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Too Many People Are Mad As Hell, I’m Not Gonna Take It Anymore!

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When John Adams handed over the keys to the government to Thomas Jefferson after a brutal, bruising, nasty, divisive election campaign, he started a noble tradition that is now well established in the United States of America — the peaceful transfer of power. With this tradition well established, we have the luxury of conducting a successful “revolution” using ballots instead of bullets. People who attempt to influence the government, or their fellow Americans, through violence, threats of violence, or even angry outbursts and demonstrations, dishonor this noble heritage.

These tactics are used primarily by people who feel powerless and who lack the ability to persuade others, including government officials, using reasoned, rational arguments. The Tea Party people have some legitimate complaints about our government. Unfortunately, the tactics and antics of some of the fringe members of that movement are making a major contribution to the coarsening of political discourse in our country.

The nature of modern media exacerbates the problem. Televison and radio shows, driven primarily by ratings, are well aware of the fact that angry confrontations, verbal or physical, will draw more ears and eyeballs than a calm discussion of the issues of the day. Those of us who prefer a quiet, reasoned examination of our problems and the potential solutions to them, are an endangered species.

The Internet (a two-edged sword, in many regards) offers concerned citizens a convenient and effective means of gathering information, sharing and communicating ideas, and organizing for political action. On the other hand, it also provides an easy means of spewing hate-filled diatribes for those inclined to do so.

As our civic arena becomes increasingly dominated by gladiatorial contests, I look on, from a distance, with a mild, but noticeable feeling of despair. On a personal level, I do what I can to combat the rising tide of incivility. I watch Charlie Rose instead of Glen Beck or Bill O'Reilly. I watch the PBS News Hour instead of Fox.

The biggest challenge to retaining my sanity is finding ways to tune out the angry and incoherent voices when I am reading political essays posted on-line. I have picked up a couple of tricks that work fairly well. I rarely read the comments sections that follow most on-line pieces. I have also learned to focus primarily on blogs and comments posted by people using their real names. (A photo is nice, as well. It gives one a sense of the speaker.) People whose identity is masked by the use of a user name or pseudonym seem to be noticeably more inclined to rant and rave, often incoherently, as opposed to engaging in a civil dialogue.

I hope, dear reader, that you will consider emulating my behavior. The world will be a better place if we can tune out and tone down the angry rhetoric that is swamping our nation. Let’s deprive the angry voices among us of our attention.

If enough of us look away, perhaps the wild-eyed, crazy, punk-ass, rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth-breathing, bottom feeding, lunatic wing nuts and nut jobs who are cluttering up the airwaves with their vile, slanderous, libelous, paranoid, insane and inane nonsense, will eventually shut the muck up and slink back to whatever holes, swamps, or trailers they crawled out of.

Damn That felt good

Never mind.

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About Winston Apple

Winston Apple is the author of "Edutopia: A Manifesto for the Reform of Public Education." He is a former teacher. He has a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Missouri at Kansas City (1990). He is also a singer-songwriter and recording artist.
  • Winston Apple

    There were supposed to be exclamation marks after “Damn!” and “That felt good!” (I feel very strong emotions regarding my new-found anger.)

  • Mark

    Winston, the use of pseudonyms in political writing is a time honored tradition. Besides, comity is overrated in this ethically challenged society. Moral outrage is one wellspring of ‘reason’.

  • Arch Conservative

    The media only cares about the media. There’s no denying that. While there are many out there “ranting and raving” about nothing that makes sense I infer from this piece that Winston believes that anger is never or almost never a component of a worthwhile and productive state of mind.

    While no reasonable person first chooses violence let us not forget that there was a great deal of violence undertaken in forming this once great nation of ours.

    I for one am sick of hearing abot how porrly the poor poor politicians are being treated at town halls and other events, as if some Joe q public letting off some steam by yelling at a politician at a town hall was somehow worse than said politician mismanaging billions of this nation’s dollars.

