5/29/2012: At the most recent UO Senate meeting President Rob Kyr announced that Pres Berdahl had asked him to appoint committees to address three issues: conflicts of interest, personal attacks, and leadership. Don’t get me started on the UO administration’s surplus of conflicts of interests and their shortage of leadership. But the British Parliament has a long and honorable history of personal attacks, and their rules might be useful for us to consider.
MPs can be reprimanded using the words above in debate. William Safire published a bit on this back in1984, in honor of the addition of “fascist” to the list of banned insults. And just in case, the benches are famously set two sword lengths apart. Ironically, the full list of forbidden words is in the “Erskine May” or guide to parliamentary practice, which is copyrighted and not (legally) available online. Just like Oregon’s public records manual, until a few years ago.
A few days ago there was an interesting discussion in the Guardian on the role of insults in the MP’s civil discourse:
David Cameron’s cheerful ripsnorter in the Commons, calling Ed Balls a “muttering idiot”, was probably unparliamentary, yes – but it was also perfectly justified and it made decent political sense. I don’t have much time for Speaker John Bercow but he was technically right to ask Cameron to withdraw the word “idiot”. He immediately did so by calling him instead “the man who wrecked our economy”, or something similar. If parliamentary debate descends to mere insults, it dies. But Balls is an idiot, and Cameron, who said plenty of detailed, serious things in the half-hour of Prime Minister’s Questions, cheered everyone up no end by spanking the shadow chancellor….
… I don’t want PMQs turned into a bloodless, bowdlerised shadow of its rowdy self. Politicians are now so wise in the arts of stalling and obfuscating and dodging journalists’ questions that it has become more essential than ever for them to face the full force of their opponents. … but grown adults should be able to do so within the boundaries of civilised language.
Of course, I think the “stalling and obfuscating and dodging” by the UO administration is a far worse problem than the personal attacks – which they also dole out in good measure. FWIW, some helpful rules from the House of Lords involving conflicts of interest are here. Thanks to Cory Doctorow for some of these links.
Is that Dave Hubin moderating, 50s in?
A committee on “personal attacks”? That’s ridiculous. I could see having a committee on workplace civility. But, “personal attacks” is a term that powerful people will use to root out dissent, when you criticize people in power it is a “personal attack”, but when people in power criticize the rank and file, or make decisions that negatively affect people’s lives, that’s not a personal “attack”. Dumb.
Three committees to investigate, not substantive issues, but what amounts to more *process*?!!?!? The Senate can’t even fill its VP slot; who is going to serve on this? I’ve got to think Berdahl was pulling Kyr’s leg.