Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You're not dialing it down

Tuesday's post questioning the notion that there is no monopoly on - or even a disproportionate tendency toward - anger and vitriol on the right as opposed to the left has gotten a fair amount of response. There are three things that strike me.

First, there is a fair amount of emphasis on what I understand to be very intemperate remarks by a local conservative blogger on election eve. I can't comment on them because I didn't see them. I have now read Peter DiGuadio's explanation of his comments and it is overwrought. I am not going to pretend that I don't think Obama was a poor choice for President. But his victory is hardly the end of the American Experience. While I know that people do get overwrought in the aftermath of an election into which they have poured so much of themselves, President-elect Obama is my President even if I do expect to disagree with a good deal of what he does.

Since I took an academic position I have far less time to read blogs than I'd like. Right now, I probably read more local left blogs than blogs on the right (I tend to try to catch up on some of the latter in periodic sweeps) because I want to know where there might be an interesting subject for debate. This isn't necessarily the way I want it but its the way it is. If, as one commenter suggests, there should be a father figure on the right who keeps the brothers and sisters in line (and who, I wonder, would that be on the left), it's not going to be me.

Another theme was to take me to task for suggesting that Charlie Sykes is a reasonable guy. As I have said before, talk radio is not a faculty workshop. It's entertainment and, because it is, there needs to be a certain vibrancy that can get in the away of a perfectly detached and neutral conversation. Within the confines of the medium, I think that Charlie does a fairly good job of maintaining a civilized discourse. Notwithstanding Dan Shelley's rather underwhelming piece in Milwaukee Magazine, I think that important things get discussed on talk radio and, on some shows, get discussed in a fairly informative way.

The third thing I noticed was the depth of the investment in the idea of moral superiority. I do not claim that there is a "hate left" stronger than the "hate right." That's a contest that I think isn't worth having. Human nature is such that we can expect abuse - and reason - from both sides. I can tick off bunches of people in this town on the left and the right for whom I have the greatest degree of respect and who I regard to be honest, intelligent and fascinating. Someday I'd like to see them all get together for conversation - perhaps even fueled, Mr. Brawler, {you might even be invited), by Oregon Pinot Noir and even, truth be known, some French varietals.

23 comments:

John Foust said...

So Plaisted has "vituperative self-righteousness" but DiGaudio's desires to start Obama's assassination fund and rain terrorist Hell down upon the rest of us are just "intemperate" and "overwrought, right down to his explanation that the only reason he shouldn't pull the trigger is that Obama has children. My head spins. Where's that moral superiority when you need it?

Rick Esenberg said...

Oh, please. Of course, those comments were way over the line and they certainly are vituperative, nasty and many other things.

But your response to my suggestion that arguing over which side is worse is meaningless is to compare adjectives?

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Shark, maybe YOU could dial it down.

krshorewood said...

We should dial it down? When with Charlie, Mark, Limbaugh and the rest of the of the chorus your attitude is "don't touch that dial."

3rd Way said...

The third thing I noticed was the depth of the investment in the idea of moral superiority. I do not claim that there is a "hate left" stronger than the "hate right." That's a contest that I think isn't worth having.

We can all agree that the state of discourse is nastier than it needs to be. Isn't striving to claim the moral high ground healthy?

At it's core politics is competitive sport. Competition is about being better than your opponent. A coach would be fired if he told his locker room that it wasn't worth trying to out hustle their opponent in one aspect of competition because their opponent's performance was just as lousy as theirs.

If the GOP base doesn't change their tone the perception of them by younger voters as the party of angry old men is going to be a problem for a long time.

Anonymous said...

3rd way asked, “Isn't striving to claim the moral high ground healthy?” Claiming it? No, not healthy. Anyone can claim it; as did Pol Pot, Hitler, Jim Jones, etc. etc. etc.

Striving to live morally–now THAT is healthy. Don’t waste breath telling people you’re moral. Show them by how you live. “You will know them by their works.”