    History has never been made or written by those who’ve spoken softly and avoided confrontation.

    We as Americans are poised to leave our children and grandchildren with a lower standard of living than we’ve enjoyed and a backbreaking level of debt that if continued unabated not could but will lead to the ruination of this country.

    Our government, that’s Dems and Reps, is not listening to us. They do what they have to do to maintain their power and the bare minimum to placate enough of us so that we don’t really go after them. More and more citizens of all politial and social stripes are realizing this every day. But Winston wants us all to remain docile, saying yes sir and yes maam when big brother comes to take more from us.


  • Winston does not call for docility, but civility. Big difference. The most heated rhetoric displayed at town hall meetings or on talk radio or on blogs has nothing whatsoever to do with communicating thoughts and ideas. It’s about sound bites and whipping others up into an irrational frenzy.

    Of course citizens have a right to get angry and express their anger. But if they refuse to engage in dialogue, and if they accept large amounts of counterfactual, unvetted propaganda as “truth” and then unthinkingly regurgitate those same sound bites — well, that does not in any way make our democracy work better, to say the least.

  • Winston Apple

    I’d like to make one thing clear. While I am troubled by the out-sized anger that seems to be taking over what passes for political discourse in this country, this piece got written when it did because the idea came to me to conclude a calm, reasoned essay on this topic with an over-the-top rant that would inject a bit of irony or satire and amuse those readers who remain capable of being amused.

    With that being said, while I agree with Mark that the use of pseudonyms has a long history, it has not always been deserving of “honor” in my opinion.

    There are times and situations when truth-telling requires anonymity, at least if one wishes to avoid being brutalized by a government or an angry mob. I don’t believe that we in the USA are living in such times today, but we may be heading in that direction.

    I’d also like to state, for the record, that the discussion of most posts here on Blogcritics is more constructive than that on many sites, and that includes the positive comments coming from many contributors who use pseudonyms. The statement that “Personal attacks are NOT allowed.” – posted right above the box for comments might have something to do with that.

  • Winston Apple

    “Arch Conservative” (if that is your real name):

    I am cognizant of the fact that violence was utilized, if not required, to found this great country of ours. I qualify that statement because Ghandhi offers an example of someone who led a successful revolution without using violence. He also made history while speaking softly, although he certainly did not avoid confrontation.

    I absolutely share your concern about the massive debt being accumulated, but as a believer in Keynesian economics, I’m more concerned about addressing unemployment right now.

    Furthermore, I share the desire of the Tea Party people for lower taxes and a much smaller national government. I frequently vote for candidates from the Libertarian Party. I am hopeful that a good many Tea Party People will realize that the Libertarian party is a much better home for them than the Republican Party. I’d love to see the Libertarian Party achieve major party status.

    The Republicans, with considerable justification, accuse the Democrats of being in favor of “taxing and spending.” The Republican approach of borrowing and spending” is even worse. I would add that both major parties are too much in the pocket of corporate interests to suit me.

    In closing, I would like to direct your attention to the point I make that one of the greatest blessings we have received from our political ancestors in this country is the ability to have a revolution using ballots instead of bullets. This is especially important to me because I absolutely believe a revolution is called for.

  • Arch Conservative

    You label the vehement frustration expressed at town halls and on talk radio as soundbites because you disagree with it handy.

    To me everything comes out of the mouth of every supporter of Obamacare is both a soundbite and a lie.

    We’re unable to fund Medicare and Social Security yet I’m expected to belive that a massaive new government health care program is both affordable and benficial to the long term financial health of this nation?

    Believing that does not require that one be a Democrat or Republican, a liberal or conservative, only an idiot.

    The government keeps piling on unsustainable, unmanagable debt and spending handy. There is absolutely no justification for this. All the sob stories about the poor and uninsured are apparently leading to policy that is going to bankrupt this nation sooner or later. Will you be happy then handy?

