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The civility racket


Frank Bruni thinks that a significant number of marginal votes in the November elections are going to be swayed by Robert DeNiro saying “fuck” at some awards show, and Samantha Bee calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.”

This kind of tone policing is based on some extremely implausible assumptions.  Marginal voters in the November elections will almost always be by definition low information voters, so they’re highly unlikely to know or care that a 12,000 year old movie star and Samantha Bee (I confess to not being exactly sure who this person is) used naughty language several months earlier when talking about the Trump administration.

Furthermore, Bruni’s anxieties are symptomatic of a kind of battered spouse syndrome among certain liberals, who think that if they just make sure there’s always cold Bud Light in the fridge Billy Bob will like them enough to stop beating on them eventually.  Hey Frank: Billy Bob thinks you’re a useless NYC fag journalist, so why don’t you stop caring what he thinks about other topics as well?

In a similar vein, here’s the dean of George Washington Law School, agonizing about the mysterious question of why racists are so racist toward him:

One month before the 2016 presidential election, I spoke on a panel in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the topic of campus speech. The audience was generally enthusiastic and engaged. A tense moment arrived, however, when one individual, who identified himself as a “deplorable,” took issue with the composition of the panel (two white women and myself, an African American male). He explained that the panel in his view was slanted, did not represent a more conservative position, and that I, as an African American, represented so much of why he as a working-class white male struggles in this economy. . .

My exchange with the self-described “deplorable” has haunted me and prompted considerable introspection. Could I have chosen my words more carefully to guard against alienating him?

No, but did you ever consider trying to be a white guy? I’m pretty sure that would have helped.

While civility is crucial, it does have limits. Civility does not require engagement with individuals who utter speech that, at its core, has no connection with respect or mutuality. While those who express bigoted views may have a right to free expression, those who seek civil discourse are not required to engage with those individuals. One may simply walk away from the speaker and refuse to listen, thereby denying the speaker an audience.

Protip: This category currently includes anyone who supports Donald Trump, which means it includes the entire leadership of the Republican party, all your good pals at the Federalist Society, etc.

Unless you want to Tom it up for money, you can forget about “civil engagement” with Republicans for awhile.


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