'Civil' Discourse: A One-Way Street?

In the wake of the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, and the murders of six of her constituents who went to see her at a local Safeway grocery store, the American people have been hearing a lot about the need to return to “civility” in our political discourse.

What exactly does that mean? It depends upon whom you ask.

Within hours after the horrific event perpetrated by Jared Lee Loughner, left-wing pundits accused Sarah Palin of being behind his lunacy -- because she (or her staff) had posted a map of Democrats who had voted for ObamaCare on her Facebook page. Each “offending” district on the map appeared to be marked by a set of crosshairs. To think that she actually wanted to have these individuals eliminated, not just voted out of office, is almost as crazy as Loughner’s act -- but that didn’t stop those who have had Palin in their own “crosshairs” from creating the connection.

With a majority saying that right-wing political speech had nothing to do with Loughner’s actions, the American people aren’t buying the spin. Unfortunately, those with the agenda are the ones whose voices get the airtime. And, of course, it’s morphed from just blaming Sarah Palin (who seems to have replaced George W. Bush as the scapegoat for everything that goes wrong under the sun) to blaming the Tea Party, conservative talk radio, and blogs.

And yet, despite evidence that politics had nothing to do with the politically unaffiliated Loughner’s hatred of Giffords -- which seems to go back as far as 2007 -- Palin has not only been pilloried for her so-called culpability in the case. Remarkably, she has also been attacked for inserting herself into the tragedy by defending herself against these public attacks. What was she supposed to do, bend over and say, “Thank you sir, may I have another?


Let there be no doubt: Whenever we hear about the need for more “civil” political discourse, it usually has to do with trying to stifle speech to the right of center. It’s all about shutting up the competition. Thus those who criticize Barack Obama are called racists -- one of the worst things one can be called in our society -- and charismatic conservative politicians are blamed for horrific acts of violence by deranged individuals.

But where’s the call for civility when conservatives are attacked by their liberal counterparts in the name of public discourse? Michelle Malkin put together a comprehensive list of much of the anger and hyperbole offered by the left over the last decade, and the Media Research Center has helpfully compiled a list of death wishes made by mainstream media figures against conservatives. This one in particular is a gem:

So, Michele, slit your wrist! Go ahead! I mean, you know, why not? I mean, if you want to -- or, you know, do us all a better thing. Move that knife up about 2 feet. I mean, start right at the collarbone. -- Montel Williams, talking about Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., on Air America's "Montel Across America," Sept. 2, 2009.

Interestingly enough, when the left-wing blogosphere put Rep. Giffords in their own set of “crosshairs,” nary a peep was heard.