    As for the anger. I myself am very angry but I’m communicating substantive thoughts here about what I think is so wrong with this nation at this exact point in time…..

    trillions of dollars in existing unfunded liability between Medicare and social security and we want the government to spend more?

    An ugly, diseased superficial, materialistic pop culture rooted in easy credit, 24-7 mindless entertainment, and an entitlement mentality.

    The notion that the government can or even should bring about equality of all aspects of lifestyle among all citizens.

    Fellow citizens lecturing me on the necessity for civility when engaging politicians who are robbing us blind while they themselves live the high life of luxery putting in a solid 20 hour work week.

    So many ordinary citizens have been offering so many substantive objections for so long now. Our arrogant, self-righteous, corporate sponsored government hasn’t been listening and refuses to to begin.

    That’s where the anger is coming from. It’s organic and it doesn’t need the approval of any single person. It’s growing to continue to grow and intensify. The only ones that can stop this are the ones it is directed at but that is not likely to happen.

  • Baronius

    Winston, I did get the humor in ending the article with a rant.

    We’ve had a few recent articles on the need for civility, and a few about the extremism on “the other side”. The approach I admire the most is Dave Nalle’s. He writes articles criticizing the excesses on his side of the political divide. That’s what we need first: roving gangs of ombudsmen patrolling our own sides.

  • Dave Nalle has quite frequently participated in the counterfactual mob mentality described in this article.

  • And Arch, I will answer you sincerely, not facetiously:

    I sympathize, at least in theory, with concerns that we spend too much money. I do not sympathize with using that as an excuse to carry a sign that compares the president to fascists or to the USSR, or that call him a “lyin’ African,” punning on “African lion.”

    I think the difference between concern over debt and deficits and hyperbolic name-calling is fairly evident.

    The claim that the health care bill doesn’t add to the deficit is not a lie; it is based on the taxes and fees and cost savings written into a large, complex bill.

    You can certainly take the position that the taxes and fees are wrongheaded and that the cost savings will be too easy for future politicians to sidestep. But that’s not what opponents say. They scream “Liar!” at the top of their lungs.

    I harp on people like Palin, Beck, and Bachmann because over and over again they say things they know to be distortions, partial truths, or just plain made up, with the obvious intent of stirring people up. It’s one thing to stir people up with the truth. Quite another, and to me morally repugnant, thing to stir them up with fiction.

  • zingzing

    he’s also played the role of the megaphoned cheerleader at a pep rally for some dubious causes. and he once posted a video of himself lolling about naked in his pool. maybe that’s not true. dave’s done it all, including attacking his enemies with ridiculous nonsense and criticizing his own (but it’s usually more damage control than anything else).

  • Recovering Lefty

    The author acts as if incivility is something new. As one who weathered the previous 8 years of insults, name-calling, outright lies, wild innuendo and the 6 billion Bush = Hitler rallies, please note–this is not new.

    And precisely what IS the issue? Where is the incivility? The attack on the black caucus, so reported by the media, has been pretty conclusively demonstrated to be a con. Never happened…

    I’ve seen lots of tea party rallies. Excited and enthusiastic yes. Uncivl? Only if you define any criticism as incivility.

  • Recovering Lefty

    OH, and as I read the comments…

    I harp on people like Palin, Beck, and Bachmann because over and over again they say things they know to be distortions, partial truths, or just plain made up, with the obvious intent of stirring people up.

    An example please? Just one concrete example where one of these folks LIED. It is astounding that the Dems, who lie without any trouble, are incensed by those who disagree, calling them liars.

  • Baronius

    Recovering Lefty, this is the problem. Both sides are more than willing to point out the bad behaviour on the other side. We need to point out the bad ones on our side.

    Or is it that simple? It isn’t like all lefties or righties agree on everything. A Hannity fan and I might vote the same, but we probably wouldn’t get along. I feel no need to defend Beck or Bachmann because I don’t listen to either of them.

    Ultimately, we’re responsible for our own views. Self-policing has to come from inside each person.

