With the GOP in Power the Media No Longer Cares About Civility

The civility watchdogs have, like several FAA controllers, fallen asleep at the switch.

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Is it just me or have the calls for civility in the nation’s political discourse died down since the Republicans won control of the House of Representatives last November?

Prior to the election the calls for greater civility were near ubiquitous. Reacting to the activities of the Tea Party movement, the popular press urged, cajoled, and otherwise demanded that the nation’s political conversation acquire of a tone of “civility,” saying that the attacks on Obama, the Democrats and their agenda went beyond the pale.

Since the election, not so much.

The introduction of Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget was followed by claims that the Republicans wanted to destroy the social safety net, putting the lives of the poor and elderly at risk. The protests against Scott Walker’s reforms in Wisconsin featured comparisons of the GOP governor to Hitler but, unlike a similar comparison made to President Barack Obama by a political fringe group last year, the anti-Walker signs drew little comment or investigation. [Vote now: Should Ryan's budget plan become law?]

Now, according to the Des Moines Register, the left-liberal attacks on billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, financial supporters of the Tea Party movement, have produced at least one death threat that has gone unreported in the national press--even though it was directed at the wrong company.

“A case of mistaken identity has entangled a small family-owned Des Moines company in union protests and led to a death threat,” the Register reported on April 19. “Angry callers are mistaking Koch Brothers, a Des Moines office supply firm, with the brothers who own Koch Industries, the global energy conglomerate. Billionaires Charles and David Koch have fought Wisconsin unions, financed the tea party and opposed climate change rules.” [See editorial cartoons about the Tea Party.]

"I initially thought it was humorous to be confused with a multibillionaire," Dutch Koch, who owns the supply company, told the newspaper, “but then a death threat was left on his answering machine.”

Koch reported the call to the FBI, which he said traced it to a California man, the paper said.

Fortunately the confusion has not led to violence, but it certainly could have. Death threats are certainly beyond the pale, as far as civility is concerned but those who were so worried about the allegedly uncivil nature of the attacks on Obama have been virtual silent in this case, which most people would agree is far more serious even if it was misdirected.

The Koch brothers are certainly within their rights to back the Tea Party movement if they choose to--and they should not be subjected to death threats for doing so, as the man who mistakenly called the Des Moines-based company clearly intended to do. The civility whistleblowers and watchdogs have, like several FAA controllers, fallen asleep at the switch. Someone needs to wake them up.

  • See editorial cartoons about the budget and deficit.
  • See political cartoons about the Tea Party.
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