Tuesday, May 09, 2006

[political-researchp] Bloglines - Civility

Bloglines user bill.giltner@gmail.com has sent this item to you.



By Atrios

I went to a fundraising event for Lois Murphy last night (you can all give here). In attendance was Frances Moore Lappe who spoke for a bit and read a brief excerpt from her book Democracy's Edge. The excerpt was:

It is the final week before the 2004 election, and I'm seated in the social hall of a synagogue in suburban Philadelphia. A debate between Lois Murphy, the candidate I've traveled here to support in her race, and the Republican incumbent, Jim Gerlach, is about to begin.

The large room is overflowing, and I am eager to get my first glimpse of Gerlach, the man who had just released a message going to thousands of area telephones linking my candidate, an upstanding community member and strong advocate for women, to the Taliban!

I know his ad has had an impact. The day before, as I approached one house to leave campaign literature, and agitated man at the door asked, "Are you with the Taliban, lady?" When I tried to explain, he threatened to unleash his angry dog.

Murphy opens by asking Gerlach to disown his dishonest ad. He refuses, no one objects, and the debate proceeds. The audience has been told to submit questions in advance but to not speak.

Only later do I realize what democracy demanded of me that morning.

Instead of going up to Gerlach afterward and telling him his ad was an assault on democracy -- something I prided myself for doing at the time -- I could have simply stood up when he refused to disown his own ad. I could have announced that I would remain standing until Mr. Gerlach acknowledged his mistake. My voice would have quivered as my heart pounded. But my example might have enabled others to stand. And even if not one person had joined me, at least there would have been an inescapable message in the room about the preciousness of democratic principle. Beyond focusing on policy differences, everyone there would have been called to reflect on the need to defend democracy itself.

That, of course, would've have been very uncivil. The organizers had established ground rules, and the civil thing for the audience to do was to follow them.

I have no idea why Mark Kleiman felt the need to defend that wilting flower damsel-in-distress Ana Marie Cox from the naughty and uncivil language directed at her for her writings on that obscure outpost called Time Magazine, or why he assumed her critics were motivated by "male chauvinism" or "misogyny" depending on the day or that I hold a "sincere and passionate belief that anyone who disagrees with him must be A Bad Person" (Kleiman generally holds, from what I've seen, a sincere and passionate belief that anyone who disagrees with him must be Wrong). I've generally defended Cox over the years. I was never a big fan of the fact that an ass-fucking obsessed columnist became the media's "liberal blogger" for a time. It was a predictable move by the liberal media, but I was always pretty amused when she didn't deviate much from her online persona for such appearances. They invited Wonkette, they got Wonkette, even if the topic of discussion was Social Security. What did they expect?

As I said I've generally defended Cox. When her book was released I linked to a positive review of it. After I read it, and thought it truly awful, I refrained from writing a bad review. Still, when someone takes dishonest swipes at my friends the very civil thing to do is respond, and I see no reason to do so in a manner which conforms to artificial rules regarding "civility" which apparently include not calling people on their bullshit and courageous battles against straw mountains.

As Retardo Montalban points out, we've been around this block before with Kleiman. Whatever value civility has, it's bizarre to elevate it above just about everything else.

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