Had an interesting, and telling, exchange on a friend’s post last year about Pence’s racist stunt at the Niners-Colts game while Nazis were back in Charlottesville. Someone commented by equating BLM with Nazis. Because I’ve been giving my snarky side some slack these days, I remarked how gifted the poster is at revealing himself as a racist.
Said racist replied with:
“If I’m a racist then your (sic) a liberal.”
These eight words are symptomatic of one of the most successful propaganda campaigns in history. Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz started it in the 1990’s by purposefully, and effectively, reframing political rhetoric to associate anything or anyone considered anywhere near “Left” with negative vocabulary. Then these talking points would be repeated ad nauseum until they entered the greater political narrative.
Former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank once said of Gingrich:
He transformed American politics from one in which people presume the good will of their opponents, even as they disagreed, into one in which people treated the people with whom they disagreed as bad and immoral. He was a kind of McCarthy-ite who succeeded.
So much for the critical idea of “loyal opposition.”
The current GOP under Mitch McConnell, transformed into an extremist right wing organization, and the absurd, surreal election of Donald Trump are the bastard children of this campaign brought to you by Fox News and the rest of the right wing media fog machine.
You hear a lot today about the ugly state of political discourse. Sure there are grossly uncivil lefties venting their spleen on social media, but it’s important to consider that “conservatard” is not a thing.
Most liberals I know disagree with conservatives, but don’t consider them with the animus liberals have been subjected to from the right.
The campaign to demonize “liberal” has been profoundly successful. There are probably those on the right who accept that liberalism is a legitimate worldview, and even that it’s a necessary balance to that of the conservative.
Can’t recall a moment when one defended it, though. (To be honest, if I were a conservative, I’d be concerned that doing so would have me kicked out of the club and branded as a …liberal.) “Liberal” is thrown around like the most vile insult conceivable. “Liberalism is a mental disorder.” Ironically, that’s a frame that was popular in Soviet Russia where any criticism of the regime was labelled a mental illness and it’s off to the gulag with you for fixing. And if you think those who believe this wouldn’t like to see liberals rounded up, you’re not appreciating the seriousness of the situation.
And because of the false equivalency of ‘democrat = liberal,’ and liberalism framed as illegitimate, only one option is left. Just one. The side which successfully made sure the other side is considered a dangerous virus.
Liberals and liberalism have been so effectively demonized by the right-wing propaganda machine that for far too many Americans “liberalism” is no longer a legitimate worldview. It is not to be accepted or tolerated. It is as “unAmerican” as Satanism is heresy to an Evangelical Christian. It’s not just an unacceptable choice. It’s not a choice at all.
So much for Democracy.
Recently, I had a conversation with someone who told me, straight faced, that one of the objectives of the Left is to desensitize society to pedophilia. I had two choices: smile and change the subject or respond as if she was completely out of her mind. (The social situation I was in required the former.) Days later I first heard of Qanon.
Liberals are pedophiles. Just Google it.
How many voted, or didn’t vote at all, for Trump, conscious of his despicable behavior and character, because Clinton wasn’t a legitimate choice. She was viewed as liberal, along with being guilty of all the fictional crimes Fox News accused her of. That many lefties scoff at the idea of a “liberal hillary Clinton” is irrelevant. All that matters is the frame.
We constantly hear that we must try to have a respectful dialogue with those on the right. I know that there are those on the right with whom this is possible. But they’ve become something of a novelty, seems to me.
There is no dialogue possible until such time as liberalism is rehabilitated in the public narrative. Anything a liberal has to say will be considered as much as, well, what a Nazi has to say to a liberal.
“If I’m a racist then your (sic) a liberal.”
Just what are you supposed to do with that? How can you have any kind of political dialogue with someone who inhabits a carefully constructed alternate reality?
You can’t. So arguing the point is useless and absolutely the same as trying to convince a Scientologist, or any other cult member, that they’ve been badly abused. You can’t rearrange another’s reality. Only deprogrammers can do that.
We can’t convince them. We just have to defeat them at the polls and, if necessary, in the streets.
Next time: What is up with Republicans and Nazis?
Here are some links related to Gingrich and the right wing framing campaign
NY Times: The Framing Wars
The Atlanta Journal Constitution: Gingrich’s language set new course
The Atlantic: The Man Who Broke Politics