Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children?

Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children?
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When Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” he may have been right — then. Today, our definition of words is much more fluid and the latest debate centers around the word “mob,” defined by the dictionary as “a crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble.”  

Cell phone videos proliferate of scenes such as the group chanting, “We believe survivors,” as they crowded around Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report 2020 Democrats call for Kavanaugh to be impeached Warren: Kavanaugh 'should be impeached' just like Trump MORE (R-Texas) and his wife on a dinner date, screaming and driving the couple from the restaurant. Defenders of the screamers characterize them as “protestors.” Lawrence Jacobs, director of the center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, is stepping up to the plate with a denial, “Hardly something I would describe as a mob,” creatively describing scenes such as the people clawing at the door of the U.S. Supreme Court, ostensibly to confront newly-confirmed Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report Kavanaugh remains guilty until proven innocent, according to Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh MORE, as “noisy democracy,” echoing the words of Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms Trump defends push to ban flavored e-cigarettes: Let's 'keep young children from Vaping!' Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine MORE (D-Ill.)

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They’re certainly noisy, and there’s certainly a link to leaders of the Democratic Party such as Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersManufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Democrats' impeachment message leads to plenty of head-scratching Trump officials vow to reform Fannie, Freddie if Congress doesn't act MORE. In June, at a rally, and then again in a TV interview, the California congresswoman urged participants, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gas station, you get out and you create a crowd,” adding, “And you tell them they’re not welcome any more.”

CNN anchors have dubbed what happens when a “crowd” gets together as “the M word,” and have told contributors to “shut up” when they insisted that the Cruzes had been “mobbed.”

It’s amusing to turn the clock back to 2009 and 2010 to see how the media characterized the Tea Party. The favorite words were nut bags, radicals, extremists, hysterical, furious and dangerous. Quickly, these words were accompanied by the charge that Tea Party members were all racists who were, according to the New York Times, lighting a “powder keg” of nativists, separatists and militia. One columnist wrote about a “tsunami of anger” and compared them to Nazis. Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson accused them of “paranoid ravings.”

Eight years ago, the media’s proof for these charges was pictures of signs held by individuals, exemplified by a picture accompanying a Vox article, “How Southern racism found a home in the Tea Party,” of a mustached, middle-aged, overweight, T-shirted man with a sign, “We don’t want socialism you arrogant Kenyan.” The existence of any single sign became a proxy for the entire group. Even the video was mostly people just holding signs. And there were plenty of obnoxious signs, just as there were comparing President George W. Bush to Hitler, but the anti-Bush signs and “noisy democracy” protestors — such as the group that tried to carry out a citizen’s arrest of Bush adviser Karl Rove — generally were ignored by the mainstream media.

Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderEric Holder says Trump is subject to prosecution after leaving office Eric Holder: Democrats 'have to understand' that 'borders mean something' Trump lawyers ask judge to toss out Dems' tax return lawsuit MORE, a possible presidential candidate, campaigning over the weekend, rephrased a 2016 comment of Michelle Obama, saying, “When they go low, we kick ’em,” later insisting, “When I say, you know, ‘We kick ’em,’ I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate.” Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul: Almost every mass shooter 'is sending off signals' Liz Cheney says world is more stable, 'safer' under Trump Sunday shows preview: Democratic candidates make the rounds after debate MORE’s wife, Kelley, recently shared a letter she wrote to Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWorking Families Party endorses Warren after backing Sanders in 2016 Five top 2020 Democrats haven't committed to MSNBC climate forum Progressive tax-the-rich push gains momentum MORE (D-N.J.), who also urged people to harass Republicans. She told him her husband was “besieged in the airport” by people who screamed, inches from his face.

Most Americans would deem all these behaviors “inappropriate,” and since they are obviously organized, they merit the description. They smell like “the M word.”  

Now that we’ve moved the boundaries on what is acceptable “noisy democracy,” what can we do? My children loved the popular series of children’s books created by Stan and Jan Berenstain. In “The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners,” Mama Bear is so annoyed by the cubs’ rudeness and treatment of each other that she creates a “politeness plan.” She creates a chart listing various penalties, sort of a grading system.

Maybe, we in the ancillary media should create something like it. The Cruz and Rand Paul scenes get an M; other scenes might rate as ND, or “noisy democracy.” The Berenstain cubs first mocked the politeness plan, but eventually it had an impact. It may be just children’s fiction but when people are behaving like children, it’s worth trying.

Merrie Spaeth, a Dallas communications consultant, was President Reagan’s director of media relations. Follow her on Twitter @SpaethCom.