Monday, January 19, 2015

Civility and the Civilized Man

Our friend William Teach, over at The Pirate's Cove has penned an interesting and thought provoking piece this AM on civility. I am going to quote from it extensively, and if he doesn't like it he can just kiss my... (Take a deep breath! Civility! Ommm.) ah, then, we can simply discuss it like gentlemen! Teach writes:

Should media and other outlets avoid publishing material that upsets others? Not just Muslims, but the targeted group? We’re not talking about forced censorship, but personal censorship. Civility. Respect. Responsibility. In Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein wrote

“A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

...that always made quite a bit of sense to me. Too often people are willing to forgo civility. With free speech comes responsibility. Much of the world has forgotten this as an attitude that makes everything not just about “me me me”, but infused with an attitude that everyone else is simply an ant. What does that mean? Do you think about all the ants and bugs you step on? No. You almost never notice them. You’re just doing your own thing without regard to the bugs. This is the way so many people think today. When they’re driving along and cut people off, it’s more than just selfishness, it’s a complete lack of regard for what can happen to other people. The fender bender behind them is of no regard as they drive off without knowing they are responsible for causing that accident.

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Was it appropriate when cartoonists were penning cartoons portraying Condi Rice in a horribly racist manner, many which were published in major American newspapers, such as the Washington Post and NY Times. When we do, we should be responsible for doing, be it speech, actions, the pen. We may not be to blame, we we can bear responsibility.

I commented along the lines of: "You cite the racist portrayal of Condi Rice. Those cartoons were vicious and meant to demean her. Isn’t there therefore a difference between those who would use a drawing to ridicule Mohammed as opposed to one that simply portrays him?
(To the non-Muslim, at least.)"

Is it not civil to point out something in someone else's religion that you believe is wrong or in error, or should that topic be off limits? I disagree with Mormons on matters of theology, but I generally do not air them in public. During the 2012 election, some liberal trolls (am I being uncivil in identifying them as such?), mocked Mitt Romney for his "holy underwear", referring to a practice of Mormonism, yet they had never leveled any such criticism at Democrat Harry Reid, also a Mormon.

So, for the case of both Condi and Mitt, the incivility seems to be primarily partisan in nature. Is partisan incivility exempted from other norms of civil behavior? Is it fair game to practice incivility towards one's political opponents? I doubt that the cartoonist or editors for the Post or NYT would have been so gauche as to mock Condi to her face or Mitt to his. And the trolls hide in their mother's basement, sniping at some whose boots they are unfit to lick.

So, how or where do we draw the line? Coincidentally, I woke up this AM thinking along these same lines. Am I being too harsh on those I criticize, and sometimes mock? Michael Moore drew the ire of many on Twitter yesterday, when he tweeted that Chris Kyle, subject of the movie "American Sniper", was a coward. Michael Moore is, on his better days, a vile disgusting human being. Is it not civil to point this out, or is it merely the degree to which one goes to point it out that might violate civility?

Moore spoke about an uncle in WWII who was shot by a sniper. And while I did refrain from asking him if his uncle was also his father, I did ask him if his uncle was shot by an American sniper?

The pudgy, ubiquitous Seth Rogen and a number of other brain dead liberals* (but I repeat myself) took it upon themselves to try to stretch Godwin's Law and compare American Sniper to the ersatz Nazi propaganda film featured in the movie Inglorious Basterds (sic).

Both Moore and Rogen have tried to walk back their statements, to little success, I might add. Michael Moore (Zip Codes 48501-48507, & 48550- 48557)* tweeted:
My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders r worse
After a little bit of blowback, he tried to claim that he never mentioned Chris Kyle by name, so, his comments were just somehow generic "snipers are cowards" remarks that had nothing to do with the fact that American Sniper is setting box office records and is very much in the forefront in the mind of the general public.

Possibly too, the fact that his fauxumentaries, lying dreck that they were, were never a fraction of the box office success of American Sniper, would never cause a noble soul like Moore to be jealous of that success.

Yeah. Right.

