November 27, 2018

"I had written that book about civility because I was convinced that civility is bullshit."

Says Teresa Bejan, author of "Mere Civility" in this TED talk:


From the description of the video: "What exactly is civility, and what does it require? In a talk packed with historical insights, political theorist Teresa Bejan explains how civility has been used as both the foundation of tolerant societies and as a way for political partisans to silence and dismiss opposing views. Bejan suggests that we should instead try for 'mere civility': the virtue of being able to disagree fundamentally with others without destroying the possibility of a common life tomorrow."

That is, she didn't end up thinking "civility is bullshit."

And by the way, I don't think "civility is bullshit." My longstanding "civility bullshit" tag — used 192 times, beginning in January 2009 — doesn't mean "civility is bullshit." It refers to bullshitting about civility, which is something else altogether. I say things like "Calls for civility are always bullshit." I did once (recently) give one person credit for possible sincerity in a call for civility, but basically, I'm completely jaded on the topic of calls for civility, because people make the calls strategically and deviously. They want their antagonists to unilaterally disarm, and they ignore the idea when they want to go on the attack. Here's one of my many posts on the subject, from last June.

39 comments:

robother said...

I don't recall the person who sincerely called for bullshit. Too much sincerity?

Tank said...

"Calls for civility are always bullshit" is exactly the way Trump talks, a bit of hyperbole. Not all calls for civility are bullshit, but really most are so it's essentially true.

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't recall the person who sincerely called for bullshit. Too much sincerity?"

LOL. Thanks for the heads-up. Fixed.

Ann Althouse said...

"Not all calls for civility are bullshit, but really most are so it's essentially true."

Which makes my pronouncement bullshit.

David Begley said...

Ann is right to call this person out for an improper use of her insight. The only solution is for Althouse to appear on Fox and explain this to the nation. Teacher, teach!

Paco Wové said...

How about a more rigorous formation:

"Calls for civility in the public sphere are always attempts to gain political advantage."

For some definition of "public sphere" and "political advantage". This would cover both calls for your opponents to stop being so beastly (advantageous because it (a) would shut them up and (b) points out their beastliness) and also calls for your own side to be more civil (advantageous when your comrades are becoming a little too unhinged and harming your brand).

rhhardin said...

Bullshit is civility.

David Begley said...

I have a correction. Bejan’s insight is different from Althouse’s.

Bejan appears to be a conservative at Oxford. Her point is that each side must vigorously advocate its position. I’d take it further. There is no hope for a compromise with the Left. They must be totally defeated. Beaten so badly that they know they are beaten. Drummed the way Wisconsin was last Saturday.

But I’m not optimistic. Suburban women hate Trump. And the Fake News feeds that hate daily.

David Begley said...

Restated, we are in a cold civil war with the Left. To unilaterally disarm under the guise of civility is foolish.

Humperdink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"Ann is right to call this person out for an improper use of her insight."

To be clear, the TED talker isn't talking about me. She's just saying something that my readers might wrongly think is the same thing I've been saying. I don't have a problem with other people saying "bullshit" near the word "civility" and saying whatever they want and I'm not calling her out!

Ann Althouse said...

"I have a correction. Bejan’s insight is different from Althouse’s."

Sorry, I responded to you before getting to that!

Humperdink said...

"There is no hope for a compromise with the Left. They must be totally defeated. Beaten so badly that they know they are beaten."

Exactly right. I have debated (or should I say attempted to) many lefties on Zuckedork's platform regarding Trump. It is fruitless, an absolute waste of time. Name calling is their calling card. They have no reasoned argument. Logic escapes them. They are single minded in their goal. We must do the same. And dismantling the education cabal is where we need to start.

Hagar said...

It is also used as a cover for not vigorously opposing things that should be opposed, for some reason(s) not to be publicly acknowledged.
See the origins of the term "doughface".

Lucid-Ideas said...

Civility is not bullshit. I have lived and worked in several countries where trust is low (or nonexistent) and where civility is low (or nonexistent).

To anyone who thinks civility is bullshit...I have frequent flyer miles I am willing to donate. One way trip only though...

TreeJoe said...

Last Wednesday my boss called me out of the blue at 6:20am, then texted me at 7:15am that "we are going to talk"

I had been taking care of a sick child, so I called him at 7:20 saying "What's going on" to which he proceeded to:

- Berate me for not being on call for him
- Express that our "rhythms are not in sync" and that his "Rhythm is early morning" and his "rhythm is the most important" and thus I need to sync to his (despite prior express agreement that I would not be expected, without prior commitment, to be on call before 8am).
- Threaten my job if I continue to be "unavailable" or have to be "chased down" (he and I had spoken at 5pm the night before

In short, my boss doesn't believe in mere civility. Except when it suits him.

Ralph L said...

Sorry, I responded to you before getting to that!

Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness.

I can't remember if all Lee Atwater did was apologize, but I doubt he was seeking political advantage at that point.

wwww said...




Some people misapply Althouse's concept.

They use it as a justification to act with cruelty in their daily lives towards ordinary people.




Birkel said...

Some people use words to silence others because they do not want participation by those with different opinions.
Examples: raci**, sexi**, hate, cruel

Overuse of these words leave them valueless.

EDH said...

