Don't Stop the ACLU

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Words without thoughts never to heaven go

My favorite thing about the Internet is that it gives everyone a voice. My least favorite thing about the Internet is that it gives everyone a voice. The means of communication is no longer exclusively in the hands of wealthy TV/movie producers and newspaper publishers, and the common man has gained exceptional power since the blog revolution kicked off. But as I learned from Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. Unlike pro journalists, bloggers don’t have fact checkers or editors to deal with, so they’re left to police themselves. Rival bloggers and readers help somewhat by calling bullshit when they see it, but for the most part, it’s up to the blogger himself to be honest and respectful.

Unfortunately, political rhetoric in the blogosphere devolved into – or maybe it started out with – petty bickering, name-calling, and general shenanigans.

This is a plea to all the poli-bloggers out there to refine their rhetoric and return the sacred art of debate to its rightful place. Below please find a list of words and phrases that we must banish (or at least use in a more appropriate manner) from future political discourse if we are to achieve our goal of a tolerant, peaceful community. Please note that variations and synonyms of the words below that are used to similar effect are also to be outlawed.

conservative/liberal/right/left – These words are used too often to dismiss dissidents without paying any heed to their arguments, as in “You’re just a conservative. I don’t have to listen to anything you say.” They do nothing but polarize.

communist/socialist – Similar to the above item. Communism and socialism are rarely associated with their political/economic theories, but rather, they are associated with anti-Americanism and authoritarian governments. Please use caution when deploying these terms.

freedom – Unless this word is followed by a prepositional phrase, such as “of expression,” please do not use it. Many people will use “freedom” in an attempt to elicit an emotional response, as in “terrorists hate our freedom,” to which you should reply, “No they don’t. They hate us because we’re Christians and we support Israel.” Let’s not throw around sacred words so loosely.

our children – Sure, there are basic protections we need to have in place for children, but don't invoke their names in the middle of a politcal debate unless you're discussing one of said protections. We don't collectively share all of the world's children, so speak for your own, not everyone else's.

stupid name puns, e.g. dumb-o-crat/rethuglican/etc. – Such puns are not at all clever or humorous. All they will do is make you look hateful and detract from your argument.

fascist – Before you use this word, ask yourself these questions: 1) Is the person I’m about to call a fascist an evil dictator, or does he support an evil dictator? 2) Does the person I’m about to call a fascist espouse oppressive, authoritarian economic and social policies? If the answer to either question is no, do not call the person a fascist.

morals/family values – These words no longer mean anything. Morals and values are entirely relative. Unless you’re offering your personal notions of morality at the same time, don’t use these words.

patriotic/unpatriotic – Also very relative. Ask yourself, does your opponent really hate America, or does he simply disagree with you about what’s best for America? Unless you’re expressing your own love for America, which is entirely acceptable, don’t use these words.

nazi/hitler – Just don’t go there.

flip-flopper – Changing one’s mind is acceptable. No need for name-calling.

bushisms – Making fun of G.W. for his linguistic flubs was entertaining for the first few months of his administration, but now it’s just kind of pathetic. Find something better to do with your time.

islamofascist/judeofascist – See “fascist.” Same questions apply here. Can't you just call such people "terrorists" instead of making up strange hybrid words that are vaguely offensive?

religion – You don’t get to make laws based on your religion, so unless religion itself is the topic of discussion, leave it out.

war on terror(ism) – As Mr. David Cross explains, “The war on terrorism is a fucking joke. You cannot win a war on terrorism. It’s like having a war on jealousy … It’s an absurd notion.” In a war on an abstract concept, no one wins.

spelling/grammar – Only assholes point out spelling and grammar mistakes. If you do this during a debate, you automatically lose.

illegal – Calling illegal immigrants “illegals” is a great example of bending the English language in ways it shouldn’t be bent. Please don’t change parts of speech. Respect the words, and they'll respect you back.

