America loves its incivility

It’s pretty unusual to see an opinion coming from the hallowed halls of NPR, so it’s a little surprising to see Scott Detrow, NPR’s congressional correspondent, conveying an opinion on the brouhaha over Sarah Huckabee being asked to leave a restaurant in Virginia the other day, even if he’s right.

That touched off the usual 24/7 cable news back-and-forth with the declarations of hurt feelings and moral high grounds.

Oh, please.

Take it, Detrow.

Politics is more theater than policy anymore and it’s what people eat up, even while insisting they want something they don’t really want.

People — at least the people who don’t know how to turn off the political news — want blood and the heads of their opponents.

Like this guy, showing his Minnesota Nice.

Or this woman…

This woman…


NPR’s Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, too, is pointing out the uncivil misdeeds of politicians and their disciples, which, no doubt, will earn him scorn by those who believe the job of journalists is merely to repeat the ongoing hypocrisy rather than stand up to the theater of victimization.

Related: After a ridiculous days-long bad-faith debate on civility, can the press manage to learn self-respect? (Vox)

  • Guest

    Sigh 🙁

  • kevins

    Thanks Trump! He’s in Fargo tomorrow. We have some nice golf courses here.

  • jon

    In the name of being civil I’ve decided to embrace a policy positions that I’d normally disagree with strongly.
    No due process for those accused of being illegal immigrants. We just deport them back across nearest border without bothering with things like courts or trials, or presumptions of innocence.

    On a mildly related note, I’ve got some people I’d like to baselessly accused of being illegal immigrants, namely the trump administration, and about half of congress.
    Since they are in DC, and DC is in the “border zone” ICE can pick them up and deport them at any time… no need for a trial, if they try to present “evidence” of citizenship taze them, tell them to save their evidence for the inside of a courtroom they’ll never see…
    Oh and I think the nearest border to DC would be 12 nautical miles into the atlantic where international waters start, just drop them in the ocean.

    I’m just saying if I can embrace one of their policy proposals, they can too.
    And welcome to the new era of McCarthyism.

  • MrE85

    If the Internet focused on photos of puppies and kittens, as it was intended, we would all be better off.

  • theoacme

    The problem that I have with the mass media broadcasters and publishers, including NPR/MPR, is that they believe either that:

    a) there is only one truth (like FOX News)
    b) or two sides (like everybody else – which quite often is a masquerade for the fact that both major political parties in the United States are really slightly different flavors of corporate shillage, as evidenced by the “Commission on Presidential Debates”, being solely owned by the Republican AND Democratic Parties, not allowing Green Party candidate Jill Stein to appear in the presidential debates, even though she was on enough state ballots to be eligible to win 270 or more electoral votes, to the point of having her arrested for refusing to shut up and submit to the corporate shillage passing for a democratic process in a representative republic of the people that the United States is supposed to be…)

    I will say, if I saw Ms. Carnahan and Mr. Martin at my front door, even if they were giving away Girl Scout cookies in an #MPRRaccoon totebag with a Minnesota State Parks permit included, I would not answer the door, because I am afraid of them, of every politician of both their parties, and of every corporation and corporatively-organized entity that does not politely, but firmly and publicly, condemn both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

    If they asked me if I would rather be lynched than vote for any person in their parties, I would say yes. Is there anything I can do to change this? Given the facts on the ground, the answer is no, the only thing I can do is wait to be lynched for failing to support the political establishment’s lies about this being a represntative republic for all the people, instead of a representative republic for only white male rich folks and corporations.

    • Jeff

      I took the parks permit. I agree with your sentiment that we should push back against corporate influence and I think there should have been more diversity of opinion in the Presidential debates. Without proportional representation we are stuck with two major parties, just have to make the best of it. But there’s a stark choice between parties. They are not the same.

      • JamieHX

        >> But there’s a stark choice between [the] parties. They are not the same. <<
        Just want to repeat that. Make sure it's not missed.

  • wjc

    My brain hurts.

  • Al

    I’ve been thinking a LOT about the piece below for the last 24 hours. I’d initially come down on the side of not harassing public figures in their private lives, but you know, I’m pretty sure that’s my privilege talking.

    “The titans of money congregate on Wall Street and the titans of government congregate in DC and they all make decisions that often disenfranchise and impoverish and frustrate the dreams of people far away, and then they go to nice restaurants and go home to nice houses and have nice, well-paid careers for decades to come. That is our system. There is little incentive for those who work within that system to change it in a way that might create the sort of negative feedback that can be unpleasant. Therefore it is the job of the public to do just that.” via This Is Just the Beginning [Splinter]

  • Barton

    This is no longer an anti-PC backlash/rebellion. This is just hatred and bullying brought to fore.

