Uncivil Debate

When did we as a culture lose the ability to disagree without labeling each other as haters? In a society that has become more and more polarized along ideological lines, civility has been forgotten and it is now common practice to slander those with opposing viewpoints.

The use of derogatory comments towards ideological opponents has become an epidemic. Insinuations are often made that any who oppose one side’s agenda are haters, devaluing the meaning of actual hate. And if you can’t find a reason to curse your opponent, then make one up. A manufactured crisis is created by one side attributing to the other a malicious, repugnant, or intolerant purpose behind any objection they might voice on an issue or, as in recent cases, a commercial.

MSNBC Cheerios TweetAn example of a manufactured crisis is the attempt by MSNBC to further the left’s slander of those evil “right-wingers” by insinuating they would be against a “bi-racial” family. The official MSNBC Twitter account posted a tweet about the ad that General Mills ran during the recent Super Bowl. The tweet read:

“Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family.

There was no “hate” expressed by conservatives about this ad. MSNBC made up the imaginary reaction; most likely to try and make people believe that right-wingers are hateful, racist, bigots. The ridiculous tweet makes even less sense when you understand that there is only one “human” race.

Politics has long employed this type of character assassination against opponents. In 2011, the Agenda Project ran an attack ad that featured a man that resembled future Vice- Presidential candidate Paul Ryan pushing an old woman in a wheelchair over a cliff to the tune of “America the Beautiful.” The ad used superimposed statements condemning attempts by Republicans to reform Medicare. No debate, no acknowledgement that the other side had any valid concerns or good ideas – simply a hatchet job meant to portray political opponents as evil.

The opinion pages of college newspapers are definitely not free of this ideological extreme. An editorial published February 7 contained unnecessary insinuations against people upset that a Coca-Cola ad run during the Super Bowl had “America the Beautiful” sung in several different languages. By writing that

“a large portion of people think … they should have sung “America the Beautiful” in English by (White) Americans,”

the author insinuated that those who dislike the ad have racist feelings towards non-white people. This attitude continued with remarks like

“I’ve never seen a Coca-Cola ad that prided itself in being bigoted or racist.”

and

The idea that somehow because someone speaks a different language or isn’t white, they’re less ‘American’ than you, is both racist and promotes ethnocentric ideology…”

These kinds of remarks stifle debate and hamper communication that could help resolve some of the contentious issues that divide us.

Instead of immediately attributing hate, bigotry, or harmful intent to someone with a different viewpoint, we should talk to each other. More importantly, we should listen. Then we might actually discover that our political “enemy” isn’t such an enemy after all.

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