We used to be a more polite society. We used to be less rude to each other. And I have a theory as to why — it’s because there is not an immediate consequence for being rude to someone anymore.
There was a time, if you insulted a man to his face — acted demeaning towards him, made fun of him, or were generally acting an ass — it would result in immediate corrective behavior therapy: a punch in the face.
That’s right — I’m suggesting we’re less civil towards each other because there is almost no fear of a retaliatory-fist in the face. We’re no longer afraid of the consequences of being rude and surly (because there are so seldom any consequences), so we no longer refrain from acting like a total ass to others.
But if you thought that there was any change at all that the guy sitting next to you might punch you in the mouth for being rude or insulting to him, you’d probably keep your comments to yourself. And thus an air of civility would prevail.
If I had been sitting next to Stephen Colbert at a bar, and he talked to me the way he did in his attempt at comedy in front of President Bush, I would have asked him to step outside or shut his pie-hole. He would not have had a third option.
Richard Cohen at the Washington Post has similar thoughts about Colbert’s recent roasting of our President:
The sort of stuff that would get you punched in a bar can be said on a dais with impunity. This is why Colbert was more than rude. He was a bully.
I’ve found the best way to deal with these types of rude-because-they-don’t-fear-consequences assholes is to simply call them out. Get up in their face, and tell them they can either quit acting like an ass, or backup their blustering by stepping outside. It’s been my experience that 95 out of 100 men will back down with their tails between their legs (here in Austin, that figure comes closer to 99 out of 100).
Cohen thinks the problem is systemic:
Why are you wasting my time with Colbert, I hear you ask. Because he is representative of what too often passes for political courage, not to mention wit, in this country…
Colbert was not just a failure as a comedian but rude. Rude is not the same as brash. It is not the same as brassy. It is not the same as gutsy or thinking outside the box. Rudeness means taking advantage of the other person’s sense of decorum or tradition or civility that keeps that other person from striking back or, worse, rising in a huff and leaving. The other night, that person was George W. Bush.
Yep. Colbert might be a tough guy behind a dais in front of a crowded room, but you just know that he’d cry like a little girl if actually confronted by a man calling him out.
MORE: Hah — Glenn Reynolds says that he’ll consider Colbert “brave” when he “mocks Mohammed on the air”.
That’ll be the day.