Mike Gerson’s Hysterical Incivility Blindness
One of my longstanding pet peeves is the right’s use of the "incivility" canard to attack progressives. They latched onto this one metric – use of swear words – as some kind of bogus proxy for Basic Human Decency, because it was the only measure by which they come out ahead. But now Michael Gerson has gone beyond even that flimsy dodge, and simply hones in on liberal/Democratic incivility to the exclusion of all else:
The first response to the performer on a public stage wishing the death of a stranger for political reasons was discomfort. Wanda Sykes had "crossed a line" at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in accusing Rush Limbaugh of terrorism and treason, mocking his past drug addiction and wishing his kidneys would fail.
The practitioners of the rant have their own television shows, radio programs and Web sites. And now it seems they will have their own elected representative, the author of "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot." Al Franken has made a career of such rants, supposedly asking "Isn’t Cardinal O’Connor an [expletive]?" calling opponents "human filth" and suggesting that his next book might bear the title: "I [expletive] Hate Those Right-Wing Mother [expletives]!"
Rudeness sets out to dominate and humiliate…. Verbal violence can leave people smarting for days, or scarred for years, or pushed like a vulnerable middle-schooler toward suicide…. Why does politics seem to numb this rudimentary moral sense?
Yes, that’s all well and good, very high-minded – but why single out Sykes and Franken? What about the leader of the Republican Party who spews hate on his radio show every single day, who once told a black caller to "take that bone out of your nose and call me back" and mused about how "all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson"? What about Michael Savage, who once told a gay caller he should "get AIDS and die"? What about Ann Coulter, who called John Edwards a faggot, and the 9/11 widows witches and harpies? Aren’t they, y’know, maybe just the tiniest bit uncivil?
(In fairness, Gerson does say that "some spotlight-chasing conservatives… attack opponents as ‘traitors’ and… employ racist epithets." And, um, that’s it.)
Wanda Sykes got a national platform for one night and said mean things about Rush that pale in comparison to what he says on the air every day. Al Franken retired from the liberal comedian business two years ago and once wrote mean things about Rush that pale in comparison to what he says on the air every day. Neither have ever had anywhere near the audience and platform of their poor, hapless victim, and yet they’re Gerson’s poster children for the coarseness of our discourse.
Honestly, were they really the only examples of political incivility Gerson could think of? Is he such an abject dittohead that only incivility directed at Rush bothers him?