by David Safier
Regular BfA reader and commenter Phillip Keuter sent me this post. You can read the full post after the jump.
I would take this idea that Mr. Safier expressed about violence-laced political rhetoric a step further. It's not just that so much of the rhetoric is laced with violent images and violent metaphors, it's also that so much of the rhetoric from certain places is not even connected with reality. That dynamic always leads to trouble, whether you're in a marriage, running a country, prosecuting a war, publishing a newspaper, or teaching in a classroom.
Examples abound. First is the quote above from Jesse Kelley: "They're destroying this nation, and while I'm still breathing, I will not let it happen." Glenn Beck makes references to the Weimar Republic and hyper inflation. Death Panels, Socialism, Marxism, Hannity calling the Wall Street Journal the "Liberal Left Wing Media.” Bush invaded Iraq — did they attack us? Were they friends with Al Queda? Crazy-making. Plain and simple crazy-making when you stop basing your decisions and your rhetoric on what is real.
And right now? What is the current Frank Luntz nine seconds or less soundbite currently in fashion? "Jobs-Killing" Health Care Bill. It's not connected to reality…it's connected to a win-at-all-costs-and-damn-the-torpedoes-and forget-the-consequences approach to political warfare. And yes, when you conceptualize politics as "war" and lose your moral bearings (i.e., the ends justify the means), and your rhetoric is not based upon anything connected to reality but instead is connected to military references (see http://teapartypatriots.ning.com/ … "Stop the Tyrant!" "1st Brigade" etc), then you have left the reality based world and live in a crazy-making fantasy.
Back when I was growing up during the 60's and 70's, watching the nightly news on TV, listening to radio on my way to school, and reading the news magazines my parents subscribed to (TIME, Newsweek, USNews and World Report, The Atlantic, TNR) nobody ever made statements, or analyzed a situation, or put forward a hypothesis in an essay unless the ideas were actually connected to reality and could be supported with examples, or logic, or could be extrapolated from examples of what had happened previously in history.. They were fact-based and supportable. Logic, history, and facts mattered. They were always reality-based. You could not go on William Buckley's show "Firing Line" and support the absolute nonsense we see as normal everyday rhetoric today in one part of our marketplace of ideas. Buckley would smite you down with righteous contempt if you made half the assertions that are regularly made today.
In the 80's, Reagan was the subject of a lot of ridicule and hyperbole, but the criticism was still connected to reality. (Ronny "RayGun" really did try to build a STAR WARS Missile Defense System.) Intelligent, educated people were still running the show at news organizations, Bill Buckley was still punching holes through anybody's weak ideas, and Rush Limbaugh's shtick was meant as pure satire of comfortable middle class lifestyles. And we made fun of people wearing tin-foil hats because they thought gamma rays from outer space were infecting their brains. What passes for serious political commentary now on much of the radio dial and some of the broadcast spectrum was still the province of MAD Magazine back in the 80’s.
Now, there is no connection between much of the political rhetoric and reality. 1-to-1 ratio of teachers to administrators!? Out of control socialist government takeover of our health care system? Obama is printing money and we need to buy gold and buy guns because this government is leading us into another Weimar Republic scenario? Many assert we need to refamiliarize ourselves with historical limits our constitution placed on the federal government? It’s sad these same people never read the words of James Madison who refused a motion to add the word “expressly” before “delegated” because “there must necessarily be admitted powers by implication.”
There are a lot of people who are not connected with reality-based thinking anymore. Logic? Math? History? No, it’s all manipulation, TV and radio ratings, news as entertainment, and Frank Luntz talking points that matter. Win at all costs, the ends justify the means. Say whatever will get people angry and supporting your side. If you believe Goldwater Institute talking points, and go to rallies decrying the government debt yet illogically won't support programs that will lessen the debt and instead support tax ideas that will increase the debt, then you've lost touch with reality. You may be writing a blog post about unstable currency, the looming certainty of hyper-inflation, not trusting the government’s version of the Constitution, or taking out the tyrant in the White House.
I don't care where you are in life — classroom, marriage, political office, think tank, blog, newspaper, war — reality and facts matter. It's pure crazy-making when you lose touch with reality. And consequences can be ugly. Words matter because every action and every emotion was first an idea.