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Lions Roar : January 2005
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2005 55 MELVIN MCLEOD, SHAMBHALA SUN:How wouldyouassessthestate ofpublicdiscoursein the United States today? JEFFREY DVORKIN: Ithinkthatthere is alevel ofhealthinthepublicdebatethathasbeen encouraged by the availability of technology. Last year I processed fifty thousand emails from NPR listeners about issues they had heard discussed on the radio. The Internet allows people to participate and make comment. Sometimes it’s thoughtful, sometimes not, but the engage- ment is there and it’s deep. I think it’s part of the inherent health of American democracy. MARK KINGWELL: Iquite agree with that.I think it is misleading to suppose that what we see on the nightly network news or other high profile mainstream media represents the state of public discourse. Because much of this Internet discourse is, as it were, below the surface. The problem is that there are no standards for what is proper or appropriate commentary. I’m sure I’m not alone in this group in having received astonishingly rude and obscene letters directed at me personally for things that I have said or published. The writers feel entirely unfettered by rules of politeness or civility. Now that doesn’t strike me as good public discourse. PATRICIA SCHROEDER: Havingparticipatedin thepolitical arena for a verylong time, I find the meanness is way over the top. One of things we track is the number of women going into politics, and in the last four years the number has been going down instead of up. When you ask women who are more than qualified why they won’t get into politics, they look at you as if to say, “What, do you think I’m nuts?” Attack ads, the Drudge Report, lies and appeals to the worst in people—how do we restore The Virtue of Civility A PANEL ON BRINGING DEPTH, RESPECTFULNESS AND INTEGRITY BACK TO OUR NATIONAL DISCOURSE