Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Political Honesty and Guilt by Association

Guilt by association is a seductive, delicious little dirty trick that too many of us on both sides tend to use. Rather than honestly addressing the positions and concerns of someone elsewhere on the political spectrum, it's a lot more fun to grab a quote from some nutcase and condemn your political opponents with it. It's also effective, because it forces your opponents onto the defensive, forcing them to explain away the offensive quotation, defend it by putting it into a broader context, or come up with a similarly offensive quotation from the opposite side of the issue. The result, however, is simple blog onanism, and a deepening of the divide between concerned individuals on the right and the left.

For example, a right-wing blogger recently emailed me about how he and one of his cohorts were eagerly anticipating "the extreme left" blaming Bush for Katrina. (I had jokingly pointed out to him that God directed the hurricane's fury at the red states.) This fellow was looking forward to using such a statement (made seriously by some fringe character) as evidence of just how nutso the far left (which, to him, is probably anybody in favor of personal freedoms other than the right to bear Scud missiles) can be.

But it's not just a right-wing trick. I, the untiring champion of political honesty and integrity, am guilty of it, too. In my correspondence, I pointed out, in response, that it only took until 9/14 for the right to blame 9/11 on liberals. But, if I'm willing to be honest about it, it wasn't "the right", it was Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell - two horribly flawed individuals who probably don't speak for anyone other than a couple other deeply flawed individuals with poor hearing.

Fact is, if you look far enough, I am willing to bet that you will, indeed, find people blaming Bush for the catastrophe of Katrina. Certainly, you will find people blaming him for not having enough national guard troops available, and probably for diverting money to Iraq that may have otherwise been used for levee maintenance, etc. And then you get to go on a rant about how the left is a bunch of insane Bush-haters, and you get to make that national rift a little wider.

Also, you have the spectacle of ethical contortionists like Hannity trying to throw complete nutcases onto the left. Today, he attempted to cast the universally reviled anti-gay Fred Phelps as part of the anti-war left. Umm, no thanks - you can have him, if you're playing that game.

Stupid, and not helpful to anybody. But I bet we'll continue to see frequent displays of this nasty little trick, because it's an easy way for "us" to feel
superior to "them".

Anybody who catches me using this device in the future is welcome to call me a hypocrite in the comments.


Blogger antimedia said...

So what's the solution? Could we send all these guys to an island somewhere and let them duke it out?

Personally I think O'Reilly is despicable, but I can't imagine how he puts Phelps on the left. You don't find too many rabidly anti-gay bigots on the left side of the political spectrum.

I have no idea where the guy is on the political spectrum, but he's certainly a nutcase of the first order. He makes

9/05/2005 1:32 AM  
Blogger antimedia said...

Hmmm...didn't finish...I was going to say - he makes Robertson seem positively reasonable.

9/05/2005 1:33 AM  
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