Wednesday, October 10, 2012


     At risk of sounding like an old fogey, I remember a time when people being interviewed for television or newspapers, minded their language.  For the few who forgot, the tv and radio media would use their bleep button and the newspapers typed in (expletive deleted.)  In my part of the world, all that has gone away.  Even our public broadcaster, the CBC allows vulgar and profane comments on prime time. 
     I first became aware of this degradation of public civility when I was a young school teacher.  There was a labour dispute in our area and the spokesperson for one side use swear words in an interview and the broadcaster let them go.  Perhaps the union spokesman was using the language of the shop floor, perhaps he was trying to show his members that he was a strong advocate, perhaps he hoped to intimidate the other side.  Whatever his motives, the result was to
debase the argument into a school yard
shouting match, with each side ramping up
the volume and objectifying their opponent as some sort of subhuman monster. Needless to say, the people engaged in this public spectacle were not well disposed to meeting together and hammering out a new contract.
   That initial awareness came to me many years ago and since that time the level of incivility in public discourse has risen (or sunk?) in an ever escalating curve.  The entertainment industry seems to consider lots of swearing necessary to the success of a movie or television show.  Even so called "date" movies assault the listeners ears with obscenities.  Swearing is now so pervasive and casual that it has lost much of its shock value, and has becoming tiresome and boring instead.
   In the USA they are into an election campaign.  The first televised debate was a low-key, polite affair and the pundits and politicos have jumped all over President Obama for not taking a more offensive stance.  No doubt, we'll hear more character assassination in the coming weeks. 
     In Canada, my own province is heading into an election next May, so the parties and candidates are staking out their ground now.  To my surprise and delight, I heard one politician say, "It serves no purpose to tear down these good people personally, and I am not going to do it."  Good people?  He called the opposing party, "good people!"  Wow!  I'm encouraged.  I'll vote for this candidate.  Someone who recognizes that all who seek to serve in public office are deserving of respect at a personal level.  One may hate their politics, but the candidates are "good people."  So, I'm proudly donning my old fogey hat and 
telling everyone who solicits my vote that (s)he will have to show a respectful attitude to colleagues and critics alike before I place my x by his/her name on the ballot. 
   I've already given up movies that contain the "coarse language" warning and I won't buy books filled with profanity.   As a follower of Christ, can I do less?  Perhaps if we all banded together and refused to let the foul-mouthed invade our screens and our personal space, we could raise the level of civil in civil society.
     What about you?  Is public debate in your county respectful and productive?   If it isn't, what will you do about it? 

Alice Valdal is sometimes rendered speechless by those who spout misbegotten, ill-informed, wrong-headed and backward politics, yet she strives to refrain from uttering derogatory, insulting and obnoxious comments to such benighted individuals opting instead to discuss the policy, not the person.  She is very glad for forums such as ICFW that allow debate and the expression of ideas without fear of personal attack.
Her website is
She also blogs at


  1. Well said, Alice. Sadly, it's not just your country. And it's not just about language. The whole way people treat one another today is distressing.

  2. Glad the disrespective tone isn't unique to Canada, although it would be nice if we could point to somewhere and say "that's how we should act."

  3. Language -it's in Australia too. Started to watch an Aussie TV show the other night. After five minutes when we had heard the same word more than a dozen times we turned it off. As for public debate - they are usually too busy trying to tear the other party down rather than say what they stand for.Things like twitter have only made things worse. Behind anonymity at times people think they can say what they like about others and they do - some of it very offensive.

  4. More people need to state what you've just stated, Alice. I'm in the U.S. and things have grown out of control, especially in regards to the political race. It strikes me more like a 3-ring circus at times with no honorable ring leader. Anyway it's refreshing to hear that I'm not so alone in my feelings, because I often wish things were different and that people behaved differently. Appreciate your blog post...