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Bitterness distracts, divides

October 19, 2008

Re "Down 'n' dirty beats dignity," Opinion, Oct. 14

To describe the audience's catcalls and insults that peppered the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Gillian Silverman uses such euphemisms as "raucous rejoinders," "irreverent commentary" and "uninhibited expression."

She also writes approvingly that the debates marked "that moment when politics became a form of mass entertainment," and that "none of this, however, detracted from the seriousness of the debates."

Of course it did. Catcalls and insults are not "civic engagement," as Silverman suggests. The drunk heckler is there to celebrate himself.

If Lincoln and Douglas successfully communicated their positions to anyone in attendance, it was despite the catcalls and insults.

Jim Woster

Los Angeles

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Now that we've heard from the English professor, maybe we should hear from the history professor, who can explain to Silverman that the angry and bitter partisan atmosphere in America at the time of the Lincoln-Douglas debates ultimately led to our Civil War.

Gregory Maya

Los Angeles

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