Nearly three months ago, a gunman in Arizona killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Within hours, and with no evidence, Republicans and conservatives, especially tea-party activists, were blamed. They didn't pull the trigger, the criticism went, but they certainly had encouraged a violent "climate" with "vitriolic" words, deeds, and symbols.No it wasn’t; for a refresher on Sarah Palin’s notorious “crosshairs” map, Rep. Giffords basically calling out the teabaggers for their threats against her in an interview with Chuck Todd before the attack, as well as Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik calling out those engaging in violent rhetoric (and except for Paul Kanjorski saying that Florida Governor Rick Scott should be shot…well, I have news for Ferris – that’s all coming from his side), click here.
That was nonsense.
But if the criticism wasn't just using a tragedy to score political points, if Democrats and liberals truly believed what they were saying, no doubt they would have become models of civility. Or at least attacked their own if they broke the new rules.I don’t know what Bill Maher said, and I don’t care – for the most part, I’ve been taking a pass on his show this season because I’m tired of him giving air time to conservative liars (such as Breitbart and his pals and Stephen Moore, among others). If I know these people are lying and I keep watching anyway…well, that’s my fault, isn’t it?
Last week, Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) was caught giving fellow Democrats talking points on the federal budget fight. "I always use the word extreme," he said. "That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week."
Leftist comedian/pundit Bill Maher has taken to referring to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a "dumb t-."
But where is Ferris and his selective outrage when “Orange Man” Boehner says he wants to kick the Dems’ ass, or something, here (or when Boehner actually traffics in the eliminationist rhetoric Ferris claims to despise against former Dem House rep Steve Driehaus, as noted here)?
In Wisconsin, in reaction to Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to limit collective bargaining, "dead man" chalk outlines with his name on them appeared outside the state Capitol. Inside, after the Assembly passed the bill, an irate Democratic lawmaker turned to a female GOP colleague and shouted, "You are f- dead!" He later apologized.
Aside from NOW's clucking at Maher - mostly the group was upset at having to rise to Palin's defense - there wasn't much made of this "vitriol." So, all the post-Arizona venting was just a cheap attempt to silence political opponents.
Knowing all that, I was reluctant to attend last weekend's conference "Can We Talk? A Conversation About Civility and Democracy in America" at the National Constitution Center. But I went, and I'm very glad I did.
First, the sessions I saw demonstrated what I've come to appreciate about the Constitution Center: It tries to present as many sides of an issue as possible. Is there a perfect balance of right, left, and center every time? No, but the effort is there.
Second, I was reminded of the basic decency, common sense, and concern for the country's fiscal future that is at the heart of the tea-party movement. That was all courtesy of the Seattle area's Keli A. Carender.
The 31-year-old blogger and activist used to teach math to inner-city adults. Now she works full time for Tea Party Patriots and State Budget Solutions, focusing on legislative research, government transparency, and helping states fight the worst aspects of the health-reform law.
In the conference's opening minutes, the Oxford-educated veteran of comedy improvs politely, yet directly, put the day's topic in perspective.
"It's hard to believe we're talking about civility now after I and others in the tea party have been maligned and impugned," she said. "I've been called a racist many times."
As have other tea-party activists, including her parents, Carender told me in a phone interview last week.
"My parents, when they were younger, threw themselves into the civil rights movement," she said. "Now people try to call them racists?"
Yeah, now why do you suppose someone would refer to teabaggers as racist? Gee, I have no idea.
Update 4/16/11: And here is more "non-evidence" of teabagger racism (h/t Daily Kos).
How does that differ from calling supporters of health-care reform socialists?Uh, Ferris, do you remember reading about the National Socialists in Germany before World War II? Now think real hard about this, OK?
As far as you’re concerned, it’s OK to call people who support health care reform Nazis?
"When you call someone a racist, you've labeled them an immoral person, as a person who literally hates someone because of the color of their skin," she said.
If the shoe fits, as they say...
"Call someone a socialist, and you imply that they believe in a certain set of philosophies and policies. You're implying those policies are bad and dangerous, sure, but that doesn't say anything about the person's character, what's in their heart, or how they treat other people."
You sure about that now?
She has two simple rules to live by in her activism: Govern yourself first. Even if a policy or issue gets you angry, you won't win anyone over with insults or attacks.By the way, here is some of the “nothing” that would be cut if the teabaggers had their way (and this only lists $60 billion in cuts; Think Progress lists many more programs on the bloc at their linked post – and here is a post from RJ Eskow about $90 billion that was funneled to Wall Street while the teabaggers, dutiful Republican sheep that they are, created the necessary diversions for our corporate media with their racist-sign-and-funny-hat parades).
"Shrill gets attention, but it turns people off," she said at the conference.
Second, govern your side.
"If people are calling for civility, but not calling out the uncivil behavior on their own side, they have no credibility with me," she told me.
At its worst, she sees the civility movement as a distraction from issues.
"We can't put all our energy and resources into fighting smears," she says. "We have to put it toward effecting the change that we want to see."
Last week, Carender was working to change federal budget policy. She and other tea partyers were backing rallies urging the GOP not to settle for less than $90 billion more in budget cuts this year.
Isn't that uncivil, refusing to compromise?
"I think $90 billion is a compromise," she replies, noting that the annual deficit is more than $1.3 trillion. "We're flying off a cliff and $90 billion is nothing."
I haven’t been this disgusted by a Kevin Ferris column in a long time. This is utterly fact-free, partisan right-wing hackery at perhaps its very worst (and Ferris actually gets a paycheck for concocting this garbage).
No matter which group of millionaires headed by Bruce Toll is running this pathetic joke of a once-terrific newspaper, the result is always the same (at least from an editorial point of view); utterly laughable right-wing-talking-point-filled bile apparently rejected, for the most part (based on the comments) by all but the most fire-breathing, methane-dispensing wingnuts (and I’m not going to waste my time commenting further on the absurdity of equating alleged left-wing name calling with a murderous attack that led to the near-fatal shooting of a U.S. congresswoman and the murder of a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, among others).
The Inky is hastening its own extinction before our very eyes. And as far as I’m concerned, it can’t come soon enough.
Update 4/9/11: I suppose I could have added this anywhere (h/t Atrios), but I put it here because, even though John Cole is talking about BoBo, Sully and Joke Line, he might as well be talking about Ferris also (the topic is the supposed "roadmap" from the Very Serious Person Paul Ryan).