Letters to the Editor

Civil discourse

January 17, 2011


To the editor:

The current debate over public discourse and its role in the Tucson shootings deserves some attention. Sheriff Dupnik, Paul Krugman, Sarah Palin, President Obama and Charles Krauthammer present differing views on the matter. Dupnik and Krugman blame the climate of hatred toward public figures as contributing causes of political violence and possibly this shooting. The others disagree.

The president, speaking at the memorial in Tucson, reminded us that we can’t know exactly what triggered the attacks. Yet he called for more civility in public discourse to “help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them (the victims) proud.”

Palin and Krauthammer wouldn’t go even that far. Palin undercut her own claim by accusing those who raised the possibility of a connection of manufacturing “a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.” How this is supposed to incite people who, she had just claimed, act on their own was left unclear. Krauthammer simply denied the power of suggestion.

While we may never know how influential the daily flood of vitriolic and ad hominem political speech in America was on this particular atrocity, it seems likely that it influenced it and almost certain that the current climate of speech acts as a distraction from a badly needed, calm consideration of the merits of public policies like banking reform, health care, education, and economic justice, to name just four.


BigPrune 7 years, 2 months ago

The favorite "talking point" word coming from the Democratic Party national headquarters these days......"vitriolic," Repeat: vitriolic Repeat: vitriolic etc., etc.....and so on and so forth.

Now on to the next letter to the editor, The favorite "talking point" word coming from the Democratic Party national headquarters these days......"vitriolic,".....etc., etc.....

mcmandy 7 years, 2 months ago

I don't think evidence is required: a basic understanding of psychology and sociology gives all the evidence one needs to support this statement. Besides, he said it "seems" likely; hardly an absolute statement.

Brock Masters 7 years, 2 months ago

Here is my basic understanding of psychology and sociology - the guy was a nutcase and that is why he committed this horrible act.

The only speech he listened to was the voices in his head.

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

"I don't think evidence is required"

Sadly, this is too true for many people posting to these message boards.

"a basic understanding ..."

Never have the words 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing' been more applicable. In the course of my professional duties, I've developed a "basic understanding" of psychotropic meds. But there's a reason the licensing board still doesn't let me write prescriptions.

cato_the_elder 7 years, 2 months ago

The primary reason for the quantities of vitriol and hatred poured out by liberals after the Tucson tragedy is the fact that they're still reeling from the results of the last election, and they're bitter as hell about it. In 2008 a small majority of the electorate lost its common sense and voted for a banner-carrying representative of the far left for president, who did the best he could to make good on his promise to "fundamentally transform America." The American people woke up and rejected his agenda soundly last November. Rather than acknowledging the failure of Obama's economic policies and the American voters' manifest rejection of them in a time of continued high unemployment, the far left still chooses to believe that its agenda was derailed by talk radio and Fox News. It seems that the only one of them who gets it is Obama himself, whose agreement with Republicans on the tax compromise in December was a clear acknowledgment of the road he was going to have to take to stand any chance of re-election in 2012.

Abdu Omar 7 years, 2 months ago

I think you are wrong, Cato, if the American people "soundly rejected" Obama's agenda, then why is the Senate still democratic majority and why do we have the Dems still in a large porportion in the House? If they rejected Obama, like they did Clinton, the whole congress would have changed and although I am not a liberal, I don't feel bitter or upset. It happened and when the Amercan people see again what the Republicans can do, they will reject that too, if there is no cooperation. Peiod. Let's see.

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

"then why is the Senate still democratic majority"

Because there weren't that many seats in play? If the entire Senate was up for re-election, like the House, what do you think the outcome would have been?

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

Darn, should have hit 'refresh' before posting what L1 said.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

I like the way you minimize Obama's election by writing "a small majority" and then go the other way on the midterms, using the term "the American people".

Any stats on voter turnout and percentages to back up those slants?

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Cato, it isn't about party. Even the head of FoxNews said it was time to ease up on the mean and hateful rhetoric. We need to work toward building America up, not tearing it down. We are Americans first and party second. Time to remember that.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Yes, it is a two way street. This means not making false claims about "close friends." Obama and Ayers have, by all accounts of those who know the two men, never been close friends. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Likewise, Obama condemed Wright's comments and has cut off ties with the preacher. So why go there?

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

He has also distanced himself from Wright and spoken out against his comments, has he not? Let's not ignore recent history.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Yes, many people do believe he meant it and that it was not an easy decision to make.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

TomShewmon, As I promised in the forum discussion of Mr. Reed's letter, I am providing a refresher for you on respectful interchange. Try this instead:

"Speakers from the left side of the political spectrum do seem willing to attribute fault to Sarah Palin, even when she was remote from any involvement. I am distressed that the vitriolic speech continues."

