Bombast and vitriol – who is to blame?

I wrote the other day about Twitter and it’s tendency to attract ultra partisan comments due to the truncated missives that one is limited to. These partisans launch barrages of bombast aimed at whomever dares to express a viewpoint that runs counter to their own. And it can get nasty. And both sides of the spectrum engage in these duels.

I follow a Facebook page called The Progressive Right, and the admins published a note linking to a site called The Blogging Tories In Their Own Words. Putting aside for the moment my beef with labelling the current brand of Conservatives as “Tories”, The Blogging Tories site is an aggregation of several Conservative-minded blogs and there are sometimes insightful commentaries that transcends bombast. But sometimes… well… not so much.

About Gwynne Dyer: “He is very high on the list of those whose corpses should be plowed into a ditch after a short ride in the back of a truck holding other condemned traitors for their mandatory bullet in the head.”

Barrel Strength, July 1, 2010

Yeah. That type of thing will promote dialogue and cooperation, eh?

Threats and hyperbole are the orders of the day rather than the exceptions for the far right.  Glen Beck, Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh – and here in Canada, Ezra Levant – all are guilty of attacking the person rather than the idea. Demonize the person supporting the idea that you loathe and you demonize the idea. Obama has been the traget of ad hominem attacks for years. “He isn’t American.” “He is Muslim.”  “He’s a socialist.” The rhetoric has been fast and furious and the far right will stop at nothing… no bar is too low.

In Canada, we have several factions that have used hyperbole to demonize successive Grit leaders.  Remember the attacks on Chretien’s appearance? Labelling Dion as a “Vendu Tel Quel”? Iggy as “Iffy” or “Just Visiting”? All are attacks on the person rather than the idea. Why? Because it an easier sell. Dissecting a policy ion a way that is understandable to the general populace is tougher than just saying that the guy is a “poopy face”, right?

And these extremists will not admit it when they have gone too far.

Take the tragic shooting in Arizona, for example. All of the Tea Party type pundits in the States have been flapping their arms in righteous indignation and claiming that they had NOTHING to do with this tragedy. This-is-utter-bullshit! Sarah Plain, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox “news” – since the election of Obama, all have been raging against anyone who dares to question their über right wing, militaristic, gawd-fearing weltanschauung! Yeah, Palin is guilty of it but much more of the blame has to lie with media outlets like Fox. In a naked grab for ratings glory, Fox has done more to divide the US of A than any of the Palins, Becks et al put together!

Put it this way, there are wackos out there – and in the US, many of them likely have guns – and who do not need a huge push to fall off the precipice of rationality completely. Violent diatribes on a continual basis institutionalises violence as a normal course of action in society if it repeated often enough. Palin and the others may not have put the gun into the hand of the assailant, but they sure laid the groundwork.

You betcha!

Holy crap – there are even media outlets in the States that have talked about the violent overthrow of the Obama government!

So you say – and some of you might challenge me on this – that the radical left isn’t any better.

Really?

OK. You show me where. For every Palin and Beck, you show me an equivalent on the far left. And by equivalent I mean as high profile, as legitimized by the MSM (or a faction within it) and as powerful as any of those on the right.

You won’t be able to… I have looked already.

Yes, there are so-called “liberal” pundits like Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann, Anderson Cooper. And “liberal” media like the NY Times, CBS, PBS and NPR … BUT, during the Bush administration, did any one of these personalities or news sources openly muse about overthrowing the government? Has any one of these Americans or media outlets used the same inflammatory and violent language to the same extent as have those on the right?

No way.

I can only conclude that the American right is a lot more pissed off than the left and is more willing than the left to engage in character assassination and vitriolic grenade throwing.

(Again, I need to emphasize what I wrote the other day – I-AM-NON-PARTISAN)

But, that’s the way it is in the States, you say. We here in Canada are far, FAR more civilized than this, you say. We might have some wing nuts like Levant and some kooks on Twitter, but we would never go so far as the Americans, right????

Oh, really?

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s chief electoral officer is blaming anti-HST supporters for sending him hundreds of hate-filled emails, some of which call for his slow, painful death.

Craig James said he has received more than 390 threatening messages since late November, when, as head of Elections B.C., he rejected the first application to recall Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong because it exceeded a 200-word limit.

“They contained the most vile, nasty, disgusting language that you would ever think,” James said in an interview Tuesday.

“They were a little unsettling. But what caused me more concern were a number of them who were talking about, ‘Keep looking over your shoulder, I know where you work,’ that sort of thing. And several of them that were very threatening.”

James said he has reflected on the threats against him since Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot last weekend. Six people died in the attack, which has caused some Americans to blame overheated political rhetoric.

“It did resonate with me,” James said.

The messages began appearing shortly after the anti-harmonized sales tax group, Fight HST, sent his personal email address to a list of supporters, James said.

Many messages contained threats written above a copy of the Fight HST email, he said.

One read: “You are disgusting as a person and waste of skin.”

Another read: “You sir are a scum of the earth, a cancer on the people of B.C. You deserve to die a slow death of cancer. I may even pray you do.”

“These are the mild ones,” James said.

Are we here in the Great White North heading further down this road. Or are we already there?
Finally, what you see below is pulled from a site that I follow regularly, Bow. James Bow.

… maybe we should be reminded that regardless of our political opinions, we are all people. Those on opposite sides of the political debate can and do disagree on loads of issues, such as how much should be taxed and what services the government should be obliged to provide and who to. We disagree about immigration and education policy, and so on.

But there exists on our fringes people who disagree with the moderates not on their political views but on the rightness of using violence to bring those views about. At some point we should reaffirm that this is a more fundamental disagreement than anything we might have about policy. And to those conservatives who like to defend themselves by saying “well, yeah, the left does it too”, the fact remains that these extremists are speaking on your behalf, and some of your mainstream leaders are using their rhetoric to further their own political ends.

Maybe it’s time to rethink what we think about our political opponents, starting with the fact that we are political opponents and not enemies. We are not at war with each other, and anybody who uses rhetoric to suggest otherwise should be called out for his or her hyperbole. It is time to ramp it down, folks, before more people get hurt.

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2 Comments to “Bombast and vitriol – who is to blame?”

  1. Ken says:

    Not to advertise my own site, but I wrote about this back in October as well. Different spin, but same essentially the same topic.

    http://kendrosm.blogspot.com/2010/10/compromise-ability-to-find-middle.html

    • trashee says:

      Weird. I had to approve your comment. You’re on my “don’t need to approve” list… WordPress might be wonky today.

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