  • KariBemidji

    Our president started his campaign by saying we weren’t getting the best Mexicans just the murderers and rapists. And then threatened to punch protesters at his rallies, mocked a disabled journalist and said he could shoot someone on 5th avenue and get away it. And now his feelings are hurt? Poor Donald. He is the junior high bully who never got called on his crap. I will be my best Minnesota self and sprinkle him with kindness and work my hardest to vote him and the rest out of office.

    • Ben Chorn

      Don’t forget his “grab” comments, and referring to other nations as “s***holes”.

      • KariBemidji

        And calling athletes ‘sons of bitches’. It’s never ending and that’s the point.

        • MikeB

          He does because about 40% of the population soaks it up and asks for more. There is a demand for this and he is providing the supply.

          • Ben Chorn

            During his Duluth rally he told a protester to “Go home to mommy!” and said about a long-haired man who was escorted away, “Was that a man or a woman? Get a haircut!” After each time the crowd went nuts. He definitely knows his audience.

      • Postal Customer

        “But her emails”

        — NY Times

    • lindblomeagles

      The real problem??? Nobody has verbally stood up to Trump and got the better of his pageant vitriol, and that list includes Democrats, European Leaders, and even (yes) Terrorists. Everybody has tried to POLITELY rebuke Trump or distanced themselves from his remarks. But nobody has engaged Trump in what my parents use to call a “Signifying Competition.” Because nobody is taking the “school bully” on, the bully gets the wannabes cheering him on at rallies like the one in Duluth and doing his bidding, while the rest of the people seethe quietly and wonder when will somebody else become Class King or why aren’t teachers and the school’s Principal doing something to stop this kid? That’s what Trump has reduced national politics too, junior and senior high school. As I learned during those years, you can be as nice as you want to be to a bully, but the bully responds to one thing, and one thing only, and that’s getting his ahrse kicked. If we can’t find a bigger verbal David to out talk Trump-liath, we will have to endure another 2 years of junior high. Yuck.

  • Will we ever learn from history?

    One of the times someone tried to “Play Nice” with a bully:

    • Jeff

      From what I read the consensus now is that Chamberlain got somewhat of a bum rap. He was in a very weak position and basically did what he could to forestall the inevitable.


      In retrospect, the depressing reality is that there was probably no right answer to the crucial problems confronting British policy makers at the time. By the mid-1930s Britain was defending a vast and vulnerable empire encompassing a quarter of the world’s territory and population, with the dismally depleted military resources of a third-rate power.

      When seen from this perspective, Chamberlain faced a brutally simple choice at Munich. Was Britain prepared to threaten Germany with war on behalf of a state which it certainly could not save and which would probably never be resurrected in its existing form? There was the absolute certainty that any attempt to do so would provoke a ruinous and probably un-winnable war which would slaughter millions, bring in Japan and Italy, destroy the British Empire, squander its wealth and undermine its position as a Great Power.

      • There have been assertions that if Hitler encountered ANY sort of military push back when he started annexing bits of land, he could have been stopped.

        Heck, France had a large enough military to blunt the attack but had a horrible strategy and tactics, especially with regards to their use of armor.

        The West just never pushed back against him until it was too late.

        • RBHolb

          For context, though, we should remember that an unbelievably devastating war had ended just 15 years before Hitler came to power. That war started with several minor military actions but snowballed into a hellscape. I can see why there might have been some reluctance to take military action.

  • No kidding.

  • Justine Parenteau Wettschreck

    I did an interview a couple of weeks ago with Tim Pawlenty, shortly after he referred to Congressman Tim Walz as Tim “Wacky” Walz, even putting out a news release with the term. I asked him if emulating President Trump by name-calling opponents is something constituents can expect from our politicians. He laughed it off and said it was just ‘tongue-in-cheek.’

    • RBHolb

      It’s always just “tongue-in-cheek.” Or a joke, so lighten up. Or taken out of context. Or what about that one time that Democrat said something mean–you aren’t reporting on that, are you?

  • MikeB

    Much of white America is delusional about our own history, where seismic change was brought about having civil conversations over tea and cookies. The Manners Police is about preserving the status quo, at great expense to those in the shadows.

    • Jerry

      The Boston Tea Party wasn’t an actual tea party?

  • Barton

    Philosopher Karl Popper defined the paradox in 1945 in The Open Society and Its Enemies Vol. 1 (in note 4 to Chapter 7).