clinton’s blow job/bush’s drugs and alcohol – Who gives a shit? Find something relevant to talk about.

baby killer – Yikes! Just say you believe that life begins at conception. Don't turn people off with such angry words.

gay agenda – If you’re using this phrase to describe the LGBT population’s quest for equal rights and tolerance, go ahead and use it. Otherwise, no.

gun nut – The Second Amendment’s biggest champions are also the most responsible gun owners. Don’t call them names.

weasel words – FOX News loves these! Using phrases like “some people say…” and “it’s been said that…” is a good way to distance yourself from some crazy assertion when your actual goal is to make that very assertion. Please don’t do this.

bush bashing – If you want to criticize Bush’s policies, fine, but do it calmly and rationally. We already have one Michael Moore, and we don’t need another one.

loony/wingnut – Calling people who disagree with you crazy will only make you look ignorant. Don’t do it.

anti-choice/pro-death/anti-life – We agreed on the terms pro-choice and pro-life decades ago. Stick to those.

indoctrination – Calling institutions – particularly colleges and universities – indoctrination centers is the same as saying that all students are ignorant morons who can’t think for themselves. College students are actually very smart and independent, and they’re quite capable of making their own decisions. Give them some credit. (Aside: I spent four years at what is considered one of the most liberal universities in the world, and I never once encountered a professor who used the classroom to preach. It doesn’t happen as often as David Horowitz would like you to think it does.) The whole idea of indoctrination speaks very poorly of the human race. We're not idiots.

cable news hosts – What hath Ted wrought? Cable news is all show and no substance. The hosts of the supposed debate shows are all full of shit, and their discussions amount to pissing contests. If you watch them for entertainment (kind of like you'd watch pro wrestling), fine, but don't put any stock into what they say. Again, they're all full of shit. Especially O’Reilly, Geraldo, and Matthews. But especially all the rest of them, too. Don’t listen to them, and for chrissakes please don’t quote them or try to pass off their rants as valid arguments.

That’s it for me! Please feel free to add to this list.

posted by Maj. M.T. Rational XXXIV at 1:39 AM


Anonymous Roger Victoria said...

Please add - politically correct/incorrect - if you can't tell someone the political term or philosophy then you can't tell them they're correct or incorrect

April 29, 2006 12:33 AM  
Anonymous chezjake said...

1. You said: "to which you should reply, “No they don’t. They hate us because we’re Christians and we support Israel.” Let’s not throw around sacred words so loosely." That is basically making the drastic assumption that all terrorists are Islamic/Arabic, which is patently false. Anyone who uses, or threatens to use violence or destroy others' property in order to demonstrate or promote their own political, economic, social or religious agenda is a terrorist. That includes those who murder abortion providers, those who bomb or burn research labs to promote animal rights, those who use violence or active harrassment against gays, lesbians, or transexuals, and many more.

2.I would add one more element to those who can be called "fascists." The American Heritage Dictionary describes fascism as "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." By that definition, there are certain individuals in current political leadership positions who can certainly be called advocates of fascism.

3. Under "religion" you said: "You don’t get to make laws based on your religion..." There are certainly many in the US today who think that they should be able to make laws based on their religion, so arguing against the laws they advocate should certainly entitle one to point out their religious motivations.

Over all, it's a good list.

April 29, 2006 11:56 AM  
Blogger meatbrain said...

I just found your site via a mention at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, and I very much like your style. I've tried to do much the same thing at my own blog (I won't impose on your hospitality by linking it here) when critiquing the arguments at Occasionally, yes, I slip and descend into ad hominem... but I do my level best to stick to reason.

It's good to know that there are others taking the same approach.

April 29, 2006 9:20 PM  
Blogger Maj. M.T. Rational XXXIV said...

All very good points, Jake. There are some things I wasn't too clear about, and I think you caught some of the big ones.

Meatbrain, please do provide us with a link! We can always use more allies.

May 01, 2006 6:17 PM  

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