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Tom, it is a good thing that you have stopped calling the President the "Anointed One," especially since that was more an insult of those Americans who voted for Obama than the man himself. However, to take part in civil discourse it takes more than just dropping one form of insult. Try not to insult groups of people, period. Try not to call groups of people "crazed" simply because they don't agree with you. Try to stick to policies.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

I don't represent "the left," only myself.

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

TomShewmon, As promised, another rewriting of your posting into calm, respectful language:

As cato said above, many on the left are angry. Although I do need to admit that the president's ratings are going up and many who turned away from him are returning, so I wonder those on the left of the political spectrum are still upset.

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

Loughner's internet browsing included white supremacist websites. His list of favorite books included Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. That's extreme right. Yes, he read some extreme left materials, too. His ideas may have been confused, but they were certainly political, in that they expressed great suspicion of government. He targeted Giffords because she was a political figure.

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

National Socialism was not "socialist" according to established definitions. It was a form of fascism, which according to established definitions is on the far right of the political spectrum.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

Hitler admired the Italian fascists and, in 1922, presented Nazis as a German form of fascism.

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

matthewlyon, I recommend that you consult more reliable sources than the ones you name. Check the KU Library. The use of the word "socialist" doesn't mean that the Nazi Party was actually socialist, any more than the use of the word "democratic" in the official names of North Korea or China means that they are democratic. In terms of economic organization, Nazi Germany wasn't socialist. Private companies dominated the economy, backed by government contracts. Labor unions were suppressed.
The fact that extremists on the right and on the left doesn't mean that the right and left are the same, only that people who are drawn to extremes find the extremist mentality welcoming.
"Common sense" isn't a cogent arguing position, especially when "common sense" can support more than one argument, as it does in this case.

Liberty275 7 years, 2 months ago

Using made up numbers, 10,000,000 Americans saw or heard about Palin's targets placed on congressional districts. Out of that, 9,999,999 people didn't shoot their congressperson.. The sheer numbers lead me to believe the defect was inside the brain of the shooter and not in the freedom of speech Palin exercised. I do see the other 9,999,999 caring about their country and it's future, and that seems to be a good thing.

OTOH, I imagine more than one person did kill somebody so they could get their next hit of meth or crack. I didn't see it reported anywhere, and if anyone has evidence nobody was killed as a result of the war on drugs on that sad day, please feel free to correct me. Yes I blame the war on drugs because when was the last time somebody was killed in a beer deal gone wrong?

But I digress.

Personally, I find the vitriolic speech and opposing opinions refreshing. Intense disagreement forces people to find the best answers without settling for the half measures attained when nobody cares.

Thankfully, vitriolic speech is protected speech. When we all start agreeing, apathy will be the only winner.

As for the killer in this and most cases, let them choose between hanging, firing squad or lethal injection. Violent action against our employees is not the answer in a democracy. We fight with ballots, not guns.

"We fight with ballots, not guns." LOL, vitriol.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

I agree on the drug comment.

But, I strongly disagree on the vitriolic speech and intense disagreement forcing people to find the best answers.

When hatred and rhetoric take the place of intelligent discussion and debate, no answers are even sought, much less found.

Just look at these comments sections - has the absurd name-calling and partisan bickering led to any solutions being proposed?

Liberty275 7 years, 2 months ago

It isn't the job of this forum to come up with answers. However it is the job of our employees to gauge the mood of the electorate and "vitriolic" speech sends a message loud and clear. It was sent last year in "vitriolic" speech but ignored by the left. That cost the democrats seats in congress and in the end will probably cost them the senate and presidency. When the democrats have lost all of two branches of government, they will be more willing to discuss abandoning socialized medicine and gut the currently planned mandate. Or they could listen to the American people now and stand a chance of retaining a branch.

And really, so fa I'd call what I've seen "spited" speech. There are places where true vitriolic speech exists on the internet, but most people don't have the stomach for the words. Find yourself a truly uncensored forum and you would be surprised just how civilized most mainstream sites like LJW, Palin's blog, DU and FR really are. Shewman is a pussycat compared to a person that won't mince words on an open forum.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

As a concerned American citizen, I consider it my job to analyze our problems and attempt to find some solutions.

There is no socialized medicine proposed - the health care/insurance bill doesn't even "socialize" health insurance.

And, as I've said before, I think discussion and debate are valuable, but name-calling and hateful insults are not those things, and do no good at all.

