Today I am preparing a Sunday School lesson about good citizenship. And I came across a great quote from President Hinckley, which immediately made me think about the tone of so-called political discourse in this country:
“Civility is the root of the word civilization. It carries with it the essence of courtesy and politeness and consideration of others. How very much of it we have lost in our contemporary society. The lack of it is seen in the endless barrage of faultfinding and criticism spewed forth by media columnists and commentators…Talk show hosts become rich and famous by snarling at callers and heckling guests. All of this speaks of anything but refinement. It speaks of anything but courtesy. It speaks of anything but civility. Rather, it speaks of rudeness and crudeness, and an utter insensitivity to the feelings and rights of others” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, pages 131-132).
But, of course, as we found during the last election, civility, eloquence and education are qualities deserving of derision — signs of the “elite.” It’s really too bad that pundits on both sides of any issue so often stoop to personal attacks. But I’m especially sad that one of these pundits is himself LDS, and someone who once publicly professed great admiration for the man he claimed to follow as a prophet. (Hint: I’m talking about Glenn Beck, who recently lowered the bar in political “discourse” with flat out falsities and outrageous remarks designed solely for the purpose of stirring up controversy and bringing more money for him, rather than facts and concern about actual political debate and providing reliable and useful information for his droves of followers.)
It’s a sad state affairs when bombastic attempts at money-making take precedence over actual political debate. Yes, these pundits are well within in their rights, and they are obviously very savvy businesspeople. It’s just too bad that so many of us think that these attacks are true debate, when they are often laced with falsehoods and deliberately distract from the true policy issues on the table. Rousing people to irrational and uncivil anger with untrue information and emotional appeals, rather than facts, is profitable for pundits, but it is detrimental to society, since it creates an electorate that is incoherently angry, mostly impotent and woefully uneducated when it comes to the actual issues.