How do you write a news story about incivility in our politically charged times and not name drop Occupy Wall Street?
Just ask the folks over at USA Today.
The company chided for its brief news stories pulled out all the stops this week to document the lack of civility nearly a year after the Tucson shooting of Dem. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
That savage act had nothing to do with incivility. It was about a mentally deranged man who got his hands on a dangerous weapon. Yet the media meme quickly became how our national dialogue had descended beyond the bounds of decency, conveniently at a time when public criticism of President Barack Obama was reaching a fever pitch.
The media lectured us for weeks on why we all should tone down the rhetoric, but when members of the Left cranked their hate meters to 11 those same scribes didn’t bother to mention it, let alone critique them.
Narratives flow in only one direction, you see.
Flash forward to a new year, and USA Today is still scratching its head over the civility meme. But even in round two the newspaper can’t let the narrative go, facts be darned.
As victims fought to survive, the finger-pointers just fought. When an emotional President Barack Obama, speaking at a memorial service at the University of Arizona, pleaded for “a more civil and honest public discourse,” the airwaves and the Internet instead sputtered with bickering over the Native American speaker whose invocation at the memorial included references to his religious traditions and his family’s Mexican heritage.
The paper naturally puts Obama in the Comforter in Chief role, even though you could fill a front page story with all the cruel, cold and calculating things he’s said since becoming president. From unexpurgated class warfare to belittling his political opponents, Obama is a textbook case of presidential incivility. Isn’t this the same person looking for “whose ass to kick” after the BP Oil spill?
Next, the article cites three uncivil examples – can you guess which party each one targets?
But researchers say the level of incivility has risen in recent years, and it has moved from the backrooms and barrooms into council chambers and once-decorous settings like Obama’s 2009 address to Congress, where Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., famously yelled to Obama, “You lie!”….
A Republican leader last month walked out of the House chamber rather than allow a Democrat the chance to speak….
At a 2009 constituent meet-and-greet at a Holbrook Safeway, one very similar to Giffords’ 2011 event, former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., left abruptly after some people in line to see her started shouting and demanding that she answer questions.
Naturally, the article couldn’t go on without blaming the tea party for the current stage of affairs – and note the use of square quotes.
Incivility in politics has almost certainly existed since the moment politics itself was invented. The shootings at a shopping center near Tucson only brightened the spotlight, just as the rancorous health care town halls did in 2009 and the “tea party” infused elections in 2010.
No mention of the Wisconsin fleabaggers? The hateful Occupiers who trashed property as a means of exhibiting their free speech, defecated on a cop car and kept businesses from operating in cities nationwide? How about Occupy Denver, whose esteemed members interrupted a ceremony remembering the lives of homeless people who died on the city’s streets?
The USA Today article isn’t done yet. Time to paint the president as Healer in Chief once more!
After the Tucson shootings last year, Dahnke said her group saw a dramatic increase in interest from the public and from politicians and businesses. They wanted to take up the president’s call for honest civil discourse. Then, after a time, the interest faded.
Heck, it faded in the White House seconds after Obama’s teleprompter went silent. Why not elsewhere?
USA Today never lays a lick of blame on the Left for starting the whole erroneous, vile blame game. Why not call out New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, arguably the most aggressively mean-spirited scribe on this topic? USA Today does offer a solution, though:
[Clark Olson, an Arizona State University communications professor] said listening is the starting point. No one was listening the day Giffords was shot. They jumped to conclusions about the motive of the shooter almost before the shooter was identified, conclusions that were mostly wrong.
Mostly wrong? How about 100 percent wrong? What was right about the blame game? And why not define “they” when the word is so clearly definable?
The liberal bias shines through so often in the incivility piece it should be a “teachable moment” for today’s journalists. Too bad the vast majority would have written essentially the very same screed.