Posts Tagged ‘Laura Ingram’

Service of Civility II: BookTV Panel & Some Surprise Assessments

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

Photo: benice.org

 

A day after I heard about Laura Ingraham’s bullying one of the Parkland student survivor/spokespeople, hitting him below the belt on a very touchy subject –taunting him about four college rejections—I saw a fitting panel on BookTV covering the topic of why civility is important. With Geoffrey Cowan as moderator—USC Annenberg Family Chair in Communication Leadership—panelists were Jon Meacham, author, presidential historian and executive editor at Random House; Tim Miller, Definers Public Affairs partner and Amie Parnes, reporter and co-author of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.”

Miller started. He’d been Jeb Bush’s 2016 communications director. While calling out the current president’s attacks on his then boss’s wife, he asked where do we draw the lines while pointing out that DT wasn’t the first in politics to step over some. He didn’t offer examples of but Meacham did when it was his turn to speak. He reminded us that one reason George Washington didn’t serve a third term was because he didn’t care for the incivility in politics and the attacks on him.

Meacham observed that civility is when “things are going my way;” that currently we are in a state of “strife and nature” and that in December, according to reporting in The New York Times, the current president told his transition staff to think of each day he is president as a TV show in which “I vanquish my enemies.” Meacham added that discord and disagreement are the oxygen of democracy. “We’re in the political equivalent of climate change: Some days hot, some cold.”

Jon Meacham Photo: Wikipedia.com

The president sets the political tone and those who reached out with hope have been the most successful, said Meacham. As examples he called out Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklyn D. Roosevelt and more recently, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan whom he called the architect of optimism. The Reagan anecdote he shared was the President’s description of a kid who finds a pile of manure in the living room and says, “There must be a pony in there somewhere.” The opposite were presidents who ran on a fist clenched in fear. This one thrives on a rhetoric of fear.

Parnes spoke of being an object of personal attack about her Hillary Clinton book and earlier when she was a journalist, with people threatening her and even attacking what she looks like. She observed that social media has made it worse. In this regard, Meacham said he’d told his kids, ages 15, 13 and nine, “don’t write on a computer what you wouldn’t say to a person’s face.” He added that keyboards have been much quieter in his house as a result. Miller blames social media less than tribalism. The common culture of the 50s and 60s was for white people, he said. Cowan chimed in that politics is determined by zip code these days.

Meacham observed that the press is far less ideologically driven than people think. “Give us a fight and that’s ideal.” The president takes advantage of this.

Photo: indianexpress.com

Back to Ingraham, who reminded me of a now well-regarded New York Times columnist who wrote a nasty piece in that paper’s Magazine section about Chelsea Clinton, all of 11, whom he called unattractive and awkward among other things. Bullying is dreadful dished out by anyone but worse when it’s adult vs. child. The Parkland student wasn’t passive—he reached out to Ingram’s advertisers and more than a dozen of them have dropped her show at this writing.

Meacham’s “civility is when things are going my way” may answer why so many feel we are in a period of incivility on steroids, sensed in politics since the 18th century.  Where do you stand?

Photo: aplacecalledhope.com

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