Old friend Don Surber has a rant against civil discourse that all the wingerati are linking to. It mostly consists of him writing “bite me” over and over again. It’s comically stupid, as is often the case with Surber’s writing, but I agree with the sentiment to a certain extent: the kind of stuff he writes doesn’t contribute to violence or even much to the general degradation of national discourse. Likewise, while I think it’s great that Congressional Republicans are trying to use the word “kill” less (as in “kill the bill” etc.), I don’t think that the rhetoric coming from Republican Congressional leadership was ever that over-the-top to begin with.
But try listening to Michael Savage or Glenn Beck for an extended period of time and I think you’ll agree with the 54% of Americans who say angry rhetoric will either very likely or somewhat likely cause another incident like the Tucson shootings in the future. To be sure, national Republicans generally have a wink-wink pact with this stuff, but they (other than Sarah Palin and a few others) don’t directly engage in that kind of rhetoric themselves very much, at least not at the top (Boehner, McConnnell, etc.).
The right has a long history with this. Reagan’s “strapping young bucks buying T-bone steaks” line and decision to kick off his campaign with a speech about states’ rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi were of course wink-winks (and not very subtle ones) to white voters who were still angry about civil rights legislation. I think it’s fair to ask Republicans to disassociate themselves from Beck/Palin, but they won’t because they think the Beck/Palin stuff fires up the base, and anyway I don’t think the winks are as blatant as Reagan’s were anyway.
So there’s no way to quiet the craziness on the right. It’s done by people who don’t stand for elections and condoned by elected officials who think the rhetoric helps them. But the fact we can’t do anything about it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be honest about what is actually going on. All the bloggers in the world could stop using profanity, or whatever it is James Fallows thinks they should do, and that wouldn’t change what goes on on right-wing talk radio.