Features

View from the other side of the desk


David Lapakko, Dept. of Communication Studies, Film, and New Media


In this week’s midterm elections, both “red” and “blue” folks had something to cheer about. But nobody should be cheering about the new lows we have reached regarding civil discourse.

We in communication studies care about politics, and I’d be happy to share my views on specific political issues over a slice or two (or seven) of pizza. But the communication part stands separate from all that. We’re not talking about border walls here or trade agreements or defense policy or health care. We’re dealing with how people talk about each other and to each other, and in some ways, it’s never been this godawful.

I’m getting to be an old geezer, ancient enough to remember President Eisenhower (yikes!). In all those years, I have never ever seen presidential rhetoric that is so crass, so rude, so juvenile, so undignified, so dishonest and so mean-spirited. Agree with them or not on the issues, but people like the Bushes, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and, yes, Dwight Eisenhower were decent individuals who showed a basic respect for others. Not so with this POTUS.

If you think that “rhetoric” is just a bunch of empty words, think again.  Rhetoric matters and so does the tone of a president’s rhetoric; it resonates through the entire culture. In my lifetime, there is only one major party candidate who has been able to habitually call his opponents names like “Lyin’ Ted” or “Crooked Hillary” with impunity, and I can’t think of a single red or blue politician who has ever endorsed body-slamming reporters or beating up people with whom they disagree. That’s the most disappointing aspect of this presidency. Please do what you can to support civility in our dealings with others because we’ve lost any role models for it in the White House.

This article was originally published in the Nov. 9, 2018 issue.