Bad people should be called bad people


There exists something called The National Institute for Civil Discourse. They want to argue that the real problem with America is that we aren’t fucking polite enough to one another.

The National Institute for Civil Discourse is urging Americans to be respectful of one another again. The institute and its new executive director, Keith Allred, are behind an attempt to move elected officials and citizens toward civility at a time when discourse is degrading, with the hope that people will remember how to disagree with one another in good faith.

“It’s not the difference of opinion on policy that makes us bitter,” Allred said. “But thinking they’re a bad person.”

Keith Allred, you are a bad person who promotes bad policy.

Our problem isn’t an excess of civility, it’s that people are permitted to constantly break the bounds of civil humane behavior and never face so much as a ‘tut-tut’ from their colleagues, out of an undue respect for politeness and deference. Steve King has been a vocal and unrepentant racist since the beginning of his political career. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it; the Republican party has known it, and has supported him for at least 16 years. After all the crap he routinely spews, only now has the party taken the mildest of steps, stripping him of his committee assignments. Steve King is a bad person. Say it out loud. Everyone should have said it years ago.

Similarly, Jim Watson has been a font of racist nonsense for many decades. He’s been dining out on one great scientific discovery all this time, and people have been showering him with honors rather than stopping cold and saying, “Jim Watson, you are a bad person. DNA is great, but you’re an asshole, and no, we’re not going to appoint you to this prestigious directorship.”

Why is America a racist, sexist shithole, and fast becoming worse? Because the Keith Allreds of this country put manners above all, and refuse to condemn the bad people who contribute to the poisonous atmosphere.

Comments

  1. says

    I tripped over this idea in a thread on Twitter recently. Someone was complaining that, as bad as the right is, the left has destroyed manners and basic courtesy — things like holding doors and orderly queues.

    My first thought that the left has been trying to expand basic courtesy to people who don’t usually benefit from it — women, PoC, LGBT+ people, etc — but the right condemns that as “political correctness”.

    My second thought was that I live in a country that’s famous for two things: being way left of the US, and being extremely polite…

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    It seems that a vast majority of American’s aren’t interested in justice or morality, they just want quiet. They labor under the delusion that this country can be one big happy family who settle’s their differences with polite, unemotional dinner-table-discourse.

    We can’t.

  3. Onamission5 says

    Q: Where is your tolerance for intolerance!
    A: Went flying out the door the first time this was demanded of me circa 1992.

  4. mamba says

    When was your country ever NOT a racist, sexist shithole? From day one it was that way.

    I keep hearing about how we have to kick the racists out of society/politics/police/whatever in order to “clean up” things. But has it ever been considered that if you did that there would BE no more society/politics/police/whatever?

    Obviously what you’re saying is a good thing. As a non-racist society we SHOULD do all the above…calling out racists, cleaning up, not tolerating racist crap, etc. But sorry, as it stands and as is apparent, the system is perfectly content to be racist as long as it isn’t blatant. In the past open racism was acceptable…now it’s more subtle. But the institutions are still there…the biases are still there, and all people do is talk about the value of different races, which just separates them more!

    As a country, can you please stop pretending that it’s just a few thousand racists ruining things for everyone? It isn’t…it seems to be more like a prevailing fear of being called a racist that tempers far too many of your people, not the desire to not be racist anymore. You still see things as “us vs them” in all matters, even equality. Basically if skin colour isn’t supposed to matter, then stop focusing on it a all positive OR negative, but that will never happen apparently.

    So yeah, this politician isn’t an aberration, he’s just old school in his openness against other races, while his colleagues tut-tut to look more progressive while still basically supporting his opinions by doing nothing to render them irrelevant. After all, most of them benefit from the imbalance anyway, being white and male. If ethics trumped power, they’d never be there in the first place.

  5. Saad says

    There were no bad people. We created the bad people by calling an arbitrarily chosen group of good people bad. Those good people then out of spite became bad people even though they oppose the bad things they do since they’re actually good people who are only doing bad things because we inexplicably called them bad people.

    Also, everyone knows that when someone starts wrongly accusing you of theft, the normal response is to start stealing a lot in plain sight.

  6. Jeremy Shaffer says

    The institute and its new executive director, Keith Allred, are behind an attempt to move elected officials and citizens toward civility at a time when discourse is degrading, with the hope that people will remember how to disagree with one another in good faith.

    Sounds great, Keith. I do, however, wonder what exactly your institute is doing to combat the fact there are concerted efforts from various organizations- often disguised as news sources- and their actors meant to flood the discourse with bad faith arguments which get thoughtlessly repeated by the average person as if it’s mana from heaven. If this is an honest concern for you, Keith, that’s what you’ll have to tackle; not simply step up to a microphone, spout a bunch of “both sides” nonsense, and wait giddily for a gold star- and probably a bunch of funding- from the establishment.

