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Posted at 2:25 PM ET, 02/22/2011

Incivility on the left

By Jennifer Rubin

It has become dogma on the left that the "civility problem," including the misuse and abuse of Hitlerian imagery, is primarily a problem on the right. The conversation is usually joined by conservatives who recount the left's hate speech from the Bush years, the misogynist attacks on Sarah Palin, the coarse descriptions of the Tea Party and the rantings of Keith Olbermann.

But without resort to political archaeology let's take a look at just the past couple of weeks, and the reaction of the civility "police." Stephen Hayes, writing in the Wall Street Journal, recalls the president's fine words at the Arizona memorial service, calling for a more civil discourse. But that seems to be a distant memory:

On Feb. 13, just the other side of the news cycle, a post on "Organizing for America," the website for the president's campaign arm, urged progressives to protest a proposal from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to reform public-employee benefits and limit collective-bargaining rights. The message, from Organizing for America's regional director for Wisconsin, began this way: "We've got a fight on our hands and it's personal."

The next day dozens of angry protesters marched in front of the home of Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard, a Walker supporter. The head of the local teachers union said this: "We want him to know we have our eyes on him." In neighboring Kenosha, Joe Kiriaki, the executive director of the Kenosha Education Association, joined protesters at the home of state Rep. Samantha Kerkman and confronted her parents when they drove down the street. Mr. Kiriaki noted that Ms. Kerkman lives in a 3,300-square-foot house worth more than $400,000. "I don't think she's feeling too much pain," he quipped.

Last Tuesday, hundreds of protesters shut down the road in front of Gov. Walker's family home in Wauwatosa, Wis. Across the state in Madison, a crowd of 20,000 -- many of them teachers skipping school -- gathered at the Capitol. Signs compared Mr. Walker to Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini. Still others accused him of "terrorism" and "rape." One sign had a photo of the governor in crosshairs: "Don't Retreat, Reload."

And where was Obama during this outpouring of incivility? "In an interview with a Milwaukee television station last week the president acknowledged that he hadn't followed the legislation in Wisconsin closely, but he characterized it as sounding like 'an assault on unions.' He made no mention of teachers violating the law in a de facto strike. He didn't say a word about the incendiary rhetoric or the tactic of marching on lawmakers' homes. And he said nothing about the missing state legislators and their antidemocratic walkout."

Such hypocrisy goes unremarked upon by most in the liberal punditocracy, which remains convinced the civility problem is a right-wing phenomenon.

But is it? Rachel Abrams, writing for the Weekly Standard Web site, recounts the Columbia University students jeering an injured war hero. She notes that the "intolerance for ideas falling outside the known and accepted tropes of the left is so deep and wide as to render them incapable of listening without a jeering rancorousness to the words of fellow student Anthony Mascheck--a heroic wounded vet arguing in favor of reinstating Columbia's ROTC program after a four-decade ban--who sits, wheelchair-bound."

It's rather beside the point to say that the jeering louts probably aren't a majority of the students. What is noteworthy is that the bastions of the left -- universities, labor unions and the Democratic Party -- are demonstrating that vile behavior is not the sole province of the right. In fact, a very base level of discourse is par for the course among the institutions that are dominated by the left. It appears that the distinction between right and left on this score is this: The mainstream media's professed concern with uncivil engages only when it is practiced by conservatives.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 22, 2011; 2:25 PM ET
Categories:  Culture  
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"Civility" was just a temporary tactic of the left to outmaneuver their enemies. They hoped to pin the murders in Arizona on Palin and other outspoken critics of the left. It didn't work because the killer turned out to be an apolitical nut. After "date night" at the State of the Union, political rhetoric returned to normal.

The left is much more dependent on dehumanizing their opponents than is the mainstream right. Can you imagine a Bush, for instance, speaking of his opponents with the sort of contempt we are used to from Obama, Pelosi and Reid? Obama comes from a left wing home and was influenced as a young adult by sundry communists, community organizers, and radical preachers, such as Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" stresses "incivility" as a tactic, to put it mildly. Consider his Rule #13:

"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and 'frozen.'..."

"...any target can always say, 'Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?' When your 'freeze the target,' you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments.... Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the 'others' come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target...'"

"One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other."

