Monday, February 04, 2013

Speaking truth is important

Calling our political adversaries names is never a good idea. We hear that all the time. But what about when it’s justified? What about when accuracy demands it?

I think that sometimes there’s a necessity for using the correct names to describe what people say or do or how bad their ideas are, even if sometimes they complain.

I wrestle constantly with whether I should say what I really think about our adversaries and their ideas. I usually don’t. You can tell I don’t because what I say about them isn’t laced with expletives; when it is, I’m saying what I really think.

Instead, I use quote marks to indicate that a word doesn’t actually apply to them (the most common example, probably, is “Christian”). I also use “[sic]” to indicate that what they say is absurd, like any number of extremist rightwing groups that put the word family in their name. This is common practice in non-political contexts to indicate the word is in the original text, but it’s odd or wrong. For example, newspapers will sometimes include a wrong word in a direct quote and follow it with sic in brackets. This lets readers know the person actually said it and the journalist wasn’t making a mistake.

I also use specific words and phrases with specific meanings, such as extremist, theocratic, far right, anti-gay, bigot, hatred and—extremely rarely—fascist. When I use such words I mean them, so I don’t use them just for rhetorical flourish. This is very unlike our adversaries who use such words—especially fascist, bully, intolerant—with giddy abandon.

What I do is actually a toned-down version of what our rightwing adversaries do with impunity. The reason it’s toned down isn’t merely a matter of taste, style or manners, but because every time someone on our side says something about our adversaries that’s even mildly intemperate, they put on their martyrs’ caps and launch into yet another fauxrage about how our side is so awful, mean, nasty, intolerant, fascistic, etc., etc. And then they turn around and put out something about us that’s filled with distortions, smears and outright lies, but that’s okay, because it’s them doing it. They think it’s okay to call us whatever vile names they want, and to blatantly make stuff up or else lie about stuff that’s real, because they’re not being awful, mean, nasty, intolerant, fascistic—they don’t admit they even can be because it’s them, not us.

There are times, however, when ideas that are either extremely stupid or a danger to liberty get me too angry to apply the rhetorical brakes. There are some political people who say things that are so moronic, so filled with hatred and bigotry that they must be called out.

Because there are so many—far too many—times the rightwing has made me angry lately, and applying those rhetorical brakes would have been impossible, I’ve mostly chosen to say nothing at all (my two-day rule has had a real work out in recent months). That can’t last.

And, really, why should I always be restrained? Toward what end? They won’t stop their vile rhetoric against our side no matter what we say or do. When we don’t respond to their attacks, we surrender the field of battle to them and they take it as a victory they’ll build upon to also use against us. They’ll attack us either way, so why shouldn’t I up for what’s right?

Evil must always be challenged—always. I cannot, and will not, promise to always be restrained in my rhetoric or in the strength of my counter attack (my two-day rule really does help, though). I respect the right of others to take the tack they choose, but I insist on that same right for myself. Sometimes I’ll get it wrong—but other times I’ll get it right.

Speaking truth is too important.


Roger Green said...

But I HATE being wrong. That's why I hate commenting on Facebook; no timed filter.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

I hate being wrong, too, as you know, especially when it's because I didn't question assumptions (foreshadowing an upcoming blog post…). But there are a great many people who hate when ANYONE is

wrong on the Internet!