Interesting analysis here of how demands for civility in public life and discourse serve the status quo; an excerpt:
I would argue that there is an "excess of civility" today in North America....
-Why is it unheard of for someone to call a politician or corporate CEO a liar? Why do we instead hear terms such as "they are not telling the whole story", "he needs to come clean" or "he is misrepresenting the facts"?
-Why are we not flooded with images in our mainstream media of Iraqi and Afghani children killed by coalition troops, or for that matter dead or injured U.S. soldiers?
-Why have so many been turned off by the confrontational work of the rather dishevelled-looking Michael Moore? Has he not been seen lately making his rounds on late night television clean-shaven in a suit and tie?
-Why does an increasing cynicism of the U.S. intervention in Iraq not translate into wholesale changes in staff or policy?
I think that the answer -at least in part- lies in the shallow North American notion of decency, morality and civility. We have, in some ways, gone from being citizens to consumers, and lost a meaningful connection to deeper issues, particularly those that don't appear to impact us directly....
In this harsh new world we are putting politeness and decorum above substance....Sure, we can send books and care packages to U.S. soldiers in Iraq, but we cannot call the Bush administration a pack of liars for manufacturing their case for the invasion. For days last month, the image of a U.S. soldier holding a blood-soaked Iraqi child made the media circuit, but no such image of an Iraqi parent with their blood-soaked child is appropriate material. It is clear that we can tolerate a bland John Kerry or a challenged George Bush, but not an emotional Howard Dean.
A recent example is Scottish Minister of Parliament George Galloway. His pointed remarks regarding the U.S. invasion of Iraq to the U.S. Senate sub-committee provided for a powerful story, but this was turned into a moment as the media focus quickly turned to his marriage and his opponents, rather than spotlighting his carefully-chosen words to Republican Senator Norm Coleman. Galloway appears here to have over-stepped the bounds of civility....
North America has shifted so far to the right on the political spectrum, while our notions of what is civil and what is extreme have moved right along with it. This change has caused many of us to back away from provocative tactics and principled stances that might disrupt traffic flow. Progressive groups are left struggling for ways to reach the North American multitudes without overly offending sensibilities, feeling that the average citizen is looking for any reason to tune out. This is not about tossing a brick through a Starbucks window, nor is it about "re-branding" ourselves to make social movements more palatable. This is about slicing through expectations from our shifting society and hungry news channels and acknowledging the difficulty in making activism and resistance more than symbolic.
As we have remarked previously, civility is the greatest gift one can bestow on the creationist conmen, the right-wing liars, and the religious bigots--not to mention the hordes of ignorant blowhards in the blogosphere. To treat their positions with civility is to already legitimate them. The consequence of doing so is now available for all the world to see: the intellectually and morally depraved state of public culture in America today.