In a February 7 ABCNews.com weblog post, Nightline co-host Terry Moran followed up on his earlier post on the controversy surrounding two bloggers hired by John Edwards' presidential campaign by asserting that one of Edwards' bloggers had expressed "pure hatred" on her blog, and added, "There are plenty of examples of this tactic across the airwaves." After citing Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh as examples of those who spew "hate speech," Moran wrote that "we expect our leaders to disavow hate." But the network Moran works for has given Limbaugh and Coulter platforms on its own news programs. Also, ABC's Good Morning America hired conservative talk show host Glenn Beck as a "regular commentator" despite his inflammatory comments regarding Muslims, Arabs, Mexicans, and other minorities.
As Media Matters for America noted, on the January 31 edition of ABC's World News, senior national correspondent Jake Tapper cited radio host Rush Limbaugh as an "[o]bserver" during a report on Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s (D-DE) controversial comments on Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Tapper did this despite Limbaugh's history -- unmentioned by Tapper -- of racially charged comments, including comments about Obama himself. Coulter appeared on Good Morning America on October 5, 2004, and said of then-Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA) that "liberals were lying about how he lost his limbs in Vietnam" and that "[t]hey've all become jock-sniffers for war veterans."
From Moran's February 7 post on his ABCNews.com blog, Pushback:
A couple of points. First, it seems to me that trashing the sacred beliefs of another person in sexually explicit or scatological terms for the purpose of wounding and delegitimizing the other person could fairly be construed as hateful. The gutter is always the comfortable resort of haters. That's why white supremacists use the word "n*****" and slander all black men by portraying them as sexually predatory beasts; that's why antisemites repeat the blood libel. For another disgusting example of this kind of discourse, check out what "James" wrote about Islam in response to my post on Edwards and Marcotte (at 2:40:24 PM EDT); pure hatred, in my view.
There are all kinds of ways to dispute what another person says or believes. Sometimes, giving offense is a great way to make a point, to get heard, to break through the unspoken oppression of certain views. But to seek to obliterate the legitimacy of another person's faith or other allegiances--and wound them in the process with the vilest terminology--isn't debate. It's rhetorical gangsterism.
There are plenty of examples of this tactic across the airwaves, the Internet and campaigns these days. A lot of what Ann Coulter has said could certainly be construed as hate speech; Rep. Rahm Emanuel and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised the issue in the last election, demanding that Republicans "denounce Ann Coulter's hate speech." Ann_coulter_petiton When the Catholic League's Bill Donohue declares, ""Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular," that could be construed as hateful (and stupid). Rush Limbaugh comparing liberals to cockroaches could be construed as classic eliminationist rhetoric, used by haters for centuries to avoid real debate against their opponents, delegitimizing and dehumanizing those who disagree with them. The list goes on--on both the right and the left.
Now, it's a free country. Rush Limbaugh can spew all the hatred he wants. So can Ann Coulter, Amanda Marcotte, or me. But political leaders are different. In order for a government of compromise, consensus and common sacrifice to work, we expect our leaders to disavow hate, to conduct our public business in a manner respectful of all our citizens, consistent with our best traditions. Hate breaks down the sinews of the body politic and sets us against each other as enemies to be defeated. This is fatal to a diverse, democratic republic. Lincoln, as usual, said it best: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection." And so it seems fair to me that we ask politicians who embrace those who spew what might be construed as hatred whether they endorse or disavow it. That goes for Vice President Cheney--who is a regular guest on Limbaugh's program--or for John Edwards, who has hired Amanda Marcotte. This isn't about censorship. It's about leadership.
Second, there's the issue of the blogoshpere itself. A lot of people have told me that what Marcotte and others (liberal and conservative) are writing is just par for the course out there. Blogs, I'm told, are different. They're new--they're edgy--they're breaking the boundaries of old-fogey media and ushering in a new era of public discourse. I buy a lot of that. But speech is still speech. And hate is still hate. If you call a black man a "n*****" on a blog, it's just as offensive as shouting it in his face. It seems to me that bloggers (and those who post comments on them) sometimes forget this; the lack of a flesh-and-blood interlocutor and the anonymity the internet offers unleash the rhetorical beast in us. Rage, vituperation, insult, slur, infantile taunting--you see a lot of that on many blogs. That, I am told, is just the rough-and-tumble world of bloggers, having at each other and everyone else with raw gusto, just like those old pamphleteers to whom they are so often compared. OK, fine, whatever. But you don't get a pass from the tenets of basic decency in civil discourse just because you blog.
Third, my bro. Many of you have noted that I am the brother of Rick Moran, who writes the Right Wing Nuthouse blog, and you have concluded that I am somehow in cahoots with Rick, or share his view of the world. For the record, I had no idea Rick was writing about this subject when I posted yesterday. But far more important: I love my brother something fierce. I am very proud of him. We do not agree on many, many things (as decades of uncomfortably loud dinner table disagreements have demonstrated). In no way do I endorse anything he writes; that's not for me to do here. But I will never disavow him. I will always defend him as an honorable man. And I really don't care what anyone says about it. He is my brother.