Time magazine asked a panel of 16 experts to answer the question "Are We Becoming An Uncivil Society?" While Time's selected Republicans and conservatives (including Glenn Beck) stayed civil and didn't point explicit fingers at liberals for trying to smear the Tucson shooting on conservatives, leftist Daily Kos blogger Markos Moulitsas rudely predicted (again) that one side of the aisle, inspired by people like Beck, Sarah Palin, and Sharron Angle were going to get Americans killed:
We have always been an uncivil society. Just ask John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. But being harsh and passionate in one's political discourse isn't the same as walking around with guns intimidating the opposition, or using apocalyptic and Armageddon-style rhetoric to paint your opponents as terrorists and enemies of democracy and freedom. Problem is, we now have a side that is gun-obsessed, whipping people up into a frenzy with lies about Obama taking their guns away and interning conservatives in FEMA concentration camps (to name just two conspiracy theories).
When Sarah Palin tells her followers not to retreat, but to "reload," when Sharron Angle says people should resort to "Second Amendment remedies" if they don't get their way at the ballot box, and when Glenn Beck spreads the latest insane conspiracy theory, well then, it's only a matter of time before people start getting killed.
This is not an April Fools' Day joke. Time invited Markos Moulitsas to speak of civility in a civil tone. Were they shocked he just kept frantically slinging mud? Is the Kos Kommandant incapable of decorum even as his bete noire Beck accomplishes it?
It seems bizarre to many that a forum on civility truly needs someone whose ethical views include "killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person." But Time honored Princeton bioethics professor Peter Singer anyway, and he found blood on the hands of the NRA and allegedly "crazy" people who think ObamaCare curtails American freedoms:
To me the more significant aspect is that we allow people to get guns so easily, and not just any guns but semi-automatics, which can kill a large number of people in a very short time. That seems to me to be completely insane, and the U.S. is the only developed country in the world that does it. I think the NRA has blood on its hands, clearly. If those weapons were not available, maybe one or two people would have been killed, but not six or seven, as it may turn out to be. So I think that's the issue that the U.S. really needs to look at. I think that's been obvious for a very long time but this just shows it very clearly."
If you're referring to heated political rhetoric, I think some of the rhetoric has been crazily over-the-top, and there are a lot of people in the U.S. who hold what I think are nutty views about the dangers of government providing health care, for example - once again every developed country in the world except the U.S. provides health care to all its citizens, and I think those countries are just as free as the U.S. So I think there are a lot of crazy views out there and yes, there is a problem with that.
Here's a rundown of the rest of Time's contributors:
Fox News host Glenn Beck didn't say one discouraging word about the left in his submission to Time, even as he praised the country : "The fact that a vast majority of our society is miraculously civil might not make for exciting headlines, but it's absolutely true. I think that if you asked Adams or Jefferson to compare the discourse of today to the campaign of 1800, they'd be amazed at how civil we are."
Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw backed away from the blame game, but still obsessed over guns: "But we are still unequipped in this society to deal with a manifestation of mental illness. And he was able to walk away from the college — even though everyone recognized that this was a potentially dangerous young man — and go into a gun store in Arizona and buy a semi-automatic without any background check whatsoever and create the mayhem that he did with it. Those are the issues that I think we ought to be talking a lot more about.
David Gergen of CNN (and Harvard) perfected the act of landing exactly in the middle: "There can yet be a silver lining to the Tucson massacre if we stop trying to exploit it for political purposes and instead seize upon it as a fresh chance to change our culture of violence — too much hate, too many guns, too many killings. The bitterness in politics is part of this larger trouble. There is no evidence it prompted Loughner — and the finger pointing should stop — but we knew long before Tucson it must be cleaned up. In coming weeks, President Obama should invite GOP leaders as well as chieftains of entertainment and news, the NRA and others to see if we can reach a higher plane."
David Boies, lawyer for Al Gore's post-election legal challenge in 2000: Blamed harsh talk and the media's appetite for it, but also turned to the guns: "The third thing is the increasing glorification of gun possession and use. We've always been a society where people have liked to hunt, but people have disconnected the normal utility of firearms from the culture of firearms per se. The automatic pistol, which has got no conceivable use in terms of hunting and very little conceivable use in terms of defense, becomes something that the possession of — and easy possession of — becomes almost a matter of principle to some people. I think all three of those trends together have a significant effect in terms of making events like that in Arizona more likely."
Jeff Flake, Republican Congressman of Arizona, also angling for moderation: "Arizona is conservative but there's a strong libertarian streak that runs here. There's perhaps more skepticism about the power of government to do good in a lot of cases. I'm not trying to ascribe this act to that but that's a very powerful strain that's reflected in a lot of politicians. That's just Arizona, it's what a lot of people like about the place. Though, many of us have been uncomfortable with the extreme rhetoric of late."
Deepak Chopra offered liberal New Age goo: "Inflammatory and vitriolic words are a form of violence. In many wisdom traditions, speech that is imbued with compassion and love is used as a form of healing. It's time for us to pause and reflect. Our society today has the unmistakable symptoms of inflammatory disease with violence and hostility at home and war abroad. How long can we live with this sickness? Do we want our children to grow up in an environment that nurtures their joy and creativity or one that suffocates their soul? Can we start our healing process with civil speech while maintaining our civil liberties?"
Francis Fukuyama, professor, Johns Hopkins University: "there's been a polarization and a kind of demonization of political rhetoric in the country that is very unhealthy and has been growing for a long time, and I think has gotten worse since the financial crisis. The second observation is that I don't think Tucson has anything to do with that whatsoever."
Tim Pawlenty, outgoing Republican governor of Minnesota: "To jump from that to some sweeping judgment or conclusion, based on those facts, would be premature, incomplete and unfair, particularly if you try to assign blame to any one individual or institution or outlet or the like."
Garrison Keillor, host of NPR's A Prairie Home Companion: "I am perfectly civil. Why people behind me are honking and shaking their fists, I don't know. It's an ugly thing and I try not to think about it." (That's his entire contribution.)
Robert Pinsky, former U.S. poet laureate: Polite tut-tutting of incivility.
Ed Rendell, outgoing Democratic governor of Pennsylvania: Blames both sides for vitriol against government: the "lack of civility is tearing the fabric of our nation apart."
Ruth Simmons, president, Brown University: Polite tut-tutting of incivility.
Frances Townsend, Bush security official: Polite tut-tutting of incivility.
Victoria Toensing, former Reagan administration official: Scolds slowness to respond to Loughner's mental health clues, mild scolding of blame on rhetoric.
Time's forum was perfectly free of any conservative underlining left-wing hatred and wishes for violence -- like Michelle Malkin's compilation posted on January 10.