Rogen, whose latest movie by nearly all accounts was dreadful, but generated a great deal of support across the country nonetheless after an attempted ban by the North Koreans, gave the following excuse:
I just said something "kinda reminded" me of something else. I actually liked American Sniper. It just reminded me of the Tarantino scene.
To which I replied:
If the critics say your movies remind them of dog vomit, then, they're not actually comparing, right? Just reminded. Right.
I also posed the question over at Pirate's Cove:
Should I self censor if what I write or draw offends a certain group? Do we extend this courtesy to skinheads, 9-11 truthers and the KKK, or is it merely religion that we exempt?
Does anyone get a free ride? Liberals gave liberal Mormons a free ride, but not conservative Mormons. A commenter at PC posited out that 'Islam is not an "evolved" religion', bringing up the point are the less informed or benighted among us free from civility? May we mock headhunters, but not Presbyterians? Radical Islamists but not moderate Muslims? People who are mistaken or downright entrenched in their ignorance??

In a polite society, is it ever correct to be intentionally rude? Even if someone, in your humble opinion deserves it?

Someone once said of George Bush (and obliquely of Barack Obama), that Bush never unintentionally insulted the Europeans.

Consider too, the latest Papal dispensation to civility. Pope Francis responded to the Paris slaughter by suggesting that "if someone curses your mother, he should expect to be punched".

Well, I realize that the whole "turn the other cheek" thing is so 33 AD, still do we get a "one free punch" exception to civility, like the "one free grope" rule given to Bill Clinton to shield him from sexual harassment laws?

I realize this post raises more questions than it answers. I've got a couple of Photoshops coming up on Wednesday and Thursday AM this week. The first is rather tame, mocking the current administration (in quite a clever way, I might add!), but the second, Thursday's,  is a little more biting, directed solely at the President. Let me know if you think I'm being less than civil.

BTW, anything in my blog I am more than willing to tell to the face of subjects of these posts.

Even Thursday's...

Addendum: (Not so much an update as something I meant to reference earlier when I was rudely interrupted by work.)

Last week after Andrew Roman's excellent Before You Argue the Point, Know Your Bible First post, we had a brief discussion about how people forfeit their rights, and that capital punishment was in no way was inconsistent with a pro-life viewpoint. Just as one can love liberty and favor people forfeiting their liberty through any number of acts, one can be pro life and favor capital punishment for those who forfeit their own right to life by unjustly taking the life of another. Which got me to thinking, in this context, do people such as Moore and Rogen (And Obama, and Biden, etc. etc.) forfeit their right to civility by being less than civil? By lying or being duplicitous?/ By being snot-nosed, lying crapweasels*???

*Was that uncivil?? Yes, but pointedly so!


  1. Your comment reminded me of something I had meant to include. And yes, we live in an uncivil world, yet it is incumbent upon us to preserve civilization as best we can. Perhaps we cannot always be completely civil, but we should at least know the reason why!

  2. There has and always will be "mean" people...

    Knee jerk reactions rule social media

  3. Excellent points, and it was very rude of you to make me think on a Tuesday morning!!!!

    It is a tough question regarding civility. Where and when? When should we dispose of it in a situation?

  4. The price you pay to live in a democracy is that you do not have the right "not" to be offended. Otherwise those who disagreed with you would simply claim to be offended in order to stifle your point of view. Civility is the exercise of expressing your point of view with the purpose to correct or improve or to make others aware, not to ridicule or insult mock or humiliate simply because you do not like the person or idea that you are criticizing. If your criticism is not constructive, don't criticize.

  5. "There...always will be "mean" people..."
    How very rude of you to point that out! Heh.

  6. In my defense, I posted this on Monday night. I can't help it if your sloth and indolence prevented you from getting her until this AM! ; )

  7. "If your criticism is not constructive, don't criticize."
    Tough crowd! There goes half my blog! Heh.