  7. microraptor says

    Akira @2: I don’t now that it’s so much laboring under the delusion as much as just not caring as long as it doesn’t directly affect them. Since it’s not “their” problem, they shouldn’t have to be reminded that it’s a problem at all.

  8. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I once took a seminar in [Business Conversation], where the key point was to avoid starting a sentence with “You are …”, rephrase it into “I …”
    EG instead of “You are intimidating”, rephrase it as “I am intimidated by you”.

    IE describe your reaction instead of their action.

    I want to add: that is a good way to start, after a while it can properly be redirected to the You form.
    First time you hear King’s offensive assertion, remark how much it offended you. He has reached the point where it is quite valid to acknowledge that he IS an awful person with racist attitudes. I’m not saying that, he IS an awful person. King is done.
    I dislike sharing a common first name with that scummy Cracker
    <exit stage left>

  9. Onamission5 says

    Not really a paradox. Tolerance– and I don’t mean the dictionary definition here– means allowing equal room for people who aren’t harming anyone in their differences, it does not mean allowing those people to come to harm. “Tolerate my intolerance or you’re intolerant” is an attempt on the part of bigots to weaponize the target’s perceived passiveness by redefining tolerance to create a paradox where there isn’t one. The supposed paradox is a conservative creation, a reframing based on their straw liberalism of “tolerance = anything goes” in order to paint those straw liberals as hypocrites when they don’t allow bigotry, and conservatives as victims of the new definition of intolerance.

    It’s a mind game, but it’s not a paradox.

  10. says

    They labor under the delusion that this country can be one big happy family who settle’s their differences with polite, unemotional dinner-table-discourse.

    Especially if that guy being beaten to death in the kitchen could just stop whining about it. I mean, show some consideration, dude. We’re trying to eat, here. At least close the door or something.

  11. ikanreed says

    To be as fair as I can manage, this group was created after a slightly mentally disabled republican tried to murder Gabriel Giffords, and there’s something to be said for “When someone is shooting elected representatives, society has broken down” as a message.

    Buuuuuuuuut, because of the intense neutrality such people are attracted to, they’re never going to acknowledge the underlying fact that violence towards political ends(don’t we have some word for that? it starts with a T?) is an overwhelmingly conservative phenomenon. They have to “be fair” to “both sides” using “intense language” that provokes violence.

    Civility starts with the universality of human rights. Not respectful language for elected officials.

  12. says

    There exists something called The National Institute for Civil Discourse

    More like the National Institute for Tone-Trolling, which would be a more pronounceable, not to mention more apposite, acronym.

  13. larpar says

    Cat Mara @# 14
    Thanks for the new phrase. Now I can use tone-nitts instead of tone-trolls.

  14. stroppy says

    False balance, false equivalence, fallacy of the mean… reason is so impolite. Let the Limbaughs of this world bash you for decades, but the minute you don’t demurely turn the other cheek, you’re some kind of infidel?

    Trump said it, when the Nazi’s march, remember there are good people on both sides. So who exactly is it who agrees with this?

    You know, propaganda has the express purpose of being deceptive, disruptive, and unyielding. But as long as you politely raise your pinky whilst nibbling your cake, society will flourish eh? Got it. Don’t think too hard about it.

  15. mnb0 says

    As soon as Ketih’ civility saves children from dying when trying to emigrate I’ll be with him.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/aylan-kurdi-and-the-photos-that-change-history-1442002594

    The Americans here all know their own examples, hence my choice of this one. As long as this stuff happens and headers like in WP are totally wrong I keep on shouting:

    Screw ’em authorities all in the ass until those bastards scream that they’ll better their fucking policies. Because nothing has changed since then.

  16. karmacat says

    I read a comment on facebook which addresses this kind of issue: “Anytime anyone says we’ve never been more divided about a country that was legally segregated within many of its current citizen’s lifetimes, I guess at least they’re making it clear who their “we” is.”

  17. nomdeplume says

    Seems to me there is far too much civility from the left – a reluctance to call racists racists and fascists fascists and imperialists imperialists and planet destroyers planet destroyers.

  18. anchor says

    “Bad people should be called bad people”. Absolutely. It would be UNCIVIL not to.

    One wonders why it apparently hasn’t occurred to Allred that his call for civic politeness wouldn’t be greeted with approval by rotten scoundrels who have already been employing the tactic against anyone who calls them out.

