Briefly noted: uncivil political discourse

A 10/10 letter to the New York Times from Mike McCurry of Kensington MD (press secretary under President Clinton from 1995 to 1998):

Frank Bruni is correct to argue that elected leaders, and average citizens for that matter, should “watch our words” so that passionate arguments about politics don’t go over the top (“Nazis, Lynching and Obamacare,” column, Oct. 8 [posted on here]).

There is no doubt that metaphor and vocabulary have grown nastier in the nation’s capital. But should not news organizations also play a role in encouraging a more civil discourse? If editors and reporters dismissed quotes and sound bites that border on the outrageous and focused instead on those who argue more substantively and perhaps more gently, maybe our headline-hungry politicians would curb their bombast.

An earnest proposal, but one that overestimates the power of mainstream news organizations (the ones that actually have reporters and editors). If these organizations dismissed incendiary language and outrageous claims, the tone of public discourse might moderate a bit; but these organizations supply only a small part of the stream of “information” that the public gets. (It’s even possible that offending politicians would double down on their outrageousness, to increase their presence outside of the mainstream media.)

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