Next month, I will mark 4 years blogging about politics, culture, government, and the human comedy/tragedy that one finds on the internet – specifically liberals and their never ending quest to redefine terms and twist language, making it a willing servant to their political agenda.
I am not one of those purists who started to blog in order to “have a conversation with myself” or “seek to know myself better.” I have never made any bones about the fact that I see this blog as a stepping stone to making money as a writer. In this, I have been somewhat successful thanks to those of you who have stuck with me through everything – all my apostasy, my curmudgeonly moods, my lame attempts at satire or humor, and my contrariness on many issues on which we have come to disagree.
Beyond anything I could have imagined, this blog has become an extraordinarily personal undertaking. I suppose that’s because writing is a very personal craft – a curse and blessing for which I had no clue 4 years ago when I started. I am blessed because many a fine folk have been supportive, encouraging, unstinting in their praise, and solicitous when I screw up – a happenstance that occurs far more often than I care to remember.
If my blog attracted only those who usually agreed with me and thought I was the bee’s knees when it came to commentary, blogging would be a marvelous daily exercise. But there is another side to blogging that most of us never talk about; the relentless, daily pounding of negativism, hurtful epithets, and outright spewing hatred that arrives in the form of comments and emails from the other side as well as other blogs linking and posting on something I’ve written.
We all like to think of ourselves as having thick skins and that such criticism rolls off our backs and never affects us. This is the macho element in blogging, one of its more unattractive and dishonest aspects. In this, some of us feel obligated to give back in kind, something I have done on too many occasions to count. Yes, I regret it. And believe me, I have often been the initiator of such ugliness.
Still, there are many bloggers on both the right and left who shame me with their equanimity in the face of the most virulent and nasty personal attacks. Ed Morrissey comes to mind on the right. The folks at Crooked Timber and Obsidian Wings on the left are generally cool in the face of such criticism as well.
But this is not a confessional post where I recognize my sins and ask forgiveness. I am what I am and doubt I will change. Rather, it is my intent to highlight the fact that despite my predilection for using violent language in my defense or to ridicule my political opponents, I have always granted them a certain rough integrity in their beliefs – that they are wrongheaded not evil; that they are arrogant and stupid, not unpatriotic or that they hate America.
If I have ever crossed that line (and I can’t think of an occasion where I have) then I do, in fact, regret it. Because in the give and take of political combat, things are often said that are not meant to respond to argument but rather to inflict pain. In this, I am as human as the next person and am not immune to being wounded by those who attack my integrity, honesty, character, and especially my writings even as I try and parry the thrusts in much the same way.
This is to be expected when dishing out as much sarcastic bile as I have poured on to this website the last 4 years. As a former leftist, I know exactly where the soft spots are, where to hit below the belt and make it hurt. Politics is a full contact sport and this kind of combat is not the “old politics” or the “new politics.” It is simply politics as it has been practiced and will continue to be practiced as long as free people are free to assemble in a free country.
I think a cracking good argument can be made that politics is much more civilized today than it was 50 or 100 years ago. Nevertheless, there is an element to political debate that is present today that was not present back then. And that is the deliberate misinterpretation of intent by the left in many conservative critiques of liberal dogma that has led us to this unhappy point in American history where any criticism levelled at a black Democratic candidate will eventually be deliberately misconceived (or stupidly misconstrued) as an attack on his race.
Allah at Hot Air has been all over the issue of the left deliberately twisting the intent and meaning of criticism of Obama to arrive at a pre-determined conclusion that the attack is racially motivated and, by extension, the attackers are racists.
Goldstein has written a book on his blog over the years in intentionalism and the deliberate rebranding and redefinition of terms and language in order to either cut off debate entirely or redefine the debate by surrendering logic and reason and buying into a false narrative created by the left that gives them the advantage. Goldstein shows how this is especially true in identity politics and how the rank dishonesty of deconstructionism has poisoned political debate.
