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December 01
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JANUARY 17, 2011 3:18PM

Small Miracle in the Blogosphere

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 Flowers in a spring snow 

There is a small miracle happening in the blogosphere.

After the tragic Tucson killings, there was an explosion of stories and articles on the bogosphere blaming both rightwing and leftwing vitriol for the violence. Emotions were at a fever pitch. Under this firestorm, a few bloggers were not diving into the maelstrom but began a discussion of how we debate each other. We represented the full political spectrum and had often heatedly debated issues just the week before.

We met on a post regarding speaking out about hate speech published by a Republican. We continued the conversation on another post about the call for civility resonating with the public by a labor leader. As we began to really communicate with one another, some apologized for any hurtful words they may have used in debate. Some pledged to never be as uncivil as they had been in the past. Others said they would try. We agreed that both the right and the left wing media and public figures had contributed to the present uncivil public discourse. We began crossing the political divide, friending those we had passionately disagreed with only the day before.

The idea of a nonpartisan, nonpolitical petition supporting civility in our public discourse was born. A dozen of us agreed to cosponsor an agreed-upon petition. Via email, we exchanged ideas and created a nonpartisan and nonpolitical petition. One cosponsor suggested the online petition site to host the petition. Another poster submitted the petition to the website and alerted the other cosponsors that it was up and ready.

On the the Tuesday evening following the Tucson shootings, the article about the Americans United for Civility Petition was posted with the backing of these conservative, progressive and independent cosponsors.

Direct Link to the Americans United for Civility Petition

As bloggers came by to sign the petition, they made comments such as “I don’t often agree with you on anything but I agree that we can do better”. Folks pledged to think before they wrote and to be more civil.

We witnessed a groundswell of support for the President’s call to our better angels. We now have bloggers whose avatars indicate allegiance to Palin posting articles praising President Obama for unifying the nation, embracing for the very first time that they finally feel that he is their president too. This great and good news is only a speed bump on mainstream media’s race to outrun any possibility for change in our political climate.

Below are some of the comments that this process has generated:

“The political discourse has been a runaway train for a long time now, exponentially gathering speed. This tragedy was like someone pulling the emergency brake chord bringing the problem to the forefront for discussion and resolution. Whether or not the politics had anything to do with the shooter's motivation is beside the point.”

“Left or right, Dem or Republican, Liberal, Con, Independent, Tea Party, Libertarian, it's our America and we're all making it unrecognizable with all of the hate and division.”

“I know we disagree on most everything. Your article on Obama's speech was a definite olive branch. I hope we can have respectful dialogue in the future, in fact I sincerely look forward to it. :) I make a vow to you to keep it respectful and peaceful as well.”

One conservative blogger described his evening trying to watch the news. He turned on one news program after the other and found them only rehashing the "left said" "right said" divide. He wound up watching a sitcom.

When Americans realize that both the right and left media have a monetary interest in continuing the politics of division, it can open their eyes so they may judge for themselves.

Here on Open Salon, Huffington Post blogger Ron Robinson has written a post on which I engaged him about my notion that if we choose the path of blame we cement the discord in our country and will find it impossible to return to the opportunity that our President has given us to unite as a common people. In the best you-are-either-with-us-or-against-us rhetoric, he asked me to not comment further and to convey a message to my friend Sean Hannity. (His avatar is the latest one on my friends list. You may find our interchange there.) I am in my third year here at Open Salon, and I leave it to my friends whether I have ever given any hint that I endorse right wing rhetoric.

Challenging the left or right wing media is a dangerous almost revolutionary action.

The media will not lead in any change in the political climate because they profit from discord, not discourse. The people must lead them. It was an eye-opener to me to receive negative feedback from two news media sources which are both widely considered progressive.  

I have lately come to see clearly that all media is exactly like, they differ only in the Brand they push--Left vs Right. Their only aim is to protect their bottom line like any corporate entity. And they appear to feel strongly that the talk about creating a more meaningful dialogue by the American people by abandoning their Brandname Products is a threat to their quarterly profits.

We are at a crossroads and can choose the path of blame or we can choose the path of rejecting divisions and try to improve our political discourse as our President asked us to do in the name--not of being polite or nice--but of finally being able to discuss the serious issues which we are faced with as a people. If we just keep pointing fingers and using personal attacks, we will never get down to business.

There is a sense that we are no longer allowing the politics of division to divide us. There is a sense that we the people can lead our media and public figures to heed the challenge that President Obama gave us to make America every bit as good as Christina imagined.



