Political anger, invective on the rise

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.


  1. 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!

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