"Barack Obama Lamented the Attack on Paul Pelosi. Then He Got Heckled," indignantly exclaimed the New York Times in one of those annoying two-sentence headlines that are specifically designed to push the outrage button.
Obama, with a well-worn penchant for lecturing mere citizens for having the occasional audacity to raise their voices and talk back to their rulers and other experts, was not about to let Friday's vicious attack on Paul Pelosi go to waste. He led the Democratic Party charge in making it a campaign issue in its own right, conflating the assault on Pelosi with the plague of "incivility" sweeping the nation.
Now, in case you were wondering what two separate hecklers actually shouted out to Obama at a midterm campaign rally in Detroit on Saturday, the article doesn't say. The subject matter is not the point. The etiquette is. So despite the fact that it didn't hear or report on the words, the Times doubled right down in decrying the continuing "incivility" in politics. The second shouter was even "escorted out" of the rally by armed security guards. That factoid alone should leave readers drawing the conclusion that anyone daring to interrupt such a revered politician in these fraught times is by very definition a violent being, and a clear and present danger to the status quo.
The Times's implied characterization of both the hecklers as anti-Pelosi thugs is not supported by any evidence whatsoever. According to the Paper of Record, it went down like this:
“We’ve got politicians who work to stir up division to try to make us angry and afraid of one another for their own advantage,” Mr. Obama said. “Sometimes it can turn dangerous.”
Moments later, the man, who was not identified, shouted “Mr. President” at Mr. Obama, creating an off-script exchange that the former president tried to use to drive home his point. The rest of what the man said was not picked up by microphones or cameras.
“This is what I mean,” Mr. Obama said. “Right now, I’m talking. You’ll have a chance to talk sometime.”
What, exactly, is "uncivil" about prefacing a shouted statement with the honorific "Mr President?'
And despite the article's original claim that the outburst was the direct result of Obama's remarks about Pelosi, the paper belatedly admits that the shouting didn't erupt until "moments" after that part of the speech sympathizing with the House Speaker's family had concluded.
Obama himself jumped at the chance to make a triple connection: the violent rhetoric of the extreme right, leading to the attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, followed by disruptions at the campaign rally that he was headlining.
With the advantage of a stage and a microphone and an armed security detail, Obama continued to hector the first heckler:
Mr. Obama told the man, “You wouldn’t do that a workplace. It’s not how we do things. This is part of the point I want to make. Just basic civility and courtesy works.”
That actually speaks whole volumes. Obama admits that the capitalistic workplace is about as far away from democracy that you can get in America. When you go to work, you are expected to leave all your basic human rights and needs at the door, lest you lose your job and the ability to even live. If you are, however, properly quiet and obsequious to your boss, then you will be left alone until such time that you get old or sick or hurt, or become otherwise unprofitable or redundant.
"Basic civility and courtesy works," all right - for the anti-union bosses, owners, and the investors in the company.
Obama, meanwhile, got the crowd firmly on his side and not on the side of the two dissenters. Even as he decried how Republicans cynically pit regular people against one another for their own enrichment, the former president himself pitted the people in the crowd against each another. It was a massive pile-on. The people who cheered and applauded Obama for "schooling" the hecklers probably never even heard a word of what they said. As far as they were concerned, rudely interrupting a celebrity politician automatically cancels out all concerns or grievances, no matter how legitimate they may be.
It turns out there are more ways than Trumpism to threaten an alleged democracy.
"You'll get a chance to talk sometime," were Obama's own dismissive parting words to the first interrupter. Of course, as far as the professional political class is concerned, the only proper place to "talk sometime" is inside a voting booth every couple of years. Or on very special, rare occasions, it may be acceptable to participate in a very civil, polite march against Donald Trump, or against the right-wing thugs on the Supreme Court... as long as it's not anywhere near their homes or favorite restaurants, of course.
In the interim, liberals are often urged to thrill to the virtue-signaling words of Michelle Obama: "When they go low, we go high." So, as fascistic as the Republican Party may be, professional Democrats themselves must constantly strive to be above it all and to civilly reach across that proverbial aisle to them, even to the point of their arms getting ripped out of their sockets. How else can they politely collude on waging the forever wars, and cutting Social Security as the price we all must pay for their cordial midnight agreement to raise the debt ceiling?
The trouble is, despite what these professionals say, the government and its two establishment parties are not just like a family. The CIA is neither intelligent nor part of a "community." Calling the US war machine the Department of Defense is a sick joke. But it's ever so civil.
Politics is not and never was civil. Nor should it be. It's always a struggle and it's often messy. Therefore, the top-down lectures about "civility" from a former president who deported more people, dropped more bombs, prosecuted more whistleblowers and waged more wars than any of his predecessors are laughable on their face.
Obama lecturing others about "civility" is, however, the time-honored way in which rulers shut down opposition and the voicing of legitimate concerns. The ploy of immediately going on the offensive against powerless people also serves to conveniently absolve themselves of culpability for their own foul deeds. After all, since they themselves have such impeccably good manners and have such well-modulated, reasonable tones of voice, they can get away with anything.
Obama himself has crafted such an incandescent and impervious media image that of all the basketball teams on the planet, he is reportedly choosing to buy a stake in the Phoenix Suns. As one NBC sports pundit tells it, "the money guys would be so happy to have him in the front."