One predictable but unsettling result of the blogging revolution is the revival of the kind of agitprop writing that I thought went out of style with the demise of Khrushchev and Mao and Radio Moscow.
I write one and I read dozens of blogs every day, but I have to tell you: there’s a certain kind of commentary – whether it be a blog or a talk show diatribe – I immediately dismiss as propagandistic drivel, and it usually has to do with language.
Let me give you some examples of words meant to incite, inflame and evade real discussion and debate.
Fascism: If I read a left wing blog that talks about “fascist” Republicans, I dismiss it immediately. Fascists weren’t people you just disagreed with, they were part of a political movement based on totalitarian government and repression. The kind of government that put its adversaries in jail and had them killed.
I heard this sometimes during the Bush years, and it always convinced me the person writing or speaking the word wasn’t a serious commentator and that talking to them would be a waste of time.
Communism/Socialism/ Marxism: These perennial favorites in the hit parade of rhetorical excess are enjoying a great revival these days; I bet you can’t tune through the AM radio dial for ten minutes and not hear these words applied to President Obama, the Democrats, the ACLU, Moveon.org and their fellow travelers (more on this one later).
An accurate translation of what this means is: anybody who doesn’t agree with your right-wing positions.
I can think of plenty of reasons to object to Obama administration health care and economic policies, but the idea that they’re socialist or communist – the other day I heard a talk show host say that this administration will “stop at nothing in putting us in the cradle-to-grave prison that is Marxism” — isn’t one of them. This guy’s a socialist the way I’m a man from Mars. Socialists don’t bail out big banks and support health care reform that helps big insurance companies.
It’s sure-fire debate ender. I often think that people who talk this way aren’t really trying to convince people their positions are right, they’re just preaching to their own little choirs and trying to make themselves feel good.
Nazi comparisons: We get these from both sides of the political spectrum, and it always tells me the statement containing such allusions will be hogwash not worth listening to. If you can’t make your point with logic and facts, please don’t bother me.
Fellow Travelers: it’s an extension of the communist analogies, and critics of J Street love to use it. J Street doesn’t just have members and followers, it has fellow travelers – meaning diabolical members of an evil conspiracy. Left-wing critics of AIPAC also like this one, and it’s the same witless balderdash coming from them.
Self-hating Jews: Rare is the day this one doesn’t flash across my computer screen multiple times.
If you believe Israel must find a compromise solution to getting out of the West Bank, you’re a self-hating Jew; if you think the Democrats are okay, you’re a self-hating Jew; if you think Barack Obama isn’t Satan, you’re a self-hating Jew. Oh, and you may be one if you’re a Reform Jew, a Jew who believes in gay rights, global warming…the list is sort of endless, when you come right down to it.
Do the people slinging this term around really think it convinces people of their point of view? Do they really think it promotes serious discussion and debate?
But then, maybe that’s the point.
One more really cool one. Lately I’ve heard J Street’s officials and supporters referred to as “vampires.” I sort of like that; I can just picture Jeremy Ben-Ami dressed up like Bela Lugosi. Of course, I don’t expect to have a rational conversation about J Street or anything else who calls J Streeters “vampires,” but what the heck.