If it is in fact true that other forums are even less civil, that makes me wonder what's gone so wrong in our society that people are so angry and spiteful.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

L275, it isn't about everyone suddently agreeing on everything, it is about not just using hateful words to describe those you don't agree with.

TheYetiSpeaks 7 years, 2 months ago

Remember....If you experience sore throat, scratchy, dry skin, bleeding from the eyes, headaches, an occasional sneeze, that weird thing when you see spots after applying slight pressure to the eyes, hear voices, gout, an erection lasting over four hours, or have been transformed into a newt....consult your doctor immediately.....and blame Sarah Palin, because she's obviously a witch. Someone get the fire ready! I love me a good witch burning!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

What the voters rejected in 2010 was primarily the collapse of the economy-- ironically, a collapse that was caused primarily by Republicans and their allies on Wall Street (many of whom are DLC/Republican-Lite Democrats.) Obama has been proved himself to be one of those Democrats.

But don't expect Republicans to be able to change spots just because they won control of the House. They'll stick to the same stupid policies that collapsed the economy to begin with, and Obama will be "bipartisan" in going along with that.

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

BornAgainAmerican, Since you say that you advocate civility (see your posting on the forum connected to Ralph Reed's letter today), I will suggest a more appropriate wording for your comment:

"I see things differently from you, bozo. I expect that there will be more bickering in Congress, but that it will repeal much of the Obama legislation. I will be happy if this happens, because I don't think that the legislation that was passed in the last session of Congress was in the interests of the country, particularly the health insurance reform."

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

Loughner's motivations may be confused, but that does not mean that he was apolitical. There is a common thread in his deep suspicion of government, regardless of which party holds power.
Certainly the "government is evil" rhetoric has been coming much more from the extreme right in Loughner's lifetime than from the extreme left. Given his condition, it is quite possible that Loughner would have done harm to others in some way. But he targeted his own representative of the Federal government; he didn't choose that place and time at random. The lesson of toning down the rhetoric applies to all parts of the political spectrum. We need to affirm that our government is "of the people, by the people, for the people."

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

There has been no question asked of me, BornAgainAmerican. I answer genuine questions from individuals who wish to understand and address me respectfully. I ignore loaded, rhetorical questions that are just another way of stating a position.

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

BornAgainAmerican, matthewlyon did not ask any questions.

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

Where is the question mark in your posting, matthewlyon? I don't see one.

voevoda 7 years, 2 months ago

matthewlyon, Several of your posts elsewhere on this forum contained questions, but none of your posts in response to my posting here has a question. I looked carefully, and all I could find is statements.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Interesting story on the sheriff who kicked all this off:

"I'd been feeling those things for years," Dupnik said in an interview with The Arizona Republic. "I decided to say what I was feeling."

... He added, "I'm 75 years old. Thirty years sheriff, 52 years a cop. Maybe I've earned the right to speak my mind."

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/01/17/20110117gabrielle-giffords-clarence-dupnik.html

Flap Doodle 7 years, 2 months ago

Perhaps the larger problem is that Dupnik speaking his mind was taken as revealed truth by everyone pushing the Palin incites violence narrative.

monkeyhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

Is it possible that Dupnik was jumping to cover his butt considering how much his department know about the history of the killer? Oops, is killer a banned word now?

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Snap, perhaps you are correct. Dupnik certainly didn't name Palin, he just spoke out against the current level of so-called discourse in this country and those commentators who are paid to stir the pot.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

I stand corrected. Thanks. I saw the original comments made by the sheriff, not the follow-up interview on Fox. In the original comments he did not name Palin as I recall. He did so later.

Keep in mind that he is a sheriff who personally knows Giffords and he is really, really ticked off immediately after the shooting. Palin does (did?) have a map on her website with crosshairs on it marking Giffords as a target. When someone does that to someone you know and respect and then that person ends up getting shot, you might also say things that aren't accurate.

In my opinion, Palin is in no way responsible. That doesn't mean we shouldn't consider easing up on the hurtful rhetoric and putting crosshairs on our political "enemies." I am speaking of both sides, not just pointing at conservatives.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm not making excuses for anyone, nor do I think he needs to be excused. He spoke his mind.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Did the Daily Kos (a site I've never once visited) have crosshairs on its map? They may have, I really don't know. Either way, it would also have been in poor taste. Two wrongs don't make a right. It is just about cleaning up the rhetoric at this point, not the pointing fingers to determine which is worse.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

You may not characterize Palin's symbols as crosshairs, but virtually everyone else would. To not see them as crosshairs but as publishing crop-marks is just spin. Publishing crop-marks would be out of context given the intent of the map.

