Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Salt Lake Chamber and Civility:

The Chamber of Commerce called for civility in a recent article.  Here's how the article put it:

"Besides honing Utah's approach to immigration, chamber leaders urged civility in public discourse."


The Chamber is making a call to civility in a general way - to apply to all public discourse.

However, the article is heavily focused on immigration and it is hard to not conclude that immigration is a special area of concern to the Chamber. 

Who can argue with the call to civility either in general or as applied to a specific area of concern?

Clearly there are strong emotions on all sides of this issue.  Without civility, it seems unlikely that much productive discussion or work will be accomplished.   

But, in calling for civility, we may wish to consider how civil some have been with whom the Chamber of Commerce finds kinship.

Is their call to civility a call to a principle that all sides should adhere to or is it a principle being put forth to control the debate so that only one side is heard?

The Chamber tells us it was part of the efforts to create the Utah Compact, for instance.  From the Chamber report mentioned in the article:

"The Utah Compact – Working with community leaders, law enforcement officers, Utah’s religious communities and other business associations, the Chamber helped to develop The Utah Compact. The Compact has been lauded nationally and adopted by other states and municipalities across the country, while bringing a more reasoned approach to the immigration discussion."


Indeed, the Chamber even reproduces the Compact's principles on page 12 of its report.

While I do not know who actually runs "The Utah Compact" page on Facebook, it seems reasonable to assume it is someone who is attached to the official Utah Compact group in some fashion. 

If you go to this facebook page and click on the "Notes" button, you will find that the page has reproduced a New York Times editorial from December 4, 2010 (

At itself, the editorial is linked as well:

The original at the New York Times is at:

Notice also on the media page for the Utah Compact that Marty Carpenter of the Salt Lake Chamber is listed as a media contact for the Utah Compact.

Let's examine briefly a quote or two from this editorial to see how "civil" it is to those holding a divergent view. 

The first quote:
"Not all the political news this year involves the rise of partisan extremism and government by rage. There has been lots of that. But maybe there is a limit, a point when people of good sense and good will band together to say no. As they have just done in Utah"

Are you for the Utah Compact?  Then you have good sense and are standing up to extremists!  At least, according to the world being portrayed by the New York Times.  Those who are not on board with the Utah Compact program are being demonized.  Is that civil?  Cannot opponents of illegal immigration who want different solutions be people of good will?

Here's how the Times contrasted Utah's approach with Arizona's SB1070 approach:

"South of Utah in Arizona, the political establishment, top law-enforcement officers and voters have lined up behind a radical go-it-alone strategy to uproot and terrorize unwanted immigrants. That hard-line fever is spreading, with lawmakers in other states scrambling to pass their versions of the infamous Arizona law that empowers the police to demand people’s papers."

Sounds pretty horrific, doesn't it? 

It is clearly meant to.  Again, is characterizing enforcement of immigration laws in this fashion, and by implication those who wish such laws enforced, civil?  No.  It is meant to position the reader on the side of the position of the New York Times and to demonize opponents of that view as extremists who essentially want and are willing to terrorize people. 

If this is how the matter is portrayed in the media, i.e., with little or no real civil discussion of varying viewpoints on illegal immigration and options for enforcement, then we do not have civil discourse.  The call to civility will be merely one of allowing those holding the media cards to stand on a pedestal and point the finger at their political opponents.

If the Chamber is serious about civility, they might begin by calling for those running "The Utah Compact" facebook page and the website to not reproduce uncivil discourse from the media and to remove links to offensive editorials, such as that by the New York Times.

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