There's an old principle for preachers, adopted also by some journalists, that says fidelity to the truth calls us to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."
The comfortable take offense whenever anyone follows this advice. They know better than to claim this treatment is unfair — fairness and justice are not concepts they're trying to promote — so they end up sniffing that it just seems rude.
"Civility" becomes the last bastion of those who cannot appeal to justice or the truth to make their case. If King David had behaved this way, he would never have repented of the murder of Uriah — he would just have told the prophet Nathan that it isn't polite to point.
Paul Krugman is not impressed with this newfound, thin-skinned variety of "civility." "There is no way to be both honest and polite about what has happened in these past three years," he writes, and:
It's impolite to say that George W. Bush is the most fiscally irresponsible president in American history, but it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise. … It's impolite to say that Mr. Bush has damaged our national security with his military adventurism, but it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise.
The facts — runaway deficits, joblessness, carnage and anarchy in Afghanistan and Iraq, the alienation of our allies, just to name a few — are ugly and brutal. The people responsible for these facts find it incredibly rude of anyone to point them out.
And calls for accountability? Well that's just more evidence of low breeding and incivility.