    As for Dave, he’s scored more hits against people on the right than the top three BC lefties combined have done. Good for him.

  • zingzing

    soft, soft hits, baronius. like a mild spanking.

  • Bachmann’s distortions [a very small sampling of a very large and fragrant pile]:

    ”For the first time in the history of the United States, all Americans will be forced to have to pay for federal funding of abortions.”

    “Our federal government owns or controls 51 percent of the private economy. Prior to September of 2008, 100 percent of the private economy was private.”

    [about the longer Census form, different from the short 10-year version, and going to 1 in 40 households]
    “Sean, you know the one question they don’t ask? They don’t ask, “are you an American citizen?”
    [the form actually does ask if you are a citizen]

    During a weekly conference call with constituents, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said she has lost her health insurance as a result of the health care bill signed by President Obama. She offered it as proof that President Obama’s “promise” that no one would lose their current plan under the bill “was not a true promise.”
    [At the insistence of Republicans, members of Congress will be choosing their insurance from the same exchanges as other Americans – in 2014.]

    “I said I had very serious concerns that Barack Obama had anti-American views. And now I look like Nostradamus.”

    She lied by saying “Death Care Panels” were in the Healthcare Reform bill.
    Then in a speech on the House floor Bachmann claimed the health-care reform bills will establish school “sex clinics,” which would exclude parents from their children’s health decisions, including abortion.

    “The New England Journal of Medicine released a survey the week that President Obama signed Obamacare stating that over 30 percent of American physicians would leave the profession if the government took over health care.”

    “ACORN will be a paid partner with the Census Bureau and “they will be in charge of going door-to-door and collecting data from the American public.”

  • Recovering Lefty

    Well, I can’t speak for Bacnman…don’t know the guy. But death panels are a nice shorthand for what will come. Ratioing an a bureaucracy determining who gets care and who doesn’t. It was great PR, but it was true.

    I happen to agree with the opinion that Obama has serious anti-American views.

    As to lies…take a gander.

  • zingzing

    recovering lefty… you can try to predict the future, but you know there’s no such thing as “death panels” in the legislation. at least that’s what i think you’re trying to say… and who is “bacnman?”

    “I happen to agree with the opinion that Obama has serious anti-American views.”

    why on earth would the leader of a country have views that are against that country? he’s the most powerful man in the world. don’t you think he’d like to keep it that way? he’s not anti-american. he just thinks he knows what’s good for america, and it doesn’t match up with your ideas. the good thing about america is that we’re allowed to have different ideas. labeling a different opinion as “anti-american” is a pretty “anti-american” thing to do.

  • Recovering Lefty

    labeling a different opinion as “anti-american” is a pretty “anti-american” thing to do.

    Is it? Then you’re doing it too, right?

    He grovels to our enemies, snubs our friends, bankrupts our children, unilaterally disarms, lies to himself and everyone else, denigrates his predecessors endlessly, and generally works hard to make us look weak and vulnerable. I call that Anti-American, as I use the term anti, and I use the term American. He wants Obamaland, not America. The America he works for is a country no previous president has sought.

  • zingzing

    “Is it? Then you’re doing it too, right?”

    just pointing it out.

    you could also say that he uses diplomacy instead of force, doesn’t grovel to our allies, makes sure our children have health care, favors peace over war, speaks the hard truth, is living up to the american ideal and works hard to make us be more of the nation we need to be to peacefully coexist in this world. i call that american. he wants a good america, not the american monster we were becoming and have been before. the america he works for is the country we’ve always thought we could be.

  • Well, I can’t speak for Bacnman…don’t know the guy.

    An attempt at a joke? Michelle Bachmann, deranged Minnesota congresswoman, is unfamiliar to someone who can rattle off GOP talking points as if having committed them to memory?

    If you decide to employ any of your own thinking in your posts, rather than parroting the distortions and destructive rhetoric of others, I might try to have a conversation with you. As it is, you’re just proving my point that the same exaggerations and fabrications keep getting spread and repeated, and damaging our democracy every time.

