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Incivility In Political Discourse

March 10, 2011 by  

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.

Bob Livingston

is an ultra-conservative American and author of The Bob Livingston Letter™, founded in 1969. Bob has devoted much of his life to research and the quest for truth on a variety of subjects. Bob specializes in health issues such as nutritional supplements and alternatives to drugs, as well as issues of privacy (both personal and financial), asset protection and the preservation of freedom.

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  • barb

    Remembering Thomas Jefferson….

    by Samuel H. Sloan

    Thomas Jefferson had 187 slaves. We know that because he kept meticulous hand-written records, which we still have. On January 14, 1774, after he inherited slaves from first his mother and then his father-in-law, Thomas Jefferson wrote his inventory of 187 slaves. In his last inventory, taken 50 years later in 1824, Thomas Jefferson also had 187 slaves. Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 at the age of 83.

    A page from Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, which was hand written by Thomas Jefferson himself. Sally is listed as having three children. Harriet 1, Madison 5 and Eston 8. Harriet Hemings was born in 1801. Madison Hemings was born in 1805. Eston Hemings was born in 1808. Sally’s eldest son was Beverley, was born in 1798 and because of his age had a separate listing in the Farm Book. An earlier child also named Harriet had died in infancy. Note that according to Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, Sally never had a son by the name of Tom.

    In October, 1802, while he was president, the story was published in the newspapers that Thomas Jefferson, whose wife had died in 1782, was keeping his wife’s slave half-sister, Sally Hemings, as a concubine and was producing children from her. Jefferson, who lived for 44 years after the death of his wife and who never remarried, never denied the story, but he never admitted it either. Sally Hemings was at his bedside when he died. All five children of Sally Hemings were freed by Thomas Jefferson either before his death or in his will. Thomas Jefferson made provisions for Sally Hemings in his will. These were almost the only slaves which Thomas Jefferson ever freed.

    • Ted Crawford

      This is a very creative use of comrade Alinskys methodology. When you have no substantive means to use attack personally. The post has abosolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. I’m sure Alinsky is proud of you though!

      • Firefly

        Yes, I was thinking what does this have to do with anything. It’s like saying King David had five wives but even that wasn’t enough so we should ignore the Proverbs he wrote. Or Joseph Smith had 70 wives so we should not pay any attention to what Glenn Beck says. I rather prefer what Democrat John F. Kennedy said to a distinguished group of gentlemen at a banquet, words to the effect that this was the greatest group of people to ever eat at the White House, except when Thomsas Jefferson dined alone.

    • babybikerbabe

      Loads of people like to TRY to discount Thomas Jefferson because he kept slaves. That is true, he did. What I never learned in school was that Thomas Jefferson and numerous others continued to “keep slaves” because, at that time in history, it was ILLEGAL to free them.

      “With respect to slaves, Jefferson actually did more during his life against slavery than most other men of his time — and deserves the credit for the principles in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” — which in the hands of Lincoln and Divine Providence, eventually freed the slaves — at a great price of human blood in the Civil War.

      Jefferson’s anti-slavery efforts include:

      1. Introduction of a bill in 1769 the Virginia legislature to abolish the importation of slaves into that state.

      2. Inclusion of an anti-slavery provision in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

      3. Initiated the Congressional ban on slavery in all federal lands in 1784 (his effort to extend the act to the 13 states lost by only one vote).

      4. In 1808, as President, he signed into law a bill banning the slave trade with Africa.

      While Jefferson did not free all of his slaves on his death (as did Washington), a law passed in Virginia in 1806 required that the legislature pass a special bill that would attest to the exemplary behavior of each slave to be freed. If freed, the slave had to leave the state without his or her family. Jefferson tried unsuccessfully to get this law changed. Further, Jefferson trained his slaves in skills that would be useful when they were free. He believed that to free them first would be irresponsible — since they would be homeless and without family.

      To those who will read and search for themselves and discern the honest from the dishonest, and the man of moral principle from one who is not, I believe the truth becomes more clear as to the greatness and stature of Thomas Jefferson. ” from

      And WHY was Jfferson indebted and penniless at his death? Like every signer of the Declaration of Independence they sacrificed EVERYTHING to secure our liberty from the likes of Great Britain.

  • Randy

    “But incivility in political discourse is not new. And anyone who takes an honest look at American history understands this.”
    It seems to me that today, the only political discourse that is labeled “uncivil” is when it is spoken from conservative.

    • Bob

      Quite true – AOL uses the term “civilogue” which means if you disagree with the liberals, your post will be banned and you could lose your “privlege” of posting on the liberal website.

  • Aix Sponsa

    Well spoken Bob.

