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Commentary :: Right Wing
Labeled by the Right Current rating: 3
14 Jun 2004
The right has use labeling as a tactic to discredit their enemies, us.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Columnists, like other writers, need inspiration; at the very least, they need a topic. Sometimes topics seem to fall into our laps like manna from heaven. I was blessed with one such topic when I read a newspaper column in which a neo-con was complaining of being called a “neo-con.”

This is a political, some might say a “silly,” season; a time when labels fly around like accusations against a serial killer. In some cases, the labeling is a year around process; one that goes on for year after year.

Labels often substitute for a real discussion of issues. It is much easier to paint your opponent with a hateful term than to be forced to support your positions with rational reasons for the position that you hold dear. So, I think it is time to “ponder” some of these labels and how they are used.

That great “philosopher,” Dr. Laura Schlessinger, radio talk show commentator and self appointed adviser to young, naïve women who make horrible mistakes in their personal lives, once drifted into one of her diatribes against “Liberals.” She described how the Nazis were able to demonize a term, while she didn’t provide the word I was convinced that she meant, “Jew.” She described how the Nazis used that word as a hateful and demeaning way in order to create an emotional response to it. Once the general population was trained to have a negative response at hearing it, they applied the word to their enemies. Having applied this term to those that they hated, the Nazis were successful in cutting off dialogue and shutting off all reasonable discussion so that there was no one to challenge the “common knowledge” that those painted by the term were “evil” and needed to be dealt with.

Déjà vu! All of this sounded very familiar to this writer because day after day, Dr. Laura, herself, had used the word “liberal” to describe her political enemies. For that matter, she used her accurate description of what Hitler and the Nazis had done to gain control of Germany as a launching pad to further demonize the term “Liberal.”

When Newt Gingrich was a power in the House of Representatives, he developed a list of names that he used to describe his political enemies. His party was instructed to use the list to paint their enemies with those “loathsome” terms. He was able, with the vast support of his political think-alikes like Dr. Laura, to misuse and to distort the term “liberal.” Neo-conservatives have used “liberal” to ridicule their enemies ever since. Liberals have been so intimidated by this tactic that they are afraid to accept the term to describe themselves. When he was President, Bill Clinton, realizing what a good job the neo-conservatives had done to demonize the term, was afraid to apply it to himself and caught himself in mid utterance to correct himself.

I have used the term neo-conservative several times in this column and for good reason. First of all, I believe that I was one of the first to use have it. It had to be coined to describe those who called themselves conservatives because they just don’t behave as “conservatives” do. In many cases, we liberals are far more conservative than the current batch of neo-consists.

Until this bunch came along, I had proudly proclaimed myself a conservative. When I began to question the tactics and abusiveness of these self-described conservatives, I was painted with terms like, socialist, communist and horror of horrors, “Liberal.” Since that time, I have proudly called myself a liberal because I no longer wanted to be associated with the hijacked term “conservative.”

In my mind, conservatives are prudent, cautious, fiscally responsible people, who do not behave in a reckless, untested way. A conservative certainly would not be hasty to make war or rush to change our Constitution without careful consideration of the consequences. A conservative would not wade into arguments with allegations that have no basis in fact. A true conservative would not engage in character assassination. A true conservative would not be careless with tax cuts and spending. In short, there needed to be a new term for those who now call themselves “conservatives,” but who act in ways that are contrary to the very definition of the term.

Our schools should teach our kids how to recognize propaganda. They should learn how distortions of logic are used for political advantage. We need real discussions of issues, not verbal abuse and name calling, a hallmark of our current national leadership.

The personal attacks used against Richard Clark are perfect examples of how neo-cons respond to defend their failed policies on the very important issue of protecting our country from terrorism. Mr. Clark, a registered Republican was accused of being a Democrat. Oh, my, my, how horrible! To defend their lack of action or inattention, their first reaction was try to discredit the man who brought very serious issues to the attention of the general public.

Yes, we needed the term neo-con to describe these rabid, misguided, anti-intellectual leaders who have led our country into the treacherous morass of terrorism and deficits while cutting important social programs to help the neediest in our society.


Gene W. DeVaux

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