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One amazing thing about the strangulation of today's media is that there are some interesting upwellings of other outlets gaining root. I am now a regular supporter of Free Speech TV and the Thom Hartmann Show, for instance. I send them the dollars I used to send to PBS before it was neutered by Monsanto.
"The harder you squeeze, the more will slip through your hands." Maybe that was Princess Leia to Darth Vader, but it is an apt visual for what is happening and it gives me some hope.
It was interesting to me that President Obama asked us to begin with our families. In my own family, there has been a years-long rift between my sister-in-law and me. When I began emailing about the petition, I included her. She wrote me back in warmth and friendship. There is alot of healing that we can do just beginning with ourselves.

Thank you for your comment and for the new outlets. I am certainly in the market for some new sources.

By coincidence the Thom Hartman blog is hosting the petition. Or maybe not coincidence! Do like him a great deal--intelligent and well educated.

Yes, I have seen PBS infiltrated with Koch industries as well.

I said elsewhere that my optimism and idealism is not that of youth but of age. I see what has gone before but yet I still hope.
Ostephanie.. we have to start somewhere and that is amongst our nearest and dearest. The media needs to change and I wonder if they can?
rated with hugs
Here's to miracles of ANY size! Especially today on MLK Day.
You've seen the light, O'Stephanie. Unfortunately, many haven't, for they have chosen to keep the ideological blinders on. I did read the back-and-forth that you had with Ron R., and you are correct, his response to your heartfelt and quite reasonable comments sadly only exemplifies the problem.

It's difficult, nigh impossible, to engage in civilized, rational debate when zealotry and inexorable self-righteousness have taken root in one's mind. Something we should all be on guard against.

I heard that some members of congress will sit with a person of a different party at the presidents State of the Union address. This my friend is something I got to see!
I would like to agree with you, and I wish I could engage in this unilateral truce. But, alas, I can't. The canard of equivalency is just one more sorry example of how the Hard Right won't play fair, and thus why it would be suicidal for the Left to compromise.

People seem to think this crap began with the election of Barack Obama, but the outrageous rhetoric and divide and conquer politics are not new -- they started with Richard Nixon and his Silent Majority, and that cancer metastasized under Reagan and Bush the Lesser. See Lee Atwater's deathbed confession for details.

What is going on in America is exactly the same sort of thing one would witness with a cornered rat. The Hard Right knows full well that time is not on their side, demographics will eventually trump even divide and conquer politics.

In the meantime, all the Hard Right has going for them is fear -- and money. The effects of the disastrous Citizens United decision will prolong their unwarranted power for awhile yet, but sooner or later the Have-Nots will so outnumber the Have-Mores that change will come. Then even the divide and conquer politics propagated by political operatives like Atwater and Rove, the incessant lies thrown-up by pundits like Beck and Rush, and the thinly-veiled calls to violence voiced by people like Palin and Bachmann won't be enough.

Even then, the Hard Right won't be silenced, but they will be relegated to the garbage heap, a place they so richly deserve to be.
I fully agree about the media. By continuing to play the us vs them card over and over nothing will change at all. I refuse to watch any of it again.
I am very happy to read about the petition O'steph. I signed and am glad I did. I am happy to say I know you. I will check out the links here. You keep on dishing that salad. I love it myself dear.
First, I thank all of you here. Such a blessing to have my friends at Open Salon. Been over fighting the good fight at newsvine for awhile where they play hardball, so it is so good to have you. Have made some fine friends there but my kinder gentler folks will always be you. OS is home.

If we think of the media as not our friend but as just another corporate entitie that has a product to seel. we can change them. So far, this petition is going to every single one of them, as many as I and a small cadre can manage.
Thanks for the hug! Here's one back!

Yes, seems right to be doing this on MLK Jr. day. It is a small miracle but still we need all we can get.

Thanks, gal.

Scan man!
Yep, looks like the teacher is assigning new seats cause of all the spit ball wars. This ought to be interesting as they hav to think and react without just popping up with the guy or gal next to them.
Instead of a puppet show, we may have wack-a-mole.
Rob Mars,

Thank you for your comment. I was hoping I was being reasonable and calm but one never knows. This is the second blogger from that source whom I have locked horns with. The other one contacted me via email. It was a huge surprise to me but one I needed in order to see with clarity that both "sides" are dedicated to the politics of division.

Neither had the intelligent and resaonable approach of our Tom Cordle.

Tom Cordle,

I respect your path, my friend. We all have our own part to play in this experiment called America.

Cornered rat is an excellent metaphor. The media will gith to maintain their bottom line. So many have made such a good living off our pain as a nation. Time for them to get pink slips and stand in the unemployment line with the rest of us.

