The sliming of America

This tweet this morning from conservative talk show host Erick Erickson is yet another example of just how polarized and hypocritical the nation has become.

Erickson is reacting to a column by the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan, who took Erickson and his cohorts apart in the aftermath of the Parkland school massacre, which happened about six months after Erickson’s New York Times op-ed demanding more respect in our daily discourse, which, he said, should display our ability to disagree agreeably.

Not everything should be political, and we can only make everything political when we decide the other side is evil just because they disagree with us. We can see the world only in this polarized way if we never take the time to know anyone on the other side, if we never find ways to build friendship despite our differences.

Erickson is now one of the ringleaders of the “sliming” of the survivors of the massacre, Sullivan said, including spreading the false report that David Hogg, one of the most visible survivors, wasn’t even at the school when the shooting occurred. He was.

Sullivan called Erickson to ask about the apparent disconnect between words and deeds, then wrote her column on Tuesday afternoon.

What we’re seeing here is a spreading stain, in which conspiracy mongering from the likes of Infowars and, yes, Gateway Pundit is adopted by some elements of the formerly mainstream right and peddled to a receptive audience softened up for decades by Fox News.

That kind of thing can happen on the extreme left, too, but not as regularly and not as virulently. (And it’s a truism that corrections and “updates” everywhere fail to get the visibility of the original misinformation.)

There seems to be no floor of indecency that we agree to stay above.

As Charlie Warzel, who covers “information wars” for BuzzFeed News, put it recently: Extreme partisanship — pro-Trump media as well as parts of the far left — “is not about intellectual courage. It’s about winning.”

Sullivan points out that Hogg has been accused of giving a Nazi salute (he didn’t). Emma Gonzalez, the other face of Parkland, was depicted tearing up the Constitution. She didn’t.

The two, meanwhile, have been the most adult in the room when it comes to the battle of ideas. Hogg refused to respond to the Nazi salute accusation, saying it didn’t deserve a response.

“It’s just really sad,” Hogg said. “We’re so polarized as a nation. It’s so much easier to hate each other.”

“People need to realize when they counter these things to come with an American tone, not a divisive one,” he told Sullivan.

Politics and policy are fair game in any national debate, but the atrophy of our ability to elevate ourselves to an intellectual is ummistakable.

In 2018, the divisiveness is the American tone.