Why can’t we all just get along? Well, for starters...
I was reminded of part of the answer to that question just a couple of days later, coincidentally enough, with the sudden and unexpected death of conservative firebrand Andrew Breitbart, who keeled over from a heart attack while walking near his home, at the age of 43. Breitbart was most notorious for his roles in the ACORN scandal (you remember, where a conservative provocateur dressed as a pimp was videotaped trying to get business advice from ACORN staffers) and the Shirley Sherrod controversy, where he edited video of one of Sherrod’s speeches to make it seem that Sherrod, an African-American USDA official, was boasting about discriminating against white farmers.
Breitbart’s stock-in-trade, it seems, was the artificial outrage, the manufactured shock, served up with a side of calculated indignation. He was quite willing—eager in fact—not only to exploit our differences, but to inflame them whenever possible. He was very adept at this, and his “talent” provided him with fame, influence and more than a little bit of money. He did not seem to pay much attention to the possible negative consequences of his stunts for others, or for the American system, but only to the benefits to be gained for himself and his ideology.
And here is the problem: as long as people like Breitbart can make money by fanning the flames of our discontent, and turning Americans against each other and away from each other, we will never have a civil political culture in this country—much less an effective one.