Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Substitute thought for vicious slander


"Calling Pat Robertson or William F. Buckley's mother 'Talibanic' is about as accurate, and as enlightening, as calling Ronald Reagan a Nazi or Bill Clinton a communist. We'd like to propose a moratorium on such slanders, which are a poor substitute for thought."

—James Taranto

A poor substitute for thought is a staple of too much of the American political discourse. Politicians and pundits thoughtlessly toss loose labels and sleazy slanders as if they were grenades in a war zone instead of measured ideas in a civil interchange about how and who best to conduct the affairs of government.

It seems to me that weeding out poor substitutes for thought is a duty and never-ending chore of the informed, thoughtful, honest citizen, pundit and, most of all, politician, and spotting and looking into loose labels and sleazy slanders is a good place to start. For instance, the labeling of American citizens, especially government officials, as "communist" is known as red-baiting and should raise red flags about the thinking and integrity of the labeler.

Red-baiting has been substituting for thought in American politics for nearly 150 years, perhaps most famously in the person of the late U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., whose disregard for thought and honesty eventually led him into the elite club of only nine to ever be censured by the U.S. Senate. Before that could happen, he was able to derail and in some cases destroy the lives and careers of many good people. McCarthy epitomized the "scumbag," which is a definition not a label, years before the term entered the language to describe a person lacking in morals or decency. Red-baiting leaves one open to such descriptions, as students of American history remember was so famously applied to McCarthy by Joseph Welch.

Just last month, red-baiting reared its disgraceful, disgusting, decomposing specter in the person of Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who said at a town hall meeting, "I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It's called the Congressional Progressive Caucus." Since proof requires thought (and, for that matter, vice-versa) and West had neither to substantiate his slander (how could he since it is a lie?), West stands exposed as the thoughtless, dishonest, red-baiting darling of the tea party that he is. His comments inspired Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., a founder of the CPC, to respond, "Not even Joe McCarthy would have said anything so stupid and disassociated from reality. ... When you hear something so breathtakingly dumb and vicious as that, how do people expect us to be able to work out some compromise with him?"


The CPC is far more interesting, honest, productive and beneficial to American society than the red-baiting, light-of-the-tea-party, swaggering congressman, who, lacking ideas and thought, slanders it. For starters, some of the meanings of "progressive" are "liberal," "forward-looking," "advanced," "excellent," "tolerant," "open-minded" and "growing." Antonyms include "conservative," "after," "behind," "closed-minded," "small-minded," "boring" and "dull," all tea party hallmarks.

The CPC was established in 1991 and consists of one U.S. senator and 75 members of the House of Representatives. (One plus 75 equals between 78 and 81 in the thoughts of Allen West.) It is the largest caucus within the House Democratic Caucus and promotes what is called The Progressive Promise, "rooted in four core principles that embody national priorities and are consistent with the values, needs and aspirations of all the American people, not just the powerful and privileged." Those four core principles are: 1.) fighting for economic justice and security for all; 2.) protecting and preserving our civil rights and civil liberties; 3.) promoting global peace and security; and 4.) advancing environmental protection and energy independence.

Those four principles are consistent with the values, needs and aspirations of all the American people, emphasis on "all," which includes but is not limited to the powerful and privileged. Fighting for economic justice and security, protecting and preserving civil rights and liberties, promoting global peace and security, and advancing environmental protection and energy independence constitute a promise that I'd like to help the CPC fulfill.

Wouldn't you?

Think about it.

A good place to start would be to substitute thought for the red-baiting, stupid, unreal, breathtakingly dumb, vicious slanders of the tea party prophet Allen West.

Think about all the American people, not just the powerful and privileged.

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