Me? I am not living on the moral high ground either, but I know I won’t get there proclaiming that I’ve already arrived.

3rd way said, “At it's core politics is competitive sport.

No. That’s the problem, politics is TREATED like a sport, but it’s not a sport. Politics is the art and science of giving order to our lives. What should we do? How should we do it? How should we decide? Obviously there is a competition of ideas; but it’s more a marketplace than a sport. It’s far more important than a sport.

The problem with public discourse is not about hustle; it’s about ideas being driven out of the marketplace not by superior ideas, but by deceptive marketing and sometimes plain old bullying.

sean s.

3rd Way said...

“Isn't striving to claim the moral high ground healthy?” Claiming it? No, not healthy. Anyone can claim it; as did Pol Pot, Hitler, Jim Jones, etc. etc. etc.

Striving to live morally–now THAT is healthy.


Of course you have to walk the walk if you are going to talk the talk. If you don't you will be dismissed as a hypocrit.

I am sure I have had my transgressions in the heat of argument, but I have tried to remain mostly civil in my online discourse. After being active in the cheddarsphere for a while I was invited to contribute to Whallah. I declined because I didn't want to be associated with the occassional mean spiritedness that used to take place there.

The problem with public discourse is not about hustle; it’s about ideas being driven out of the marketplace not by superior ideas, but by deceptive marketing and sometimes plain old bullying.

I fully agree with that. The only way to get the bullys and deceptive marketers out of the market place is to scorn them for acting badly. The opposition is going to scorn them no matter what without any effect. They will only improve their behavior when their allies self police their movement and encourage them to improve their behavior.

Competing for the moral high ground would be a really efficient way to purge the marketplace of bad actors.

tom paine said...

Wow, this has now degraded to the point where "moral high ground" and "Pol Pot, Hitler, Jim Jones" are being used in the same sentence!

Maybe we need to both dial it down and dumb it down. Let's go national and ask Rick (or anyone) to list a left leaning radio host who spreads anywhere near the vitriol as Rush Limbaugh.

Keep in mind that it needs to reach down to the Limbaugh level that calls Colin Powell a racist and accuses someone with Parkinson's disease of "faking" it.

John Foust said...

Professor, would it be so difficult and so out of character for you to simply declare DiGaudio's threats to be "wrong"? I've seen you be far more judgmental about much smaller things. I'm less interested in determining which side is worse. As I said in comments to your previous dialing post, "I'm surprised y'all fell for the discussion about which side is better-behaved."

As for Sykes and ilk, the "entertainment" excuse doesn't hold water with me. What they're doing is more accurately described as demagoguery, not comedy. Their purpose is politics.

"Bullies and deceptive marketers"? Ah, my favorite. That's why we need to shame the misrepresentations and manipulations of groups like WMC and WEAC, right?

Anonymous said...

3rd way;

I really think we can never scorn bullies and deceptive marketers out of the market, they thrive on scorn. To get beyond them we need to do a few things:

1. Ignore them. Attention is what they seek; scornful or otherwise. Fail to pay attention to them and they will eventually fade away. Patience, grasshopper. Good things take time.

2. If one of them says something that seems worthy of response, treat their comments as you would want someone to treat yours. Since attention is what they want, if they get it from good behavior they may begin to behave well in order to get attention.

3. No matter what, continue to follow the rules of good behavior. That’s how one establishes credibility with others.

4. If you are on a blog where the above rules simply won’t work, it’s time to move on. There are lots of blogs out there where one can discuss important topics and engage in challenging debates without having to wade constantly through the muck. If your style (well-mannered) is not appreciated, find a place where it is. Don’t become one of them just to get attention.

sean s.

Anonymous said...

Tom, show me a left leaning national show that is not on public radio...seriously though have you ever listened to air america? How about that movie that depicted Bush being assassinated? I do believe that randy rhodes might fit the bill of a slightly national radio host that is tad over the top.

