Monday, June 25, 2018

A note on civility.

There is a repeated pattern in politics that goes something like this: a group (usually the government) does something despicable to a group with little power. We’ve seen it most recently with the border child separations, but it is as ancient as slavery and the oppression of women, with all the offenses committed up to the Trump administration’s latest outrage. Then there is a backlash against the despicable act. Then sometime later, there is a call for “civility.”

This is the sleight-of-hand the powerful use to silence the powerless. Anti-suffragist men scolded suffragists as unwomanly. Whites demonized “uppity” blacks. This is pure bad faith in action: the powerful deploy the technique not because they care about civility but because they want to change the conversation from their despicable acts.

When the media or others amplify the message, they may not do it in bad faith, but they launder the charge of incivility and turn criticism on the powerless. We’re seeing t play out now with immigration, and it’s worth taking note of.

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