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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

It will take responsible leaders

Question: Vitriolic political rhetoric is on the rise for one simple reason: it works. In the wake of the tragic shooting in Tucson, what can political, business and community leaders do to change the political dynamic so that demonizing opponents is not a winning strategy? How do we end the rhetorical arms race?

It is not clear whether or not vicious rhetoric wins elections. It turns off many voters. But it does attract angry and unstable people who feel justified in expressing their irrational rage.

Provocative radio and TV commentators won't disappear as long as they draw a large audience. But unless responsible leaders reject followers in their own parties who preach lessons of hate, unstable listeners will continue to believe that destructiveness is OK.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, John McCain demonstrated responsible leadership, putting a stop to talk threatening Barack Obama. But it takes courage to denounce popular media figures. They will turn on anyone who challenges them, as we saw when Republicans who criticized Rush Limbaugh quickly backtracked.

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By Michael Maccoby

 |  January 11, 2011; 11:42 AM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Failures , Government leadership , Leadership weaknesses , Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please report offensive comments below.

"John McCain demonstrated responsible leadership, putting a stop to talk threatening Barack Obama. But it takes courage to denounce popular media figures."

This was one of McCain's more dignified moments, a show of transcendent leadership.

It does take courage to stand up to Limbaugh, Beck & Co. When Olbermann or Maddow make intensely derogatory statements, they should be held to task, too: by political leaders and the public.

But Republican moderates must lead the way against Limbaugh, who says "civility" is another word for "shut up". Free speech protects his denigration of those he disagrees with, just as the 1st Amendment protects crush videos. Stereotyping, scapegoating and dehumanization of one's fellow Americans has nothing to do with policy or ideas for improving America.

Both leaders and the public must listen to, and call out hosts for their derogatory statements. Media Matters has excellent, uninterrupted segments of talk programs that all responsible citizens should take a look at.

Posted by: post-it2 | January 14, 2011 3:07 PM
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