Tone Down the Rhetoric? The Media Must Be Losing Its Monopoly

Even amidst the wave of hideously noxious media coverage linking conservatives to the massacre at an appearance by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz), USA Today’s January 17th’s Political talk still stirring up controversy stands out. in a deplorably odious hit piece, reporter Dennis Cauchon declares — with neither sufficient proof nor candor – that Today, most of those criticized [for their speech] are conservative Republicans.

Without once reflecting on the fact that it is the very media he works for that has done most of the criticizing, or that it is the media stampede to politicize the killings that has become the focus of public rebuke, Cauchon names Ohio Governor John Kasich, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as tactless public figures charting an uncertain course pushing the conflict between straight-talk and political correctness.

Readers can decide for themselves whether the vitriol surrounding Governor Christie’s criticism of New Jersey’s teachers’ unions stems from his choice of words, or from the anger caused by his request that teachers contribute to their health care coverage. but Cauchon’s article would have had more credibility if he acknowledged that it was a teacher’s union leader who asked publicly for members to pray for the death of the governor.

Cauchon’s article demonstrates that liberal discomfort with blunt talk in the public sphere can be quite selective. there was no ground swell of calls for civility when Barack Obama told a Philadelphia audience the way he would counter Republican attacks: if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun. there was no perceived need for national dialogue after Obama’s now famous comments to a San Francisco fundraiser in the spring of 2008, explaining that low income rural Americans are bitter and cling to their guns and their bibles.

Similarly, no one in the mainstream press seemed exercised in the run-up to the 2010 mid-term elections, when Obama told an interviewer that Latinos will regret it if they don’t say ‘We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends. there was no cover to cover whining about divisiveness when Obama openly appealed to race consciousness in a taped video address for the Democratic National Committee, urging young people, African Americans, Latinos, and women who powered our victory in 2008 to stand together once again. (Stand together against whom?)

And while Obama is getting accolades from both sides of the isle for his speech at the Arizona memorial, what has been his own approach to inflammatory or insulting speech from others? The need for public comity didn’t stop Obama from appointing to the post of Green Jobs Czar Van Jones, who announced that white polluters were steering poison into the people of color communities and that Republicans were assholes.

How important to the Obama Justice department was decency and civility when they dismissed the civil rights case against the New Black Panther Party, whose members were captured on video guarding a polling place in Philadelphia with bludgeons?

Apparently, liberals are offended only when blunt talk is used to burrow through the verbal artifice they’ve constructed to protect their generally unpopular ideas. Notice that liberals thrive in institutions where the linguistic architecture of political correctness can be protected by harsh rules or by monopoly (universities, public schools), or where political messages can be folded into images or language designed for other purposes (entertainment, news).

The deftness with which liberals police these institutions against ideological dissent is impressive. Speech codes restricting language deemed offensive to certain groups are now universal on college campuses, the very places where ideas are supposed to flow freely. in 2006, protests against Harvard University president Lawrence Summer’s remarks suggesting genetics may be at the root of the paucity of females in science and math spawned his resignation.

Even the recent effort to reintroduce the fairness doctrine to radio reeks of the liberal quest for control over political dialogue. ever since the rise of rush Limbaugh in the early 1990s liberals have derided talk radio and cable news, especially Fox, for their tendentious political style. but liberals are not offended by argumentativeness. Who is more disputatious than liberal cable news hosts Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, or Rachel Maddow?

No. Liberals are offended by talk radio and Fox news channel’s ratings, not their shouting. The objective of fairness doctrine proponents is to stifle political debate, not make it civil. When it was in place between 1949 and 1987 broadcasters fled from political talk formats altogether for fear of offending government regulators.

Less ideological competition is what liberals really want when they call for a quieter tone. Witness the recent firing of respected analyst Juan Williams by National Public Radio for telling Bill O’Reilly I get worried, I get nervous when he sees people in Muslim garb on airplanes. Williams’s challenge to the liberal dogma of cultural equality amounts to incivility in the eyes of the media elite. Governor Christie’s challenge to another liberal sacred cow – teacher tenure — is cause for front page headlines about offensive political talk that stirs controversy.

So the media is in a tizzy over incivility, heated rhetoric, and the national tone? This might have something to do with the Republican’s sweeping victory in last November’s national elections. Perhaps some liberals are feeling like their mandate over what qualifies as acceptable political opinion has run out. And they are offended.

Tone Down the Rhetoric? The Media Must Be Losing Its Monopoly


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