Abstract: It is tempting to assume that disagreements about the principles, policies and institutions that shape contemporary political life – especially the disagreements that emerge during contemporary political contests in the United States – are uniquely uncivil. But for much of human history, disagreement about such matters has often been a rough and tumble affair and the best evidence of this emerges in contests for political power. Unflattering epithets about political opponents can be found in hieroglyphics on the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, and political insult and invective were common in political competitions in ancient Rome. Moreover, with the rise of the modern political campaign and increased sophistication and complexity in the means for transmitting and targeting campaign messages innuendo, rumor, and even outright character assassination, became familiar fixtures of political life.
Comment: Discusses disagreement in politics, and how disagreement can remain respectful. Also considers the decline of civility in discourse in America and why civil disagreement is important.