In the Oct. 4 "New Yorker," Rebecca Mead (left) begins an article about Delaware's GOP candidate for U.S. Senate, Christine O'Donnell (for whom I wouldn't vote, incidentally), and other Tea Party conservatives with a long paragraph about Great Britain's Official Monster Raving Loony Party. "One [candidate] promised to stick juvenile delinquents together with Super Glue," Mead writes, "and one...campaigned on an anti-gravity platform." Mead explicitly puts O'Donnell in this category and lists the reasons: She wears a beehive hairdo at times, went through a Goth phase, is an evangelical Christian who opposes premarital sex and homosexuality, and defaulted on a mortgage.
It troubles me when people call those with whom they disagree crazy. The Soviet Union took the concept to its logical extreme by imprisoning dissidents in mental hospitals. "The New Yorker" just thought it was being funny. But its Googleicious attack on O'Donnell didn't contribute anything to the reader's understanding of her popularity. Calling somebody nuts in tendentious 15-sentence paragraphs is the Upper East Side equivalent of Tea Party signs attacking President Obama. Whether written on a MacBook or poster board from Michael's, they contribute in equal measure to everybody's favorite subject (besides their rivals' moral unworthiness, of course): Declining civility.