Civil discourse and “tone”

Civil discourse and “tone”

Often when people get into a vigorous debate of ideas, especially with those that disagree with them, it gets derailed by someone complaining about the “tone” of the debate or pleading for “civil discourse”.

As usual, Glenn Greenwald has a brilliant summation of this issue:

“One other point about this fixation on the “tone” of our politics. Political debates are inherently acrimonious – much of the rhetoric during the time of the American Founding, as well as throughout the 19th Century, easily competes with, if not exceeds, what we have now in terms of noxiousness and extremity – but far more important than tone, in my view, is content. I don’t think anyone disputes that our discourse would benefit if it were more substantive and rational, but it’s usually the ideas themselves – not the tone used to express them – that are the culprits.“

If only that could fit on a bumper sticker!

This is one of the things that always troubled me about politics in Washington. When people that have a conscience want to object to endless wars, hypocrisy, and mountains of debt for future generations, I don’t expect them to be civil. I expect them to kick some ass.

While people die, we have politicians worried that our debate might hurt someone’s feelings.