There is little original thought I can add to either of those excellent critiques so I would like to explore this phenomena on a more personal level. Every anti-Obama post I’ve written on this site or anywhere else has elicited several comments alluding to me as a racist or implying that my criticism is racially motivated. All conservative bloggers have gotten this treatment to one degree or another so I am not alone in experiencing this. It doesn’t matter whether I am serious in my criticism or not. The de facto conclusion reached by these commenters is that the very act of criticizing Obama and that I don’t want him to be president can only mean one thing; it is the candidate’s race that is my primary motivation for opposing him.
As I mention above, I play pretty rough with my political opponents and make no apologies for doing so. And if calling me a racist was done as a regular part of the internet mud wrestling that goes on I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.
But the intent of branding me with the scarlet “R” of racist is not simply to inflict pain but rather to stifle and cut off debate. There is no answer I can give to the charge, no proof I can offer, no words that would prove otherwise. The charge simply hangs there, tarring me and discrediting what I write in the minds of some who, although fair minded about most things, might buy into the liberal narrative and wonder if subconsciously I am some kind of closet klansman.
Denials only give credence to the charge. Having to disavow you are a racist gives the battle to your opponent because anything you might say to defend yourself can be twisted and deliberately misconstrued as more evidence of racism. On the other hand, silence denotes assent in many people’s minds so not saying anything is as good as being forced to walk around wearing that scarlet “R” on your bodice.
This is not a question of whining about the unfairness of it all. I am pointing out a fact relevant to the debating of issues in this campaign and the relative merits of the two candidates. It is something Allah has pointed out with some heat and scathing criticism as he did in the post I linked above where David Gergen was caught making the same patently ridiculous charge about McCain’s “celebrity” ad being filled with codes and hidden meanings about Obama’s race:
In which the single dumbest, most paranoid racial charge of the campaign is recycled on national television by a former presidential advisor and current Harvard professor. I said it before but it bears repeating: If you take this logic to its conclusion, there’s literally no non-racist way to accuse a member of a minority group of having an outsized ego. Any synonym you can conjure – elitist, arrogant, “megalomaniac narcissist” (to quote Hitchens) – can all happily be dismissed as “code,” regardless of whether the subject might in fact (a) display his very own presidential seal, (b) be known to describe rural voters in terms that call to mind Cletus the slackjawed yokel on “The Simpsons,” and© oh, by the way, lead his very own cult with himself as godhead.
George Will makes a point I made myself last week, that the irony of all these bad-faith charges of racism is that most of the GOP’s knocks on Obama’s ego are straight out of the playbook they used against “haughty, French-looking Democrat” John Kerry. Granted, there was no “Moses” ad for Waffles, but that’s because most people hated him; Obama is adored to an absurdly iconic extent, especially vis-a-vis his actual accomplishments (in Lindsey Graham’s words, “fame without portfolio”), which is why he gets goofed on as leading people to the Promised Land whereas Kerry got the windsurfer treatment. (Although there are plenty of goofs on Obama along the same dorky windsurfer lines to be found if you look around.) The real “tell” here, though, is what Gergen offers as further evidence to support his point – that McCain, when asked about affirmative action, said he opposes quotas. A perfectly mainstream conservative position, and certainly one McCain would also hold if he was facing Hillary, but because he’s facing Obama McCain’s no longer allowed to talk about it.
Getting back to the personal, beyond the political tactic there is a psychic cost born by the target of such attacks. The towering injustice of the situation is extraordinarily frustrating. But that is the commenter’s intent – to checkmate his opponent and either provoke a wild response or have the charge go unanswered and thus win the argument.
Those who accuse all liberals of being unpatriotic or un-American perhaps have no cause to grumble when an equally malicious lie like “racist” is directed at them. But having such an epithet tossed in my direction – especially as it has been done recently – I find to be reflective of a mindset that is terrified of open debate and thus resorts to twisting semantics in order to obscure a flawed critique. They can’t argue the issues so the magic word is applied and debate instantly ceases.
As I have written since the beginning of the campaign, this tactic will be hauled out at regular intervals and used to great effect. Allah might be able to define it. Goldstein might be able to analyze and critique its psychological underpinnings and origins.
But they can’t stop it nor can they mitigate its effects. It is the major reason we can’t have an intelligent discussion about race in this campaign or at any time. And the fault, dear lefties, lies not in the stars but with you.