A Defeated Enemy is One Worthy of Even More Contempt

That’s the position of

“[Trump voters] rightly perceived him as a fellow victim of irrational, no holds barred, over the top assaults from paragons of “liberalism” who believe that traditional values are hateful, that verbal assaults, bullying and vandalism are justified “responses” to that claimed “hatred,” and that democracy itself must be subverted for the “greater good” which they alone can identify.

“These voters may well have chosen not to respond to polls, fearing for their own safety. They may have been justifiably reluctant to support Trump at all. Yet when the time for choosing arrived, the very rhetoric and behaviors designed to bully them into silence may well have inspired them to come out and stand against the relentless pursuit of liberalism over moral values and democracy.”

It’s not clear why Menken pulls his final punch here, using the insipid phrase “may well have inspired them,” because the rest of the piece shows no such moderation. Menken’s extrapolation, from a couple of (citation-less) anecdotes, to the blunt assessment that those not voting for Trump are vandals and bullies who hate “traditional” values is magnificent. Further, the addition of physically violent pollsters to the list of Those Who Persecute Us is a nice little thrust of the shiv.

For Menken, as it is for the rest of those in the Club for Hard-Right Prose, Clinton voters were the real tyrants and are therefore illegitimate.

And of course, once you delegitimize your enemy, he is no longer worthy of your attention, and you can, I suppose, move on to activities that have a higher moral purpose than listening to those who disagree with you.

However, that does raise the question: why write this piece at all, if your opponents have no legitimate place in the universe and anyway you just beat them?

Because Menken is really really mad. And because American Greatness needed  to fill its quota of bombastic rants for the day, or something .

And that is because American Greatness can only be achieved, of course, by painting those who disagree with you as black as possible, on the road to simply eliminating them entirely.

 

 

The Snottiness of the Long-Suffering Conservative

The Snotty & Weary  style of hard-right rhetoric combines various stylistic widgets to create a piece of writing that serves a couple of purposes: to make the writer look super-intelligent and to impugn the motives and character of those holding opposing views. (An honest attempt at persuasion is never a motive.)

The choice of adjectives is often key to effective Snotty & Weary. “Silly” is a favorite, used to piss on the arguments (or street actions or hunger strikes) of those who disagree with the Snotty & Weary writer.

You see “silly” a lot in the writings of the more pompous of the hard-right writers, most notably Will and Krauthammer. “Absurd” is another favorite of this cult, for different reasons. But there are plenty of other hard-right writers who would spit on “silly.”

As illustration, consider this recent remarkable entry by Respected Legal Mind Ed Whelan, Harvard Law ’85, a former Scalia clerk who is now paid mainly by National Review Online, I think:

“The Left continues to generate all sorts of silly arguments that the Constitution somehow forbids Republican senators from taking various courses of action to prevent confirmation of a Democratic president’s Supreme Court nominee.”

“Silly” does a lot of work here for such a short word: it diminishes  the opponent and the opponent’s arguments. It also exudes a slight stench of emasculation.

Now—because the dissenter is SO small and his concerns SO trivial—”silly” goes further, and delegitimizes: these words can’t even be recognized as argument. In this way, the dissenter’s argument can never rise to Whelan’s intellectual (or whatever) level. You can almost hear Whelan’s eyes rolling when he writes “silly.”

Further along, there’s a second well-worn technique within the phrase “….Republican senators taking various courses of action….

Like “silly,” this phrasing also minimizes, but here the intent is to obscure: why, those Republican senators could be doing various things! Getting some steaks ready for the BBQ! Mixing up a batch of martinis for the ride home! Those things aren’t mentioned in the Constitution either!  Ignoring a Supreme Court nomination is only one of a number of trivial things those Republican senators might have been doing! Nothing to see here!

It’s a remarkable first sentence. Who cares?

Because it’s setting up the engine of Whelan’s  entire piece: a false characterization of “The Left’s” reaction to the Republican Supreme Court wildcat strike. Once this is in place, the rest of the piece consists of a knocking over a bunch of straw men.

Which is a technique that goes on so much it’s too boring to write about.

Nonetheless, Respected Legal Mind Ed Whelan gets this week’s Silver Pen for packing all of this shit into one sentence, and into an introductory sentence to boot! We’ll keep on reading, Ed!

Lugenpresse

Here’s a chilling but thorough Washington Post look at the historical precedents for demonizing reporters and writers:

The ugly history of ‘Lügenpresse,’ a Nazi slur shouted at a Trump rally

BERLIN — When a video of two Donald Trump supporters shouting “Lügenpresse” (lying press) started to circulate Sunday, viewers from Germany soon noted its explosive nature. The defamatory word was most frequently used in Nazi Germany. Today, it is a common slogan among those branded as representing the “ugly Germany”: members of xenophobic, right-wing groups.

Its use across the Atlantic Ocean at a Trump rally has worried Germans who know about its origins all too well. Both the Nazi regime and the East German government made use of it, turning it into an anti-democracy slogan.

Etc.

— or — The Rape of Rhetoric