In January, the assassination attempt on Representative Gabrielle Giffords by a mentally ill assailant became an occasion for media elites to preen about the need for more civil political discourse. Somehow, the liberals fashioned a connection between Rush Limbaugh's radio show and Jared Loughner, despite the complete lack of any evidence that Loughner had ever listened to conservative radio or was anything other than an apolitical madman.
The media's interest in the pressing need for more civil politic discourse was short lived. They yawned weeks later at the violent rhetoric used in Wisconsin by union protestors and politicians in the state of Wisconsin—even when some making implicit threats had declared such language off-limits in the wake of the Giffords shooting. Evidence of profound hypocrisy bored our media watchdogs.
It's clear that the idea of civility is applied selectively. Those charged with the weighty task of setting the rules of political-correctness—liberal media figures, academia, leftist politicians—see their own as sufficiently enlightened so they can be exempt from p.c.'s uncomfortable constraints. Thus National Public Radio can fire Juan Williams for carefully admitting to associating Muslims with terrorism, but overlook when Nina Totenberg wishes for Jesse Helm's grandchildren to contract AIDS.
The double standard was made clear again last week when Ed Schultz, a liberal talk show host on MSNBC, called conservative radio host Laura Ingraham a "slut". This wasn't just a slip of the tongue, but a term he used twice to describe the accomplished lawyer and Supreme Court clerk turned conservative icon. The reaction? Schultz apologized on air, was given a week long suspension by MSNBC, and the scandal quickly dissipated.
One can only imagine how different the reaction and coverage would have been had a conservative television personality—say, a Sean Hannity—used a similar term to describe a liberal woman, such as a Rachel Maddow. His quick dismal would most certainly have been followed by endless ruminations about the latent misogyny riddling the conservative movement, indeed, anyone who dares classify him or herself Republican. Speeches of apology would have to be made not just by the man who had issued a slur, but by anyone who'd said a good word about him or given him the implicit endorsement of appearing on his show.