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Don't Tone It Down, Amp It Up: In Praise of Incivility in Politics

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By Dave Lindorff

"The wranglers over creeds and dogmas are perhaps the most persistent of all agitators; the bedrock idea being that a wrong exists which must be found and exterminated."
         -- Eugene Debs

"Get it straight, I'm not a humanitarian, I'm a hell-raiser."
         --Mother Jones


Mother Jones was not civil by ThisCantBeHappening

I'm going to take issue here with the mainstream media commentariat (and even some on the left) about the issue of "civil discourse."

There are two main arguments being made, and both are wrong.

One is that our politic process is being damaged by violent and intemperate rhetoric, and the other is that this violence is coming from both the right and the left.

On the first point, there is a big difference between violent rhetoric and intemperate rhetoric.  Violent rhetoric is where a speaker actually tries to incite her or his listeners to violent action.  Intemperate rhetoric is simply rhetoric that is not temperate, as in polite, respectful, calm. That is, it is angry, it perhaps heaps scorn on some other party, it condemns the actions and motives of an opponent, and it seeks to rile up its intended audience.

There are times, I would agree, when violent rhetoric can be akin to the proverbial shout of "Fire!" in a crowded theater, and such speech--the kind of speech that used to be used to rouse a crowd to become a lynch mob--should rightly be viewed as a criminal act.  But riling up a crowd to kill somebody is different from riling up a crowd to, say, damage construction equipment that is about to destroy a poor neighborhood to make way for a casino development, riling up a crowd of workers to break into a plant and engage in a sit-down strike to prevent the shipping of the machinery overseas, or riling up a crowd to resist a forcible eviction in a foreclosure.

There is a big difference between shouting "Kill the n-word!" as listeners did during some Sarah Palin campaign events in 2008, while she said nothing to dissuade the racist crowd, on the one hand, and, on the other, declaring as I and others have done that those who would  cut Medicare and Medicaid funding are condemning thousands of people to death, or writing, as I have also done, that President Obama, like President Bush before him, is a war criminal for ordering the indiscriminate use of drone missile attacks on Afghan and Pakistani housing compounds known to be filled with families, or for refusing to punish those who ordered torture, and that the punishment for such crimes can include execution...

For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent online alternative newspaper, please go to www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/399

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
 

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This call for civility is,in reality, a call for d... by John Reed on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 4:19:40 PM
You're one of our (OEN commenters) really good rea... by Ned Lud on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 5:06:50 PM
This from the guy (Dave Lindorff) that flagged my ... by Ned Lud on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 4:55:18 PM
I greatly appreciate your sticking up for me. As ... by Allen Oliver on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 7:42:56 PM
There's also the argument ....the best way to figh... by Nick van Nes on Saturday, Jan 22, 2011 at 9:08:28 AM