been the Tenth Amendment v. central authority constitutional questions but became a matter of "racism;" to wit, the left's 24/7 full-court press of lies, contempt and contumelies made "states' rights" a code word for the N-word. Some constitutional issues were decided (surprise!) in favor of Washington thanks to the commerce clause -- everything imaginable was interstate commerce.
The issue should have been curtailing social unrest, law and order IOW. The left's 24/7 full-court press of lies, contempt and contumelies made "lawn' order" a code word for the N-word. In a lame attempt to counter we had "Support your local sheriff" bumper stickers, if I remember correctly.
The issue should have been the virtual destruction of the Viet Cong in 1968 and the forces needed to compel North Viet Nam into war-ending serious peace talks. Instead the left's 24/7 full-court press of lies, contempt and contumelies made "we can't win" the "issue." And of course all that "baby killers" crap.
Remember there was no Internet, TV was replacing newspapers, the "Fairness Doctrine" virtually shut down political discussion (there was nothing like modern talk radio), and the leftist were virtual gatekeepers of information and issues especially on the ever increasing popular TV network news.
The "McGovern boat people" (as a well known pundit called them) fled the traditional, patriotic Democratic Party as the New Left moved in to establish the Rat Party.
By this time William F. Buckley's Firing Line was considered all the balance that conservative were entitled to given that the left-liberal ideology had almost total control of the media and was being touted (by them) as middle of the road.
At the moment I don't recall much else but the 1980s brought Reagan, hope, an end to the Cold War, an end to the "Fairness Doctrine," and the rest we are still living.
Keep fighting back with all the nastiness we can muster. It's getting their attention. I believe that Paul Begala has a book out decrying incivility from both sides. Fighting back has a better chance at ending it. (Actual, civil war will probably be needed the left has long been obsessed with one thing, "Bring it all down, man.")
Most often the truth is painful. When democrats defacate on the Oval Office carpet they deserve civility?
Most often the truth is painful. When democrats defacate on the Oval Office carpet they deserve civility?
I'll take Ann's biting honesty over "the captain's" manufactured self righteous masochism.
See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup
Yeah buddy that's his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot he's a millionaire
VIDEO: John Edwards attends to his hair (HAHAHAHAH) Posted on 10/19/2004