Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Hate Smear -- Stalinism, American-Style

 It depends on what the meaning of the words 'is' is. 
                                                President Bill Clinton 

In the late 1980s and the 1990s the polemics of the political landscape was dramatically altered by the rise of talk radio.  For whatever reason, the medium was particularly amenable to political commentary and conversation that was both conservative and populist.  This was a voice of genuine opposition carried off by characters flamboyant and at times obnoxious, and it was highly and broadly participatory giving the average person an opportunity to express his or her ideas and points of view.  But most importantly what this medium offered was an alternative political perspective that nevertheless respected U.S. political institutions and processes.  There were no calls for revolution, no threats of violence. There were no attempts at subversion or sedition.        
            In 1994 a militia fringe group with roots in rural northern Michigan group blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people, including 19 children under the age of six, and injuring 680.  President Clinton, a man whose personal probity even by the contemporary standards of politicians was of a remarkably low register, declared that the “hate climate” of talk radio had produced the terrorists-bombers, a shameful and cynical move of Stalinist inspiration in two ways.
First was the outrageous, slanderous dishonesty consistent with his long history of mendacity.  There were no connections, no affinity of any kind between the bombers and the commentary coming from talk radio. 
Second, Clinton’s slur was a blatant attempt to smear his political opponents and inhibit legitimate political criticism and conversation.  Talk radio had arisen as a powerful populist force in mobilizing voters in the 1994 congressional elections. It had been a political threat to the Democrats and especially to Clinton.  The “hate” that Clinton was so eager to attribute to talk radio was legitimate criticism and disapproval, essential elements in a competitive political arena.  No one has a right to compel someone else to approve of them, and disapproval is clearly not the same as hatred.  Yet, Clinton and the Democrats were trying to convince voters that legitimate expressions of disapproval were in fact declamations of hatred.  Since no leader is perfect, criticism is healthy, and a certain level of ridicule at leadership elites, no matter what party or persuasion, is actually good as a way to reduce their oversized egos, temper their arrogance and remind everyone of their flaws and foibles. The simple fact was that Clinton feared and resented the criticism.  Rather than engage and dispute with his critics he smeared them as haters, thus attempting to put them outside the pale by asserting that they were morally complicit in an act of terrorism and mass murder. This was a page taken right out of the 1930s Stalinist agitprop manual. Stalinists do not engage their opposition. They attempt to destroy it.
The hate smear has now become a basic staple of the Left’s political analysis and commentary, an ad hominem retort resorted to almost routinely.  Consider this piece on the 2000 Presidential election by CNN political commentator, Paul Begala.  The candidate Begala had supported was Vice President Al Gore, hoping to succeed his outgoing boss, Bill Clinton. Years later, one cannot help be struck by how crude and vicious it is.  Gore’s loss, as Begala has it, was not the result of his failure to convince a sufficient number of voters of the worth of his policies, rather Gore lost because a larger number of voters in a large part of the country were bigots. It was not Gore who failed; it was the cretins from the regions of the unenlightened.    

 If] you look closely at [the electoral college map distinguishing Republican Red states versus Democrat blue states… [y]ou see the state where James Byrd was lunched – dragged behind a car until his body came apart – its red. You see the state where Matthew was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay – its red. You see the state where right wing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered scores of federal employees  -- its red.  The state where an Army private who was thought to be gay was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, and the state where neo-Nazi skinheads murdered two African-Americans because of their skin color, and the state where Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry; they’re all red too.

This smear was a twenty-first century update to the Fascist smear of the 1930s and 1940s.   Moreover, it was crafted and launched not by a fringe political hack, but a Georgetown University professor, nationally syndicated columnist, and friend and former adviser to none other than President Clinton.  It was not an argument but a malignant diatribe worthy of Stalin’s show trial prosecutor, Andrei Vyshinskyi.  It is 21st century Stalinist political discourse from the highest levels of the Democrat party.  The hate smear is now standard operating procedure on the part of the Left.   

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