This Guy said...

Jeez, always with the damn thesaurus -- if you want to claim I'm abusive, why not just say that? Maybe for the same reason you can't bring yourself to name the people you are linking/referring to or to provide links to the articles (Shelley's) that you are unsuprisingly "underwhelmed" with. Wait, there's a word for these kind of tactics...here it is: "chickenshit".

Yours,
MBP

John Foust said...

Here's a link to Shelley's piece.

tom paine said...

anon 2:20 pm,

You mention Air America but folks such as Ron Reagan or Rachael Maddow hardly qualify. Ron Kuby is a bit more over the top but certainly not to Rush Limbaugh level. If you think so please list anything said on AAR that matches the vile comments of Rush's that I listed?

Randy Rhodes does often seem like a goofball but probably is just mostly a bad comic who admits to not being a journalist.

She is about as close to being like Rush Limbaugh as Yi Jianlian was to being the savior of the Bucks!

I still want the name of one lib lefty radio host who even approaches the gutter level of Rush Limbaugh?

tom paine said...

And Rick, wise for you to dust off Peter DiGuadio. He sounds like a person that even if you successfully defend him...it's probably how O. J. Simpson's lawyers felt after they got him off after the murders: let's rush home and take a shower!

Anonymous said...

Liberals make me laugh by claiming to be outraged by the vitriol of the right. Yet whenever I visit this blog, most of you have at least one personal attack or a general sense of hostility in your comments.

Shelley's article is underwhelming and hypocritical. He claims to be outraged at the attack tactics of talk radio, but spends most of his article berating Sykes. He sounds like a spoiled child having a temper tantrum. Why didn't he inform WTMJ of the artcle ahead of time and fact check?
Why that tactic is just...just...
"chickenshit". Right Mike?

Mike Plaisted said...

The complaint about "fact-checking" coming from the fact-free Sykes is hilarious. Since when do people fact-check a review their own perspectives and experiences? What is he supposed to do, call Sykes and say "Hey, is it true you are a talking-point parroting prima donna?" Nobody doing these kind of first-person exposes -- let's hope from much more as the Bushies scamper out the door -- have any obligation to get their subjects' denials ofr their bad behavior.

Yeah, but let's let Sykes revel in his victimhood for a while. Wait, hasn't he written books about how he shouldn't be sitting around feeling sorry for himself? A "Nation of Victims", indeed.

Anonymous said...

Rick,
You are way too good for the Wisconsin blogosphere. Seriously. You are intelligent, and way above the juvenile namecalling that goes on in almost all of these blogs. There was a time that the Wisconsin blogosphere had potential, but it's degenerated to the point that no self-respecting individual should engage in it anymore. Unfortunately. Really, you shouldn't waste your time anymore. Why even interact with these people for the benefit of the same 50-200 readers every day who go around and troll on comment threads to trash talk people and name call and whose idea of political commentary, like the "Brawler" is anonymous name calling and hate speech? You're better than it.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else find the irony in these comments, mostly by the liberal commentors, denouncing name-calling, "hate", condescention, and vitriol by them using name-calling, "hate", condescention and vitriol?

John McAdams said...

I do not claim that there is a "hate left" stronger than the "hate right."

I certainly do.

tom paine said...

John McAdams,

List the lefty radio jerks who match these righty radio jerks:

Rush Limbaugh
Michael Savage
Neal Boortz
Denis Prager
Laura Ingraham

Anonymous said...

Match them in hate? Take any Wisconsin liberal blogger. These are guys who are trying to make up for their own shortcomings by tearing down other people on the Web. They really just need to grow up. The idea that they are serious commentators is a huge joke. Didn't they ever check their traffic counts and realize they are talking to the same 100 people every day? It's just a big opinion circle jerk.

tom paine said...

List the names..."they" is not a list.