Monday, February 13, 2012

Extremist, labeling as a strategy

A favorite pastime, or is it a strategy, of the liberal left has been to call Conservatives “extremist”, “racist”.  It has been particularly profuse and common from the more liberal quarters of the Democrat hierarchy Barack Obama’s White House , Nancy Pelosi, (here and here), Harry Reed, Debbie Wasserman Shultz (here here  here here and here), and also from Rep. Betty McCollum during a townhall (“the house republican majority has pushed a different legislative agenda and I think its pretty extreme”).  The only way these statements are true is to do violence, as in the Federalist Papers description, to the center and right of the political spectrum and excise them from consideration.
NYTimes: President Obama’s political advisers, looking for ways to help Democrats and alter the course of the midterm elections in the final weeks, are considering a range of ideas, including national advertisements, to cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists, people involved in the discussion said.
Democratic Cry "Extremist"
Angry charges of "Extremists!" have become common and ubiquitous. It seems rarely do leading Democrats, such as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, ever talk about Republicans without adding the charge of extremist. Listen to them and it becomes quite clear that they believe "extremist" Republicans in Congress are the root of all evil. And, that these very "extremists' that are responsible for the American credit-worthiness downgrade, loss of competitiveness, high unemployment, and a sluggish economy.
So what was the classic definition of extremist?  To be extreme you had to espouse positions and attitudes that only a small fraction of Americans would agree with or consider reasonable, perhaps like members of the Weather Underground.  The definition of the offense of extremism is less permanent than a politician’s campaign promise, and mutates to permit government policies that few “centrist” people would previously have accepted.  To be repetitively intolerant of the views of perhaps more than half of Americans and to marginalize and denigrate them for political advantage, while currently part of the political tool set, does not make the claims true.
Robert F. Kennedy said, "What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents."
By this definition it seems to be more of a projection by liberals of their own sentiments than a reality of their opposition.  The extreme language and outrageous ad hominem accusations that border on or exceed slander and libel are simply a vehicle to try to eliminate contrary opinion from the marketplace of ideas. 

Two cases of this have presented themselves this week. 
A commenter on my blog calling Dennis Prager a “right wing extremist” (clearly not a listener) in part because of his (and my) stand on Voter ID.  A position in common with close to 80% of Minnesotans and 75% of Americans (here and here) and even 62% of Democrats , which I should imagine clearly makes it not extreme, by any definition.

and the outrageous ad hominem  New Yorker Magazine coverage of Rick Santorum,
To educated liberals of almost any description, Santorum is an abomination. It’s not just that he’s a pro-life, anti-gay, anti-contraception Roman Catholic of the most retrogressive and diehard Opus Dei variety. It’s his entire persona. With his seven kids, his Jaycee fashion code, his nineteen-seventies colonial MacMansion in northern Virginia, his irony bypass, he seems to delight in outraging self-styled urban sophisticates: the sort of folks who buy organic milk, watch The Daily Show, and read the New York Times (and The New Yorker, of course).
What is a Political Extremist?
Extremists can be left-wing or right-wing, but their views are typically far beyond the boundaries of logic.
Political extremist refers to a person or group that holds a set of beliefs that diverge from society's norm to a great degree. Extremist is a derogatory term, and to label someone as such is to accuse him or her of holding radical views that do not hold up to scrutiny or logic. They show disdain for the rights and liberties of others, but resent the limitations of their own activities. Extremists will use drastic measures to gain attention and support their various pursuits, including violence. Groups that are commonly labeled as extremist include Neo-Nazis, white supremacists such as Skinheads, and Holocaust Deniers. Extremists have many ironic qualities, such as the need to define themselves by naming their enemies. They favor censorship of their enemies but use intimidation and manipulation to spread their own assertions and claims.

Laird Wilcox [member of the ACLU] identifies 21 alleged traits of a "political extremist", ranging from behaviour like "a tendency to character assassination", over hateful behaviour like "name calling and labeling", to general character traits like "a tendency to view opponents and critics as essentially evil", "a tendency to substitute intimidation for argument" or "groupthink".  All behaviors prominent in the Democratic tactic of labeling Conservatives.

The tactic of continually labeling Conservatives as “extremists” is yet another instance of the application of Alinsky rules: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” and of course “Rule 6: A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.”

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