  8. Very well stated, indeed. Civility is measured in the behavior, or the level of courtesy, in which the idea is expressed. Indeed, it is technically possible to advocate for slavery, for instance, and to do so in a "civil" manner, even though there is nothing civil about slavery in and of itself....but my question is: If we agree that civility is about the manner in which an idea or criticism is levied, regardless of the subject matter, isn't the "constructiveness" of the commentary ultimately subjective? If, for instance, I am criticizing a policy proffered by President Obama, and supporters of his do not find my comments at all constructive, even though I am, by definition, behaving in a civil manner, do they then set the terms of the debate by declaring me UNcivil? Do you see my point?

  9. Good question. All of us get our backs up when someone obviously mocks, ridicules or insults our worldview and beliefs. However, most of us can spot someone who has an opposing view and legitimatly has concerns with ours. Mockery preaches to the converted, whereby constructive criticism has been known to persuade and change others of their views, or a least make them aware that theirs is not the only viewpoint. We sense that when our opinions are being mocked that those doing the mocking feel threatened by our opinion and are having difficulty defending theirs. The result is that we dig in our heels and close our minds because we feel if we are being mocked then we must be right. We all choose to live in our own bubble of disillusionment whereby we believe certain things because we want to believe them more than the facts support. Constructive criticism over time will burst that bubble. Mockery reinforces it. We in the West sense that the demand not to depict the prophet Mohammed is an attempt to stifle criticism of that faith. Therefore we want to depict him because we feel that faith needs criticism. We mock to piss them off and then get upset when we succeed. Strong persuasive criticism has a better chance of motivating the believers to change. We may not see it now, but extremist Islamists feel extremly threatened because their worldview is under attack by reason and we are witnessing their death throws to moderates and non believers. if your goal is to change behaviour, choose the best method. Calm reasoned persuasive criticism has the best chance of doing so.

  10. As you are aware, there is a blogger in Saudi Arabia who was sentenced to 1000 lashes. 50 every other week until complete. That is a tough crowd! No doubt as a blogger you feel privilaged to be able to express your views to the world. That privilage comes with responsibilty. Your excellant article made me aware that you have given this some thought.
    Good for you!

  11. If I may step into your conversation for a moment. "Calm reasoned persuasive criticism has the best chance of doing so."
    Perhaps. But what about with unreasonable people? People who are intractable in their ignorance or error? For example, no amount of reason has been able to persuade Obama to permit the KeystoneXL pipeline extension for six years. It is also unlikely that sweet reason will do so in the next two, but political pressure might.

    Saul Alinsky advocated ridiculing your opponents as a means of prevailing. Again, you can see that, although it is apparently useful as a tactic, just how closely do we want to be seen emulating our enemies? Does the end truly "justify the means"?

    As to religious fervor, sweet reason has not prevailed amongst the Mohammedans for 1200 years, nor are they likely to change in the next. Is it possible to criticize their faith without criticizing them personally?

    I suppose it is a balancing act of being civil with the civil and fighting fire with fire.

    I still see no clear black and white delineation, but rather, 50 shades of gray. I appreciate the thoughtful and well reasoned comments of my readers and shall take them all under advisement.

    Thanks for your contribution, Phil!

  12. I am aware of that. In fact, the last I heard was that the Saudi were mercifully delaying his second set of lashes since the first ones hadn't properly healed yet.

    Sarcasm, too is a piece of the civility puzzle! Of course, the former was not totally sarcastic, but skated right up close to the edge!

    I enjoyed your participation, as iron sharpeneth iron. Stop by anytime and keep me honest!

  13. You mentioned President Obama. One question I neglected to bring up, President Obama outright lied a number of times during his SOTU (I lost track how many). One group counted the "broken promises of Barack's 6 SOTU's and came up with 112.

    What is our debt of civility to the pathological liar? As a fellow human being, he commands a certain measure, but is it ever permissible for a Joe Wilson to shout out "You lie", when the President is clearly lying? Most of us agree that that was not a forum for rebuttal or comments from the audience, but a Supreme Court justice merely shaking his head in the audience draws a rebuke from the Liar-in-Chief. Ought not civility to go both ways?

    At what point, if any, do lies and incivility, or ignorance and intractability justify a reply in kind? That is to say, the unkind in kind?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

  14. Will do. That you for the opportunity to comment.