AMERICA TODAY SERIES -- Civility Pledge

AMERICA TODAY SERIES -- Civility Pledge

Daryl Rowland
on Jun 07, 2012

Alarms about growing incivility have sounded around the country. A Weber Shandwick study found that 86 percent of Americans reported being victims of incivility and 55 percent expect a lack of civility to become the norm in the future. In Akron, the Beacon Journal has joined the Bliss Institute, The Civic Commons and the faith community in a yearlong effort to define the ground rules for respectful conversation and to change community expectations for how we interact. The goal is to design a civility pledge and challenge citizens, organizations and leaders to accept the guidelines.

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What do you think?

Anonymous
on 2014-10-26T05:54:59+00:00
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Louis Alloro
on Jul 26, 2012
"Great conversation - and a topic I'm passionate about. Have recently read The Righteous Mind: Why..."
Daryl Rowland
on Jul 03, 2012
"Thanks for post, Dan"
Daryl Rowland
on Jun 20, 2012
"Harry, this is a great observation.  But if we are going to seriously look for solutions, we..."
Harry Paidas
on Jun 19, 2012
"The 24-hour news cycle has produced opportunities that were never there before.  Public relations..."
Dan Moulthrop
on Jun 14, 2012
"Theologian Jim Wallis (CEO of Sojourners) spoke recently at the City Club of Cleveland, and his..."
Dan Stefancik
on Jun 13, 2012
"You say you surveyed Ohioans, but did you survey the politicians themselves to ask why they are..."
Stuart C Mendel
on Jun 13, 2012
"I think the causes include the tendency driven by the rewards of the media and infotainment..."
Nancy Reeves
on Jun 13, 2012
"I wonder how much the survey results you mentioned are connected with a sense of life being..."
John Green
on Jun 13, 2012
"I'm convinced that there are many causes of the present incivility. One set of problems seem to..."
Nancy Reeves
on Jun 12, 2012
"Interesting thoughts as to relative levels of civility.  Let me give you a different lens.  I..."
Dan Moulthrop
on Jun 12, 2012
"I'm actually not sure if our time is more or les civil than in times past. Some of our founding..."

Daryl Rowland

Daryl Rowland - 2014-10-26T05:55:00+00:00 - "Alarms about growing incivility have sounded around the country. A Weber Shandwick study found..."

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Daryl Rowland
on Jun 07, 2012
"What do you think are the root causes of this incivility?  What do you think is the solution to..."
Harry Paidas
on Jun 19, 2012 - 4:09 pm

The 24-hour news cycle has produced opportunities that were never there before.  Public relations and marketing people who represent public figures often overlook civil discourse in order to put their client in the best possible light even if the result is demeaning to others who get in the way.  Once the unwritten rules of civil discourse are broken, countering with fair play may not be enough to undo the original damage.

 

Responses(1)

Daryl Rowland
on Jun 20, 2012

Harry, this is a great observation.  But if we are going to seriously look for solutions, we mustn't overlook the financial underpinnings that drive way more of human decision-making than  we like to admit.  Political surrogates and professional advocates are paid to be uncivil, confronational and un-nuanced in their repetition of their message points. To listen to an opposing point of view is to fail at their jobs. Therefore, one of the only solutions I can imagine is to convince journalists -- those in TV in particular -- that is their job to insist upon actual discourse. To take the mic away, if guests won't speak civily or have real conversations.  In an era of clutter, it would be a way for a news division to distinguish itself and perhpas attract an audiance that is growing weary of dueling message points.

 
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Dan Moulthrop
on Jun 14, 2012 - 10:33 am

Theologian Jim Wallis (CEO of Sojourners) spoke recently at the City Club of Cleveland, and his speech had both an implicit and explicit message about the need for civility. It's time, he says, to reconfigure politics. I found it pretty inspriational.

 

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Daryl Rowland
on Jul 03, 2012

Thanks for post, Dan

 
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Stuart C Mendel
on Jun 13, 2012 - 4:27 pm

I think the causes include the tendency driven by the rewards of the media and infotainment networks  to overwhelm  your opponent with loudnes, simpliciity and  the urgency of raising the alarm that whatever position your opponent claims, must be stamped out.   We all have witnessed examples, or maybe, been guilty of thw same practice.  Our desire to win is so great, that it outstrips our impulse for fairness.

 
Daryl Rowland
on Jun 07, 2012 - 4:43 pm

What do you think are the root causes of this incivility?  What do you think is the solution to this problem?

 

Responses(6)

Dan Moulthrop
on Jun 12, 2012

I'm actually not sure if our time is more or les civil than in times past. Some of our founding fathers, after all, solved disputes with duels, which don't sound terribly civil to me. The point is, though, that we are more attuned to it today, and because we have so many modes of communication, there are so many more opportunities for civility and incivility. 

