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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2010-06-17 06:03
Subject: [politics] Incivility and false equivalency
Security: Public
Tags:politics
One of the things that continually pops up in political discourse is false equivalency. "[X] was bad, but both sides do it." The media does it, presumably in an attempt to present balanced stories. Extremists on both the Right and the (American mainstream version of) the Left do it, to justify their own rhetoric and behaviors. Centrists and independents do it as an expression of frustration, or a justification for not getting involved.

You see this especially in the problem of incivility and destructive rhetoric.

But the equivalency here is false. Remember the outrage in the media over a Bush-Hitler video in the MoveOn contest some years ago? Republicans in Congress grandstanded against one anonymous contributor somewhere out of thousands. We were told this poisoned the process, this was typical of the left. Yet during the Obama administration, leading Republican political figures have routinely compared Obama to Hitler and his policies to Nazism, without a hint of protest from the media or the public.

This ties back to Newt Gingrich's GOPAC memo of 1994, and conservative pollster Frank Luntz's ongoing updates of keywords for Republican use. Likewise the widespread use of eliminationist rhetoric in the Right wing commentariat and the edgier fringes of conservative political establishment.

There simply is no Democratic equivalent of the GOPAC memo or Luntz's word lists. There is no Left wing commentariat with even a fraction of the audience and market share of Limbaugh, Beck, et alia, and such as they are, Maddow and so on, they do not engage in eliminationist rhetoric directed at the Right.

To say that "both sides do it" with respect to political incivility and calls for violence, intimidation and other forms of rhetorical attack is both untrue and ignores the specific, well-documented facts on the ground. One of the many reasons I'm a committed liberal-progressive is that I find the rhetorical tactics of the Right distressing and often disgusting. Even if they have something to say I might want to hear, it's so often cloaked in a combination of aggressiveness and dismissiveness that closes my mind.

If you think I'm wrong, show me. Show me how conservatives have stood up and challenged the use of Nazi rhetoric to refer to Obama to the same degree they challenged the MoveOn video. Show me where the Democratic equivalent of the GOPAC memo is, and who uses it. Show me liberal talk show hosts with Limbaugh's ratings, Beck's attitude, who use eliminationist rhetoric to delegitimize the right.

Because so far as I can tell, the current poisonous climate of political discourse has been deliberate fostered by the Republican Party and their media proxies since at least 1994 in an attempt to energize their political base and polarize the sought-after undecided center. I don't see good faith, or meaningful rhetoric about policy, politics and process. I see highly organized nastiness directed at a large segment of American society, an attempt to separate "Real America" from the rest of us. Yes, there's always some leftie nut saying outrageous things, but those people don't host major talk shows or hold national elective office, unlike the lengthy list of conservatives who say outrageous things.

Where am I wrong?
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S-47/19-J
User: shsilver
Date: 2010-06-17 13:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One point of reference is former congressional representative Cynthia McKinney (D-GA, 1993-2003, 2005-2007), but she's the only Democratic version (and she's Green, now) of Michele Bachmann (R-MN) or Steve King (R-IA) I can think of off hand.
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chessdev
User: chessdev
Date: 2010-06-17 14:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well said. I'm stealing this for reposting since I can't improve upon this in anyway as presented.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2010-06-17 15:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You are absolutely not wrong and it's something that has been driving me nuts since, roughly, 1994.

It got really bad during the Bush years. You could say something like "Bush is such a unique mixture of bad ideology, incompetence, and incoherence, he might just be the worst president we've ever had," and they would say "Bush derangement syndrome!"

Heck, you could say "I oppose this particular Bush proposal" and they would say "Bush derangement syndrome!"

Or, there were the right wing pundits who were in such a habit of making disgusting junior high misogynist comments about Hillary Clinton, who then accused anybody daring to suggest that Sarah Palin was dangerously unqualified for the job of president of being guilty of misogyny?

It never ends. I realized, during the health care reform debate, that I can't even argue with the right wing anymore. They don't actually present arguments these days, they just scream a lot of incoherent rage and fear mixed in with paranoid Beckian babbling.

And yet, because of this need for "balance" we keep seeing the incoherent babbling presented as if it's a legitimate counterpoint.

