Civility and the Political Divide.
As I point out on the left sidebar there, I live in Tucson – home of the University of Arizona, and until recently the city of residence of Dr. Deborah Frisch, moonbat extraordinare. Her little bout of homicidal threats has produced two local newspaper pieces and inspired a bit of commentary on the only local live talk-radio station, KNST. The morning show host here spent a good five minutes on a soliloquy about the loss of civility over political differences. I’ll admit, I’m a caller to the show from time to time, and I send in emails. Recently the host read a James Lileks piece I sent in that was on topic for the day.
Anyway, after listening to Mr. Parisi expound on the loss of civility, I decided I’d do my typical thing and drop him an essay of my own, complete with links. Rather than waste it on just one recipient, I thought I’d
inflict it on share it with my readers:
You spent quite a bit of time commenting on Dr. Deborah Frisch and her rather unhinged behavior. Well, not specifically Dr. Frisch, but the general incivility between the Left and the Right illustrated most graphically by her behavior.
I think I can explain the reason for that incivility.
Let me quote from a blog I read somewhat frequently:
For a very long time, probably since I had my own the-left-is-evil epiphany, I have tried to persuade leftists of my acquaintance of the error of their ways.
That’s pretty typical of a lot of the blogs I read. It is matched by blogs from the Left.
Here’s a quote from a blog that is no longer in existence, but it’s one I’ve used several times on my own blog. It was written by a woman I have met, mother of three, wife of another fairly prominent member of the blogosphere:
The other day our Carpenter’s helper heard me say something along the lines of, “it is difficult to conclude that incompetence is the reason why our public schools have deteriorated. There comes a point where you have to suspect sabotage, or a conspiracy.”
He asked me if I really meant that. I gave him the five minute explanation of John Dewey’s known affiliation with communists, his frequent essays and articles about the wonders of the Soviet education system, and his quote, “You can’t make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent.”
I then went on to tell him about how public schools changed at the turn of the last century. That there were others involved in turning Americans from free-thinking individualists to factory drones. I also added that many people probably went along with it because it seemed like a good idea, but there were certainly enough people behind the scenes, who knew that the goal posts had been moved. THAT is a conspiracy.
Yes. There does come that time when you are forced to don the tinfoil hat.
The incompetence excuse only works once. Incompetence this great is impossible to attribute to accident.
The divide has gotten to the point where both sides have concluded that the opposing side isn’t just wrong, it’s evil. On the Left it’s been called “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” You don’t act politely towards evil. You don’t negotiate with evil. You don’t compromise with evil. Your only options are to fight it, or succumb to it.
Now let me quote British doctor and social commenter Theodore Dalrymple from an interview he gave after the publication of his most recent book:
Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.
http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=19293 (again, my emphasis)
I don’t believe that everyone on the Left side of the spectrum is evil. (And I certainly don’t believe that everyone, or even most on the Right side of the spectrum is good.) But I do believe that what the leadership of the Left pursues certainly is evil, whether they consciously realize it or not, and they are thus guilty by association. This puts me, and many like me, in a quandary – how do you determine who is and who isn’t actually evil? Who can you reason with, and who must you dismiss? And who must you actively try to defeat?
I sent you an email a couple of days ago with a link to Peggy Noonan’s “A Separate Peace.” I hope you took the time to read her essay. When a significant portion of the population becomes convinced that another significant portion is actively evil, (and vice-versa) then her “tough history coming” is probably an understatement. One ends up in the position of “Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoset” – “Kill them all. God will know his own.”
This goes for both sides. There is no middle.
You state that your personal political position leans to the Right, but it’s evident from listening to you each day that you have not concluded that, for example, someone like Dr. Frisch is evil. She’s nuts, you think, but not evil. But if she’s inflicting herself on her students like UW-Madison instructor and 9/11 conspiracy theorist Kevin Barret is, isn’t that evil? Worse, both Frisch and Barret have very vocal defenders, and not just a few. We have people in this country – more and more of them – who hate it, and what it stands for. And they’re all on the Left side of the political spectrum.
James Lileks – the author whose piece you read on the air a couple of weeks back – just last night dissected a column by LA Times “humorist” Joel Stein. Stein’s piece attempts to be tongue-in-cheek about how he felt when he discovered someone planted an American flag in his lawn. Stein’s column is here:
Lileks’ piece (the Stein fisking is the lower half) is here:
At least read the Lileks piece. Is Stein evil? Or is his rejection of an American flag on his property the result of decades of exposure to people like Dr. Frisch, Kevin Barrett, and the disciples of John Dewey? He certainly seems to believe that the United States is evil, though he professes to love it. It is people like Stein who draw moral equivalence between jihadists torturing, physically mutilating and beheading prisoners and U.S. soldiers humiliating prisoners at Guantanamo, who don’t condemn people who strap bombs to themselves and blow up innocent women and children, but who do refuse to acknowledge that the U.S. charges its soldiers who are suspected of committing crimes against the Iraqi population. No, to them AMERICA is evil, and they are not. (Stein once wrote a column declaring that, since he didn’t support the mission, he couldn’t really support the troops. That piece is no longer freely available at the LATimes site, but it attracted much attention at the time.) Can he be reasoned with? Would civility help at all?
You can decry the loss of civility, but I do not see how it is possible or even desirable to be civil with people who hold such beliefs, unless it’s for diplomatic reasons, where “diplomacy” is defined – as the saying goes – as murmuring ‘nice doggie!’ while reaching for a stick.
I don’t want “tough history,” but something’s going to happen, civility can’t stop it, and it isn’t going to be pretty.
I don’t know if it’ll accomplish anything, but I feel better for writing it.
UPDATE: Lileks has something to say on the topic of civility in today’s (7/17) Bleat. An excerpt:
As I have said before, to no effect, I don’t believe that people who disagree with me are BAD and EVIL and want the country DESTROYED. (Which is why it’s always amusing when the courtesy is not returned. The other day at the park I had a mild little conversation with a nice woman wearing a black rubber bracelet that said I DIDN’T VOTE 4 BUSH, just in case the matter came up at this childrens’ birthday party; the moment she discovered I would be voting against Mike Hatch for governor – a man she didn’t particularly like – the temperature dropped 95 degrees, and she excused herself. Because people like me are RUINING MINNESOTA, I guess, and what’s worse is that we’re doing it intentionally. With foreknowledge of the disastrous consequences, which we want.) I think there are ideas that have unfortunate consequences, but for the most part they’re held by people who believe they will have fortunate outcomes. I’m sure most people who read this site who disagree with me have the same opinion. We want the best, and the struggle to find agreement is only fruitful if we respect each other’s motives. You don’t have to respect the arguments, of course, but you have to respect the speaker, right up until the moment when they confirm your suspicions and reveal themselves as an utter diq. After that, well, have fun. (Some people in the public sphere come conveniently pre-revealed, which makes them fair game.)
It’s the second half of today’s column. Read the whole thing.