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Political anger, invective on the rise

By
June 26, 2007

Politics has long been a dirty business but many say the growth of the Internet and increase of web sites that deal with politics have turned political debate into a trash-talking free-for-all.

News web sites, including Capitol Hill Blue, have struggled to find a balance between encouraging open discussion of political issues and controlling the increase in invective that threatens to take over political debate.

Political discussion boards have become hotbeds of insults, threats, anger and hate.

Writes John Wildermuch of The San Francisco Chronicle:

As president of Antioch’s Chamber of Commerce, Devi Lanphere often represents the business community in front of the City Council. But last fall, when she stood up at a meeting and announced the chamber’s support for expansion of a Wal-Mart store, she was flayed by opponents.

“One person stood up and called me a whore because I supported Wal-Mart,” she said. “I’ve never heard anything like that.”

Lanphere blamed the increasing public nastiness on an Internet culture that values instant response.

“People can say whatever they want anonymously (on the Internet),” she said. “Now they’re saying those things in front of microphones at public meetings. … Before, people would call names but know it was inappropriate. Now it’s not.”

Harsh personal attacks are a mainstay of the highly partisan political blogs that are rapidly moving beyond the Internet and are becoming an increasingly important part of the country’s political scene.

Markos Moulitsas founded his Daily Kos blog (www.dailykos.com) in 2002 and has seen it become a center for progressive Democratic politics. It gets 20 million hits a month, and when the bloggers who use the site speak, party leaders listen.

But when President Bush announced this week that he would veto a bill to allow federal funding for expanded stem-cell research, not every response to the report on the blog was a reasoned one.

“I will spit on his grave,” announced one blogger, while another said he wanted to see Bush “crash his car in a drunken stupor” the day after he left office so he could be paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair and left in constant pain.

On the Republican side, bloggers have called Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton a lesbian and suggested that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have murdered several of their political opponents.

Attacks that not so long ago would have brought gasps of dismay now cause laughter and applause.

11 Responses to Political anger, invective on the rise

  1. UpChukker

    June 26, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    People are pleased to have a forum, such as the internet, to express their frustrations “in real time” at the inanities of a writer. If a responder knows he has but one or two shots at expressing his anger, why not respond with harsh invectives and hate-filled comments. Rational discourse is about as exciting as oatmeal for breakfast.

    I’m so happy that the “perfect ones here” will keep their sites “profanity free, except when directly quoting public officials”. No one comes to a site free of any information about the topic. No blog, except scientific ones, “educate” people. Blog and site responses reflect the ernest and energetic OPINION of the writer and respondees. To call it something higher is bloviation! Let’s use the full English language for opinions!

    “There are countless millions of Americans who don’t approve of profanity – and when people who hold those values begin reading what may have been an article or essay that might have had a “progressive impact” on the reader, that segment of your audience often disappears at the first hint of profanity – so the minds you’re attempting to influence or change simply vanish because they don’t approve of the language.”

    And I whole heartily approve of their disappearance. If they cannot move past the writers profanity or their own disgust to understand the writer’s concern and contribute their so-called clarity of thought, then good riddance. Contributors are needed. NOT wussy dilatants.

    Research articles rarely have profanity in them. Responses quite often do! No article is rendered useless by profane injection. Someone will read it and respond with energy?

    “I’ll agree it’s a personal choice that all of us have to make – but in the best interests of the “progressive movement” and our efforts to sway those who may not be aware of the real facts, I believe we would all be better-off to leave the hate and invectives at home, or at least tone it down so it won’t compromise the message many of us are attempting to disseminate among people who don’t share our views and objectives.”

    Pardon me…I’ve got to vomit somewhere!

  2. justanothercoverup

    June 26, 2007 at 8:58 am

    There’s no question that the Internet has given many people a forum they never had before to express their frustrations “in real time,” and as stated above, often respond with harsh invectives and hate-filled comments. That’s a fact – but why? Why are people responding in this manner – and ultimately, who is the loser when rational discourse is replaced by hate and profanities?

    As a Blogger myself, who has been known to cuss like a sailor – it’s a question I asked myself a long time ago; the conclusion I reached was to keep my site profanity free, except when directly quoting public officials; Why? Profanity is fine and dandy when you’re discussing an issue with a friend or like-minded individual, but when it is used when attempting to sway other people, educate others to facts they can’t find on the Mainstream News Media – I believe it’s counter-productive and limits your readership.

    There are countless millions of Americans who don’t approve of profanity – and when people who hold those values begin reading what may have been an article or essay that might have had a “progressive impact” on the reader, that segment of your audience often disappears at the first hint of profanity – so the minds you’re attempting to influence or change simply vanish because they don’t approve of the language. What good is it to research and write about a particular issue if those who you’re trying to reach won’t read it? Or, in the alternative, the comment you make to an article that may have been meaningful – but instead was rendered useless because none will read it except those who are like-minded?

