Can it with the lame excuses for incivility

The president of the United States is a jerk. His loyal followers are jerks, as they eagerly demonstrate at the rallies where he laps up their adulation. His jerkiness is what they love about him, and theirs is what he loves about them — or would be, if he were capable of loving anyone but (2)

The people in his administration are, with occasional exceptions, also jerks.

And if you think that the way to defeat all these jerks — in elections, or merely in the court of public opinion — is to be a jerk yourself, then you’re an idiot.

Oops. There I go, being a jerk myself. But I’m pretty sick and tired of hearing people give stupid excuses for being uncivilized.

I sort of reached the end of my patience with the “They did it first!” argument this morning:

I don’t know about Democrats, but anybody who wants to turn back the tide of boorishness is going to have to start by acting like a grownup. That’s not all that’s required to win, of course, but it’s a prerequisite for my vote.

Poor Eugene Robinson. I normally don’t even read his columns. That headline of his just ended up being the straw on the camel’s back….

6 thoughts on “Can it with the lame excuses for incivility

  1. C J Watson

    Well said. I agree completely. However, Navin Johnson was anything but uncivil. I’m disappointed that you referenced such a wonderful story for your post.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Funny thing… I was trying to think of a “jerk” whose picture I could use, and for whatever reason I thought first of Navin, but then thought there was nothing unpleasant about him.

      So then Eddie Haskell came into my mind — but they I reflected that Eddie’s problem was that he was so polite, but his politeness was fake.

      So then, when I saw the picture of Navin with “The Jerk” emblazoned on his hat, I went back to the original, although admittedly flawed, idea.

      Because it’s rule on the web these days that ya gotta have a picture…

  2. Mr. Smith

    For senior administration officials, public ostracism is a legitimate form of political protest. I personally probably would not join in chants in a restaurant or chase someone down the street – simply because that’s not my style. But given the nature and policies of this administration, I can’t say that extraordinary measures are not in order. The persons targeted – Sanders and Nielsen – were either intimately involved in or were outspoken defenders of one of the ugliest policies my government has imposed in a very long time. Ostracism should not be employed willy-nilly, it should be used sparingly and directed at appropriately targeted persons. The targets of protest in this case were legitimate.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think what you say about Sanders is right — this isn’t just some public employee doing her job, but a person who daily employs dishonesty to defend outrageous policies and actions.

      Ross Douthat said much the same, although on the way to saying incivility still wasn’t a good approach. I found his column very interesting:

      … I definitely can think of a few public figures I’d like to “86” if they entered my (sadly hypothetical) brewpub. And if I were making a list of Trump administration officials who deserve to feel the sting of public censure, the office of the press secretary is actually a reasonable place to start.

      That’s because Sanders, while no doubt a good mother and kind person in the private aspects of her life, occupies a job that is inseparable from the aspect of the Trump presidency that even people who agree with some of his policymaking should find deplorable — the communicative aspect, the rhetorical aspect, the aspect that deals with public truth and falsehood.

      Other members of this administration are implicated in Trump’s unique mix of mendacity and demagogy, but many of them occupy jobs that actually need doing, where they can reasonably (well, some days, at least) see themselves as checks on their boss’s worst tendencies, hard at work serving the country rather than the man. But the country doesn’t need a talented person, or really any person at all, to stand up and spin the president’s Twitter rants and moonshine-laced speeches. Even in most forthright administrations the press secretary position tends to be an apparatchik’s office, all dodge and spin and obfuscation. In this one it’s considerably more culpable than that, and while Sanders may be mildly less ridiculous than Sean Spicer, it would be good for both the country and her immortal soul if she felt more social pressure to resign….

  3. Bart

    When there is any agreement, tacit or explicit, for the behavior of any individual or group of like-minded trying to ostracize their ‘enemy’ or someone they vehemently disagree with in a public establishment like a restaurant or invade their privacy at home, then they relinquish any right to complain about the other side engaging in the same ugly and intrusive actions. Sides do not matter, it is the behavior of either. At the same time, they give their target and the target’s supporters more ammunition and an impetus to bring more and more undecided to sympathize or embrace the position of the target. The propaganda machine of the target will go into their version of a ‘DEFCON 5’ mode in reaction. Take a page from the tragedy at the Baltimore newspaper. BOTH sides immediately went on the offense against the other side and BOTH sides went on the defense at the same time. Then when the true motivation was revealed, BOTH sides looked like total idiots and propaganda machine tools ready to strike at any provocation and the truth be damned, it may get in the way.

    This is not restricted to one side or the other, it applies to both. Ignoring this becomes a peril to the point either side is trying to make. If one wants to place events on a scale and even if one side has greater weight, public perception is still the final arbitrator of the situation and emotional persuasion is usually the final factor in the decision. Rational thought and common sense are usually the least of the influences.

    I like to read Clarence Page’s column and in his column today his advice was, “Let the Trump people eat their dinner, Democrats.” A worthwhile read by a very good columnist.


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