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Hatred Won’t Improve the Discourse

Now, granted, communications is not my academic area of expertise, but I am pretty sure that starting off a column with  the sentence “I hate X” pretty much precludes any chance of communicating (at least having discourse with) members of group X.

And yet, Susan J. Douglas, Professor  and Chair of Communications at the University of Michigan, starts a column thusly:  “I hate Republicans” and then continues

I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal “personhood.”

She ultimately laments that she misses “civilized discourse” (but does so unironically, it would seem).  I am pretty sure this type of column will not aid its return.  Further, it just helps to denigrate academia for no good or useful purpose.

Regardless of one’s views of a particular political party, it problematic to start off with the hate talk and then accuse your opponent of “craft[ing] a political identity that rests on a complete repudiation of the idea that the opposing party and its followers have any legitimacy at all” (again: unironic).

One would think that a professor of communications would understand this fact.

And, really, while I think it is perfectly fair if a professor is willing to let their worldview be public, I can see nothing useful about declaring one’s hatred for a specific political party, religion, philosophy, or whatever when one is going to be in the classroom trying to teach those persons.  Because I hate to tell Dr. Douglas:  she has Republican students.

Politics can be frustrating, without a doubt, but this kind of declaration from someone supposed engaged in the intellectual enterprise is unacceptable.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Tillman says:

    I suppose it would’ve worked out better if she declared her hatred and then went about in a logical fashion why she, and anyone similar to her, and any reasonable person, should also hate Republicans. Then again, it’s usually harder to justify hatred than it is to espouse it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  2. Rick DeMent says:

    Hate the tools, not the tool shed :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. Gustopher says:

    And yet, Susan J. Douglas, Professor and Chair of Communications at the University of Michigan, starts a column thusly: “I hate Republicans” and then continues
    “I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal personhood.”

    As Barney Frank said, “it is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated. Ma’am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table: I have no interest in doing it.”

    I’m willing to go one step further and say that the dining room tables are now in control of both branches of congress.

    There are differences between the BENGHAZI!!!! crowd, and the people who carry signs of Obama with little Hitler mustaches (the woman who was the source of Rep. Frank’s rather Frank comment), but the true believers in the Republican Party are people who feel entitled to their own facts rather than their own opinions.

    And, for the “both sides do it” crowd, the Democrats tend not to elect their true believers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

  4. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Yep. How she said it, prolly not the best.

    … but she ain’t wrong! 😉

    Seriously, there has to be some new name for reasonable moderate conservatives, not that bag-o-nuts that call themselves “Republicans” today.

    I would suggest “Democrats”… but that’s already taken by the current socially-liberal moderate conservatives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

  5. michael reynolds says:

    I wouldn’t go with “hate.” I’d go with “despise.” Or perhaps, “have contempt for.”

    Same meaning, but it sounds better.

    I absolutely despise Republicans. I don’t see how any reasonably well-informed, reality-dwelling, rational person can do otherwise.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 12

  6. al-Ameda says:

    People are far too thin-skinned these days.

    Of course people should exercise some judgment before they throw out lines like:

    “I hate Republicans” and then continues .. I can’t stand the thought of having to spend the next two years watching Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Darrell Issa or any of the legions of other blowhards denying climate change, thwarting immigration reform or championing fetal “personhood.”

    Especially the “I hate Republicans …” part.
    Conservatives already hate universities and colleges because of so-called liberal bias, and this only heightens their sense of victimization, not that they need more incentive or impetus to feel victimized by a liberal world.

    But really …

    I grew up in a very, very conservative law enforcement family, and most of our family friends were also strong conservative police and firefighter families. As I was the only liberal in my family of 11, I was (and still am) accustomed to comments along the lines of “I hate ____________ (fill in the liberal politician or policy).” Even today, despite admonishments to not talk politics at family gatherings, they usually get around talking trash, and trying to bait me into dead-end ‘facts don’t matter’ discussion. I’m used to it, I’ve been around it my entire life.

    I think many people have lost the ability to “deal with it” because they do not live around or associate regularly with people who have a starkly different worldview or ideology from theirs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  7. Nikki says:

    Would “loathe” have been a better word?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  8. gVOR08 says:

    OK. But being reasonable and politically correct doesn’t seem to do any good either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  9. Guarneri says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Re-read Dr Taylor’s piece. He is basically describing a mix of flawed character, judgment, irrationality and immaturity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  10. @michael reynolds:

    I absolutely despise Republicans. I don’t see how any reasonably well-informed, reality-dwelling, rational person can do otherwise.

