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Opinion: The Internet broke civil discourse in America

Anti-Trump protester Bryan Sanders, center left, is punched by a Trump supporter at a rally in Tucson, Ariz., on March 19, 2016.
Anti-Trump protester Bryan Sanders, center left, is punched by a Trump supporter at a rally in Tucson, Ariz., on March 19, 2016.
(Mike Christy / Associated Press)

To the editor: When personal computers and the Internet became ubiquitous, civility was dealt a final blow. It’s so easy to be nasty and cruel sitting at a keyboard, never seeing what impact the nastiness and vulgarity are having on the recipients of such missives. (“Trump didn’t birth American intolerance. He’s the manifestation of our long-disturbed national dialogue,” editorial, June 3)

When families stopped having at least dinner together at the same time and at the same table, simple manners stopped being taught; ordinary courtesies like “please” and “thank you” seem not to have been taught in years. The art and grace of communication are dead.

It was said decades ago that “small minds discuss people; average minds discuss events; great minds discuss ideas.” Modernly, as the New Yorker cartoon put it, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Stephany Yablow, North Hollywood

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To the editor: Day after day, the front-page headlines of your newspaper ring with negativity toward the president and his policies.

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For people who take the time to read, this editorial imbalance of coverage masquerading as news alienates and angers those who accept the outcome of the election. At the same time, it fuels the angst of those who do not.

Now, your editorial board attempts to come to the rescue by telling us “we must do better.” Your newspaper is in a perfect position to lead the way.

Judd Frank, Laguna Niguel

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To the editor: As The Times avers, the decline of our national discourse should alarm us all. Whom to blame may be fairly debated.

Trump, for his part, parlayed astute reading of an increasingly dumbed- down, titillation-seeking public into stunning campaign successes. Once the GOP candidate debates devolved into name-calling — and kept audiences enthralled — there was no stopping a reality-TV huckster.

Democrats, for all the civility of their party’s debates, could only cringe and hope that sanity prevailed at the polls. No such luck. Since President Trump assumed office, Democrats and independents have had abundant cause to perceive an existential threat to democracy. Who can fault them for abandoning civility?

If Trump “follows the culture as much as he leads it,” he encouraged incivility as the new standard for discourse.

Sandra Perez, Santa Maria

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To the editor: You write, “There’s a tendency on the left to lay this at the feet of Trump, but that is facile.”

Agreed. But saying that misses the point of the responsibility of leaders in our society to be role models for public civility.

Our parents, teachers and other leaders model behavior for us. Their influence doesn’t normally bounce away from us; but rather, it serves as an enduring benchmark to live our lives responsibly — to listen and be tolerant objective and always open and honest with others. Those characteristics are today often missing from the leaders who help construct us as individuals.

So please, don’t let Trump off the hook.

And while we’re discussing the influence, I should point out something obvious: Members of the gender known for tolerance and addressing problems with words and not violence are awfully under-represented in both public and private-sector leadership.

Donald Funk, Redondo Beach

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