Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Little the better for anything else

By Mike Fox

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Point-counterpoint: Politics: nasty, brutish and short

The tragedy in Tucson was committed by a mentally disturbed individual whose true motivations might never be known. His motive might not even be coherent. However, in light of the political tone of the event and the resultant analysis, our country has a unique opportunity for navel-gazing at what has become a toxic political culture with rhetoric that has begun to invoke violence to an often absurd degree.

Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of extremism. At different points in history, and at different levels, people’s passions can overflow into evoking extremism. It’s an undeniable fact and widely accepted element in politics. However, other than times of great revolution or distress, extremism has been reserved for the fringe. Moderation has been the path to making as many people happy as possible while maintaining stability. In their recent attempts to gun up more support, the political establishment of the right has made a show of embracing extremist and dramatically violent rhetoric.

The details have been repeated ad nauseum: Glenn Beck’s conspiracy theory chalkboard’s historical quest to brand anyone remotely liberal as evil, Sarah Palin’s hunting fetishes, the absolutist arguments during the health care debate; all of the evidence is obvious.

The opposition is also outspoken. The talking heads of MSNBC show their fair share of bias and the numerous comparisons of Bush and Hitler by extremist liberals show that extremism has reared its head on the left. But, when the Republican speaker of the house refuses to acknowledge how ridiculous the accusation that Obama wasn’t born in the United States is, it means the political climate has become mind-blowingly paranoid.

Politics necessitates delivering the simplest message possible in order to get the most support possible as quickly as possible. Politics of fear are broadly appealing due to natural instincts towards survival. The messages of Beck, Palin and others have found popularity through this principle and they have been picked up and carried, somewhat understandingly, by the Republican party for support.

However, the endorsement of these philosophies has begun to infect coherent political thought. Extremist candidates were supported during the mid-term elections due to divisive beliefs now being accepted by the mainstream. Now, the ones that have been elected have even greater perches to popularize extremist beliefs and lend apparent legitimacy to their opinions through the virtue of their positions.

It’s almost a perfect example of a group selling its soul for power. By embracing the politics of fear as part of its central platform –  witness the original title of the current attempt to repeal health care reform, “the Repealing the JobKilling Health Care Law Act” –  the establishment of the right has shown a willingness to embrace fluff and demagoguery over policies with true substance.

Understandably, not everyone can concern themselves with such issues of political morals. However, the entire tone of conversation has still become clogged by divisive posturing. What has developed isn’t the understanding that people of opposing political beliefs have different but equally good-hearted views for the country. What’s developed is a kind of zero-sum game/mutually exclusive attitude where, if someone has different political beliefs, they are out for your destruction. The United States has seen this attitude rear its head before. In the 1950s, due to fear of Soviet infiltration in the United States, the senator from Wisconsin, Eugene McCarthy carried out a campaign of terror against members of the government and  establishment as well as some well-known actors and actresses. Anyone who had any inkling of leaning left in his views was considered to be aligned with the Soviet Union. Lives and reputations were destroyed. The entire business of government suffered as it ate itself from the inside out.

We are on the verge of a new era of McCarthyism if the extremist rhetoric continues to be embraced by the mainstream elements of any political movement in our country. However, the right, due to circumstances and possibly desperation, has more recently embraced it wholeheartedly. The disturbed and divided brain of the Tucson shooter, who considered “Mein Kampf” and the “Communist Manifesto” as two of his favorite books, could only prove to be a microcosm of the destructive divisionism if politics continues on this course.

Mike Fox is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

1 Comment

One Response to “Little the better for anything else”

  1. Kamina on January 28th, 2011 12:40 pm

    Fuck moderation. Row, row, fight da powa!

    [Reply]

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