Post by Barb May
The Civility Pledge
* will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.
* will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.
* will stand against incivility when I see it.
The website of Common Cause describes the group as "a nonpartisan, grassroots
organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy,
reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public
interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the
The bio of Common Cause's president, Bob Edgar--a former Democratic
congressman from Pennsylvania--informs us that "under Bob's leadership, Common
Cause is championing a number of critical issues and reforms, including the
public funding of political campaigns at all levels, election reforms that
make voting more accurate, secure and accessible, improved ethics at all
levels of government, redistricting reform and a diverse and open media."
It all sounds very high-minded. How's it working out in practice?
On Sunday, Common Cause hosted a panel discussion called "Uncloaking the
Kochs," which, according to the Common Cause website, "was followed by a rally
outside the posh Rancho Las Palmas resort where the Koch brothers were holding
one of their political strategy meetings." The Koch brothers' support of
free-market causes makes them enemies of "democracy," in Common Cause's view.
Christian Hartsock, a videographer who contributes to Andrew Breitbart's
BigGovernment.com, attended the Common Cause rally and produced a devastating
four-minute video of his interactions with the Common Causer supporters.
His coverage of the rally opens with an ingenuous twentysomething white woman
holding forth: "There's a devastating influence in our country, and it's
coming from fear and anger and widespread misunderstanding of what's actually
causing the problems in our society. And I think that the racist Tea Party is
one example of that, and it makes me feel ashamed to be an American."
This is followed by clips of Hartsock's other interactions with Common Cause
ralliers, some of which we've transcribed:
Hartsock: After we impeach Clarence Thomas, what do we do with him?
Let's keep it real.
Middle-aged white man with mustache: Put him in--put him in--put
him back in the, um--put him back in the fields. I mean, he's a
scumbag.Hartsock: Yeah!Mustache: He's a dumb sh-- scumbag. Put
him back in the fields!
Hartsock: But what about Alito?
Mustache: Alito should--Alito should go back to Sicily.
Hartsock: Yeah. But what about Fox News?
Mustache: Fox News? That's a mis--misappropriation of the English
language. There is no news on Fox.
Hartsock: So what do we do with them?
Mustache: Break Rupert Murdoch. Never--never give him a dime. I
never turn on Fox, I never give a cent to Rupert Murdoch, and
every day I vote with my dollars.Hartsock: What do we do with
Roger Ailes? What do we do with Roger Ailes?Mustache: Roger Ailes
should be strung up and--but, ah, I don't know. Kill the bastard.
[Change of scene]
Hartsock: Justice for Anita Hill. What do we do?
Young woman with sunglasses and nose ring 1: We cut off his toes
one by one and feed them to him. . . .
[Change of scene]
Hartsock: What do you say we do with Clarence Thomas after we
Young woman with sunglasses and nose ring 2: Bad things.
Hartsock: Like what?
Nose ring 2: I dunno, 'cause I'm all about peace, but I would
[Change of scene]
Hartsock: [After] we impeach Clarence Thomas, what do we do with him?
Middle-aged woman with squeaky voice: What do we do with him?
String him up. And his wife, too. Let's get rid of Ginny.
Hartsock: And then what?
Squeaky: Start all over. Scalia, uh, who are the other a--h---s?
Hartsock: No, it's OK.
Hartsock: String 'em up, eh?
Squeaky: String 'em up.
Unidentified off-camera male voice: No Koch, no way!
Squeaky: Thomas--Thomas, his wife, Scalia, Roberts--oh my God!
[Change of scene]
Hartsock: After we impeach Clarence Thomas, what should we do
Unidentified off-screen male voice: [unintelligible]
Young man with sunglasses: I don't want to--
Young woman with unpierced nose: I can't say that. I don't want
to be on camera saying that.
Hartsock: Saying what? You can say--you can say anything, we're
Sunglasses: Hang him.
A caveat is in order. As is often the case with material published on
Breitbart's websites, Hartsock's methods would be unethical by the highest
standards of institutional journalism. By framing his queries in the first
person plural--"what do we do . . .?"--he arguably crosses the line between
asking questions and goading his sources. At least one of his comments--"we're
all friends"--is plainly deceptive.
That said, it appears from the video that the violent and racist sentiments
originate with the Common Cause supporters; Hartsock prompts them with
relatively innocuous cues about impeachment and Anita Hill. And there is no
question that the Common Causers express their ugly sentiments with great
Further, the formerly mainstream media, in their determination to cast the Tea
Party movement as violent and racist, have frequently violated their own
ethical principles--among other ways, by reporting uncorroborated claims as if
they were established fact ("Tea Party Protesters Scream 'Nigger' at Black
Congressmen," reads a March 2010 McClatchy Newspapers headline) and even by
lying outright (Paul Krugman's false claim, in the New York Times no less,
that Michele Bachmann had used "eliminationist rhetoric").
We'd venture to say that Hartsock has provided more evidence that Common Cause
is a violent, racist movement than all the media put together have done
vis-à-vis the Tea Party.
To be sure, there is no reason to think that Bob Edgar or other officials of
Common Cause advocate violence against Supreme Court justices or media
executives, that they approve of such violent fantasies, or that they
personally hold racially or ethnically bigoted opinions. But Common Cause does
describe itself as a "grassroots organization."
"If Barack Obama isn't careful, he will become the Jimmy Carter of the