Thursday, August 06, 2009

The End of Civility?

I know that the Internet provides the anonymity that enables many to exhibit their worst behavior. We have Netiquette rules for a reason, although no one with the stature of an Emily Post to be our guide. During the past election and in my encounters with fandom I have seen the mob mentality come to life, with much shouting and little real discussion, descending into ad hominem attacks. It was far less prevalent in real life, but that appears to be changing.

First, we have the "birthers", who gained video notoriety when one of their number disrupted a town hall to demand that her representative address the issue of Obama's birth certificate. They had been around during the election, but evidently they have decided that the issue is not settled, although the State of Hawaii thinks it is.

So determined are they, their chief leader, Orly Taitz, filed some number of motions/lawsuits to establish the creds of an alleged Kenyan birth certificate. I don't know how much money she is out for the filing fees, but the certificate apparently has been confirmed as a fake. Of course the birthers are not falling for anything like that! The confirmation must be made!! On top of that, Orly had a meltdown on MSNBC, during which the hosts talked over her. Perhaps her personal meltdown will lead to an overall meltdown of the movement into obscurity, however I doubt it.

Taitz has been knocked on by Coulter, Rove and Parker, who actually have legitimate conservative creds, and her movement got nailed on a conservative radio show in which the actual facts were spewn by the show host in contrast to the lack of facts exhibited by the True Believing Tin Hats. There is a link to the podcast, and it is truly scary to realize that so many have so little understanding of the law, let alone a grasp of the facts. The radio hosts pointed out, and rightfully so, that this kerfuffle actually benefits the White House.

The tinhats are apparently mostly Republican in their political affiliation. Kathleen Parker pointed out that the GOP appears to be devolving into a regional party. Having the birthers attached like so much velcro to the party's skirts does not help the GOP shed the perception that it is losing, if it hasn't already lost, its unique political character that once made it a rational alternative to the Democrats.

But the incivility does not end with the birthers. The effort at healthcare reform has generated a lot of heat about what the reform will encompass and not nearly enough light. There are allegations that some of the folks showing up at the town halls are basically plants. Well shucks, nothing new there I think. On the other hand, at least one Congressman has decided to limit discussions on health care reform to one on one discussions with constituents, no town halls. Death threats, and the generall foolishness at other town halls, does tend to make you think twice about the wisdom of public appearances.

I'll have more to say about the health care bill, but I want to end here by noting that if we, as a society, don't insist on a more civil manner of discourse then I fail to see how we can avoid falling into a trap where the loudest, most intimidating voice is taken as the purveyor of truth, even when the words are lies.

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