Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Civility Update

Not an incitement to violence.
Erick Erickson of RedState helpfully passes this along:
...back in January, Paul Krugman was one of many drooling idiot leftists devoid of any moral compass who tried to pin the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords on a lack of Republican civility. Even though, by the time Krugman’s column ran, it was clear that Giffords’ shooter was a mentally disturbed individual whose assassination plot was not motivated by coherent political theory of any stripe, Krugman was not about to let facts get in the way of a good partisan narrative.
And so, following this logic, since Krugman wrote a column about the Ryan budget plan entitled "Let's Not Be Civil," then, ipso facto, Krugman is calling for "the assassination of Paul Ryan." Nice.

Now, if you check out the Krugman column in question, you'll find it's a response to the fact that Ryan got his feelings hurt when Barack Obama disagreed with those who called Ryan's plan "serious" and "courageous." And Obama went on to explain why, of course, in a not uncivil tone.

Krugman notes that Ryan's plan begins by asserting that "the President has failed." Was Obama supposed to smile and agree with that?

Let's back up a bit. Our Civility Moment was not about swearing never to say mean things about each other ever again. One needs to apply the appropriate nomenclature to a chevron-shaped garden implement where appropriate (h/t Prof. Avery). In my book, it's okay to say someone's budget plan is neither serious nor courageous. It's even okay to call someone a drooling idiot. It's not okay to say they're an enemy of the republic, or to suggest they deserve to have their soup poisoned. Somewhere in between those two poles, it's gonna come down to a judgement call, and some of us are going to be more civil than others.

I think the shootings in Tucson caused all of us to take a step back, and that was all to the good. When I look back at my past writings here, I see a number of places where I regarded the Bush/Cheney agenda as a danger to the republic. That was a judgement call based on a sober assessment of their policies. But I think I would avoid leaning on such apocalyptic rhetoric again; it's somewhere in that fuzzy middle ground. 

Back in January, Krugman and others were saying that they had expected something like the Giffords shooting to occur, based on the overheated, toxic rhetoric then prevalent in our national discourse. Among the others who felt that way before January 8 was Gabrielle Giffords.

Krugman, as is his wont, cited empirical evidence that the number of threats against members of Congress had risen 300%. Others noted that threats against the President had risen 400%. In my initial post,  and one soon after, I passed along links to other facts about violent threats against Giffords and others.

Paul Krugman's point on January 9 was this:
Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.
And his point last week was:
So let’s not be civil. Instead, let’s have a frank discussion of our differences. In particular, if Democrats believe that Republicans are talking cruel nonsense, they should say so — and take their case to the voters.
Sound like an incitement of violence to you?

Yglesias talks this morning about the importance of assuming good faith on the part of one's opponents. That's a virtue as well, but there comes a point where evidence of bad faith becomes hard to ignore.

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