For better or worse, our political system is a two-party system. Unfortunately, this two-party structure can lead to an implicit bias (in all of our minds) that both parties are two sides of the same coin, two teams playing the same game, by the same rules. The news media is especially guilty of this bias, populating its roundtables, panels, op-ed pages etc. with “both sides.” If one side is guilty of something, the media posits, the other side must also be guilty of the same infraction.
To call out one side without at least making a pro forma condemnation of the other is media heresy—to them, that’s the REAL bias. That’s why you’re seeing Democrats who call out racism accused of being “uncivil.” It’s a difficult problem with no easy solution, as this viral Twitter thread explains.
After Sarah Huckabee Sanders got booted from a Lexington, VA restaurant over the Trump administration’s child interment policy. The Washington Post editorial board got together and decided the real problem here was a breakdown of our civil discourse and laid out their squeamishness in an editorial titled “Let the Trump team eat in peace.”
We nonetheless would argue that Ms. Huckabee, and Ms. Nielsen and Mr. [Stephen] Miller, too, should be allowed to eat dinner in peace. Those who are insisting that we are in a special moment justifying incivility should think for a moment how many Americans might find their own special moment. How hard is it to imagine, for example, people who strongly believe that abortion is murder deciding that judges or other officials who protect abortion rights should not be able to live peaceably with their families?
In this analysis there are no “special moments” in American politics and there can never be any. To the editorial board of the Washington Post, public officials responsible for any policy—no matter how barbaric or disgusting—must be insulated from any private repercussions. Instead, those who engineer, defend, and lie about a policy of taking children from their parents and caging them in internment camps—all in our names—must never be made to feel uncomfortable for those decisions.
The response from Twitter was essentially: “I think the f**k not!”
But David Roberts, who covers politics, climate change, and energy for Vox, nailed it in this now-viral tweet thread:
For those unfamiliar, “onanism” is a more “civil” way to refer to jerking off.
The Washington Post editorial board has already extended a extraordinarily generous grant of social clemency to the perpetrators of child interment, what policies will they extend it to next? If we don’t draw the borders of “polite society” to exclude something as monstrous as the purposeful cruelty toward child refugees, where do we draw it? The president likes to (dubiously) claim “if you don’t have borders you don’t have a country.” The same is true about civil society.
UPDATE: As if on cue, CNN proves Roberts’ point:
This gives away the entire game, doesn't it? https://t.co/k7gq33mcc6
— David Roberts (@drvox) June 25, 2018
this is a perfect example of the inability to understand “white nationalist” or “racist” as a analysis of an ideology and not some insult. https://t.co/6dRxaxzSPE
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) June 25, 2018
Phony “civility” for the sake of “civility” impoverishes the language we use to talk about issues and ties our hands with respect to how we can resolve them.