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A Word on “Civility”

All this year, we’ve been hearing all sorts of bellyaching from TV pundits and political operatives over “civility”. Oh, why must protesters show up at all sorts of public places and say not-nice-things to our elected officials? And what’s with all the foul language being used all around?

Now, there is a real “civility” problem behind all the rhetoric. It’s just not the one that gets enough attention… Until someone calls the police to report a pipe bomb.

Please say it with me: Violence is not the answer.

Earlier this month, Priorities USA staffer Mike Stark was charged with battery for forcibly grabbing the arm of Kristen Davison, Gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt’s (R) campaign manager. Stark has since been fired by Priorities USA, but this wasn’t Stark’s first angry outburst.

So of course, Laxalt’s PAC (“Morning in Nevada”) is now running ads trying to tie Stark to Laxalt’s opponent, Steve Sisolak (D). Never mind that Stark has never worked for Sisolak. This fits pretty nicely into the Republican message of “the leftist angry mob is out to get us!”

Maybe these Republican attack ads complaints could be taken more seriously if they were to be more consistent in condemning violence.

Who’s been targeted by these pipe bomb threats, and why were they targeted?

This morning, news broke of pipe bombs that were addressed to Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, and CNN’s New York City office (and the latter was specifically addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan). These three attempted bombings come on the heels of another explosive device being found in the mailbox of billionaire philanthropist George Soros’ Bedford, New York, residence. And just today, more bombs were reported that had targeted Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) and former Attorney General Eric Holder. Fortunately, federal authorities successfully intervened and prevented all these bombs from detonating. Nonetheless, the fact that four bombs targeted three prominent political leaders and one major news organization in one 72-hour period should be very alarming.

Oh, and by the way, what do these three political leaders and one news organization all have in common? They’re all regularly attacked by President Donald Trump as part of some “deep state” conspiracy to take him down, and they’re all regular targets of the pro-Trump, conspiracy-minded extremists at QAnon and other far-right fringe movements.

Earlier today Trump did say, “[A]cts of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.” However, Trump has yet to change his own habit of using “FAKE NEWS!” as a weapon to enrage his base encourage them to lash out at Democrats, various media outlets, and other people and organizations Trump has deemed “enemies of the people”. At the same time, Trump has yet to condemn the far-right extremists, such as QAnon and the white supremacists who organized last year’s attack on Charlottesville, who cite Trump as inspiration for their actions.

May we finally get to the root of this “crisis of civility”?
Photo by Andrew Davey

If you’re still wondering if America has a “civility problem”, there’s growing evidence that we really do. However it’s not as simple as pointing to one Super PAC tracker attacking a campaign staffer, the White House Press Secretary being kicked out of a restaurant, or the occasional angry constituents who interrupt prominent politicians’ fancy dinners.

Let’s bring this point home: While Laxalt’s PAC campaigns on the Mike Stark scandal, Laxalt himself has maintained a murkier stance on violence. It’s still unclear whether Laxalt’s office made any serious attempt to investigate the multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault facing Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro (a Laxalt supporter). Meanwhile Laxalt and his allies seem to be more concerned with Ryan Bundy siphoning off far-right votes in this election than he is with the Bundys’ platform of “range war” against the rule of law, and U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) has yet to rescind his praising of the Bundys as “patriots” or call on his friends in the White House to stop providing fuel for this extremist dumpster fire.

At the national level, the National Republican Campaign Committee (House Republicans’ campaign arm) continues pumping out anti-George Soros attack ads even after the attempted pipe bomb attack. Trump is still holding a rally for Republicans in Wisconsin tonight even after these multiple attempted bomb attacks, and it remains to be seen whether he will cool down his heated rhetoric (which typically overheats at these campaign rallies). And the White House continues to peddle xenophobic and nonsensical lies while providing aid and comfort to the forces of bigotry via “dog whistles”.

So yes, we indeed have a “civility problem”… No, scratch that. It’s far deeper than that. We have a civil society problem, and it’s long past time for everyone to stop overlooking the severity of this problem and start doing something about it.

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