Keep on Keepin' on, my friend!
Thanks for remembering my salad! Dishing it out all over the place now!
Thank you, my dear friend, for being an early signer. We are up to 138 now and growing I hope.
Yes, this has really changed how I feel about all media. Just another corporate puppetmaster.
There's a lot more at stake than halting violence and hate speech or the dominance of political parties. If we keep going down this road, our chances of survival of our country as a stable world power will keep getting slimmer. We'll be left in the dust like so many other formerly major players on the world stage. This may have serious financial consequences for the stability of the dollar, if we continue to be unable to resolve problems and keep plunging deeper into the abyss of debt.

Truer words have never been spoken.

President Obama charging us to be more civil to each other was not a touchy-feelie desire. This political vitriol and the politics of division has kept us as a nation from solving problems that have grown into serious threats to our nation. Our failure to come up with a sane response to immigration reform has caused our border to spin into madness with a country having a drug war.

There has been little attention paid to the WHY of how it is so very vital that we change our national diaglogue.

We are only 200 years old as a nation. If this continues, we will not last 200 more.
Damn! I missed the conversation, but it sounded interesting.

This whole right/left thing is what they want I think, Steph. Conquer and divide! Keep us bickering amongst ourselves so they can reach into our pockets without us noticing, just like all pick-pockets do.

Divide and conquer, as the media and much of the politicians love to do in order to keep those ratings up and the votes going their way. Just as they attempted to do with the mindless criticism of the memorial, the callous words spoken by the likes of Brit Hume and the Fox News bigots and other media slime mocking Carlos Gonzales' Native American blessing because it all didn't measure up to the Judea-Christian concept of a mourning crowd, it seemed, in Hume’s words “peculiar.”


THIS is why we have a division in the country, why bigotry is still alive and well; the “ways” of others, the cultures of those that comprise the wide diversity in this country don’t fit the norm perceived by the media and the purveyors of hegemony. Yet every one of those condemning the others will profess to be a part of the “great American melting pot,” that is, as long as everyone agrees with “my politics, my religion, my way of grieving.”

Good post Steph. Damned good post. But then, that doesn’t surprise me :-)
Boomer, my buddy.

You are so right. If we keep fighting among ourselves, we will lose everything.

I had not heard that criticism about the Native American blessing. Racism has always been a tool as has educational level and any other difference that can be magnified into making Americans hate each other. Our educational system has been tampered with as well with politics reaching its muddy hands into the classroom to subvert truth.

I am optimistic perhaps because I fear that we will fail.
I have been going on about much the same thing with lots of comments and a blog on "Respect". I may be very wrong but to me it seems that until we accord the "other side" the basic human respect that is due to them, we cannot have a civil discourse with them.

Both sides have spent waaaay too much time on blasting the other side for its perceived wrong-headedness. Both sides have engaged in hyperbole and misleading comments and accusations. Both sides are in danger of letting their dislike of the policies and positions so loved by "the other side" make them forget that they too are citizens who love their country as much as anyone does.

Discuss, debate, disagree...... do anything - but DO NOT denigrate those who honestly hold opinions different from your own.

Remember: If you disrespect another person you lose some measure of self-respect. Your fellow humans and your fellow citizens are every bit as worthy of respect as you are. You may not respect their opinions but you really ought to respect the individuals, as people.

Excellent. Will come over and read. There are more of us than he headlines would allow us to believe.

Good on you!
Good post o'steph. I'm all in favor of dialing down the rhetoric and I think it's worth a try. But as a liberal I suspect it will amount to unilateral disarmament.
I am continually impressed. Good for you!

Yeah, but I hope to keep some embers alive.The petition for civility did not garner the signatures which the indict sarah petition did which does not bode well for any kind of civility.


Thank you, dear. I guess this is my political period. LOL
Well, just goes to show you how folks lie on the net. Rob Robinson, who claimed to be a Huffer, is nowhere in evidence at Huff post. His site here is also nowhere in evidence. A waste of time, that one.

That makes me feel a little bit better about the organization; lthough, I still find them polarizing.
There has been little attention paid to the WHY of how it is so very vital that we change our national dialogue.

We are only 200 years old as a nation. If this continues, we will not last 200 more.

Exactly. If only enough of us can persuade others around us of how critical it's gotten.... We have to do it, but it won't be easy.
Thank you, bikepsychobabble,

I think that because there was so much furor over laying blame that the call for civility was taken to "play nice". President Obama made it clear why we needed to do it but it was but one small statement of the whole. The media has no reason to correct anyone.

You would think that after both sides have shouted at each other for years without persuading anyone on the other side to consider their position that they would realize it does not work. There seems to be a real disdain for diplomacy.

Tomorrow, we will be doing a press release. Shall see if anyone calls me!