    He doesn’t seem to understand its a fight. As Lofty #21 reminds us in the bully’s demand. Responding to rotten scoundrels with politeness and tolerance only encourages them to keep it up.

  19. microraptor says

    anchor @23: Is it a lack of understanding or a disingenuous attempt to silence critics?

  20. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    It seems that a vast majority of American’s aren’t interested in justice or morality, they just want quiet.

    Because it’s one of my favorite quotes of all time, I refer you to MLK Jr, who made the same observation in his Letter From A Birmingham Jail.
    https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
    I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

    As a country, can you please stop pretending that it’s just a few thousand racists ruining things for everyone?

    Absolutely right.

  21. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    My issue is this.

    Civility? Fine. Great. I’ve found that most of the time that I was uncivil, I realized I could have been more effective being more patient.

    But people like Allred almost always define civility as “mean words” or “swear words” and not “advocating for genocide” or “being racist”. They will call saying an idea is racist, or fascist, uncivil, however. So they’re not even consistent: “These people are inferior” is okay when “these people” are black but not when “these people” are fascists.

    When I meet someone for whom civility is anything besides hypocrisy, I’ll take it seriously.

    Of course, he’s still wrong, and with the classic liberal failing: pretending it’s about individuals who just aren’t being nice enough. Bad policies need to be addressed. We’re not where we are because of bad people or thinking people are bad people. We are where we are because of dehumanization and also because of bad policies that make even decent people do stupid and/or bad things.

  22. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I was taught that civilty requires reciprocity. that being civil to someone in order for them to be civil to you. When confronting uncivil behavior it is reasonable to respond similarly. IE fight fire with fire The usual sarcastic response to that aphorism is water is normal to fight fire, which can be replied with noting forest fires are best confined by controlled burns rather than water alone.
    don;t know where this argument is going, and I’ll leave it hanging. thank you for letting me ramble

  23. bcwebb says

    Would it be cynical of me to think that the reason Steve King was finally called on his racism by the Republicans was because they don’t run the House anymore so his vote is no longer very important?

  24. chrislawson says

    “It’s not the difference of opinion on policy that makes us bitter,” Allred said…

    Actually, difference of opinion on policy is 99% of what makes me bitter about current politics.

  25. chrislawson says

    I should add that I’m all in favour of civility in public discourse. But not at the expense of extending courtesy to vile ideologies.

  26. methuseus says

    I’m in favor of civility, but they need to start with Republicans that are uncivil when people talk about their oppression. The average Democrat, even the Congressperson (Rashida Tlaib) who said “We’re going to impeach the motherfucker”, is not uncivil. The person who says NFL players aren’t allowed to take a knee in protest are being uncivil.

  27. robert79 says

    @8 ‘I once took a seminar in [Business Conversation], where the key point was to avoid starting a sentence with “You are …”, rephrase it into “I …”
    EG instead of “You are intimidating”, rephrase it as “I am intimidated by you”.’

    The problem with that method is that using it, you can never come to the defence of another person. I am not personally attacked by someone constantly using a homophobic slur as I am straight, but I can imagine that some of my friends and colleagues would be. Saying “Some people in this room, I’m not gonna say who, might be intimidated by your choice of words.” is, I think, a lot less effective than saying “You are intimidating” which, yes, is less effective than saying “I am intimidated by you.”

  28. mcfrank0 says

    #37 — These are communication tips for business relationships that are more of a “just the facts” mentality. The same people that taught me to say “You did this and I felt…” also stated that I should never speak for someone else; that I should encourage them to speak for themselves. (I was actually burned by relaying someone else’s complaint. When confronted, the original person completely denied what they had told me, basically putting me in the position of being the liar.)

    I don’t think there is any magic formula for handling the political differences in this country. I especially don’t think that we should be telling each other “You ALL need to do it THIS way.” There is room for strategies from bomb throwers to mediators. What we need to agree on is the underlying message. The Right figured all this out a long time ago. Ann Coulter and Mitt Romney each have a place in the right wing messaging machine.

  29. DanDare says

    Yes, the messaging machine.

    That’s why you suddenly see the same stupid showing up everywhere.

    Suggest a 70% top progressive tax rate for a $10m threshold and suddenly everyone is talking about 90% tax rate on your whole income. And it’s everywhere.

  30. mountainbob says

    One can be “polite” and point out the error and evil of someone’s ways at the same time. it requires sticking to facts that exist and can be demonstrated. Cong King was brought up in a racist environment in Iowa. I was a teen, driving Sough to Florida in ’58, and encountered my first “white and colored” water fountains there. Those who are familiar with King can easily find true instances and actions to confront him with. It won’t matter to his constituents, but it will warn others.

Leave a Reply