Am I talking about Democrats? Or am I quoting Johnny Rico’s battle cry from Starship Troopers?
As much as some Democrats and liberals remind me of cockroaches, the answer is a qualified “no.” I say that because if I was indeed crying out for the termination of liberal’s life functions, that would be wrong, although anyone who 1) took my threat seriously; or 2) tried to make the case that I was inciting violence would, under normal circumstances, be seen as something of a raving loon.
But that’s the state of political discourse today. Intent on stifling any post-Obamacare dissent, many of our friends on the left have discovered that over the top, exaggerated, hyperbolic rhetoric is not usually a good thing - except when they engage in such and target conservatives and Republicans. Then, all manner of free speech is allowed, even considered necessary, in order to stifle opposing viewpoints.
And connecting my “Kill them all!” cry to some yahoo throwing a brick through a Congressman’s office is, if possible, even loonier. Five seconds of extra thought to such a notion would tell you that not only would said yahoo probably be unable to read and therefore would miss my transgression against civility altogether, but the chances of him coming across my blog post in the first place are astronomically small.
Hence, I feel perfectly comfortable in crying out “Kill them all!” After all, who’s to say where I am directing my battle cry? Maybe I only want congressional liberals to expire? Perhaps I am only targeting black liberals with my eliminationist rhetoric? It’s even possible that I am only advocating that three toed, humpback, mustachioed, gay Democrats be given the deep six?
The only way to deal with restrictions on speech is to speak the supposedly offending words and offensive language in the loudest, longest, most exaggerated manner possible and keep doing it until those seeking to stifle your First Amendment rights are shown to be the tyrannical louts they truly are.
It’s time to take off the kid gloves and start TARGETING these Democrats for SPECIAL TREATMENT. HANG THEM FROM THE YARDARM, I say! PUT THE CROSSHAIRS over their district and FIRE AWAY. Don’t be NIGGARDLY (couldn’t resist) in your criticisms. RACK THEM. You might even consider DRAWING AND QUARTERING them - metaphorically speaking, of course.
Why stop there? HANGING IS TOO GOOD FOR THEM! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! BLEED THEM! MAKE THEM HOWL! STICK A FORK IN THEM! PUNCTURE their balloons. SLAP THEM SILLY! SLAP THEM UPSIDE THE HEAD. KNOCK THEM OVER THE HEAD WITH A TWO BY FOUR!
Getting hysterical over a figure of speech may be taking the idea of “eliminationist rhetoric” to its absolute, most frothingly idiotic limit. It isn’t a question of whether such language incites violence; it doesn’t. It isn’t a question of whether the user actually intends to hang someone from a yardarm or wishes to use the Medieval torture device, the Rack, to injure or kill a political opponent because the very definition of a “figure of speech” precludes such a possibility:
A Figure of Speech is where a word or words are used to create an effect, often where they do not have their original or literal meaning.
What we have is the old liberal trick of ignoring the author’s intended meaning of words and phrases in order to substitute their own, politically motivated interpretation of what is written. Hence, if I quote Johnny Rico by writing “Kill them all!”, I am not making fun of liberals, I am actually calling on those shadowy tea party folks to put a bullet through a Democratic Congressman’s head. It doesn’t matter that my intent was to make liberals look like idiots. It is that some liberal schmuck decided he could make political hay by pointing hysterically to my figurative use of the phrase and triumphantly accuse me of advocating the death of Democrats.
Goldstein has been tracking this phenomenon for years. He always explains it better than I:
As I’ve explained on countless occasions, however, language simply does not exist in the absence of intent. Intent — the intent to signify — is what turns signifiers into signs, marks into language (and so, potential communication). In an instance where we don’t know the intent of the author or utterer, it is our job as receivers of a communication to try to decode that intent. And that’s because the intent and the message are irrevocably tied together. Which is why when we aren’t interpreting by way of appeals to authorial intent, we aren’t “interpreting” at all. Rather, what we are doing is treating marks as mere signifiers, and then we are attaching to them our own signifieds — in essence, writing our own text. To then turn around and attribute the text we wrote to that author is not only wrongheaded, it is pernicious: after all, we are still privileging intent. It’s just that we have now privileged our own, while attributing that intent to the writer/utterer.
Intent is always present; whose intent gets privileged determines whether or what we’re doing is “interpreting” or “creative writing.”
When the left “privileges” its own intent, substituting their own interpretation of a word, or a phrase for what the author was trying to convey, it becomes impossible to communicate on any level whatsoever. How can there be discourse when both sides cannot agree on the meaning of language?
I hate to see the right attempting this nonsense - and not doing it very well. When Ed Schultz says on his show that if there is another Oklahoma City-like terrorist attack, that Glenn Beck and other righties should “blow their brains out,” no one with any respect for language believes that Schultz is advocating the death of talk show hosts. He is using a figure of speech to shock his audience (and garner ratings). He is not signaling some kook to kill Beck. He is not using language to incite violence against anybody. Those who interpret Schultz’s use of the cliche as anything other than the radio host doing his shtick are guilty of exactly the same kind of idiocy the left uses when critiquing, for example, Stephen Green’s call to “tar and feather” congressmen.
Political violence is unwanted in America. So is deliberate exaggeration of the threat of such. Ten recorded incidents against Democrats (and a couple against Republicans) do not a civil war make. The notion that tea partyers, bloggers, pundits, or anyone else on the right is advocating, inciting, or wishing for violence against Democrats is balmy.
That is, if everyone were truly interested in defining intent correctly, rather than reinterpreting speech in order to score political points and stifle the opposition.