When the News Isn't Fit to Print ... Blog

A Final Note on Inflammatory Rhetoric

In Disappearing Ink, Harvard Math on 14/01/2011 at 22:35

On September 22, 1842, a young Illinois state legislator and the state’s auditor met on Sunflower Island with their seconds to engage in a duel. The reason for the dispute was, as almost all duels among public figures were at the time, political; the auditor had accused the lawmaker of offending his honor in an inflammatory letter to a Springfield, Illinois, newspaper.

At the last moment, both men’s seconds intervened and the duel was called off, when it was discovered by the auditor’s opponent that the legislator, Abraham Lincoln, had not been responsible for the alleged offense against him.

The idea that partisan rhetoric has suddenly become more inflammatory as a result of conservative talk radio, silly strategy maps, one polarizing figure or another is ridiculous and contrived. Most people are aware of that fact by now, but it will not staunch the flow of the sewage the media continues to hype.

If anything political rhetoric has become less inflammatory since the mid nineteenth century. Furthermore, attacks against persons rather than policies is almost exclusively engaged in by the New Left. Old-line Democrats like former Senator Samuel Nunn or even Tipp O’Neil rarely lowered themselves to the kind of personal attacks we are seeing come out of the Democratic camp in recent years, at least publically.

We are all being had and what is perhaps most disturbing is that the conservative pundits and politicians have subscribed to a set of rules in Public Square debate that are almost solely drawn by politically correct ivy leaguers with a specific agenda in mind.

You have to give it to them; in less than 40 years radical left-wing strategists such as Cloward and Piven, Saul Alinsky and Noam Chomsky have managed to mainstream their philosophies to the degree that the conservative intelligentsia scamper into the corner and shiver like the Taco Bell Chihuahua rather than challenge them.

Case in point: It is no longer PC for anyone to question the morality of homosexuality. Now the debate has elevated itself to the question of whether gays should be allowed to marry or serve openly in the military. If you are an evangelical Christian you have already lost that debate, just ask your congressman.

That argument is off point, but the very fact that the right has surrendered to the left on that one issue makes the larger point. There is a clever, indeed sinister, strategy at work here to restructure our society, against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans. We are being legislated, regulated and rationalized ad nauseam into a left-of-center society.

The political fusillade of recent days was an orchestrated masterpiece, in that we are even debating whether Sarah Palin stepped over the line by issuing her crosshairs strategy map last year, and calling the debate legitimate. Almost immediately after Palin struck back many, even on the right, launched into another round of nattering as to whether she should have responded to her attackers at all. And then, whether or not she should have used the term “blood libel” in doing so.

Lincoln would have been astonished. The future 16th president of the United States stepped up to that duel immediately. The man was willing to sacrifice his life and take the life of another for his moral principals. Now that was inflammatory debate.

If we are to survive as a democratic republic the conservative right must take the lead in shaping the debate in the face of a very intelligent opposition. For the most part they are better educated than us and therefore attain a higher degree of acceptance by the mainstream media and Beltway politicians. This is not always the case but all too often, even in conservative circles, it is.

In the last 20 years, political voices like those of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin have become vital to our national debate. They, in spite of vicious efforts from the left and heavy detraction in some circles on the right, have demanded to be heard. Their rhetoric has not been in the least bit inflammatory to anyone other than those with whom they disagree.

The left will not win this one, the moderate right will not silence more conservative voices, and conservatives must build on this despite the adversity, even when that adversity comes from among their own ranks.


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