I’ve been tempted for some time to challenge Ann Althouse’s “civility bullshit” argument, which she has proclaimed for years and even has a tag on her blog for it. Her claim that civility is bullshit is bullshit, and obviously so: she runs a civil blog, and if she really thought civility was bullshit, she wouldn’t. Today she used her argument again, this time in the fisking of a rationalization-filled Karen Tumulty defense of Neera Tanden in the Washington Post. Althouse writes,
I’ve been writing under the tag “civility bullshit” for years. It represents my longstanding opinion that calls for civility are always bullshit. Certainly in the area of politics, calls for civility always come out when the incivility is hurting your people. When somebody is deploying incivility effectively for your side, you hold your tongue and enjoy the damage.
That’s a shockingly bad argument for a lawyer, never mind a law professor. Saying that many people cynically use complaints about civility to silence dissent doesn’t mean that civility itself is an invalid value. One could say the same about lying, or adultery. Althouse is complaining about hypocrisy.
Furthermore, I don’t comprehend how anyone could have observed the last four years and not admit that civility is crucial. That was at the core of my warning in 2015 that electing a President like Donald Trump would turn the country into a nation of assholes. The President is always a powerful role model, and it was clear that a President Trump, given his habits and proclivities (and lack of self-control), would do terrible harm to civility in American society, and as the many follow-up pieces here track, he did.