Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[politics] Incivility and false equivalency

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?
Tags: politics
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