I don't know who on the left is saying the Daily Kos was wrong for doing something similar. If the Daily Kos had similar bulls-eyes on maps, I certainly feel that they too would be wrong in doing so. That would be my opinion, based on the mental image I get from what you are saying. However, I don't visit the Daily Kos site, so I generally must rely on conservatives to tell me what they are doing.

Liberty275 7 years, 2 months ago


"He became intrigued by antigovernment conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by the government and that the country’s central banking system was enslaving its citizens. His anger would well up at the sight of President George W. Bush, or in discussing what he considered to be the nefarious designs of government. "

Vitriol... Palins fault... Rush Limbaugh! O my!

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 2 months ago

It is inevitable that no matter what kind of safeguards we put into effect, we cannot eliminate tragedy from life. We can only continue to try.

One area where we can do a much better job is in how we respond to a tragic event.

It appears to me that true public minded and selfless leaders would not politicize a tragedy such as what happened in Arizona. Yet we see this happening. These are the people we need to remove from office in the next election.

A greater tragedy following the 9/11 disaster was the politicization of the event in order to advance different political agendas and individual careers. Bottom line was ego and misdirected ambitions. Many enjoyed great profits financially from the tragedy and the politics.

The American people want something different. They see that leadership is different from politics. Politics is something you cannot trust anymore, if you ever could. What American people want is reliable information and honest discussion and debate. Discussion and debate...two things.

The system has to show that it is working because we believe in the system. If it is not working the politicians have to be removed from office.

Imagine what goes on in the minds of our children in their critical formative years when they listen to the stuff that goes on. I don't think we are teaching them the right things. I don't believe an extreme leftist agenda or an extreme right winger position is a good thing for our kids. I don't like the lack of respect for authority and the way our kids are being taught to have a cynical opinion of our history. They are not being taught enough about our values and our ideals and our heroes.

They are not old enough to remember the ones that I knew who fought in WWII. Innocent farm boys who saved our country and the stories of the ones who came before us. We should want them to love their country and be willing to sacrifice to make it better. America should be a light in this world not a place where peole cannot reason and discuss in a civil manner.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

We cannot change past actions, only what we do currently and in the future. I hope people treat the new Speaker of the House with greater respect than was offered to the past Speaker, don't you?

It is very easy to find fault in others and justify things we say based on what others said to or about us (or our beliefs / party / ideology). However, two wrongs don't make a right. Yes, ugly things were said about Bush after Katrina. I feel the administration deserved criticism for some aspects of how things were handled, but the personal attacks did go way over the line. You are absolutely correct on that. Recognized. Likewise, personal attacks against Obama are just as easy to find.

So what do we do about it? Continue down the same path, or try to make it a little better by realizing we are all Americans first? Do any of us care what political party any of those killed were? Of course not, we only care that they are our fellow citizens.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Or, we can keep trying to score partisan points. I mean, that has been working oh so well for the nation recently.

No matter which political figure you point at in the past, we will be able to find insults directed their way. How does that help us moving forward, which is the point of my comment? Does the side that can prove to have insulted the other 49.9% to the others' 50.1% win for being more civil? Instead, lets just be a bit more polite to one another. It isn't that difficult a concept.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Yes, he does. I just ask, did he make those comments since January 8? We can't move forward if all we do is look at past insults.

One important thing about Obama is this: Obama actually is a politician. He will indeed say things to score partisan points. However, what good is it for you and I to play that game? I know I'm not in politics, and I suspect you aren't either. No matter how badly you trump something I say about politics, that won't mean I don't win an election -- I'm not on the ballot.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

It isn't.

Which makes it particularly unfortunate and disturbing that so many seem unable to get it.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Corky, here is my thoughtful response -- some people will never aim for civil discourse. It just isn't in them to try and have intelligent conversations.

George Lippencott 7 years, 2 months ago

Once more into the jaws of death go I. I listened in real time to the sheriffs press conference and I read Mr. Krugman’s comments. They did indeed abhor uncivil dialogue. They also clearly and unequivocally in the language I have spoken all my life blamed the “right” for promulgating it. The response of the right to include Ms Palin was, to the extent I have heard it or read about, a disclaimer–not of the incivility – but to point out the incivility is a shared activity with the left.

Now blogging on the LJW world has made me keenly aware that there are miscreants on both sides. What has surprised me is that we apparently do not have a shared definition of what is uncivil. Some elements of the left throw around terms such as bigot, racist, homophobe and the like at the drop of a hat. I have concluded that many of those using such terms do not see their comments as uncivil but the “truth”. Of course, those on the right do not perceive themselves that way.

