The End of the Imaginary Age of Civility

by Hans Bader on February 7, 2011 · 1 comment

in Politics as Usual, Sanctimony, Zeitgeist

After the Tucson shooting, liberals lectured America, and especially conservatives, on the alleged need for more civility (even though there was no evidence that the shooter was influenced by any uncivil political rhetoric, and the shooter was not a conservative).

But the new era of civility didn’t last long, if it ever existed at all.  Some of the very people who loudly demanded civility from others quickly returned to their own deeply-ingrained habit of trash talk and hate-filled vitriol.

Liberal actor and activist Richard Dreyfuss set up a project to promote “civility in political discourse” after the shootings.  When he was asked about a liberal radio host’s yearning for the death of the “dirtbag” Dick Cheney, he praised it as “beautifully phrased,” endorsing an intemperate diatribe that also branded Cheney as an “enemy of the country,” and a “freakin’ loser.”

The liberal lobbying group Common Cause, which had hectored America about the need for civility, helped organize a demonstration outside a conference in California where participants called for the lynching of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Liberal Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) helped usher in the new Age of Civility by likening Republicans to Nazis like Joseph Goebbels.

The Washington Post and New York Times enlisted two prominent practitioners of trash talk to lecture America about the need for civility. Al Sharpton preached about the “dangers of inflammatory rhetoric” in the Washington Post, despite his own past history of helping incite a deadly race riot, and a court judgment against him for defamation arising out of the Tawana Brawley hate-crime hoax.   Ex-congressman Paul Kanjorski (D) lectured about the need for “civility” in the Times, despite his October 2010 statement that Florida governor Rick Scott (R) should be shot.

The Post op-ed writers who endorsed the calls for civility then paved the way for yet more civility, both by branding conservatives as spiteful lobotomy patients, and by insinuating that opponents of gun control are collectively guilty of subversion and nativism, writing that “the descriptions of President Obama as a ‘tyrant,’ the intimations that he is ‘alien’ and the suggestions that his presidency is illegitimate are essential to the core rationale for resisting any restrictions on firearms.”

Even as it prattled about the need for civility, the New York Times editorial board directed readers to its earlier diatribe that baselessly accused Republicans, the Tea Party, and conservative media of creating a climate of “division” and “anger” that made the Tucson shootings possible. The Times did so even though a column by its own David Brooks had earlier pointed out that there was “no evidence” that the shooter was influenced in any way by conservatives.

While the Post and the Times don’t seem at all concerned about the death threats recently made by liberal activists against Republican lawmakers in Florida and in Wisconsin, they are very up in arms about factual references to the health care law as being “job-killing”  (a claim based partly on Congressional Budget Office findings that Obamacare would reduce the size of the American labor force by perhaps 800,000 people). The Post‘s Dana Milbank seems to think that criticizing the killing of an inanimate object (like a job) is violent rhetoric, and he recently wrote a long, sanctimonious editorial devoted almost entirely to the alleged incivility of referring to Obamacare as “job-killing,” which he regards as rhetorical “poison.”

Since the big-government policies they favor typically wipe out jobs  (like the $800 billion stimulus package, which wiped out jobs in America’s export sector, while subsidizing foreign green jobs, and which the CBO admitted would shrink the size of the U.S. economy in “the long run“), it’s not surprising that liberal journalists like Milbank would want to squelch discussion of “job-killing” policies.

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