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The Cussed State of Civil Discourse

Two of the late night comics who lampoon the newsmakers have lately found themselves in the news, and neither comes off any looking any better than their targets. Such is the sorry state of both politics and political satire.
One of the two is Stephen Colbert, host of the Columbia Broadcast System’s “Late Night” program, is being widely criticized on both the left and right for a particularly vulgar joke he told about President Donald Trump. Pretty much the entirety of every episode is devoted to Trump jokes, so far as we can tell, except for when the guests are plugging their project, but this one involved Vladimir Putin and fellatio and a word that was censored even late at night, and that was a punchline too far. There were outraged editorials in the most respectable publications of the left, partly because they like their anti-Trump jokes more acerbic and partly because they thought the gag seemed slightly anti-homosexual. On the right they denounced Colbert for all the usual reasons, and there’s even a “hashtag” going around to boycott his advertisers and force his firing. Most folks in the middle probably found the joke tasteless, and not at all funny.
So far Colbert is unapologetic, though, and has every reason to expect that he’ll emerge from the controversy only slightly scathed and far more famous. He’s getting some unexpected support from several of the right-wing talk radio hosts, who of course deplore the joke but have reasons of their find advertiser boycotts and mob censorship even more deplorable. All the pundits on the left seem content with some mild scolding, and will no doubt be back to praising Colbert’s more clever Trump-bashing soon enough. By now most folks in the middle are probably wondering what all the fuss is about. Such vulgarity as Colbert used is almost ubiquitous by now, showing up on t-shirts and bumper stickers and shock jock radio shows all those endless cable channels, and it long ago invaded the political realm.
Even before the Colbert incident people were noticing the Democratic National Committee chairman’s very public penchant for barnyard epithets, and how commonly profanities are used in all sorts of leftist venues, and how vicious it has become. The right must grudgingly concede that the Republican president also has a habit of cursing in front of the kids, and revels in an ad hominem slur as much as any of his late night tormentors, and that some of cause’s allies of convenience can get pretty vicious themselves.
Both sides of the street will probably continue to slide into the gutter. There’s an assumption among too many people that cursing and trash-talking signals some of sort of proletarian authenticity and honest, and we’re often tempted to sell them some ocean-front property in *$%*@ Arizona. All of the fuss about Colbert should be focused on this general decline in political discourse, but everyone would probably just shout about it.
The other comic in the news is the eponymous host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on the American Broadcasting Company, who more quietly stepped into a controversy. In a recent monologue he took a break from his usual smart-aleck comedy to speak softly and tearfully about the recent birth of his son, who was found to have serious congenital heart defects, and spoke passionately against some of changes that Republicans have proposed making to the nation’s health care laws. The speech was respectful and reasonable, and we were heartened to see that so were most of the rebuttals. A few writers chided him for using the story for political purposes, and of course the comments sections were filled with the usual bile, but the response from the sorts of conservatives we read and even from the White House was also respectful and reasonable, and dealt only with the facts and the logic of the broader issue at hand.
We’re inclined to agree with those who have expressed their polite disagreement with Kimmel, but we’ll be willing to listen to what he has to say in response, and we thank him for furthering the discussion on such civil terms, and we’ll hope and pray that son of his lives a long and happy life. That’s the way politics is supposed is to work.

— Bud Norman

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Our Foul-Mouthed and Politically Correct Politics

By now you’ve probably seen the video of two cute young Latino children cussing Donald Trump with all the vulgarity of a late-night cable television comedian. It’s “gone viral,” as they say in the internet biz, and has no doubt generated a lot of t-shirt sales for the “Deport Racism 2016” group that came up with the idea. We don’t expect it will adversely affect Trump’s popularity, however, as the average viewer will probably be more inclined to support him so that he might deport the foul-mouthed urchins at the first opportunity. What we find most interesting about the video is the left’s continuing fondness for obscenity.
Drop in on any left-leaning web site or “alternative” newspaper and you’ll notice a proliferation of profanity, of course the movies and television shows that the vast west wing of Hollywood produces are full of foul language, a similar vulgarity seems to pervade the conversations of most of our liberal friends, even the Vice President of the United States felt compelled drop an “F-bomb” to commemorate the passage of Obamacare, and this isn’t the first time that children have been dragged into it. The left regards cussing as authentically proletarian, even though the authentic proletariate is still saying grace before a meal and washing its kids’ mouths out with soap for such outbursts, and it fancies itself bravely defying the stultifying conventions of bourgeois society, even though it’s been a long time since the martyrdom of Lenny Bruce and by now what’s left of bourgeois society is no longer capable of stultifying even the most obnoxious behaviors.
Our newly-won freedom to spew curse words might be considered a small and insignificant expansion of liberty, but it’s hardly ample compensation for all the restrictions that the left wants to impose. Everything from %&*# to *+$@ is now allowed in the public square, but all sorts of formerly useful and respectable terms are now forbidden in polite company. “He” is an offensive word if used in reference to men who consider themselves women, “merit” and “hard work” are considered racist code in the more refined quarters of academia, of course “illegal immigrant” is not allowed to describe an immigrant who has entered the country illegally, and in the Democratic presidential race presumptive candidate Hillary Clinton is accusing pesky challenger and self-described socialist — which was formerly a dirty word — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders of being racist for using the word “urban” in their ongoing gun control debate. Try injecting any honest acknowledgment of the higher rate of criminal activity in certain communities into that debate or the related arguments over the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the police, and you’ll find that the certain points of view are now out of bounds no matter how profanely phrased. Anything having to do with sex, of course, is similarly constrained by the new rules of polite discourse.
Sooner or later, we fervently hope, the public will grow weary of it. Those foul-mouthed kids are getting a lot more “dislikes” than “likes” on their “viral video” on YouTube, although the number of “dislikes” seems to grow suspiciously smaller each time we check, and still the comments are mostly negative and many of them are coming from self-described Latinos who are insisting that it is more representative of liberals than Latinos. We’re no fans of the buffoonish and insulting Trump, and would have preferred that someone had championed the border-enforcement cause with equally forceful but more carefully phrased arguments, as regular readers of this publication know, but we had to sympathize with the many commentators who said the video seemed to prove his arguments for even the most bluntly explained crackdown on illegal immigration. The arrogance and ignorance of the child stars will not persuade anyone that America should abandon its borders, the objective fact that some parts of town are more dangerous than others will not go unnoticed, and all the rest of that nonsense about gender-neutral pronouns and the hidden racism in everyday idioms will eventually become too much of a hassle for busy moms and dads. It’s a bunch of %&*# and *+$@, as far as we’re concerned, but at least we’re free to put it that way.

— Bud Norman