Serving up a mix of polite but barbed attacks on polarizing figures like Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., talk show host Glenn Beck and former GOP vice presidential contender Sarah Palin and wry quips on how Americans discuss politics, columnist Kathleen Parker wowed a packed auditorium at the University of South Carolina.
"The great fear here is if passion rules our conversation, that reason gets shoved aside and ... at some point, the rant becomes a riot, and someone gets hurt," said Parker, who spoke on "Seeking Civility in America's Political Discourse."
That is not to say politics should be devoid of feeling, she said.
"I do not want us to see us become a 'Kumbaya' nation," she said, citing a folk song associated with spiritual unity and compassion. "It's not nice to be polite when injustice is taking place."
Civility at public events, she said, "should be inherently cool" and its opposite - incivility - is not.
"There's nothing cool about losing control," she said.
"It's not good to yell at the president of the United States in the midst of a speech," she said, referring to Wilson's September disruption of Obama's speech to Congress by yelling, "You lie!"
New social media, like Twitter and the blogosphere, which emphasize fast utterances, have contributed to the decline in civility, she said.
Parker, a nationally-syndicated columnist who divides her time between Camden and Washington, D.C., warmed up the crowd of some 280 by noting South Carolina has a higher profile these days - and not just because of Gov. Mark Sanford's "mysterious hikes."
"It was not helped by recent reports that a South Carolina man had been convicted and sentenced for having a love affair with his horse," she said, drawing perhaps the evening's biggest laughs.
She drew a hiss or two talking about Palin. (Last year, Parker was the first conservative columnist to write Palin was unqualified to be vice president.).
Although Parker said she had vowed not to publicly discuss Palin, she tossed off a few jibes, such as "God forbid I should have to read the book" - referring to Palin's just published "Going Rogue."
Parker suggested Americans, if they have to say something nasty, should do it in a nice way that - because it seems so nice -is both thought-provoking and doubly nasty.
"My neighbor Karen in Camden can do more damage with three little words - 'bless her heart' - than all the cusswords in anybody's vocabulary," Parker said.
"We have to learn to talk to each other without yelling. We have to be able to disagree without hating."