    But if one is really going to take that position, then one really has to say that one is abandoning all discourse with a sizable chunk of the population. This strikes me as problematic for any number of reasons, not the least of which being that one’s partisan identification and policy preferences are not all there is of a given person,

    If one values democracy, one has to find a way to deal with one’s political opponents.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  11. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    It is OK to demonize your opponents when they really are demons. Godwin`s Law doesn`t apply when they really are Nazis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    To all, the other day I was driving down a road and saw a bumper sticker that irritated me particularly. It said, “Irritate a liberal, Work hard, be happy.” The assumption being I don’t work hard and am miserable because others do and are happy because of/despite it. Made me want to grab this numb nut by the throat and ask him, “When was the last time you earned an honest days wages instead of having others do it for you????” Truth is, his bumper sticker was just like this woman’s statement and my desired response wasn’t much better because this man drove a well used PU truck.

    It is hard and difficult work to talk to people who see things differently than you do. It is even harder and more difficult to listen to them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But if one is really going to take that position, then one really has to say that one is abandoning all discourse with a sizable chunk of the population.

    What discourse? There is no discourse, there hasn’t been any discourse since a black man walked into the White House. We’re down to brute demographics, there is no reasoned discourse. It’s just numbers now. Numbers and power.

    Am I sad it’s come to this? Yes. Am I going to criticize this person for calling it as it is? No.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

  14. @michael reynolds: I share many of your frustrations. However, if we just go to our various corners and talk to ourselves about he hate the folks in the other corners, what good does that do?

    (Indeed, I think that part of what has gotten us to the current situation is that a lot of conservative went into their talk radio and Fox News corner and talked about how they hated the libs).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    (Indeed, I think that part of what has gotten us to the current situation is that a lot of conservative went into their talk radio and Fox News corner and talked about how they hated the libs).

    Of course. But the old saw about it taking two to tango does not apply in war or politics. It only takes one side to shut down discourse. We’ve wasted six years trying to have discourse. If one side plugs their ears there’s no hope of conversation.

    Indeed, that’s one of the big reasons why I hate Republicans: they’ve killed my favorite sport.

    The other side of this discourse is Eric Florack. That’s who we’re supposed to be talking to. Guys like him define the GOP. He’s not some outlier, he’s the dominant strain, he sets the agenda.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 8

  16. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @michael reynolds: You’ve made it abundantly clear for some time you have zero interest in actual discussion with anyone besides those who agree with you; thank you for openly acknowledging it.

    And since you’re defining people here as speaking for and representing an entire movement, mind if I ascribe your policies to a good number of the commenters here? You certainly seem to be the most articulate spokesman for that point of view, but hardly unique in your beliefs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 8

  17. Rick DeMent says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “But if one is really going to take that position, then one really has to say that one is abandoning all discourse with a sizable chunk of the population. This strikes me as problematic for any number of reasons …”

    You have a penchant for understatement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  18. @Rick DeMent: You would not be the first to make that observation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The other side of this discourse is Eric Florack.

    The other side of the discourse is also James and Doug. While I disagree with both relatively frequently, I don’t dislike, much less loathe them. If I knew them more than the occasional blog interaction I might like them. Characterizing the entirety of the other side with one brush and demonizing them is not constructive. I understand that it’s the Tea wing that is running the show and a vote for Republicans now is destructive to things I hold dear and how some of my family and friends vote bothers me, but there is more to someone than their politics, their religion, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Grewgills:

    You’re making the “good Nazi/Communist” argument. Sure, I belong to the Party, but I really don’t like what some of those SS/KGB fellows are doing. Sure, I vote for them, but then I tut-tut (sotto voce) of course. Sure, I pay my party dues, but that doesn’t mean I’m responsible for how the money is used. Can’t we all just get along? So long as we’re not Jews?

    You want to know why Democrats get their asses kicked? It’s that equivocation, it’s that reluctance to engage, it’s that willingness to let the other side define the terms of the battle. We congratulate ourselves on losing nobly and tell ourselves we’re right and that’s all that matters.