Shape of the Earth: views differ
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S-47/19-J
User: shsilver
Date: 2010-06-17 15:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And yet, you never hear about the birthers or the Obama is a Fascist/Socialist/Communist/Nazi/Hun/Baby-killer/Spawn-of-Satan cryers denounced as suffering from "Obama Derangement Syndrome."
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Keikaimalu
User: keikaimalu
Date: 2010-06-17 15:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Maybe it's time to start that trend.
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ulfhirtha
User: ulfhirtha
Date: 2010-06-17 21:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
No, trhey are just clinically deranged. Yet somehow covered ass if they have legitimate viewpoints.

It is the same frustration I feel when people are quick to call something "controversial" (and thus imply that it is open to question & probably not to be raised in polite society) if anyone has a variant view - even if that view has no merit whatsoever.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2010-06-17 15:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Fark.com has a meme making light of this, that goes:

"Both sides are bad, so vote Republican."
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Keikaimalu
User: keikaimalu
Date: 2010-06-17 15:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I believe you're right. You've put your finger on something I've had trouble articulating, which is not just the hypocrisy of "it's treason if you do it, patriotism if we do it," but the incitements to violence and the dehumanization of the opposition.

I don't know when this country developed such a fear-based culture; I know it blossomed under Bush Junior and his cohorts, but I swear I remember a time when threats of murder and equating opponents with vermin was just a fringe activity, one that mainstream politicians distanced themselves from.

I can see why conservatives would label liberals as misguided, possibly even dangerously so, but I have never fully understood the hatred, when the basic liberal message is, "Wouldn't it be great if we were all decent to each other?"

My best means of understanding the "exterminationist" talk is to remind myself that humans are animals, and, like all animals, have impulses to defend territory and resources from outsiders, to the point of killing them. What I still have trouble with, though, is understanding why those impulses are so much more fully formed on one side. Maybe it's because liberals, even when they disagree with conservatives, typically don't deny their humanity -- liberals see conservatives as a misguided part of "us," not as "them."
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Kenneth Mark Hoover
User: kmarkhoover
Date: 2010-06-17 17:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Yet during the Obama administration, leading Republican political figures have routinely compared Obama to Hitler and his policies to Nazism, without a hint of protest from the media or the public."

IOKIYAR.
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farmgirl1146
User: farmgirl1146
Date: 2010-06-17 17:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
We do not have a free media. It is owned by corporations who do not like Obama's policies. I am never surprised by what I hear from the media.
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ulfhirtha
User: ulfhirtha
Date: 2010-06-17 21:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Precisely - the media is as "liberal" (i.e skeptical) as their coporate owners let them be.

That's another thing I've noticed - the equating of free- or sceptical-thinking with "liberal", and smeared with the same sneer reserved for actual Liberal ideas. You would think critical thinking was crucial no matter your politics, if only to ensure your position had merit.
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bemused_leftist
User: bemused_leftist
Date: 2010-06-19 01:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Something you might like. Don't say I never gave you anything. ;=)

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/6/18/877433/-How-Conservative-Values-Create-Sick-Systems
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2010-06-17 21:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Papers, please."

bemusedoutsider
the 'ratings' comment was me, too
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farmgirl1146
User: farmgirl1146
Date: 2010-06-17 17:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think it started with Nixon. He used "dirty tricks" against his fellow Republicans to gain the nomination in 1968, and he continued the behavior. Men who worked for him as young men, such as Dick Cheney, have honed, fostered, and promoted this. (Cheney was a young and powerful Nixon White House staff member, and became the White House Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford.) The last true Republican may have been Eisenhower. Although, as far as I can learn, Barry Goldwater was honorable, too, and smeared by Nixon.
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Eva Whitley: Political
User: wouldyoueva
Date: 2010-06-17 17:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Political
THIS!

Thank you.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2010-06-17 21:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Show me liberal talk show hosts with Limbaugh's ratings, Beck's attitude, who use eliminationist rhetoric to delegitimize the right."

You might want to rethink that reference to ratings.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-06-17 21:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, Limbaugh's influence at a minimum. But chart the ratings for talk shows over the past ten years. Only in the last year or two has the balance even begun to swing away from the hard right, which is still much more strongly represented.
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bemused_leftist
User: bemused_leftist
Date: 2010-06-17 23:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think that's what I meant. ;-) For whatever reason, there aren't many liberal talk shows around at all. Maybe liberals prefer music.
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