Hate Speech from the Left

by | Jan 26, 2002 | POLITICS

“It’s hard not to notice that political discussion over the last decade has increasingly degenerated into name-calling,” Brian Anderson wrote in the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal last year. “The insults most often come from the left: ‘racist,’ ‘homophobe,’ ‘sexist.’. . . It has become a habit of left-liberal political argument to .. . . redefine […]

“It’s hard not to notice that political discussion over the last decade has increasingly degenerated into name-calling,” Brian Anderson wrote in the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal last year. “The insults most often come from the left: ‘racist,’ ‘homophobe,’ ‘sexist.’. . . It has become a habit of left-liberal political argument to .. . . redefine mainstream conservative arguments as extremism and bigotry. Close-minded and uncivil, this tendency betrays what’s liberal in liberalism.”

For each of the past eight years, I have been rounding up examples of liberal hate speech — the gross and vicious slanders of conservatives that are uttered all too often by liberal politicians, activists, and journalists. And I have reached the conclusion that as bad as these vitriolic slurs are, even worse is the failure of responsible voices on the left to condemn them.

Where were the responsible liberals in 2001, for example, when Democratic partisans were comparing John Ashcroft to the KKK and his nomination to a lynching party?

Representative William Clay of Missouri, recalling George W. Bush’s talk of outreach to black Americans, said that picking Ashcroft resembled “the way that Ku Klux Klan members worked to improve race relations: They, too, reached out to blacks with nooses and burning crosses.” Steve Benson, a syndicated editorial cartoonist, depicted Ashcroft wearing white robes and enthusiastically brandishing a noose as Bush restrains him: “Easy, John — I said your confirmation should be a cinch — a cinch.”

The chairman of the NAACP reached for a more contemporary smear. Twice Julian Bond declared that Bush had dredged Ashcroft “from the Taliban wing of American politics.” That was ugly enough in July, when the Taliban were merely the fanatics who tortured dissidents, crushed human rights, and repressed women so savagely that thousands died from lack of medical care. By December, when Bond repeated his libel, the Taliban were at war with the United States, actively trying to kill Americans. Yet Bond still saw nothing wrong with his revolting comparison. And neither did America’s liberal elite.

Actually, one liberal — USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham — did call Bond’s words “overblown.” I would have taken that as faintly critical, except that he began by chortling over Bond’s ability “to jerk the GOP’s chain” and went on to defend his Republican-bashing. Far from condemning liberal hate speech, Wickham himself traffics in it. In August, he wrote about the campus uproar over conservative activist David Horowitz’s ad opposing reparations for slavery. The column opened with a grotesque calumny, calling Horowitz “a man whose views on race relations track closer to those of David Duke than Martin Luther King.”

To accuse someone falsely of being akin to a Nazi racist is worse than contemptible. Yet liberals say such things almost routinely — and other liberals don’t object.

By contrast, when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson ascribed the Sept. 11 attacks to God’s wrath over abortion, gay rights, feminism, and the ACLU, fellow conservatives slammed them.

Rush Limbaugh blasted them as “indefensible” and said as a conservative, he was “profoundly embarrassed and disappointed by their comments.” William F. Buckley disdained their “ignorant misapplication of Christian thought.” In the New York Post, John Podhoretz wrote of his “revulsion,” labeling the remarks “shameful . . .. ignorant.” Rod Dreher, in a powerful column for NationalReview.com, called Falwell and Robertson “heartless bastards” whose words had been “unspeakably profane.”

That was par for the course. When a conservative oversteps the bounds of decency in demonizing a liberal, he typically gets scorched by criticism, much of it from the right. But there was no scorching of:

  • Chris Matthews, when he likened Republicans quoting John F. Kennedy on tax cuts to “the Nazi Party quoting Kennedy saying, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’?”
  • Al Sharpton, who said during the post-election ballot fight in Florida that conservatives wanted to “do the same thing to us” that “Hitler in his wickedness and evil” did to the Jews.
  • Michelangelo Signorile, the well-known gay writer, who wrote that while Afghanistan “has been protecting Osama bin Laden, Italy has been harboring another omnipotent religious zealot, one who equally condemns us Western sinners and incites violence. . . .. Meet John Paul II, Christian fundamentalist extraordinaire and a man who inspires thugs across the globe . . . .”
  • Paul Conrad, the syndicated Los Angeles Times cartoonist, who depicted the Republicans’ tax-cut bill as a GOP elephant, wearing an Al Qaeda headdress and holding a smoking AK-47.
  • The several members of the Hawaii ACLU board of directors who publicly objected to inviting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to take part in a debate on the grounds that he is “an Antichrist,” “a Hitler” — or “if not Hitler, he is a Goebbels” — and an “a–hole,” and that allowing him to speak would be “like having a serial murderer debate the value of life.”

And then there was California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who said last summer, in reference to the chairman of Enron Corp., “I would love to personally escort [Kenneth] Lay to an 8-by-10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, ‘Hi, my name is Spike, honey.’ ” [Lockyer’s statement was not made in reference to Enron losing money and going bankrupt, but in reference to the rare case where Enron honestly made money.–Editor]

That is what liberal hate speech descended to this year: A Democratic politician openly yearning for an unpopular businessman to be raped behind bars. How low will they go in 2002?

Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe. This is an excerpt from his weekly newsletter, Arguable, and is reprinted with permission. To subscribe to Arguable at no charge, click here.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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