I am surprised about one thing that I will mention here. As a repeated recipient of the censure of the left because of my involvement in military activities, I have always associated them with a strong desire for peace and harmony. If I were correct, it would seem that there is a greater burden on those of the left to tolerate the perceived slurs of the right and return the dialogue to a more moderate nature. Am I wrong?

In the absence of Ms Jones, my kindergarten teacher, and her peace making ability; how can we bridge that gap?

George Lippencott 7 years, 2 months ago

Reread what I wrote because if you meant this you totally missed the point - or maybe made mine??

George Lippencott 7 years, 2 months ago

"Now blogging on the LJW world has made me keenly aware that there are miscreants on both sides.

And this picks on the left because...?"

The point is common understandings. I write something that I consider neutral and you see it as anti-left. I did use an example of definitional issues from the left but we could use one from the right. How about the word "socialist" Some on the right love to throw that word around with little consdieration of the standard definition.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

George, I don't know which side needs to tolerate the most slurs. I doubt that could be determined, and besides, it doesn't matter. The point of all of this is that past is the past. To strive for civil discourse from this moment forward is the goal, and we can't get there if we hang on the insults of the past. That is all.

George Lippencott 7 years, 2 months ago

Thank you Bea. I chose to intrepret your comment as supportive.

beatrice 7 years, 2 months ago

Part of my new way George. Aiming for civil discourse in my discussions around here from now on. If I keep repeating it and fail to do my part, then I'll deserve the harsh attacks aimed in my direction. So yes, do think of it as supportive. We can disagree and be critical, but we don't need to be mean.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

I generally agree.

But putting more of the burden on the left seems a bit off to me. If those on the right aren't interested in peace and harmony, then nothing that anybody on the left does will make it happen.

It takes both sides.

By the way, the difficulty of being insulted and not responding in kind is that it takes a certain amount of self-discipline and willpower.

I would suggest to all that are interested in improving the dialogue on here that they simply ignore insulting posts, and not respond in kind. And, perhaps, to take it a step further, they could stop responding entirely to those who engage in such.

independant1 7 years, 2 months ago

politics, civil discourse or civil? i don't think so - if history is any indicator of future performance

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

Boy the two "sides" can agree they are fighting. Big problems if they quit fighting so much and get to work on the problems how are they going tell who won the game. It is tedious that neither side is obsessing about jobs and foreclosures except as tools in the game of which party is cool. How about neither.

Curiouspectator 7 years, 2 months ago

I've been a silent observer of this site for some time..sometimes enlightening, frustrating, entertaining and provocative. I've never posted before. I read the LTEs including Dolph, Reed, Pitts and Shewmon et al. and I'm finally posting after 3 years of reading all posts fairly and silently. Here's the thing with the Tuscon massacre...Jared Loughner was MENTALLY ILL, not POLITICALLY ILL. His illness was entirely unrelated to this event, it represented an opportunity with a $15 taxi ride to the Safeway to reach his fame as an exquisite example of Nihilism. How in the world this propogated the type of bipartisan finger-pointing it did is beyond me. I wish a licensed psychologist would've posted the fact that this was not left or right...just wrong. I pray for the families that were affected. Stop your damn bickering and for God's sake spare me the "can't we just get along?" comments. You can't "get along" with psychopaths--Comments regarding "why can't we get along?" are political and belong on a different forum. This was a clear and simple tragedy born of insanity. End of subject.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

Goody, we don't have to resort to reason, logic or cooperation. The discussion has nothing to do with any community reaction to political dysfunction. I was worried an age of reason was going to break out. shweww that was close. thanks.

arc400 7 years, 2 months ago

First I read Sheriff Dupnik's comments. Then I read Rush Limbaugh's rebuttal. Then I read an article in the Wall Street Journal which was basically a paraphrase of Limbaugh's comments. (The Wall Street Journal, I thought, parroting Rush Limbaugh?) Then I looked up who owns The Wall Street Journal since 2007. News Corporation. And who is that? Rupert Murdoch. Mystery solved.

When is America going to put an end to the rule of Rupert Murdoch? People are worried about whether Obama was born in the U.S.? What about Murdoch? Restore the Fairness Doctrine and say no to propaganda on all sides.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

I don't agree that we should not talk about or ask for civil discourse because a man who shot people is clearly deranged. I don't think the climate of hate is something to ignore. Trolls can shout in meetings, derail conversations, but they govern poorly.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 1 month ago

"...they govern poorly." Well, the current regime's first two years have proven that.

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