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Monday, 28 March 2011

E Plurius Pablum

Ken Burns at National Constitution Center
Richard Carreno/Writers Clearinghouse
Ken Burns, 'Diversity' Crowd
Call for Unified 'Civility'
at Constitution Center Love-in

By Richard Carreno
[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]
The National Constitution Center was converted into charm school last weekend as Ken Burns, the noted PBS-funded filmmaker known for making documentaries that popularize the popular, led a chorus of assembled main-stream media opinators for they called 'civility' in public discourse.

In other words, Burns, his production sidekick Lynn Novick and the others, including Chris 'The-Last-Time-I-Had-an-Original-Thought-was-in-1976' Satullo of WHYY,  envisaged something on the order of Meet the Press, the Sunday blah-blah 'news' show hosted by bore-meister David Gregory wherein opinions -- quite civilly presented, to be sure - range in the spectrum from A to B.

David Eisner, the center's head, introduced Burns and his crew at a press conference that preceded the weekend-long event titled 'Can We Talk? A Conversation about Civility and Democracy.' Joan Rivers it was not. Eisner gave Burns and Novick ample time to also plug the duo's new, upcoming PBS series on the Prohibition era.

All said, the announced partnership between the center and Burns, PBS, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, was a noble effort, though it smacked of more tea party (without the dainty doilies) than Tea Party (with china-breaking GOP Ludittes). Despite this particular table-setting, Eisner needs to congratulated for transforming the center -- with hits and misses -- into a compelling national venue.

The problem of course is that when the liberal MSM spouts its unified call for 'civility' --droning on from MSNBC's Chris Matthews to CNN's Wolf Blitzer -- what they are really calling for is inside the Beltway cant. Like Eisner, who praised 'diverse opinion,' they really mean the same opinion by a diverse cross-section of the like-minded.

What's missing in civil conversation is civil disorder. Yes, comity, but with wit, intelligence, and informed opinion. I'm reminded of debates I've attended at the Oxford Union at Oxford University. Sharp, challenging, penetrating -- with an occasional jab of ad hominem, though you'd hardly know it.