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Senator Ben Sasse: “This is not a call for less fighting, this is a call for more meaningful fighting”

In case you missed this last week…



McDonald’s nails the importance of neighbors (even arch enemies)

McDonald’s has managed to charm us with two very fundamental Village Square-ish concepts in their new “I’m Lovin’ It” ad campaign.



A bit of Thanksgiving advice from the civility professionals

Now that the election is over, LiveScience asks

“The next question is, will our politicians be able to come together to govern the country over the next four years? And will you and Aunt Mildred be able to civilly pass the peas over Thanksgiving dinner after that knock-down, drag-out fight you had about health-care reform on Election Day?”

Thankfully, they answer their own question with tips from our friend, former Village Square Dinner at the Square featured speaker Matt Motyl. Read the article here.



First ever Village Square casting call*: This American Life

We’re excited to have been contacted by This American Life (we think we’re getting a reputation). Turns out they’re looking for a relationship strained over politics to feature on the radio. We told them we’d help and we’re going to even sweeten the deal. If you contact them and they choose your story, we’ll buy you and your fellow strainee 2 tickets to our September 11th Dinner at the Square featuring Jonathan Haidt on Polarization, Demonization & Paralysis in American Politics. It’ll be a perfect icebreaker to start the rebuilding. We’d love to see our hometown be a part of this national story!

Here’s their invitation to Tallahassee:

The public radio show “This American Life” is seeking interview subjects for a story on how the Red/Blue split in this country is affecting relationships between friends and family members. If you or someone you know is struggling to deal with a political divide with someone you care about ­or desperately wants to rebuild a relationship that has suffered because of politics — please contact us at storypitch@thislife.org or 212-624-5022.

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*Surely there will be many more casting calls…



John Oliver: Civil disservice




Ed Morrison: Civility grows the economy

Read the whole article HERE. Here’s a snip:

“Incivility destroys a community’s capacity to generate wealth.

Here’s why.

In a networked, knowledge-driven economy, collaboration drives wealth creation. And collaboration can only thrive in a stable environment of trust. The corrosion of our civil society –– the alarming growth of incivility and pervasive lying –– undercuts our economy’s productivity and our capacity to innovate.

Incivility — fraudulent concealment (“hiding the ball”), lying, manipulation, and associated behaviors — can work well to redistribute wealth. We see almost endless examples from MF Global to the subprime mess. Yet, these behaviors do not generate wealth. Indeed, they erode capitalism’s capacity to generate wealth. That’s why corruption slows economic growth and why trust is associated with higher rates of economic growth.”
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Thanks to Tony for the heads up on this great article.



Colin Powell on civility and compromise

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday on This Week with Christiane Amanpour:

“The tone is not good right now. And our political system here in Washington, particularly up on the Hill, Congress, has become very, very tense, in that the two sides, the Republicans and the Democrats, are focusing more and more on their extreme left and extreme right. And we have to come back toward the center in order to compromise.

A story I like to tell is our founding fathers were able to sit in Philadelphia and make some of the greatest compromises known to man — tough, tough issues.

But they did it. Why? Because they were there to create a country, whereas we have a Congress now that can’t even pass an appropriations bill, and we’re running this country on a continuing resolution, which — what else are they here for but to pass appropriations bills?

And so we have got to find a way to start coming back together. And let me say this directly. The media has to help us. The media loves this game where everyone is on the extreme. It makes for great television. It makes for great chatter. It makes for great talk shows all day long with commentators commenting on commentators about the latest little mini-flap up on Capitol Hill.

So what we have to do is, sort of, take some of the heat out of our political life in terms of the coverage of it so these folks can get to work quietly.”

(Photo credit: Josh Self)



this i believe… by lea marshall

my son is has a slight hearing impairment and so i learned sign language.

one of my favorite signs is the sign for the word “believe”.

it actually is made like this...

it combines two signs. the sign “think” and the sign “to marry”.

and the sign is very philosophically accurate… “to believe” is “to marry our thoughts”.

it is one thing just to hang out with our thoughts, to date our thoughts, to be friends with our thoughts. but it is something entirely different to marry our thoughts. to make a living commitment to those thoughts 24/7. Read all »



National Conference of Editorial Writers “Civility Project”

Under the banner of better late than never (this was in my stack of catch-up reading after our last program, printed on September 6th in the Tallahassee Democrat):

The National Conference of Editorial Writers, apparently tiring of the “online free-for-alls that treat facts and lies as equals” is launching a “civility Project” to help journalists navigate the challenges of knowing where to draw the line between constructive – even if difficult – debate and the now too routine combustible spleen venting. The editorial about this project, first published in the Providence Journal explains:

“The mediators are hardly perfect in judgment, but they are becoming a last bulwark against a national screamfest, where the loudest, angriest and most outrageous opinions get the most attention; facts seem to matter less and less in the general din.”

Read the full editorial here.

Oh, and AMEN.