There are three hundred million of us. Just about everything that can happen does. It is sad, I know. The post is great.
I commented on Ron Robinson's last post, saying that I thought your comments to him had been reasonable and not at all direspectful, that if he's going to post about politics here and be that thin-skinned he'll never last, and that I thought he owed you an apology for banning you. His response was to delete my comment and close comments. Just so you know who you were dealing with.
Thanks, Cranky Cuss, you are a true gentleman! Ron Robinson is an imposter, NOT a huff post blogger. And he is no gentleman.

There are those who want nothing more than to fuel useless fires. Ron is one of them.

Thanks again, Cranky, he is not worth your time or anyone's.

(Love you , guy!)
Love you, gal, but once again, I must respectfully agree. You say "I have lately come to see clearly that all media is exactly like".

No, clearly they are not. In fact, the only thing they have in common is a pursuit of their bottom line -- and after all, isn't that capitalism at its essence? Thus the need -- at least as they see it, for stirring up controversy. On that -- and only that -- we agree.

But how they go about making a buck is VERY different. F*x pursues the bottom line by selling its soul to the rabid rtwing, The fig leaf of being "fair and balanced" is made a mockery by the outrageous lies repeated endlessly on that network.

Yes, MSNBC favors commentators who slant the news to the Left, but as far as I'm aware, the network doesn't encourage -- nay, demand -- they lie. The only proof one ought to need that the media are not all the same is that Olbermann was apparently too far Left for MSNBC, but Beck and Palin are clearly not too far Right for F*x.

I regret to say you are quite imply wrong, and by continuing to argue for this false equivalency you give aid and comfort to those who haven't the slightest interest in the truth, let alone attempting to be fair and balanced.
Sorry, delete my last comment and this one; I had forgotten I already got my quarter's worth.
"Sitcom" really does sum this up...This was wonderful Steph, and I agree...the dynamics you highlight are primary reasons that I have never voted for one of the two major parties after Clinton in '92 (Obama was my first break in that system since). Neither seems capable of walking their talk, regardless if I value the same thing -

great article.
y heron,
Greetings--warm and heartfelt--from me to you. Any time that folks acknowledge mutual humanity and have a care for community, we approach the indigenous values that can save us.

I hold you in high esteem and cherish our abiity to disgree without harming our relationship.
I see media as a professional wrestling show where the crowd roars with each grapple while the corporations are out in the parking lot breaking into cars and stealing the keys to everyone's house so they can get in and steal the mortage and our pensions. It is a distraction.
As long as we fight each other, we will never fight them.
My personal experience is this: In the other place where I blog, the network put a story on the cover which predicted that the civility would not last. I was early and jumped on it with both feet, making comments that it was a disservice to Americans to predict failure and I did not want the media deciding anything for me. There were repercussions. In other words, I got bitch slapped by a supposedly liberal media which erased my comments and damn near threw me off the site. (Causing trouble again...) The only thing that saved me was that I was part of a group.
As a Progressive, I agree that the Conservative press is much worse than us but only in degree. In counseling, you do not push against a client but dance so the conversation still continues. Even though Progressive press is slicker and witty, it still calls people stupid which is no beginning to any kind of dialogue.
On my other site, it has made a difference with many. The post and petition keeps garnering supporters.
I do disgree with your characterization of aiding and abetting the enemy. I have not changed my positions but I am going about dialogue differently.
kindest regards to you!
And, Tom, I very much value your voice in this and think that there is a place for both our voices.
God speed to the good fight and God speed to civility.
Your reason and civility are always a pleasure. The incisive intelligence is pretty cool too!
Your work is a wonderful example of how you get your point across without rancor but facts and reason.
I lıke thıs post for ıt means humans fınally have more control over somethıng that they were unable toı ınfluence at all.
Thank you.
We gathered 186 signatures and are getting ready to send it out.
"I have lately come to see clearly that all media is exactly like, they differ only in the Brand they push--Left vs Right."

No, clearly they are not. Please tell me which major news organization lies brazenly and repeatedly like Fux. No generalities about slanting the news -- name one other major news organization that LIES, and NEVER apologizes even after they're caught lying, never offers a retraction, but instead continues to repeat the LIES. Name one. You can't.
Damn! I did it again! I'm getting as bad as Fux News!
This is a must real for everyone. Thanks for the great POV you have...
I think you nailed this one.
♥╚═══╝╚╝╚╝╚═══╩═══╝─╚ for letting us know this has actually happened.
united we stand, divided we fall. "find a way to agree". the numerous aphorisms & their wisdom are long with us. how difficult to apply in practice. the country seems more polarized than ever even after electing a prez dedicated to (re)unification. it would seem the masses only want it in theory.