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.
Or, Republicans could soar if the House Democratic Caucus insists on retaining Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader and presumptive Speaker.
Indeed, one is compelled to wonder how many more Americans would tick the box next to the Democratic candidate if the Dems would simply shed their tired, pedantic old-school progressives in favor of someone more inspiring and less, well, scolding.
I support feminism to the point that I once called myself a feminist. I maintain that gender balance in all aspects of society is not only a necessary precondition to a just civilization, it is also the antidote to many social ills that plague traditional patriarchies, whether in the workplace, the statehouse, or the home.
But when feminism crosses the line into misandry, when it engages in or tolerates behavior that incites hatred against the male gender as a whole, feminism mocks its own goals and becomes unsupportable.
There are many men who are deserving of the worst unflattering epithets known to language. But to draw from that fact the conclusion that “men are scum” (or worse) is to put us all on a pathway to oppression and injustice from which no person would be safe.
Misandry disguised as feminism is hypocrisy. Facebook was right to take the actions that it did.
I’m (almost) nobody’s idea of a liberal,* but I recognize that no political ethos holds a monopoly on the truth, so I appreciate (and pay for) good thinking from across the spectrum.
When Salon was birthed to decades ago, I had hopes that it would be the repository of thoughtful liberalism. Some days it is. But to watch the publication sink to the ad hominem is discouraging. Clickbait or no, name-calling has no place in any thoughtful journal of American politics.
In fairness, I’m going to start calling out the right and center as well. It’s time we end name-calling, and the editors of these publications need to rise above pandering and start attacking words, actions, and positions.
At the same time, I’m going to start restraining my own grade-school playground rhetoric. Please feel free to call me on it if I fall into that trap again.
* The key word here is “almost.” To the reactionaries of the alt-right, I must seem somewhere to the left of Lenin.