  • Darlene Richmond

    Bob, “Well Said”. Each of us has the right to be “right” and we have the right to be “wrong” in our beliefs and views. That is what America is all about, the liberty to believe what we choose. And, we shouldn’t hate the person whose beliefs are not the same as ours. We should strive to discuss our beliefs and differences of opinions while still respecting the person with whom we are speaking and thanking God for this country which allows these differences.

    • http://?? Joe H.

      Now you might be right to a point, but when they strive to deny me of my rights as a US citizen, I have the right ingrained into my DNA to get pissed and how!!!

  • crystals10

    I’m sorry Bob, but incivility is inevitable. There are too many lies to even begin to speak in a civilized manner at times. Let’s face the truth, Americans are waking up to the fact that they have been sold down the river. Our Constitutional rights are being taken away without letting anyone know. Our country is being undermined, and we have Muslims trying to incorporate Sharia Law into our court system. Taxes are too high, gas is too high, food is to high, people can’t get work to pay their bills. Now why would anyone act uncivilized? I have only touched the TIP of the iceberg, and you know it. America is turning into WWII Germany with Obummer Hitler leading the way! Now why would that upset anyone? Didn’t you always want to be a commie? Americans all saw how great that idea was!! My poor father (who was a hero in WWII) must be rolling in his grave knowing the evil that has infiltrated Our Beloved Country. I will pray day and night for help from heaven on this matter. America needs to restore their faith in God, maybe then he will show mercy toward His people. People should not fool themselves into thinking God does not get angry when we turn away from Him.(Psalm IV, v.10-12). I implore all Americans to take a stand against the regime in America, the Islam Jihads, the leftists, the Marxists, and anyone in Congress trying to push any of these agenda’s. Think of it this way: We would all take a pay/benefit cut to restore America, would we not? I will.

  • Bob

    We need to remember that when we are speaking to liberals we are speaking to mass murderers (abortion), perverts (homosexuality), thieves (welfare and taxes), anti-Christians (self evident from the preceeding), white slavery (as in ACORN & Planned Patenhood covering up for)traitors (immigration “rights”, siding with terrorists), and those who seek to eliminate free speech for conservatives and Christians (the ACLU, the liberal media). Taking all this into account, it is easy to see why conservatives can’t worry about being civil to people who are destroying America. On the other hand, conservatism offers nother that should spark incivility in any decent, rational human being.

  • RPH1045

    I’m sorry to say since Obama came along this country has changed. Whats really funny Obama hasn’t been heard of until about 10 years ago and now he was elected president, Can anyone tell me how does a nobody show up from nowhere and within 10 years is president of the united states. And he refuses to show his birth certificate or his school records, college records and no one knows him from his school years, now doesn’t seem a little odd. Maybe Soros, and maybe all the news media msnbc, cbs, abc, cnn, npr, headline news, New Times, Washington Post Huffington Post.What do you think.

    • Christin

      Ten years… how about two… I didn’t know him at all.
      A real UNKNOWN chosen on purpose for his idealogy by TPTB NWO folks to be their puppet to push hard their agenda… that’s how a virtual unknown gets to the top quickly… including voter fraud…. and all his lost followers said, “Yes, we can.”

  • LongBoat

    I have to agree with Bob and go even further. When you are dealing with true evil, as we are now, there is no leeway for “civility”. The conflict in America is not a mere political or social ‘disagreement’ which can be diplomatically resolved into some common ground. It is an absolute war for the very heart and soul of America. The liberal/progressive opposition does not merely want to benignly alter some aspects of our social and political fabric for some alternate vision of “a better society”. They want to totally deconstruct the very foundations of America and rebuild it in their own twisted dream of a Godless, totalitarian, socialist state.
    There is absolutely no room for compromise. If you compromise with evil you become a partner with and an enabler of evil. Thus there is no room for civility. This is a fight unto the death.

    • Allan Halbert

      For LP’s today, politics are a necessary evil. Lp’s would rather skip the politics and go right to the vision they have for you. And they do sincerely believe in their vision. Their social and political considerations are inseparable, and non-negotiable. I received a book about 15 years ago that laid out the Progressive view for how every phase of our society should work, how we should produce our food, how and where we should travel, how decisions should be made, how the new legal system should work, and how we should collectively share resources. It was chilling, and made me feel I was a human on the Planet of the Apes. If you recall, the Apes thought humans were not able to speak or think for themselves. I listened to Progressive radio yesterday, and the commentators were saying that conservatives funamentally don’t care about other people. What these folks fail to grasp is that we define help differently — by teaching people to “fish” and by our own direct individual action, rather than than by the proxy of government. Directly helping others has the most mutual benefit, and doing it through government has the least benefit and most wasted resources. I’ve come to believe that LP’s just don’t want to have to do anything themselves.

      • Firefly

        Well said!

      • http://?? Joe H.