And it does go

“Lack of civility in words bleeds into a lack of decency in behavior, and so it goes.” –Kathleen Parker

(Photo credit: Michael Hashizume)



St. Petersburg Times: Betty Ford’s Washington was a kinder place

From today’s St. Petersburg Times:

“No doubt the many eulogies to be offered at former first lady Betty Ford’s funeral today will honor her service to the nation, heroic candor in dealing with substance abuse, and openness in fighting breast cancer. But this remarkable woman’s passing also spotlights a lost era of collegial bipartisanship in the nation’s political life…” Read the editorial HERE.

(Thanks to Florence for the heads-up)



Florence Snyder: Poisoning the Press

This post is our regular weekly Purple State of Mind feature. Why not hop on over to Purple and read it there instead?

"Poisoning the Press" is a favorite fantasy of politicians caught in the crosshairs of a dogged investigative reporter. It's also the title of a new book about Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson and the Rise of Washington's Scandal Culture.

The author is journalist turned media ethics professor Mark Feldstein. The storytelling skills Feldstein honed over years of Peabody and Emmy award winning reporting make Poisoning the Press a scholarly work wrapped in a rockin' good beach-read. For Village Squares trying to understand how our political culture got so ugly, Feldstein cracks the code.

Using previously classified documents and interviews with folks who were there, the author shows how Nixon and Anderson fed off each other in a twisted, mongoose-and-cobra kind of way. Nixon was obsessed with the press. He spent countless hours talking about journalists, but hardly any time with them.

Feldstein's forensic autopsy of Nixon and Anderson raises an intriguing possibility: What if Nixon had Liz Joyner and other advocates of civil discourse appealing to his better angels instead of a palace guard pandering to his paranoia? Might the two Navy veterans have come together over a burger and a baseball game? Would we have a healthier body politic today?

They would have had lots to talk about. Nixon and Anderson both grew up poor and worked like dogs for the success they craved.

The future president and the future Pulitzer Prize winner both arrived in Washington in 1947. Nixon was a newly-minted congressman and Anderson had landed a job as a legman for Drew Pearson, whose syndicated column, Washington-Merry-Go-Round, Anderson would eventually inherit.

Nixon became Bud Abbott to Anderson's Lou Costello. With no moral compass in his inner circle, straight-man Nixon would take bribes; suborn perjury and stage overseas military coups. Anderson would merrily report all of it, in close to real time.

Nixon's press paranoia grew as Anderson racked up scoop after scoop at his expense. He even toyed with the idea of having Anderson assassinated.

Feldstein concludes that Anderson's coverage of Nixon and Nixon's reaction to Anderson's coverage "has tainted governance and public discourse ever since."

The toxic legacy lives on in Florida. A recent Florida TaxWatch study found that the recession has yet to reach our state's multimillion dollar public relations payroll. TaxWatch documented that communications people out-earn police, prison guards, and social workers who risk their lives to serve and protect.

Real communications people—also known as schoolteachers—are being laid off en masse while Florida's public officials cling to their publicists like Linus to his security blanket.

Thanks to Mark Feldstein for reminding us why this worked badly for Nixon and to TaxWatch for shining a light on how his dark legacy still casts shadows in the Sunshine State.
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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com. Find more posts by Florence HERE.

(Disclosures: Mark Feldstein interned for Jack Anderson in the 1970s. Florence Snyder represented Feldstein in what were his first libel suit and her first jury trial.)



Florence Snyder: Pot, kettle, Ed Schultz

Radio and cable talk show host Ed Schultz calls himself “The Nation’s Number 1 Progressive Voice.”

This week, he progressed to the Misogynist Hall of Fame with his radio reference to fellow opinionator Laura Ingraham as a "slut." Schultz managed to use the word twice in one sentence, which is one time more than would have gotten past the Village Square Civility Bell.

Impulse control is not one of Schultz's strengths. Last summer, the New York Post reported his meltdown in the [MSNBC] 30 Rock newsroom. Schultz was enraged that the marketing folks ran commercials that he wasn't in. When his huffing and puffing failed to win hearts and minds, he slammed down the telephone and shouted, “I’m going to torch this [bleep]ing place.”

White men with microphones have likewise been on the receiving end of Schultz verbal violence.  According to The Post, Schultz œonce told White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, ‘You’re full of [bleep].’ And after Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck revealed a condition that may make him go blind, Schultz said, “It’s a travesty he’s not going to see the country he’s trying to destroy.”

The working people Schultz claims to champion would be fired from their factories, fast food restaurants and offices if they acted nuts and uncorked about "sluts."  But Schultz seems to have a license to behave like a bad-tempered seventh grader. Following his Monday dump on Ingraham, MSNBC brass huddled for two days and emerged with this statement:

MSNBC management met with Ed Schultz [Wednesday] afternoon and accepted his offer to take one week of unpaid leave for the remarks he made yesterday on his radio program. Ed will address these remarks on his show tonight, and immediately following begin his leave. Remarks of this nature are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Accepted Schultz’ offer?  Really?

Call it zero tolerance, Orwell-style.

Schultz won't miss a week's pay, and it sounds like he could use a few days to chill out, but it will be a long time before anyone takes his “civility” lectures seriously.

MSNBC’s slogan is “Lean forward.”  It did….and spit straight into our eyes.

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Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at lawyerflo@gmail.com

(Photo credit, Schultz pictured with Ingraham: Dan Patterson)