So Sick it Makes You Laugh - Follies in Political Rhetoric

Whenever I take an interest in politics it’s usually to look at the language and rhetoric that is used to make arguments. When I see other people take an interest in the same issue I’m usually willing to read. Here are some posts on political rhetoric, all from a liberal perspective, that I’ve found interesting over the last few days.

Glenn Greenwald and Dave Neiwert have been consistently good about following the eliminationist rhetoric that regularly emanates from the conservative blogosphere. Neiwert links it to the paranoid style of American politics limned by Richard Hofstadter.

Greenwald just penned this missive about the need for journalists to pay attention to the extremism of the right-wing blogosphere.

The extremist and increasingly deranged rhetoric and tactics found in the right-wing blogosphere – not only among obscure bloggers but promoted and disseminated by its most-read and influential bloggers – is, indeed, “a very common disease.” When it becomes commonplace to hurl accusations of treason against domestic political opponents, or when calls for imprisonment and/or hanging of journalists and political leaders become the daily fare – all of which is true for the pro-Bush blogosphere – those are serious developments. And they merit discussion and examination by the media.

Eliminationist rhetoric is a real problem, however. People who call for the death of others in order to make a political point don’t believe in the same political values of democracy that I hold dear.

A common tactic in many of these arguments is to complain about the failure of one side to condemn the extremists inside of its own coalition or party. I’m not sure if this is an argument that has always been present in politics, or if it’s a recent development. The paradigm recent example I can think of is Clinton’s Sister Souljah moment from the 1992 campaign.

So why do people insist on lumping together the opposition and then berating them for tolerating idiots in their midst? Can’t we all just accept that people agree with each other partially, instead of completely? So I’m not asking you to condemn anyone, I’m just asking you to stop being a hypocrite. I could care less if people don’t condemn their political allies. But don’t turn around and complain about the other side if they fail to condemn every single nutcase that may be on the fringes of their coalition.

Of course that plea for reason will be ignored. As Arthure Silber notes it is impossible to be nuanced when discussing politics today. We are well on our way to becoming the stupidest country on Earth.

Another well worn example of crazy talk is the “I’m just saying” defense so perfectly captured in the recent example of Bill O’Reilly spinning about Saddam’s tactics. At least Saddam kept violence under control, says O’Reilly, and that’s just a fact. Of course, ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink; say no more’, he’s not really calling for oppression, he’s just saying it worked for some.

The only response to this insanity is to laugh and watch The Daily Show. Matt Stoller responds

Todd Suomela
Associate Director for Digital Pedagogy & Scholarship Department

My interests include digital scholarship, citizen science, leadership, and communications.