    Well, my friend, politics is not about being right, sadly, it’s about power. The other side has no illusions on that score, only liberals do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 7

  21. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    I’ve now read both posts on this topic. Dr. Taylor’s use of the term “unironic” is very effective. Lots and lots of unirony going on here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  22. Andy says:

    You want to know why Democrats get their asses kicked? It’s that equivocation, it’s that reluctance to engage, it’s that willingness to let the other side define the terms of the battle. We congratulate ourselves on losing nobly and tell ourselves we’re right and that’s all that matters.

    I hear Tea Party “conservative” kool-aid drinkers say the same thing about the GoP establishment and their supposed equivocation. Not sure if you read any of it, but “equivocation” is a pretty common word in Tea Party “literature.” They abhor equivocation as much as you do, ascribe dark motives to political enemies, etc. Sad to say it, but your arguments now sound like theirs. Not sure why you and Prof. Douglas would want to follow in their rhetorical footsteps considering how obviously counterproductive such methods are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  23. Andy says:

    She ultimately laments that she misses “civilized discourse” (but does so unironically, it would seem). I am pretty sure this type of column will not aid its return.

    and

    One would think that a professor of communications would understand this fact.

    Brutal yet silky criticism, well done Steven.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  24. Loviatar says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You’re making the “good Nazi/Communist” argument. Sure, I belong to the Party, but I really don’t like what some of those SS/KGB fellows are doing. Sure, I vote for them, but then I tut-tut (sotto voce) of course. Sure, I pay my party dues, but that doesn’t mean I’m responsible for how the money is used. Can’t we all just get along? So long as we’re not Jews?

    Now we know why you write for a living and I don’t. You’ve encapsulated perfectly in a few simple words why I feel quite comfortable in calling James a neo-confederate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  25. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Just to be clear, you are saying your despise and loathe at least two of our three hosts? You have no respect whatsoever for Doug or James and you think they are on par with Nazi apologists? That’s a bridge that I think most here can’t cross with you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  26. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Well, my friend, politics is not about being right, sadly, it’s about power. The other side has no illusions on that score, only liberals do.

    If it’s not about who’s right then it’s just a partisan game and there’s no real reason to be invested in it. You are clearly invested in it if you despise your opponents, so either you think being right matters or you are far to into team sports. Do you loathe Dodger fans?
    Most people I encounter I think are very wrong about something very fundamental to understanding how the world works and I think that this thinking does on balance more harm than good, but I’m not going to let their belief in magic whether personified by gods or crystals cause me to despise them. I don’t have the energy to go through life with that much hate in me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  27. michael reynolds says:

    @Grewgills:

    No, I don’t feel that way. Frankly, I’m not an emotional person. I don’t think I’m capable of generating the energy required for hate. But contempt? That I can manage.

    Obviously I care about being right. Me, personally. But in politics that has long since become beside the point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  28. Rob Prather says:

    @Loviatar:

    You’ve encapsulated perfectly in a few simple words why I feel quite comfortable in calling James a neo-confederate.

    Are you sharing what you’re smoking?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. Mary says:

    @gVOR08: What a shock — people actually don’t drop their opinions because you disagree with them.

    The term for that is “diversity.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  30. Grewgills says:

    @Loviatar:
    James is a neo-Confederate in the same way that you are a homeopathy believing. dope smoking, socialist, hippy, tree hugger. You may be one or more of those things (I certainly am), but not all Democrats are even if the far left of the party may be. Likewise not all Democrats are the relative moderate (on social and economic issues) hawks that run the party. Your simplistic portrayal of this doesn’t contribute anything of value to the broader conversation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I wouldn’t go with “hate.” I’d go with “despise.” Or perhaps, “have contempt for.” Same meaning, but it sounds better.

    I don’t think it’s the same meaning.

    I fear current Republicans, and I have contempt for their self-absorption, their shoddy logic, their immunity to evidence, and their emotion-driven marketing.

    …But there’s nothing intrinsic about being a Republican that requires or implies those bad behaviors and characteristics. It’s perfectly possible to be a Republican without being an ignorant selfish bigot. I’ve seen it in my lifetime. I don’t hate Republicans per se, and I agree that the world is not improved in any way if I say that I do.

    Now, there are certain Republican demagogues whom I actually do hate, on the basis of the harm they are willing to do to others in order to further their selfish interests. I don’t hate them because they’re Republicans; I hate them because they’re selfish immoral demagogues.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0