Monday, January 10, 2011

Have we had enough yet?

Regular readers know that I've been writing for many years on the danger of reckless, over-the-top rhetoric and the online anonymity that helps foster it. The sudden mainstream-media focus on it in the wake of the politically motivated shootings in Tucson will naturally divide itself into the usual tedious arguments, with the extreme right protesting defensively (with some justification) that the gunman was individually responsible, and the rest of us recognizing that the climate of hateful rhetoric has an intuitive connection with the weather of the broken mind with a gun.

Where we all bear responsibility is in allowing our communities to become so reflexively divided along arbitrary political lines dictated by emotionally charged micro-issues.

It was bad enough when things were going well for us. With the economic downturn we see exposed the American tradition of finding someone else to blame for our troubles. The rhetoric grows yet more heated, the nutbars more empowered by it, and the violent few move closer to action on their twisted fantasies. Denying the reality of this mechanism is nothing but attempted self-deception. In an environment of pervasive propaganda, no one can claim to be unaffected by it, and the more emotional it is, the greater the effect.

No one wants official censorship, least of all any of us who work in media. But we have to do something as a society to turn this tide and ramp down the rhetoric into the adult range. The founders of our nation knew it would be a bold and risky experiment to rely on the people to self-govern, but that's what we most need now. Have we had enough of this nonsense yet, or will we need another civil war to shake us into requiring civility of one another?

4 comments:

dovh49 said...

So does this mean that you will stop demeaning my comments and stop calling me names?

My position only boils down to the fact that it is not right to commit violence against another person to provide a service. No more, no less.

I do hope we can all be nicer to each other without so much name calling and rhetoric.

Steven Ayres said...

I think comparing Sharron Angle threatening a "Second Amendment solution" with me calling you naif for exhibiting naivete would be ludicrously false equivalence and remarkably self-centered. Is that what you mean to do?

Noel Breen said...

Thank you for the courage to write so honestly in your blog about this issue. It seems to be a time where being part of the "Center" is not in vogue. Especially locally apparently.

BearWhizBeer said...

I think that the attempt to vilify Sarah Palin in the wake of the Tucson shooting is a clear illustration of the root of the problem. Unless it can be proven that Loughner was directly influenced by her speech, I don't anyone should be mentioning those two in the same sentence.

The willingness to use any event that comes to hand to gain political advantage over an opponent is both symptom and cause of the current complete lack of a sense of decency in our society's political speech and action.

I am equally appalled by Palin's violent imagery and rhetoric. My theory is that the effectiveness of such rhetoric is due to its entertainment value. Until Americans realize that being entertaining is tangential at best to true political ability, we will be plagued by all manner of stupidity and malice in our politicians.

Palin and Olbermann both need to quit trying to score at any cost, and instead get to work solving the very real and difficult problems we face. I welcome the new level of boredom this will bring to American political life.