        Allan Halbert,
        I ORDERED a small bok the other day, in fact six copies to give to my friends, that gives a good Idea of how we should fashion our lives! I still say it was money very well spent! The little book was a pocket copy of the constitution of the United States including ammendments!!! I have given three away as of today!!

    • Christin

      Well said, Long Boat. Agreed


    Civility as it implies is a matter of law, you either make the efort to stay within the law or you risk incility by stepping out of the bounds. Most of us mistake passion for logic and the ardor of the ensuing topic is often misconstrued, the issue muddied and personality impugned.

    The temper of ones argument when tamed with civility and genial conduct can make you sound like you have a grip.

    • Bob

      Or maybe you are just a wimp who “sees both sides”. There are only two possibilities in an argument – one is wrong, one is right or both are wrong. Because the conservatives are right, the liberals must be wrong and the fact that they use the mainstream media and the schools to enforce their wrong ideas on the weak, niave, and the witless makes it unwise to treat them with anything other than the contempt all liars and thugs deserve. To treat liars and thugs with respect is to lend respectability to their lies.

  • Bobby Taylor

    Our Goverment has gone to the dogs. We used to be the most prosperous country in the world, the envy of everone, but no more. Also the public worker’s unions are bankrupting the states. How can you reward the good teachers,good workers with a union protecting the bad teachers and workers. their is no incentive to excel if the don’t care teachers,workers get the samebenefits. The teachers union even protect pedophiles that can’t go near children. But anyone that thats against the public unions are against the middle class. I’m middle class & I’m 100% againt them.

  • MNIce

    “Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    Lest you also be like him.
    Answer a fool according to his folly,
    Lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Proverbs 26:4-5 NKJV

    When you answer a fool, do not adopt his illogic and hyper-emotionalism. Use your head and demolish his “arguments” with reason in words of three syllables or less so even a “guvmint skool” graduate can understand.

    Do remember, however, that Christ died for the sins of fools and traitors as well as your own. You cannot combat folly and hatefulness simply by being nasty in turn. The best way to get rid of an enemy is to make him your friend. This is not the same as being a friend to his position; it’s convincing him that yours is the reasonable and strong position, and that you have his well-being at heart as well as your own.

    The biggest problem we have with “liberals” is that they have never imagined that government is not always the best to solve problems. Government for many of them has taken the place of God, or is at least one of their gods. Hillary Clinton typified this when she said, “It is the job of government to give meaning to people’s lives.” They have never realized that government is made of fallible people, just like the people they would have government control. They do not understand that God created people with minds capable of independent living if only they are properly taught and given freedom to use, with thanksgiving to Him, the resources He provides.

    We can only try to explain the better ways, the alternatives to government-based “solutions”, to the liberals, but we cannot expect they will accept what we say. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) Nevertheless, we must avoid reviling, for revilers, like thieves, adulterers and homosexuals, are among those barred from the kingdom of heaven. (cf. I Corinthians 6:9-10, see also v. 11)

    That does not mean we cannot identify folly for what it is, and it certainly does not mean we should not warn of evil consequences of foolish or evil actions (Ezekiel 33:6). My point is that we should seek to edify, not tear down. For if we rip and tear with our sharpest fangs and claws, will our victims be too wounded to receive our words when we offer the healing of the Gospel of Christ?

    I am aware that some conservatives are not Christians and don’t like it when somebody thumps the Bible at them. If you are one of these, I wasn’t talking to you, although I hope you’ll accept my point about overcoming through persuasion rather than calumny. The majority of conservatives are Christian, and my intent is to remind them to behave like citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, for then they will also be at their best as citizens of the United States of America.

  • s c

    For now, being ‘civil’ is the same as being under the thumb of the nearest pc Nazi. Once in a while, Democrats and their hooker pals can almost be amusing. In the case of Wisconsin and its worthless union teachers, state legislators who need to be horse-whipped and in-state and out-of-state camp-followers, none of them deserve respect or a willingness to be “civil.”
    What is at stake here is Wisconsin’s soul. Any state that looks the other way while would-be criminals flaunt their criminal ways is a state that deserves anything but peace and freedom.
    This current, temporary circus was scripted many years ago. Add Obama and his administration, a Congress full of true useful idiots, czars who should be outsourced, public sector unions, braindead flunkies and voters who refuse to think twice about anything, and what we have is an America on the verge of going the way of old Rome.
    The time for being ‘nice’ and not connecting the dots is over. Our problems won’t solve themselves, and our ‘leaders’ have nothing to gain by being respectable or accountable.
    It’s time for citizen-patriots to rise as one nation and heed the warnings of the Founding Fathers. Anyone who thinks this is one more episode of feuding political parties is a self-made fool.
    American citizens will rise to the occasion, or America is lost.


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