Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Neo-Civil Discourse

I've lamented before about the state of the modern socio-political discussion.

Michelle Malkin posted her syndicated column today. It's titled "The Four Stages of Conservative Female Abuse." She makes the well-documented assertion that each stage — infantilization, sexualization, demonization, and dehumanization — has been utilized with alarming acceleration by the unhinged elements of the Democratic party adherents. These people are clearly out to get Palin's scalp, and nothing less will satisfy them. The phrase "kill Palin, and kill her quick" has already been suggested, and one wonders just how literally the left is willing to go to accomplish that directive.

I found Malkin's article interesting for another reason. It documents the use of means by which totalitarian regimes throughout history have often degraded and humiliated their citizens in order to attain and maintain control over them. Hitler used demonization, for instance, to astonishing degrees of success. He so inflamed the wrath of Germans and their sympathizers against the Jews that the next step — dehumanization — was completed without so much as a battle fought. They seemingly just rounded them up and tossed them all into concentration camps, there to endure abuses and deprivations that have never been seen at Gitmo.

But there is a fundamental problem with decrying such behaviors and trying to pin them exclusively to one side or the other. It simply can't be done. There is no exclusivity in this arena because both sides, Democrats and Republicans alike, are frequently guilty.

To use one of Michelle's examples, Bill Maher once infamously called Laura Bush "Hitler's dog." Other examples abound, including Whoopi Goldberg's profane comparisons of George Bush with female anatomy. In each case, no attempt at civility is even hinted at. The intended victims have incurred the wrath of the speakers, and they must pay.

Yet Michelle herself is often no less guilty of demonization when writing about her political opponents and targets. Let's face it: writing an entire tome about the "unhinged" left (a phrase I myself have used, including the second paragraph of this post) is demonizing, whatever else you may choose to call it.

But these tactics are inherent in modern politics. You can't avoid them, and no single candidate in the last 100 years or more has ever dared try. Politicians who do not employ one or more of Malkin's "stages" do not attain office in this country. Not anymore. Especially when confronted with an electorate that has become so saturated with the "entertainment value" of denigrating one's opponent to the point of abject humiliation and destruction.

We have long since, as a nation, put behind us the ability to judge a candidate solely on their stated positions. One wonders whether Lincoln would ever have reached the White House were he put under the modern microscopes of armchair internet investigators, rabid talk-show hosts, cable network talking heads, and a decidedly arrogant and biased press. The man certainly had his human faults and foibles, and it's highly unlikely that even the Douglas-Lincoln debates would have amounted to much more than a 30-second sound bite because the "moderator" would have insisted on lobbing inane question after inane question at them.

So here's my challenge to the electorate-at-large: Let's take the next several weeks and quit trying to find out whether Palin was at some point in her life a closet Nazi pole-dancer, or whether Joe Biden is having inappropriate relations with his hair dresser. Let's instead listen to what they actually say and make our judgements solely on that basis. No other distractions, please, so we can listen and actually process what we're hearing. I believe we'll all be able to come out of that experience with a much greater appreciation for whether or not our preferred candidates are truly worthy of the job.

I, for one, will be listening intently to Gov. Palin this evening. I really need to hear what she says, and I hope she doesn't waste too much time on all the nonsense to which the scandal-mongers have subjected her this week. I've only heard her talk about energy so far, and I liked what I heard. I will tune into the debates later to see how the candidates measure up to each other. It should be very enlightening.

At least, it will so long as the white noise goes away.

No comments: