It seems that the new political environment of free speech has spiraled into an acceptance of hate speak. From conservative talk radio to comments from viewers on newspaper websites, the line in the sand on what is permissible in journalism has moved from “politically correct” to grossly inappropriate and vulgar.

The examples are endless, but last week on MSNBC, I was reminded of how far or how low free speech in journalism has sunk. TIME magazine editor-at-large and senior political analyst Mark Halperin called President Obama “ kind of a dick.”

Comedian and Daily Show host Jon Stewart’s commentary was an interesting one, he suggested that people could argue whether Halperin’s comment was appropriate or not “or whether journalism has lost its professionalism” but he concedes “that horse left the barn years and years ago.” While some media outlets are writing about the story and calling it a four-letter word instead of using the word, other outlets like the Huffington Post have contributors writing about the “dick dialogues”. But this blog post is not about the use of the word, it is about the growing insensitivity to stating derogatory and vulgar insults in the name of journalism or the rights of the citizenry to free speech.

I will not blame the Tea Party or the Birthers for this surge of slanderous and sneering language usage but I think they have been ambassadors of vitriolic dialogue designed to incite anger as a messaging technique. Recently on the Atlanta Journal & Constitution website there was a story about a city clerk involved in an ethics investigation and the comments from viewers were vulgar and apparently uncensored, she was called “bitch” and “knee grow”, while there were several readers who commented on the escalating angry posts, there were not enough people who were outraged. Should the comments have been censored on a newspaper site? Absolutely, the more the language becomes acceptable the more escalating it becomes and before you know it—we have journalists calling the President “a kind of a dick.” The responsibility is all of ours, including the media.
It is political correct maybe to suspend Halperin for his comment, but he is still a journalist responsible for “some” objectivity even as an editor and that is the saddest commentary of all in this issue. I hate to believe that Jon Stewart maybe right, “the horse left the barn years and years ago” on that one.

Beverly Isom
Blogging While Blue


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