The Bi-Partisan and Unethical Niggerizing of Political Discourse

Marl Levin, virtuoso niggerizer

The ethics problem with the use of “nigger,” or “bitch,” or “fag,” or any of the other culturally disapproved denigrating labels for human beings belonging to particular groups, is not that they are insulting—adults should be able to  handle mere insults—but that they unfairly diminish the status of individuals, their character, opinions and deeds before they have had the opportunity to be judged on their merits. It isn’t the words, but the effect, in essence sticking a foot out to trip a runner at the beginning of the race—and the race may be a job, an election, a debate, an argument, or policy deliberations.

The No-Labels movement focuses on characterizations and civility, but these are far too vague as concepts to enforce culturally, and subject to easy manipulation for political ends. John Avlon, a leader of No-Labels, still calls politicians he disagrees with “wingnuts.” Why? Because, well, they are wingnuts! Just ask John. Niggerizing, however, goes well beyond labels, and fair people should reject it from either side of the political spectrum. It is a bully tactic, and it is a dishonest debating technique, completely delegitimizing an adversary before addressing his arguments, or giving them an objective hearing. Continue reading

America’s Ignorant Public: What’s Worth Reporting?

John Avlon’s dubious conversion from the author of a best-selling book labeling politicians who disagreed with John Avlon as “wingnuts” to a “No Labels” champion reminded me that he was one of many commentators to draw great significance from a Harris poll last spring that revealed what he called “scary” beliefs held by Republicans. There were several such polls this year about Republicans, conservatives and Tea Partiers; expressing alarm at how ignorant right-leaning Americans are became something of a media fad. For a news media largely dominated by reporters, producers and editors desperate to stave off the erosion of support for Barack Obama, the polls were perfect ammunition: they were genuinely newsworthy; reporting them undermined the credibility of those “scary” Tea Party rallies; they created an opportunity for the news media to bolster its own credibility by explaining why, for instance, the President was not the Anti-Christ, and perhaps best of all, it reinforced the conviction of the majority of newsmedia reporters who self-identify as liberals that they belong to the smart side.

Perhaps it isn’t so strange, then, that only a few news outlets and even fewer commentators chose to feature the results of a recent Harris poll showing that 40% of the U.S. public thinks that Karl Marx’s signature phrase “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” originates  from one of the America’s founding documents. Continue reading

Hypocritical Quote of the Year: John Avlon

“That’s why it’s a little absurd to hear Limbaugh point out disapprovingly that my book Wingnuts itself uses a label to describe the use of fear and hate by hyper-partisans. Its funny how quickly people who throw around labels for a living (“feminazi,” for example) cry foul when a term like “wingnut” is directed at them. But bullies are always shocked when you punch back.”

Author and “No Labels” co-founder John Avlon, in his essay, “My War With Rush Limbaugh”

John Avlon has recently joined with a mostly moderate Democratic group to launch the “No Labels” movement, supposedly dedicated to moving political debate away from uncivil name-calling and personal demonization. This is awkward for a pundit who has thus far made his reputation with a book called Wingnuts, which is a dismissive and derisive L-A-B-E-L he attaches to politicians he disagrees with, mostly Tea Party members and any elected official who opposes abortion. Continue reading

Note to John Avlon: Having Itegrity Doesn’t Make Someone a Wingnut

John Avlon is a Daily Beast contributer; he also is the author of Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America. Avlon’s definition of “wingnut” often seems to be a politician who doesn’t agree with John Avlon, but his recent list of 15 wingnuts running for office this November would be hard to quibble with, except that 15 is far from enough in this disturbing election.

One aspect of his list is both telling and unfair, however. The policy position Avlon cites most frequently to “prove” that a particular candidate is a wingnut is the candidate’s opposition to abortion “even in cases of rape or incest.” Whatever that position may be, it is not evidence of wing-nuttiness. Continue reading

John Avlon’s “Ten Congressmen Who Should Be Fired”: Too Short, By Far

John Avlon, a senior political correspondent at The Daily Beast and author of  the book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America, has posted his list of “Ten Congressmen Who Should Be Fired.” Though Avlon’s definition of “wingnut” is too often “conservative,” and picking the ten most embarrassing members of Congress is like choosing the ten most offensive reality TV stars, it’s a reasonably good list, if far too short and only the beginning. The members on it seem to split into four main categories: outrageously uncivil, clearly incompetent, corrupt, and too outspokenly conservative for Avlon, who regards all Tea Party sympathizers, for example, as dangerous “wingnuts.”

Here’s the list, with highlights of Avlon’s reasons: Continue reading