Friday, March 26, 2010

A discussion on civility

From the past 24 hours or so on Facebook.

FF: Tea Partiers - see quotes below from varous news sources. What's gives? This isn't "unfortunate". This is wrong and is being fed by republican and conservative rhetoric. The responsibility clearly lies there. Death Threats, vandalism, might I suggest attempted murder. This isn't civil disobedience, this is criminal activity.

"Tea partiers shouted the "n word" at Rep. Lewis. They yelled homophobic epithets at Rep. Frank. One [dem who voted for the health care overhaul] had a coffin left on his lawn. Another was told snipers would kill the children of lawmakers who voted yes. A gas line was cut at a home that tea partiers thought belonged to Rep. Perriello. "

"A conservative blogger posted the home address of Congressman Tom Perriello, urging tea partiers to "drop by."


LB: Any use of threatening tactics, and racist or homophobic slurs are completely outrageous and indefensible.

That said, I suggest that you do a little more research on at least a) the allegations of racial epithets aimed at Representative Lewis and b) the alleged "coffin on the lawn" at Rep. Carnahan's home. There's no evidence whatsoever in support of a (and a lot of video and audio is available) and allegations that a coffin were left on Rep. Carnahan's lawn are both incorrect factually, and dishonest characterizations of the prayer vigil that took place.

And while you've got your dudgeon on, this might be a good time for you to comment on the threatening phone calls that Jean Schmidt is getting, the gunshot at Eric Cantor's office, the SEIU beating of Kenneth Gladney, etc.

FF: I have no objection to calling all of these nut jobs repulsive both sides of the spectrum. But I'm hearing dismissals from the republican side.

LB: Where? Who's dismissing it? Yes, people are dismissing the things that didn't happen, but who's excusing or dismissing actual bad behavior? Don't drop this and go on your merry way - give us citations, please.

FF: Gun imagery was used in a posting on the Facebook page of Sarah Palin urging people to organize against 20 House Democrats who voted for the health care bill and whose districts went for the John McCain-Palin ticket two years ago. Palin's post featured a U.S. map with circles and cross hairs over the 20 districts.

McCain defended Palin, saying it was commonplace practice and "part of the lexicon" to refer to "targeted" congressional districts.



LB: Really? That's it?

Dude, that's pretty lame. Politicians of both parties "target" seats of the other party in elections. There aren't faces in the cross-hairs but congressional districts. It's a pretty big stretch to associate that with political violence and of course John McCain is dismissing it. Try to step back from it for just a moment and imagine that it was, instead of Sarah Palin, the Democratic Congressional Committee that had crosshairs or bullseyes on their target map. Do you honestly thing that there would be any coverage of it at all?

Now you have clearly indicated that there are "dismissals" of actual bad behavior, those things that you mentioned earlier, a couple of which may be true. I ask again, who's dismissing them?

I really don't have the time to do the research necessary for the big rant right now, but I'll give you the short version. The press in this country isn't objective - it's chosen sides. And covering individual stories and issues objectively is hard, but fitting things into storylines is easy. The storyline is, and has been for the last seventy years, that the Republican party is the captive of the right-wing, and that conservatism is a mental illness. Democrats just represent the mainstream.

So every time a whack-job kills an abortion doctor, the media indicts the whole pro-life movement, but when parents kill themselves and their kids because they're so concerned about global warming, that's an isolated incident. A Democratic congressman reports that a colleague reported hearing a racial slur in a huge crowd of people, and, "OMG, the Tea Partiers are all racists!" But you have people at anti-war parades carrying signs saying "we support the troops - when they shoot their officers" and there's no mention of it in the press at all, because it doesn't fit the storyline. Some of it, I think, isn't even intentional - it just never occurs to the reporters that comments from the left might be inappropriate, because they agree with the underlying sentiments or policy goals.

You want to exercise your dudgeon over the level of political discourse? There are plenty of reasons to do so. But selective, and selectively partisan, outrage isn't particularly interesting...

I want to make it quite clear, that the existence of this stuff:

http://www.binscorner.com/pages/d/death-threats-against-bush-at-protests-i.html

does not, in any way, justify racial or homophobic slurs against congressmen, or violence or threats of violence. I'm unutterably opposed to political violence.

I'm also tired of it becoming an issue only when those on the right do it. I'd take the complaints of liberals a lot more seriously if there were a demonstrated consistency in their opposition to crude political discourse, not just using it as another partisan tool to bash conservatives.

Someone whose political ideology is represented on the air by Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher and John Stewart is in no position to cast aspersions of incivility at someone whose political ideology is represented on the air by Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. If environmentalists are not to blame for Ted Kaczynski, then pro-lifers are not to blame for Scott Roeder.

The Tea Parties have had millions of Americans peacefully assemble to petition their government, with, as near as I can tell, about ten "incidents," seven of which were instigated/caused/perpetrated by anti-Tea Partiers.

http://michaelgraham.com/archives/looking-for-hate-in-all-the-wrong-places/

Again, if someone at one of these events is threatening or using inappropriate slurs, that's wrong, and I condemn, rather than condone, it. But what's predominantly happening right now is that the media is running a storyline to try to marginalize and destroy the entire "Tea Party" movement. That, and that alone, is why this is a story.

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