  • John Wilson

    Uhh, Recovering, Handy answered your request in #13 by pointing out some outright lies of congress-person Bachman, one of the current heroes of the rightists and the Tea Partiers.

  • Arch Conservative

    The claim that the health care bill doesn’t add to the deficit is not a lie; it is based on the taxes and fees and cost savings written into a large, complex bill.

    Bzzzzz… wrong again. It’s based on a bunch of outlandish assumptions that will be preceded in reality by Santa Claus and Superman having a good ole’ fashioned roman orgy with Helen Keller and the chick from the land o lakes box. In other words, the shit they say it’s going to do, aint happenin’ my friend.

    When is the last time a massive government program came in at budget and did what the politicians claimed it would do Handy? Medicare? Social Security? The big Dig? You’ll have to get back to me when you can come up with one but we both know that you won’t be getting back to me don’t we?

    That’s the whole point though. It’s not that I think the taxes ad fees brought about by this legislation are so bad, it’s that I can figure out, based on our illustrious history of government programs, that those taxes and fees won’t even come close to covering the cost of this new legislation in the long run. This little factoid is obvious to anyone with half a working brain. So yes, any politician supporting this legislation claiming the contrary is in fact lying or incredibly stupid. Either way I don’t want them making decisions for me.

    I’m sorry handy but you’re asking me to believe the same sky I’ve been looking at for the last 33 years is actually red.

    Why is it so vogue to bash Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh but people like Keith Olbermann, Racheael Maddow and Nancy Pelosi get a pass on the bullshit and lies that they peddle?

    Oh and if someone actually is anti-Aemrican is it anti_american to point it out? Just wondering.

  • Recovering Lefty

    Well life is too short to spend time trying to answer the rants of those who are so much smarter than I. And if Michelle Bachman isn’t one of my sources, then I guess I am both a moron and a repeater of talking points. Yeah, well, I’ll spend my life elsewhere.

  • Calling the current president, or any of his 43 predecessors, “anti-American” is symptomatic of the hyperbole addiction so many have succumbed to. Most of the people saying it would not use that term for any previous president, and want to pretend he is a ‘radical.’

    Yet most of his policies have been middle-of-the-road enough to elicit disappointment in the leftward half of the Democratic party. Lord knows how our oh-so-sensitive friends on the right would react if we really had a leftist government.

    And virtually every one of us on the left considers him/herself to be very much pro-American. So of course we resent this kind of poisonous rhetoric.

  • Winston, you make some good points here. I think the whole discourse thing is at the heart of the matter. There seems to be no such thing as intelligent political discourse anymore, and it’s a shame.

    My uncle was very good friends with Tip O’Neill. He had Mr. O’Neill’s picture in his office shaking hands with him.

    Mr. O’Neill spent over thirty years serving the country, and he told my uncle near the end of his life that the old civility was gone. He said it used to be you did what you had to do in Congress, and then Democrat and Republican would share drinks after work as well as friendships.

    O’Neill died 16 years ago, so it has become much worse since then. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t think Nancy Pelosi sits down for cocktails with John McCain. In the end both sides are worse because of it.

    People knocked Obama’s “Beer Summit,” but it was a wise way to cut out all the crap and just have different sides sit down and talk. Discourse. No screaming or name calling necessary.

  • Arch Conservative

    “People knocked Obama’s “Beer Summit,” but it was a wise way to cut out all the crap and just have different sides sit down and talk. Discourse. No screaming or name calling necessary.”

    The fact that it was televised let’s us know that it was a political stunt.

  • The fact that it was televised let’s us know that it was a political stunt.

    Very true, Arch. Especially since not everyone was drinking beer.

    Obama and Gates were drinking varieties on the fizzy piss which Americans laughably claim is beer and which for some reason causes college linebackers to keel over senseless after half a pint of the stuff. Biden’s tipple was Buckler’s, which I’ve never encountered but which is brewed by Heineken, purveyors of a rather horrible European lager. Sgt Crowley seems to be the only one of the bunch who actually recognises beer when he sees it. He was chugging Blue Moon, which is pretty decent despite being a Coors brand.

