Incivility In Political Discourse
March 10, 2011 by Bob Livingston
There has been a lot of talk recently from political elites and pundits about “incivility” in political discourse. They talk as if this incivility is a recent phenomenon.
The protests in Wisconsin over Governor Scott Walker’s attempts to reign in government spending on its public employees’ pensions and healthcare is a prime example of the lack of civility they are talking about—though you don’t hear much about it because it’s not Tea Party activists opposing liberty-stealing acts of government that are protesting, but union thugs trying to force their will on a governor elected to scale back government costs. But many videos posted on YouTube show protesters screaming at opponents and members of the media, with much name-calling, expletives and even pushing, shoving and mild violence thrown in.
Of course, name-calling, expletives, ad hominems and physical attacks are the refuge of the ignorant. It’s a convenient fallback position for those unable or unwilling to defend their positions with facts.
It is also a common practice of the ignorant to automatically assign evil motives to a person or group expressing a counter opinion. Many reach the conclusion that any person or any group that disagrees politically or philosophically is somehow bad and intends to inflict as much harm or heartache as possible on their opponents.
This often manifests itself on this website, with commenters posting diatribes pinning all sorts of ulterior motives on authors and other commenters.
There is also a more subtle form of incivility that goes on. There are many who come to Personal Liberty Digest and log in under multiple names in order to carry on arguments with their alter egos or others in an effort to disrupt legitimate debate on this site. It happens more frequently than most of you probably realize.
Again, it is the refuge of the ignorant to interrupt or shut down debate when he finds his position or opinion cannot be defended with fact or reason.
But incivility in political discourse is not new. And anyone who takes an honest look at American history understands this.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “It has been a source of great pain to me to have met with so many among [my] opponents who had not the liberality to distinguish between political and social opposition; who transferred at once to the person, the hatred they bore to his political opinions.”
It pains many of us still, because as long as this practice continues we will be opposing one another rather than mounting opposition to those in positions of power who continue to steal our freedoms by passing unConstitutional laws and steal our wealth by debasing our currency.