Once again, MSNBC is host to a vicious, nasty attack directed at a lady because she doesn't hold 'progressive' political opinions. Jenn Q. Public has a list of prior offenses for the character involved here, one Keith Olbermann. He's one of the few TV hosts I'm familiar with, because AFN played his show in the DFAC about the time I'd take lunch chow every day.

Ms. Public has covered some of his historic offenses, but it's worth remembering the treatment Chris Matthews gave the same lady. Zell Miller remembered it, in the famous interview he did with Chris Matthews after his 2004 speech at the Republican National Convention.

Zell was right: it is a shame that we can't challenge people to a duel. As a distant second-best option, however, Ms. Public suggests you might write the network. Since these networks are in show business, and controversy means viewers, I doubt that will do more than encourage the thuggery; but if you like, she has the addresses on her site.

UPDATE: In the comments section of a post about Google searches as they apply to the failed relationships between modern men and women, Cassandra writes:

I rarely hear anyone acknowledge that a man who behaved the way many men behave today would have been shunned by society when I was growing up. Men, too, are demanding that behaviors society has never approved of be not just legitimized but mainstreamed and approved of.

I would not want to have to raise a daughter in today's climate.
This is exactly the kind of thing she's talking about. The reason we've got this kind of behavior going on is that we've created a society in which the rude are completely protected from any sort of reprisal.

It's exactly like the way that virtual communication leads to flaming: because you have removed the physical elements of the communication, there's nothing except personal character to stop people from flaring up emotionally at each other. This is a well-known phenomenon among bloggers, though it predates blogs, and has been observed since the beginning of internet communication.

The removal of the duel -- and the practice of filing criminal charges for assault every time a jerk gets a punch in the face -- has performed a similar transformation on non-virtual society. Neither Chris Matthews nor Keith Olbermann is the sort who would dare to speak that way in the presence of a man like Zell Miller if he were permitted the duel he wanted, even though Zell is spotting them both about fifty years.

Instead, modern society has made the good men powerless to do anything about the bad ones. You can point out that they are mannerless, cowardly puppies; but the more they get called names, the more attention they get, and the more money they make. They are actually rewarded for their bad behavior. Of course you're seeing more bad behavior as a result, and of course their model is being emulated by young people who witness it and see it being rewarded.

Like the internet flamer, they find that all restraints on their worst impulses have been removed. There is nothing to stop them from being abusive except their personal character. If they have any, it is clearly overwhelmed by the actual monetary rewards paid to them for generating controversy.

Of course things are getting worse: there is a powerful, practical mechanism to encourage them to get worse. There is no similar mechanism to ratchet things back the other way. It's been removed from society, and we are seeing the natural consequences of that.

UPDATE: Cassandra's use of Google inspired me to do a little self-check to see how well we've lived up to these standards here. I Googled for three common insults used against women. (You can click the links to see the terms, if you wonder which ones I searched for, but your imaginations will probably work fine.)

In the history of the site, there are three uses of the first, plus one use of the "-y" version: all in block quotes from other pieces, one of them a reference to a man ("son of a..."); two of the others quotes from other women (including Peggy Noonan!); and the third a quote from a Navy SEAL, who was not directing it at women particularly, but just employing a profanity to suggest emphasis in the way that sailors will.

There are no instances of the second.

The third has one citation, another block quote, from an author who agrees that Britney Spears "dresses like a...," but not that she is one.

All of the posts featuring quotes including these words were mine. None of my co-bloggers have ever employed any of them, even in block quotes from other places. I'm proud of them for that, and want to say so.

I invite readers to apply a similar test to any male-run progressive site they like.

Profanity isn't everything, though. Equally important is your treatment of individual women to whom you are opposed politically or culturally. You might wish to contrast our treatment of, say, Cindy Sheehan with how Mrs. Palin was treated at those progressive sites.

For those of you who choose to test your own sites, and are ashamed with what you find? I call on you to do better in the future.

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