    “Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”

    Or, as illustrated in this comic:

    • It speaks to the level of discourse we have here at MPR that Karl Popper can show up in a post. Bravo!

    • Mike

      The problem is that, once unpopular views become illegal, then the powers that be will start coming after groups and people who are more in the mainstream.

      The erosion of freedoms like speech starts in the margins (the KKK, neo-Nazis, Communist Party, radical jihadis, etc.). If legal precedent for censorship is established, all bets are off.

      • Unpopular views do not necessarily have to become illegal – they can be socially unacceptable enough to be punished by shunning, economic retaliation, or an immediate response of negative reinforcement. If that is effective, societies do not have to go down the path of legislating speech. That said, we now are in uncharted waters thanks to the internet and its enablement of the worst of populist instincts. We may find that the old rules no longer apply.

        • Mike

          There have always been calls to ban this or that speech because the groups engaging in it are unpopular. The internet has not fundamentally changed that, though it perhaps enables more conflict between individuals and groups.

          The kinds of informal sanctions you describe are constitutional, but for many it’s a very short leap to calling for the government to ban speech they don’t like. I think we have to call out the naivete of that view. It’s simply an axiom that once the rights of unpopular groups are compromised, then everyone’s rights are in danger.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      It seems to me that the comments from Rep. Waters would be an attempt to not fall into the trap that Popper defines.

    • merry_rose

      I’ve found this to be helpful. And spouting hate speech and bigotry has its own consequences. Look at the number of whining white supremacists that cried about being fired from their jobs after they ended up on social media and in the news in Charlottesville last summer.

  • Chris

    The civility discussion seems to only rise to the top when there are a few examples of incivility on the left. Trump and the GOP since Gingrich has reveled in incivilty and the liberal tears they think it creates.

    They elected a congressman the day after assaulting a reporter. The guy was convicted and is still serving! Assault in incivil!

  • Mike Worcester

    All this serves to remind me that, no matter how much we the people complain about negative campaigning (how ever we subjectively define it), that it keeps being used because it works. We also like to grumble about incivility, but it keeps happening despite protestations to the contrary. And why is that?

  • jon

    Republicans under trump, are a disaster.

    I know I went on my rant about unemployment, job openings, and immigrants just yesterday on news cut… but I’m doing it again, we’ve got more job openings than unemployed, and increasingly more people aging out of the job market than into it.

    Furthermore we’ve got a president deporting people, frequently ones with jobs.

    Even furthermore we’ve got a president who is pushing for merit based immigration, when the largest number of job openings in the US are in the logging & mining industry… so not jobs that are going to be sought by the college graduates (minimum) that would be coming in under his merit based systems…

    When all is said and done, we are creating a labor shortage in the US for a great number of decent manual labor jobs… there are two results here, either offshoring, or automation, both of which will lead to fewer us jobs over all… which is exactly the opposite of how you create economic growth… which is what we were promised when the tax cuts came in…

    Basically we are working really hard to screw the US economy over, we are doing it piecemeal so it’s hard to see the whole picture, pretending that immigration and labor aren’t connected…. pretending like tax cuts create growth without labor, and tooting our own horns when unemployment is low… but the connections between these things should be obvious…

    We need more bodies to fill jobs.

  • AL287

    Anyone on this post with a Netflix account should watch “1945: The Savage Peace”

    Czechslovakia’s major cities were spared most of the destruction during WWII. I was not aware of the massive killing of ethnic Germans by Czechs and Poles after the war ended.

    I am now.

    Those executed had lived in these countries for generations. Their only crime? They spoke German.

    We’re getting very close to this kind of anarchy in America and anyone who thinks the current White House occupant is just shaking up the establishment is hiding their head in the proverbial sand.

  • The Resistance

    In the political sphere, I’ve always believed the most effective defense is to counter incivility with facts, and exposing falsehoods as much as possible.

    Thucydides said, “Most people…will not take trouble in finding out
    the truth, but are much more inclined to accept the first story they hear.”

    In the internet/cable news age, we have become overwhelmed by a tidal wave of
    falsehoods, much of which is designed to incite anger, resentment, hatred.

    While we worship the concept of free speech in American liberal democracy, free
    speech is likely to be one of the causes for its demise. Many other liberal
    democracies (Canada, Germany, France) have laws to counter and punish hate
    speech and holocaust denial. One of the effects of believing in American exceptionalism is that we have collectively become unable to consider the
    superiority of other countries’ interpretations of liberal democracy.