In today's Everyday Ethics column (currently not online) Jeremy Iggers chides us about the amount of political speech that seems to fit what he considers hate speech. The occasion: Ann Coulter's recent appearances at St. Olaf and the University of St. Thomas here in the Twin Cities, along with the condemnation of her speech from the president of St. Thomas, the Rev. Dennis Dease.
Iggers uses these events to opine that there is too much hateful speech in today's public discourse using statements from Coulter to illustrate - her infamous quotes about the Oklahoma bomber "My only regret is he did not go to the New York Times building" and a statement after 9/11, "Whe should invade their courntries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity". I don't have too much of a problem with this, since I think she went over the line with those. I do have a problem with Mr. Iggers using Garrison Keillor as an example of those who make polite, witty fun of their political enemies. Why? Just read these three items from Salon (subscription or day pass required, alas) where he personally attacks Senator Norm Coleman and denigrates the people of Minnesota for electing him, rather than a member of Keillor's DFL party. The polite, gentle wit seems to be missing... .
If what Coulter says is hate speech, Keillor is right up there with her. As is Howard "I Hate Republicans" Dean and that maker of liberal hate film, Michael Moore. Those personages did not rate an ethics column, but Ann Coulter (a professional provacatuer) did? Iggers should also consider some of the speech published in the newspaper he works for. The Star Tribune has likend the GOP to the Taliban, has Nick Coleman, a columnist who is prone to making personal attacks via his column on those he dislikes (i.e., the gents at Power Line) , and regularly prints articles personally disrespectful of the current president of the United States (we're not talking disagreements here, we're talking about stuff attacking his intelligence, honesty, and family), and regularly accuses its political opponents of working against our democracy (the latest being its editorial against the concealed carry bill). Am I agitating against disagreement and or dissent? No! Those are a necessary part of our public discourse, and should be welcome and encouraged. But if Mr. Iggers wants to reduce hate speech in the public discourse, he should start with the editors of his own newspaper.