    I’ll agree it’s a personal choice that all of us have to make – but in the best interests of the “progressive movement” and our efforts to sway those who may not be aware of the real facts, I believe we would all be better-off to leave the hate and invectives at home, or at least tone it down so it won’t compromise the message many of us are attempting to disseminate among people who don’t share our views and objectives.

  3. Sandra Price

    June 26, 2007 at 9:25 am

    I must share an experience that I had in 2006 when President Bush was on a campaign trip to Phoenix. I live very close to the flight pattern from Sky Harbor Airport. Bush had flown in for a meeting with the GOP and as 40 plus women were doing our aerobics exercises in the rec center pool, we looked up to see Airforce One overhead. Without a single word spoken all of us popped him the finger.

    We did not miss a beat except for uncontrolled laughing fits. Arizona is a Republican State but we are not stupid! Oh for a camera!

  4. Ken Hill

    June 26, 2007 at 10:13 am

    (Quote) On the Republican side, bloggers have called Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton a lesbian and suggested that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have murdered several of their political opponents.

    This goes back to Rush Limbaugh early in Clintons first administration where he strongly suggested that Vince Foster (I think that was his name) was murdered rather than committed suicide. Limbaugh inferred he was murdered by Clinton, or under his orders, and his body subsequently moved. So of course it morphed into a fish story.

  5. Rick Fuller

    June 26, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Regarding the San Francisco Chronicle article and the Antioch, CA City Council Meeting.

    The residences of Antioch, CA already have a Wal*Mart. The issue is expanding the store in to a “Super Wal*Mart” with a grocery store component.

    The residences of Antioch DO NOT WANT THE EXPANSION. Yet, the City Council approved it.

    And, yes, Devi Lanphere is a whore – a money whore.

  6. www.nazilieskill.us

    June 26, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Invective and anger are a natural response to subversion and life-threatening aggression. This started in the 1970’s when the fearful rich decided to use their money to hire Rush Limbaugh and a thousand other crooks to destroy the middle class. It will take years of eyes-wide-open hatred to win America back.

    John Hanks, Laramie, Wyoming

  7. Jeffers

    June 26, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Interesting comment as Rush Limbaugh was working for the Kansas City Royals back then. So how exactly did the “fearful rich” manage this?

    Perhaps he spoke in a way that the middle class could understand, as did Reagan.

    Jeffers

  8. fascinatin

    June 26, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    And – with the foregoing comments to an article bemoaning the use of invective over reasoned argument – We have established firmly that invective wins out – four to one!!
    The comments demonstrate a total lack of understanding of the point of the piece. Either that or simply a statement that they prefer rudeness, thoughtless anger and invective to reasoned argument and the possibility of converting the undecided or opposing.

    Frank Mackay-Smith

  9. adamrussell

    June 26, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    There seems to me to be a faction that is not interested in two sides finding common ground, and instead have an interest in making people fight more. Excessive profanity is one of their tools to make people on both sides of an issue angry enough to not discuss rationally. When you hear those words it is *tempting* to give in to anger, but try to understand the motivation and effect they are attempting to have on you.

  10. Jeffers

    June 26, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Perhaps we’re not getting any worse. Didn’t Burr and Hamilton actually take shots at each other, with Hamilton dying? Our current VP hasn’t shot at anyone in the general DC area; he has restricted his actions towards other politicians to profanity, with shooting people restricted to non-politicians.

  11. Deborah Swanson

    June 26, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    Don’t shoot the messenger.

    I’m sceptical of this notion that the internet is enabling the recent uproilings of public displays of rage, particularly where political and economic issues are involved.

    We ought not to forget that we live in times that really ought to drive most cognizant, thinking persons to the brink of insanity. I suspect the reasons why it doesn’t in most cases is that reality is leavened with realism, in the case of the truly cognizant and thinking, who know that frothing at the mouth is not likely to solve anything. But there are a growing number of others who simply need to rage at the machine.

    And of course, as fascinatin points out, “invective wins out – four to one!!” I would modify that to add that this is true mainly if your objective is to convince, rather than to bring about a real change. But that is what most of these people want to do – be heard, and believed.

    And who can objectively blame them for feeling and thinking as they do? The devastating war in Iraq, the disintegration of our domestic agenda which now feeds the corporate appetites for cannibalizing the people, the wholesale shipment of our manufacturing base and quality jobs out of the country, and as Mr. Moore has come slamming home with in “SiCKO”, our predatory health care system – just to skim the surface.

    What’s not to scream and tear other people’s hair out about in our turbulent times? I think we ought to be more surprised that so far it’s been as mild as it’s been.

    No, I think the internet is merely a medium for the expression of thoughts and emotions that are already there. It’s no doubt publicizing the fact that many people have them, but in some senses, isn’t that a good thing? Or at least potentially a good thing?

    Rage and invective are resorted to when reason and rationality break down, at least among “normal” people. The problem it seems to me, is not how to shut these people up and make them behave courteously, but to somehow come full circle with them and move the debate back onto more “reasonable” grounds.

    How that could be practically possible given our current American realities, I’m not really sure.