The protests in Madison with their illegal strike, threats, and over-the-top personal attacks display the typical methods of union goons and street radicals. That Obama, the DNC and Organizing for America are siding with the government employee unions rather than the taxpayers and voters who pay for their exorbitant benefits should surprise no one. Nor should their total lack of "civility".

Posted by: eoniii | February 22, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

It used to be called the "social contract" which was a commonly agreed upon means for civil disagreement and argument and peacefully and honorably settling disputes.
That social contract is now under attack by the radical American Left, which is becoming more and more Bolshevik in it's behavior and bitterly abusive in it's language.
Much of the national media is fanning the flames of this destruction of the social contract with their vulgar and coarse language, and their dismissal of the humanity and decency of those they choose to criticize.
The use of the Hitler and Nazi imagery is especially pernicious because it dehumanizes one's opponents while trivializing the truly monstrous crimes against the Jews and all of humanity by the German Nazi regime.
No person with any decency would ever descend to describing another human being as a Nazi.

Posted by: Beniyyar | February 22, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Please, let's have pictures of these things you mentioned, especially the sign saying "Don't retreat, reload." I guarantee you, if there were any teachers there at all, and a Democrat showed up with a sign like that, they would have been set straight. Once an educator, always an educator.

Posted by: goingeast2 | February 22, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse

goingeast2 –There’s a nice collection of the offending signs here:

The offending “Don’t Retreat, Reload, Repeal Walker” poster with Walker in the crosshairs is at 0:44 and 1:29 of the video here:

A woman explains why Walker is like Hitler, and some guy explains that we need to tax the rich because they horde all our money:

There are some truly disturbing pix here:

Finally, in the second video here you can hear from students whose teachers brought them to the rally, a really nice experiment in civics, no? Ufortunately, they're not real sure what the rally is about...

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 22, 2011 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Oh dear, it seems some Lefties have taken to making death threats against Governor Walker on Twitter. Not too civil, nor is it wise: law enforcement can readily determine their identities. Definitely not Mensa candidates.

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 22, 2011 9:20 PM | Report abuse

@SCMike1: Thanks for the links. I'd seen some of that but not all. I believe I read today that Ann Althouse (a Professor of Law at UW, I think) had received one or more death threats for her - mostly - photo coverage of the events in her place of work.

To goingeast2: I don't think there were any "Democrats" there. As Beniyyar suggests, these are Alinskyites or Bolsheviks on parade. Not "the loyal opposition" of the olden days who will fight it out on parliamentarian grounds. I suspect that one or more Republican legislator or opinion leader - in Wisconsin, or Ohio, or wherever else these Bolshevik termites have hollowed out the framework of the state - will be murdered before this is all over.

I further doubt Obama will even dispatch someone to the funeral.

Posted by: jafco | February 22, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

The premise of this argument is readily belied by little more than a casual perusal of the comments posted to Right Turn from the Left, which are models of civility, tolerance and openness to new and challenging ideas.

There will be a short pause while conservatives wipe coffee from their monitors.

Posted by: RES_ | February 23, 2011 12:36 AM | Report abuse

Incivilit? On the Left, Jen?!?! Pshaw.

Like RES says, just look at (some) of the comments under RT Posts.

SRSLY, Jen. Your attempts to bolster your argument with multiple pieces of conspicuous evidence are absurd. PEOPLE ON RIGHT EVIL AND VIOLENT. PEOPLE ON LEFT GOOD AND PEACEFUL. Repeat number of times people on the left have called for death or physical harm to conservatives.

Posted by: cavalier4 | February 23, 2011 4:39 AM | Report abuse

Here's a series of three videos documenting the interaction between SEIU members and Tea Party folks. Among the latter was a black, gay guy who seemed to attract the most, er, caustic remarks from the union members. Watch in the last video how one SEIU member bids adieu to the Tea-Partiers.

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 23, 2011 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Then there's this:

/“I’m proud to be here with people who understand that it’s more than just sending an email to get you going. Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary,” Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Ma.) told a crowd in Boston on Tuesday [2/22/2011] rallying in solidarity for Wisconsin union members./

Link here:‘bloody’/

More from that link:
/This is not Capuano’s first brush with violent rhetoric. Last month Capuano said, “Politicians, I think are too bland today. I don’t know what they believe in. Nothing wrong with throwing a coffee cup at someone if you’re doing it for human rights.”/

Posted by: SCMike1 | February 23, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

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