Can the Left and the Right Ever Be Civil Again?

I learned long ago the folly of engaging in political debates on Facebook. Hurt feelings are the best case scenario.

But I couldn’t avoid this debate.

A long-time liberal friend sent me a private Facebook message in response to a critical column I wrote about the host of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Kimmel recently dropped his comedy shtick to embrace politics and blast Republicans for failing to protect citizens from crazed gunmen in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre. “[Republicans] should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country because it is so crazy,” Kimmel said.

My friend asked me why I would use my public platform to attack a man expressing justifiable outrage and sadness over the tragedy. Clearly she hadn’t read my column—or if she had, it had not been with an open mind.

No one likes to be criticized, let alone told their work was hurting the culture at large. So I defended both the article and my honor. I asked if she recalled how many liberals had said the meanest things conceivable about conservatives in 2017, and suggested that conservatives have had enough of it. Kimmel’s words were simply more of the same, and I couldn’t help but point that out.

Her initial response baffled me.

She said we’ll never make progress as a culture if we can’t have respectful conversations that bridge the partisan divide. Was she serious?

Not only do the biggest names in her party paint the GOP as savages (Senator Bernie Sanders said the GOP health care plan would kill thousands) but how could she ignore the vitriol fueling Kimmel’s remarks?

And it’s hardly the first time. The erstwhile Man Show host has been pummeling his ideological foes while mainstream media outlets cheer him on. “The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, a number of other lawmakers who won’t do anything about this because the NRA has their balls in a money clip,” Kimmel said. He’s also taken to Twitter to denounce those who disagree with him on gun control as “crazies.”

Why was she was celebrating a figure who has become as divisive as anyone on the Hollywood scene? Nothing I wrote was a fraction as insulting as what Kimmel says regularly about his political opponents. Did she really want a more congenial dialogue, or was she just trying to bully me into agreeing with her views?

I wrote the piece, in part, because I’m aghast at the lowered standards now prevalent on the late night comedy stage—and the lack of accountability. Have we forgotten Stephen Colbert’s “c*** holster” slam against President Trump?

One of the many ironies of the Trump Era is how the Left suddenly understands why cultural standards matter. Progressives are appropriately appalled by some of President Trump’s more boorish proclamations (as are many conservatives). And understandably so. Yet conservatives have been fighting this culture war for some time, only to be mocked now for even waging it.

The New York Times recently criticized Republicans who had chastised President Obama for breaches of etiquette while looking the other way when President Trump does much worse. It’s a fair point, even if the op-ed came couched in overtly partisan language.

Of course, outlets like the New York Times haven’t slammed Kimmel or Colbert for their often lewd remarks even though the latter’s “holster” remark would likely have gotten him fired had he said it about then-President Obama.

Instead, it’s business as usual for our late night hosts. Colbert, Kimmel and Seth Meyers routinely lash the GOP in the ugliest ways possible. And Samantha Bee kicked off her weekly TBS show, Full Frontal, by calling Senator Ted Cruz a “fish-faced horse**** salesman.”

So what happens next? If there’s a silver lining to the Trump presidency, it’s that it has forced both the Left and the Right into an uneasy agreement about the need for some cultural standards (even if they can’t agree on the details). That means that Republicans must hold their own side accountable when someone misbehaves (including the president) and my friend must hold the Kimmels of the world accountable when their rhetoric reaches a fever pitch—even if deep down they want to cheer them on.

We could all use a reminder that our culture (and especially the world of social media) could always benefit from greater civility.

Image: Obama White House Archives by Pete Souza

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14 responses to “Can the Left and the Right Ever Be Civil Again?

  1. “Public platform” hahahahahahaha!

    Not all opinions are equal; that’s what you’re failing to recognize. The Republican health care plan WOULD kill thousands of Americans.

    Sophie Scholl and Roland Freisler were ever able to bridge the partisan divide that separated them. This is because it wasn’t a partisan divide, it was a divide between good and evil. You and Jimmy Kimmel will also never bridge your divide because Kimmel is a thoughtful, truthful man and you are a worthless, lying piece of garbage.

      1. What’s the author’s point? That tone policing is an admission that you have no honest arguments to make? Centrism and tone policing are used by people with weak or dishonest arguments to shut down or delegitimize arguments they can’t refute. Civility isn’t important, what’s important is integrity. Dishonest people don’t have any claim to civility. Tell me, should Sophie Scholl have avoided using the term “murders” to Roland Freisler? It was uncivil, wasn’t it, and it upset him.

        The article is dishonest because its author is dishonest. Am I supposed to avoid pointing that out? Why?

        1. Civility is important. If you cannot treat your interlocutor as if he is another human being who holds his beliefs as honestly as you hold yours, then discussion is impossible, and you do asinine things like call your interlocutor a worthless, lying piece of garbage.

          1. He doesn’t. I mean, look at this:

            “The New York Times recently criticized Republicans who had chastised President Obama for breaches of etiquette while looking the other way when President Trump does much worse.”

            Yeah, that’s a lie. The NYT was pointing out that Republicans criticized Obama for breaking rules the Republicans just that second made up, but the Republcans have no objection at all to dereliction of duty, lying, and treason.

            The author is claiming the right to tell Jimmy Kimmel what to say and not say. Discussion with dishonest people isn’t important; what’s important is to point out their dishonesty to others, and to make it painful for them to continue with their dishonesty. The author IS a lying, worthless piece of garbage; that is made obvious by looking at the clumsy, dishonest sleights-of-hand pervading his article.

            Civility is important between people arguing in good faith. Again, tell me, should Sophie Scholl have avoided using the term “murders” to Roland Freisler? It was uncivil, wasn’t it, and it upset him.

          2. Who lacks self awareness. The author is a liar. What I quoted is a lie, read the article he’s misrepesenting. And he’s telling this lie in the service of some call for “civility” in order to silence arguments he can’t refute and give himself a clear field. He wants to privilege his own dishonest, poorly founded arguments. He’s a lying piece of trash, what else is there to say?

  2. I used to be a Kimmel fan when he was second banana on Win Ben Stein’s Money. He was funny, and I don’t recall any political posturing. What is it about having “arrived” that makes performers think anyone views them as politically intelligent? Or is it that they just want to win favor by confirming with their commentary what they think most of their viewers already think?

    Of course, Kimmel is not the first to go political. I now experience the disappointment frequently.

    1. Why is it political “posturing”? That doesn’t even mean anything. What is it that makes you think Jimmy Kimmel or anyone else is not entitled to say whatever he wants without consulting you? Tell you what, on your own TV show, say whatever you like. I won’t stop you.

      1. He and you are entitled to say whatever you like. I and anyone else are entitled to ignore you both when you use insults rather than arguments.

        1. That’s certainly true, and to you, presenting evidence that you’re lying is an “insult.” This is basically all conservatives do by way of argument; they make ex cathedra statements and then when their lies are refuted, they talk about how mean their opponents are. Like I said, go on your own TV show and say what you like; until then maybe try to get the ugly stupid loser behind your mirror to go away and stop staring at you.

  3. Leftists cheered when country music fans were mowed down in Las Vegas. And you want me to be civil with these people?

  4. Obama will go down as the one that started this crap. As expected and predicted he ran down the hood before he left office.

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