  • zingzing

    archie: “The fact that it was televised let’s us know that it was a political stunt.”

    what exactly do you think the rest of us think it is? of course it was a political stunt. but to what end? to smooth over a rather delicate situation? or something more sinister…

    don’t be an idiot, archie.

    doc: “Sgt Crowley seems to be the only one of the bunch who actually recognises beer when he sees it. He was chugging Blue Moon, which is pretty decent despite being a Coors brand.”

    that shit tastes like soap water and the people who drink it most likely are college girls. fuckin’ nasty stuff. seriously. i’d say you need your mouth washed out with soap, but apparently, that’s pleasing to you.

  • Don’t they usually serve it with a lemon wedge in it? Then it tastes like Lemon-Fresh Joy!

  • Zing, Handy: No, you’re thinking of Widmer’s, which does have something of a soapy aftertaste, especially with a lemon wedge. An orange slice is what you put in Blue Moon.

    Obama’s choice of Bud Light, in particular, is what marks the Beer Summit as a PR exercise. It’s as if he went out of his way to select an ‘all-American’ beer. Yeah! Budweiser – as American as beer gets! And… Bud Light – so as not to give the usual suspects any ammo about him boozing on the job!

    But I seriously doubt that that bilge water is what he drinks when the cameras aren’t watching.

  • Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t think Nancy Pelosi sits down for cocktails with John McCain. In the end both sides are worse because of it.

    Maybe not at the congressional level, but I’m sure there still are plenty of amicable cross-party relationships in Washington. For example, conservative strategist Mary Matalin is married to that Democrat fixer… Whatsisname… the guy who looks like Skeletor.

  • Actually, Pelosi got great marks for being the mover and shaker behind this healthcare bill; and this came from some of her Republican colleagues.

  • zingzing

    doc, i know the horrors of widmers as well. and yeah, it is an orange slice in blue moon, but it still tastes awful. i had a couple of girls over a few nights ago and they brought some beer. i had a few of my own beers (brooklyn lager, it happened to be), but they left a few, which i found the next afternoon. being the lazy shit i am, i decided to drink a blue moon rather than go down five flights of stairs. terrifying, but a lesson learned.

    and there’s no way that obama drinks bud when the cameras aren’t rolling. no man with any decent taste or more than $5 in his pocket will stomach the stuff. unless one is at a baseball game. for some reason, it’s not bad at a ballpark.

    “the guy who looks like Skeletor.”

    he does, doesn’t he?

  • John Wilson

    “the guy who looks like Skeletor.” Snakehead, is what his wife calls him. At least on TV.

    Buckler is non-alcoholic, and the European version is very good, but not the American version.

  • John Wilson

    I think we scared ‘Recovering’ off. Anyway, he needs a little more recovering, or whatever.

  • cannonshop

    #32 The name of that Dem “fixer” is James Carrville.

  • That’s the guy. Looks like he escaped from Dr Tulp’s anatomy lesson.

  • Just one “R” in Carville.

    He may be ugly, but he is very smart and very entertaining.

  • Arch Conservative

    “Obama’s choice of Bud Light, in particular, is what marks the Beer Summit as a PR exercise.”

    C,mon Dr., I bet that when the cameras aren’t rolling Obama’s drinking Bud Light by the case. Everyone knows how good it goes with arugula.

  • Obama’s drinking Bud Light by the case. Everyone knows how good it goes with arugula.

    Good lord… 😮

  • zingzing

    i have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.

  • Hey, arugula is good stuff. Just because Sarah Palin prefers Caribou jerky…

  • I don’t hold with arugula, or any kind of lettuce, much. Give me spinach any day.

  • Ted

    I was taught in history class that it was George Washington’s willing descension from the presidency that set the precedent.