Postscript on Civility
March 21, 2011
Two months ago, someone shot a lot of people at an event in Tucson, Arizona, including Congressman Gabrielle Giffords. Six of those people died; many others were injured. Liberals argued that conservatives (e.g., radio-talk-show hosts) participate in the great national debate a little bit too boisterously, and that eruptions of such violence are a natural result of that debate (i.e., a natural result of what I think Mark Steyn has called the rough and tumble of a free society). Liberals talked about the need for “civility” in the national discourse, ambiguously attempting to deligitimize debate.
Then it turned out that the shooter wasn’t a fan of talk radio; to the contrary, he was a fan of the Communist Manifesto and a “9-11 Truther” who hated President Bush. He was also a lunatic—and thus maybe he’s not best understood as having been political at all—but if and to the extent that we want to ask what his political orientation was, the evidence indicates that he was certainly more liberal than conservative. Liberals did not respond to this new development by asking in turn whether there was something dark and rotten at the core of liberalism.
For a summary of that embarrassing episode in liberal thought, I recommend National Review‘s editorial at the time.
Michelle Malkin also compiled some useful (and long!) lists of examples of liberals’ incivility, in case there was any doubt about liberals’ implication that conservatives are more likely to be discourteous (or violent) than liberals. “The progressive ‘climate of hate:’ An illustrated primer, 2000-2010” is long (and uncivil—be forewarned that some of the liberals in there got pretty vulgar); “Blame Righty: A condensed history” is a shorter chronicle of times that liberals and others have killed people, and the leftist press defaulted to the narrative that conservatism was to blame until proven innocent. Malkin also noted two of the more striking ironies of that narrative in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
This week, National Review Online’s Deroy Murdock collects and comments on a number of death threats against Republican elected officials in Wisconsin for their recent efforts to balance the budget and reform the state government. So I’ve entitled this entry a “postscript” to the whole “civility” conversation, but I don’t suppose we’ve seen the last of angry liberals’ lashing out with violence and intimidation, nor of liberals’ telling us that conservatism is what generates such evils.