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Civility matters

Elizabeth Thompson
Elizabeth Thompson
From the Editor
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A real piece of shit.

A garbage human being.

Where’s your Nazi uniform?

Many of you have already seen this video made at our recent IndyTalks event by a member of the Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America. He initially pretended to be friendly and then verbally attacked a guest (and candidate for governor: Joe Lombardo).

It is appalling that someone would come to an event expressly centered on, and billed as, a respectful conversation about public policy and pull such a nasty stunt — one obviously designed to get maximum attention on social media — but these are apparently the times we live in. (If you missed it, a similar (but worse) incident involving Gov. Sisolak and his wife occurred quite recently.) 

The offending person is banned from future Indy events, and the same will go for anyone who harasses our guests or trashes the space we provide for elevated dialogue about important issues. Quite a few Nevadans chimed in once they saw the video. The governor, whom Joe Lombardo is seeking to challenge:

Democratic Assemblyman Howard Watts III:

NV GOP chief Michael McDonald:

And Lombardo himself:

Other voices on Twitter:

Since Jon Ralston and I started The Indy in 2017, we have attempted to provide and cultivate spaces where respectful dialogue can occur about important public policy issues. We want robust, even aggressive debates. We actively invite dissonance and disagreement, and have kept our comments section open on both our news and opinion articles so people can state their opinions on our website.

Why? Because people have a First Amendment right to speak out (and even to call politicians names) — but a stunt like the one at IndyTalks is over the top, and goes against the intent of the event, which was to raise the level of dialogue in the public space.

In that same vein, our Opinion page is a space where we welcome thoughtful, fact-based comers, regardless of where they may fall on the political spectrum. However, we do not welcome or want name-calling, verbal abuse, disrespect or ad hominem attacks. 

I am disturbed by the coarsening of public dialogue on social media and in real life. Some members of our society now seem to think it’s “cool” to harass and/or threaten public figures and get Likes from those who share their worldview and don’t mind using profanity, name-calling and even appropriating the Holocaust:

Mr. Malin is correct on all counts. 

As noted already, people have the right under the First Amendment to call their elected officials whatever they want — but before they start slinging slurs, they should ask themselves whether they are really trying to bring change or whether they are just looking for a quick, cheap emotional payoff.

The person who did this may feel like he won, but what's the point if nothing changes policy-wise, what you did causes many people to feel bad for the person you were calling out, and you will now likely never be taken seriously in a major policy arena? Just because you have the right to do something doesn't make it the right—or smart—thing to do.

In closing, I’d like to note that it is a bit sad that more people know about our IndyTalks event (and that most other news outlets only covered it afterwards) because of the video stunt, rather than because of general enthusiasm for an important discussion between the superintendent of the Clark County School District, the executive director of the teachers union and a veteran teacher.

A robust democracy depends, in part, on civil public debate. Let’s have more of it, shall we?

Stay tuned for our next IndyTalks event.

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