Friday, March 6, 2009

The Perils of Political Correctness

A conservative contributing editor at BlogHer wrote about whether Rush Limbaugh is the leader of the GOP and ended up in a vigorous debate about Rush Limbaugh and hate speech. She shot herself in the foot by ignoring all the examples people have been presenting of Limbaugh's hate speech, including video, audio, and transcripts from Limbaugh's own site, to focus on two statements that can't be documented. The conversation has gotten down to the nits of whether people should use the word "Nazi." It's the new "n" word.

People should be careful to not go overboard with knee-jerk reactions to words without looking at context. In Rush's case, the context usually proves he is using hate speech and, well, we know, Rush doesn't care that he does.

Anyway, I wrote a response to someone who thought D. L. Hughley should not have made what they believe was a flippant reference to Nazi Germany when comparing the Republican national convention's image last summer. While I agree with much of the point the commenter made (Limbaugh's use and coining of "feminazi" is atrocious), I responded with the dangers of pushing offensive language underground.

Certain kinds of rhetoric are precursors to genocide and it's better to let a jackass be a jackass than to teach him how to hide that he's a jackass. BTW, if you think it goes overboard to associate Limbaugh's language with genocide or potential genocide, please visit this link and hear what he says about why "liberals" want action in Darfur and that Darfur doesn't matter to America.

Yes, one day we will stop giving time to Rush, but for the moment discussions about hate speech are important and his language provides clear examples for those who are honest. One person on the conservative's post told Limbaugh supporters to stop defending him with unbelievable statements that he doesn't use hate speech: if you like him you like him. I agree. The idiotic defense of his rhetoric speaks volumes.

So, if you're white and like Rush Limbaugh's language or you're a self-hating minority who likes the show, stop trying to be the church lady on one hand and a Rush slut on the other: Embrace your inner racist and ignorance so we can see the real you.

My comment from the other site:

I have way more I could say on this subject than I'm about to write, but given what I've seen from Limbaugh supporters, an exploration of this topic on this particular post would be fruitless and counterproductive.

I'm pretty sure there's no way to discuss the educated use of offensive words in this type of forum without leading some people to conclude using the words Nazi, n*gg*r, fascist, Uncle Tom, etc. flippantly is okay when that's not what I'm saying at all. I'm talking about the proper and educated use of language to make a point, examine a sociological issue, or sound an alarm. The problem really isn't that a certain word was used, it's how that word or phrase was used.

But I know humans forever look for excuses to practice stupidity which is why people who want to use the word Nazi flippantly would read something like what I write here to do so.

Nevertheless ...

You give D.L. too much credit, I think. I believe, while he's aware of the Republican Party's history, he was probably tapping into the gut reaction many African-Americans and some members of other minorities as well some whites, including people who've studied the precursors to Nazi Germany, had while watching the predominantly white sea of faces, the nationalistic chanting, and the speeches at the Republican convention.

However, what you said about the history of the Republican Party is correct and a topic I explored in Michael Steele: I Don't Want to Get Jiggy With You.

People start to hooping and hollering when any analogy is made to Hitler's Germany. They do the same when anyone compares them to the KKK. All that is evidence that there's truth to the southern saying, "The guilty dog hollers loudest."

I'd be more impressed if they'd defend what they actually believe than shouting over and over again "Are you saying I'm a racist? Are you saying I'm a Nazi?" because if you believe you used your words correctly you can defend them.

Other people scream offense because they want us all to remember that six million people were murdered as though bloodshed is the only sign of atrocity and nobody we see now in our enlightened world can ever get as bad as Hitler. Sad thing is, they can. We could repeat an updated version of the Jewish Holocaust but with a different group of people. In fact, genocide hasn't disappeared at all and most people ignore the initial stories because once it gets to killing many thousands of people, folks can't fathom the level of abomination and would prefer not to believe it's occurring.

You stop genocide by talking about what theatens a few before it gets to what's done to the many. You keep it from getting that far by listening to what people are saying and speaking against hate speech, which is what you're doing.

If we live by "never forget" then the Holocaust is only part of the story of Hitler's world. If we don't want to repeat that horror, it's the precursors to it that we must discuss and many of those precursors were specific kinds of divisive rhetoric. The wise look for these patterns in our own society that indicate we're nearing the precipice of our destruction. Can we see them if we force the offensive words completely underground?

Some of us have been fooled into thinking stopping people from saying certain words is the same as stopping people from having hateful agendas. But its their words that warn us of their hateful agendas and we need to listen, discuss, and condemn. If the people using the words decide to stop because they've had a change of heart, then great. If they don't then what have we lost by pointing them out?

It's the foam coming from a rabid dog's mouth that warns us to stay the hell away from it, call for help and step up animal vaccinations. Want to get rid of the foam at the mouth, cure rabies.

So, until there's a cure for racism, anti-semitism, misogyny, etc., I prefer being able to spot those who embrace bigotry and their sympathizers by how they choose to use certain words.

None of what I said is an excuse to use offensive language like a school-yard bully.

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