Civility working bibliography
Focusing question: Lately there’s a lot in the news about how hateful speech is in America, especially when it comes to politics. Is this true, or are we just more sensitive to it now?
1. Kasson, John F. Rudeness & Civility: Manners in Nineteenth-Century Urban America. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1999. Print. In the second sentence of the introduction, Kasson writes that his book “opposes the belief that manners have been in a steady state of decline for a very long time and are now worse than ever.” According to Kasson manners as we currently perceive them arose mostly in the 19th century urbanization. He also seems to be saying that they primarily were developed to keep power in the hands of those represented by the captains of industry.
2. Gillis, Charlie. "Rude Awakening." Maclean's. 05 Apr 2004: 28-32. "According to surveys taken in the U.S., fully eight out of 10 Americans consider incivility to be a serious problem, while 61 percent think it has worsened in recent years." The author examines the problem of incivility and the causes behind it, namely stress and anonymity in modern society. Another quote from the article: “[one leading cause of incivility is the] protective shell of anonymity modern society provides us.”
3. McMahon, Patrick. "Civility and Politeness Bloom from Tragedy's Ashes." USA TODAY. Sept. 19 2001: 8D. After the 2001 terrorist attacks: “As the USA grapples with national tragedy, strangers are talking on city buses, shoppers are more polite in grocery checkout lines, and road rage seems to have eased on highways. Crime in some cities in down. People say they have cried openly and shamelessly. A new civility has taken hold, at least temporarily." This article describes how in the wake of terrorist attacks, people are showing more civility and politeness in their everyday actions.” Things changed fairly quickly afterward though.
4. Papacharissi, Zizi. “Democracy online: civility, politeness, and the democratic potential of online political discussion groups.” New Media & Society 6.2 (2004): 259-283. <http://nms.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.1177/1461444804041444>. “While scholars often use civility and politeness interchangeably, this study argues that this conflation ignores the democratic merit of robust and heated discussion. Therefore, civility was defined in a broader sense, by identifying as civil behaviors that enhance democratic conversation. In support of this distinction, the study results revealed that most messages posted on political newsgroups were civil, and further suggested that because the absence of face-to-face communication fostered more heated discussion, cyberspace might actually promote Lyotard’s vision of democratic emancipation through disagreement and anarchy (Lyotard, 1984). Thus, this study supported the internet’s potential to revive the public sphere, provided that greater diversity and volume of discussion is present.”This goes counter to what I thought. I’ve been hearing that Internet discussion boards have been fueling the rise in uncivil discourse.
5. Schudel, Matt. "Nasty As We Wanna Be." Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, FL). Feb. 22 1998: Mag. Sec. 8+. This article documents what the author describes as a steady decline regarding civility. Something worthy of note, however, is that the author states that things started getting bad in the mid-1980s. This seems like the kinds of things we’re reading today. This source would support the argument that things are steadily going downhill. Here’s a quote from the article: “The dictionary defines incivility as "a lack of courtesy or politeness." Once you're aware of it, you see it everywhere. It's practically the defining ethos of modern life. It has become so pervasive that, according to a 1996 poll for U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, 89 percent of all Americans consider incivility a serious problem in our society. More than three-quarters of all Americans believe it has gotten worse in the last 10 years.”
6. Yankelovich, Daniel. "Having It All." Inc. Technology. Sept. 1999: 80+ The author has been surveying American attitudes for over 40 years. In this excerpt from his book Yankelovich writes: "The nation now  finds itself in the early stages of a struggle for the soul of America. It is a struggle between two equally legitimate but one-sided visions of our future: the Vision of the Free Market and the Vision of Civil Society. Underlying the first vision is the conviction that in the new global economy, the free market...will shape a more prosperous democracy and a more secure world....The conviction supporting the second is that to renew our society...we must find a way to strengthen the values of...mutual concern for one another." (INC.) This article, excerpted from Daniel Yankelovich's The Magic of Dialogue, examines the importance of dialogue in reaching mutual understanding of this complex situation. This source, like the Kasson book, would refute the claim that civility is waning. More importantly it questions civility itself. Is politeness really the ultimate goal? Some of the best reforms wouldn’t have materialized if politeness were the goal.