The really important piece of this is considering why civility is important and how we can design conversation to make civility the default mode, rather than something that feels like the exception, rather than the rule. 

I think the solutions lie in talking about it and actually modeling it, both online and in the community. 

 

 
Nancy Reeves
on Jun 12, 2012

Interesting thoughts as to relative levels of civility.  Let me give you a different lens.  I think incivility comes at least in part from not witnessing or having a personal connection to the damage we are doing by being uncivil.  Not many of us have the stomach for deliberately inflicting harm on others when we have to witness the impact.

On a big scale, the turning point in the Vietnam war came when images of the consequences of our actions started showing up in our living rooms on our TVs.  The reverse has happened, to some extent, in the Middle East via careful message control (and changes in how the war is being carried out).  Photos of coffins returning home were banned in the early days because of the lessons the government learned fromf Vietnam.  And now we are increasing the unmanned drone missions which distance us even farther from the consequences of the actions we are taking.

Back to conversations - in online conversations, the ones which tend to be less civil are the post and run sites like ohio.com - and the more civil tend to be the ones with members who post regularly and get to know each other (even if getting to know each other is limted to knowing each other other via a screen name).  (Although I am quite impressed with the thoughtful responses to the article which is related to this conversation).

In real life - the most uncivil behavior directed at me has been by people who didn't know me, with whom I had a one time encounter in a situation in which I could easily be stereotyped.  It is rare that anyone I have an ongoing relationship with behaves uncivilly - even when we hold polar opposite viewpoints.

Now - I'm not sure how dueling fits into that scheme - or how common it really was.

I agree that modeling civility is critical.  I've been working on that a fair amount recently - both as a way of responding when incivility is directed at me, and when I see incivility developing between others.  So far, what I am doing is being noticed - which actually surprises me.  I wouldn't have said I was behaving that differently than I usually do.  Some people have responded in kind.But I don't know that isolated individuals modeling civility - no matter how perfectly and how regularly - is enough.  So my question is how do we get others to move beyond this sentiment - that civility is only valued until someone throws the first stone (posted in the comment section on Ohio.com):

"I think this whole conversation is really missing the point. In general, it's a good idea to be civil unless someone verbally attacks you then have at it. "

Stones are pretty easy to find - even when they weren't lobbed at us intentionally, and if that is all it takes to justify abandoning civility, it will be pretty hard to stop the cycle.

 

 

 

 

 

 
John Green
on Jun 13, 2012

I'm convinced that there are many causes of the present incivility. One set of problems seem to be related to the rhetoric of actors in the political process: public officials, political activists, and the news media. But another set of problems seem to be related to the reactors to political rhetoric, chiefly the public at large.

In a 2011 survey of Ohions, we found that that the public saw plenty of blame to go around among political actors, with about one-third saying that public officials, political activists, and the new media were each the "most important" cause of incivility. 

But interestingly, the respondents did not think that the public--that is themselves--were much to blame: less than one-tenth identified the public as the "most important" cause of incivility.  

At the minimum, these patterns suggest a lack of common expectations about civil discourse among actors and reactors. 

 
Nancy Reeves
on Jun 13, 2012

I wonder how much the survey results you mentioned are connected with a sense of life being beyond our personal control.

It reminds me of another conversation I had recently, which I'm still struggling to wrap my mind around.  A question was posed about what the world would look like if religious institutions vanished.  About a third of the group predicted a large increase in crime and other uncivil behavior - as if the individuals who would be inclined to participate in such behavior were somehow being kept barely under control by these religious institutions.   This is sort of the flip perspective - that external forces are causing us to step over the line (rather than enforcing the line) but the concept is similar and, to my mind, equally mystifying.

 
Dan Stefancik
on Jun 13, 2012

You say you surveyed Ohioans, but did you survey the politicians themselves to ask why they are uncivil? It would be interesting to hear, in their own words, why politicians feel it is now necessary and appropriate to launch personal attacks on opposing individuals instead of just arguing the pertinent issues of the campaign.

 
Louis Alloro
on Jul 26, 2012

Great conversation - and a topic I'm passionate about. Have recently read The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided By Religion & Politics by Jonathan Haidt who makes an amazing scientific argument: that we have been conditioned to believe that it's "Me vs. You" when in reality, our wiring would suggest that it's "Me and You" -- (research studies show people prefer to collaborate over compete). As Joni Mitchell says, "It's time we get back to the garden." See a good review of the book here and my interview with the author where he provides practical applications of is MORAL INTUITION THEORY. (There's even a shout out to Cleveland in there.)

I think it's all about learning to think differently - transcending self interest - and contributing to the greater good of our communities without pinning people with differeing views as evil. We must stop demonizing the other. I realize this sounds harsh but it's exactly what incivility is.

Louis Alloro

www.somoleadershiplabs.com 

 

 
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