You might be said to have extremist views if you object to same sex marriages or gay adoptions, or if you think we should halt immigration. By the same token, an opinion poll published last year revealed that almost 40 per cent of the population think it is extremist to believe that global warming is happening and 36 per cent think it extremist to hope that Britain leaves the EU. In other words, ‘extremism’ has simply become one of those words which has lost almost all of its meaning and is used simply as an insult to hurl at one’s opponents. A bit like ‘troll’.
As a someone who is – at least in his own mind – about two notches to the right of center on the American Two-Dimensional Political Taxonomy, I only rarely find myself being called an extremist, but it happens often enough to make me believe that Rod Liddle has raised a pressing issue.
The overuse of the word “extremist” undermined the meaning of a once-valuable political descriptor. Worse, it has also ushered in an era in which political name-calling and demonization have become acceptable substitutes for intelligent political discourse.
Here is my suggestion: let us expunge the term from our political discussions, and let us also purge ourselves of the desire to demonize those who disagree with us. Disagreement, along with compromise and participation, is an essential ingredient in a democracy. The minute we are all compelled to agree with each other – or pretend to do so – we have taken upon ourselves the fetters of tyranny.
Let us not do that. Let us instead agree that there are no safe zones in a democratic society, and to toughen ourselves to those who (verbally, at least) oppose us so that all may enjoy the liberties our founding fathers bestowed upon us.