Oklahoma State University
Professor weighs in on civility in political speech PDF  | Print |
Friday, 21 January 2011 15:05

In light of the Arizona shooting and the national debate on civility and political speech, political science Professor Rebekah Herrick offers insight into the nature and future of political speech.

Herrick said negative political speech is not necessarily more prevalent today, but more apparent because of the amount of communication platforms available.

“The forums of the computer make a big difference in terms of the freedom that people have to make visceral kinds of statements,” Herrick said. “It’s real easy for people to say even more inflammatory things than they would say to somebody in person.”

However prevalent political speech might be, Herrick said once the normal political process is negatively affected, it has gone too far.

“If we start to see voter turnout start falling and it becomes more difficult to get people to run for office for fear that they’re going to be so personally attacked that nobody wants to serve, then I think it becomes problematic.”

The consequences of recent incidents have resulted in what Herrick thinks will be a short-term change in the nature of American politics, including different conversation tactics and the way bills are titled and discussed.

“A lot of people have changed their conversations on the floor. They’re not attacking individuals who have supported a bill, but attacking the government, so I think there’s been some immediate change.”

But Herrick adds she doesn’t imagine these changes lasting very long.

“In the long term, I don’t think it’s going to have any effect because I think it’s politically expedient, and I think it’s also become such the norm of politics that it’s going to be hard for people to really step back.”