My Backstory friend Jim Rowen is concerned about political and social dialogue in our community. So am I. It's one of the reasons that I continue this blog which, to date, has resulted in neither fame nor fortune. Jim was concerned that Charlie Sykes characterized one of his posts about the blogosphere's Coexistential crisis as "hating" conservatives. He wrote:
And let me point out that I get along fine with any number of conservatives, including my "Backstory" (WMCS-AM 1130) roundtable colleague Rick Esenberg, the conservative blogger and Marquette Law School teacher.
Have we disagreed about many things? Of course. That's part of the reason Eric Von had us as regulars (I have fallen away: Rick is more reliable). But do I hate Rick?
Of course not. And I'd be shocked if he said he thought I do.
No need for JIm to be shocked. I am relatively sure that he doesn't hate or even dislike me, although I do recall a crack about my shirt and tie combination that wounded deeply.
And I disagree with Charlie's characterization of his post but still there is something about Jim's comments on the question of dialogue that lead to some questions. In a more recent post, he has this to say about Bumper Battle:
This nasty little Internet and media outburst in Milwaukee could lead to something genuinely useful, even uplifting: a productive moment in the community's history - - if powerful media owners and personalities that have decided, for now, to side with intolerance can make the break and shift towards dialogue, and then genuine community-building in Milwaukee.
This is a theme in Jim's writing on the topic. Talk radio, he says, "stirs the pot" and results in divisiveness.
Here's my problem. First, I draw a distinction between Belling and the rest of the conservative talkers. Whether by virtue of his chosen schtick or his personality, I think that he sometimes does cross the bound of reasoned and civil discourse. Only yesterday, for example, in discussing the effort to censor Walid Shoebat, I think he made some remarks about American Muslims that were irresponsible. But I could say the same about a number of commentators on the left.
But I don't hear that from Sykes, Harris and Wagner. I didn't hear it from McBride. They are, of course, entertainers and the need to draw an audience is going to cause them, from time to time, to oversimplify and even to take cheap shots. Given that they are out there every day, I am sure that you can find examples of times in which they were less than reasonable as I am sure that you could if you scoured this blog. I am probably a bit more careful about what I say but I am doing a different thing and my readers are measured in the hundreds and not the thousands.
Mostly what I hear on TMJ (I can't speak to Weber and McKenna because I don't hear them enough) is fairly mainstream conservatism. This is also what I read from Patrick McIlheran. I think that's what you get here. The uncomfortable feeling that I get from Jim is that he thinks that constitutes "stirring the pot" in some way that is harmful and ought to be abjured by responsible people.
So why I am fairly certain that Jim doesn't hate me (and I like Jim), I have a hard time seeing why, by his lights, I am not "stirring the pot" as well.
Does it stir the pot to say that taxes are hight and, if at all possible, should not be raised and even lowered?
Does it stir the part to notice the obvious facts that crime in certain parts of Milwaukee have gotten out of hand and that this seems to be related to a cultural breakdown that is unlikely to be remedied by summer jobs and midnight basketball?
Does it stir the pot to believe that changing the way that virtually everyone in virtually every place and virtually every time have understood marriage until about last Wednesday may result in unintended consequences?
Does it stir the pot to recognize the rather obvious fact that there is a virulent form of radical Islam that has taken over enough national governments and is followed by enough folks around the world to become a rather large problem?
Does it stir the pot to demand that light rail and other forms of transit be, you know, economically justified?
I doubt that Jim wants to say this, although I suspect that some would. But that seems a passing strange way to achieve dialogue and strive for inclusion.