Civility means nothing without intellectual honesty behind it.

wwww said...




People exist who wish to enact cruelty in their daily lives.

They are prohibited from acting out in many environments. This personality type searches for spaces in which they can act out or hide their cruelty under cover.

Ralph L said...

Mind the extra spaces, wwww, or Althouse will cull you out.
It's just rude, or she thinks it is.

Hagar said...

AA does not say civility is bullshit; she says calls for civility usually are.

wwww said...

Ralph,

Sorry about that! I have a bad habit of hitting return when I type at the top of the page. Thanks for pointing it out. I'm not around much, but will be helpful to remember when I type. I also have a horrible habit of leaving 2 spaces at the beginning of sentences. Ugh!

Have a good day!

glenn said...

If you are going to kill someone, literally or figuratively, it cost nothing to be polite.

Birkel said...

Imagine the people who wish to exercise control.
What spaces would those people seek?

Ken B said...

Forego calls for civility.
Let's get meta. Can civility bullshit be bullshit? A tactical rejection of calls for civility as bullshit, used to portray such calls as insincere? Civility bullshit bullshit.

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

Sebastian said...

Calls for civility have become bullshit.

Their becoming bullshit shows the progress of progressivism.

Historically, meaning centuries ago, calls for civility were not bullshit, but part of a well-meaning effort to create a tolerably liberal society without deadly religious conflict.

The new progressivism aims at a new Reformation. Progs don't care to coexist with racist deplorables, hence have no need for civility, except in the instrumental Althouse fashion, the better to appeal to white women appalled at uncivil Trump.

James K said...

Calls for civility are in the same category as calls for bipartisanship.

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Bay Area Guy said...

I say things like "Calls for civility are always bullshit."

I agree that Civility is not bullshit -- it's an important function of life to properly act with other human beings.

I would slightly tweak the above to state that "Calls for civility from your political opponents are always bullshit."

Sometimes, calling for your allies to tone it down a notch, is a good thing. But whenever some leftist, like Obama, calls for Trump to be more civil, or tone it down, Yes, it's always bullshit.

FullMoon said...

It refers to bullshitting about civility, which is something else altogether. I say things like "Calls for civility are always bullshit." I did once (recently) give one person credit for possible sincerity in a call for civility...

I remember Rodney King saying, either in the midst of, or after, the riots, "Can't we all just get along?"

Here was the guy beat with nightsticks. The center of attention. Could have been a hero to many ala fellow criminals Micheal Brown and Trayvon Martin. Just asking for civility, in his simple, stammering way.

He was mocked and laughed at.

tcrosse said...

Here's one of my favorite book titles, available you-know-where.
Your Call is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit

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wwww said...

"I would slightly tweak the above to state that "Calls for civility from your political opponents are always bullshit.""

I agree with your statement, with the caveat that incivility itself can be used as a strategy to shut down political conversation. You can not engage in intelligent political debate if the conversation degenerates into personal insults, threats to you or your family, swearing or name-calling. Teenagers use this technique all the time.

For example, Let's say Grandma Charlotte and neighbour Joe are having a political conversation. Teenage Alice disagrees. It's not bullsh*t to call for civility if teenage Alice is rude, name-calls, and acts out towards Grandma Charlotte and swears at neighbour Joe. She curses out Joe's young kids and says she hopes his toddler girl goes to H*ll. What coherent political conversation can continue in that environment? Doesn't matter if they are her "political opponents" -- the political disagreement was the excuse for teenage Alice to yell at her Grandma and swear at neighbour Joe.

It's a dominance play for Alice. She wanted to shut up her Grandma and Neighbour Joe. She's a teenager. Teenagers get attention by yelling and swearing. What's more, she knew she could shut the Thanksgiving convo down by yelling, swearing, and name-calling. Alice employed incivility as a strategy to shut down political conversation.

Fernandistein said...

Civility bullshit -

Fearful of bias, Google blocks gender-based pronouns from new AI tool

“Not all ‘screw ups’ are equal,” Lambert said. Gender is a “a big, big thing” to get wrong.

++

The "AI" suggests words to complete a sentence, but won't suggest "he" or "she", etc., despite the fact that it is a small, small thing to get wrong.

Earnest Prole said...

As I've previously noted, you've turned a useful insight into a harmful dogma by conflating the two meanings of civility.

The banal definition of civility is a synonym for politeness. The profound definition civility is the social compact by which we agree not to injure or kill each other when we have differences. Kristilnacht was a breakdown in the second kind of civility, and those who spoke out against it were not bullshitters.

The conflation of the two meanings endangers the second, profound meaning, which is the foundation of freedom of speech and free society itself. You should avoid contributing to this confusion by being more precise in your language. Dropping the word always would be a good start.

Jim at said...

You can not engage in intelligent political debate if the conversation degenerates into personal insults, threats to you or your family, swearing or name-calling.

Nor can you engage in intelligent political debate if you simply make shit up about what another person is saying.

gg6 said...

ALTHOUSE: "And by the way, I don't think "civility is bullshit." My longstanding "civility bullshit" tag ..... doesn't mean "civility is bullshit." It refers to bullshitting about civility..."
....wow, talk about retrospective civility bullshit. What's next, Ms A, "I apologize if anyone felt offended"?!? Ha, ha.