When famous people die, it seems to me increasingly common to read commentary in the blogosphere that begins something like this:
I know we’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but in Smith’s case, I can’t believe everyone is making him out to be such a great guy when he was obviously a lousy bastard! Let me set the record straight . . .
This pattern of acknowledging a social taboo and then violating it is often the first sign that the social taboo is on the way out. So it may be with this one. But before we wave it goodbye, I thought it might be useful to see what we might say to restore some appreciation for, or at least observance of, this longstanding rule of civility.