Going to Extremes

Sorry for not having a post up yesterday.

A subject that fascinates me involves the alliances of modern American politics.  Included in this subject is the necessary corollary of language and who controls it.

The brilliance of the modern “progressives” (that stupid term that is coming into vogue again) is their ability to sell a watered-down approach to extremism.  Speaking of which, that brings us the first term that means next to nothing anymore: extremism.

It is often used as a pejorative term for staunch conservatives or the vote for a dog if he were a Democrat crowd alike.  Often times it is also meant to delegitimize figureheads.   But, it seems to me, that in the U.S. the term has a right-wing connotation.

For example, a pro-life Republican candidate is an “extremist.”  If you wanted to make a line diagram of the spectrum of Americans’ opinions on abortion he would be on the end of one of the sides of your silly line. That’s what they mean by extreme.  Barack Obama, on the other hand, is a paragon of compromise.  Never mind the fact that he believes infanticide is a woman’s rights issue.

For another example, to prove my point, imagine if anyone just as conservative as Danny Glover is “progressive” were to be invited to speak at UNC’s MLK celebrations.  They would, almost certainly, be titled “extremist” by the Daily Tar Heel.

What I am trying to get at is that popular understanding (among youth) of hip issues are not grounded in reality.  Rather, a great number of opinions are reactions to implicit threats made by the “liberal” elite establishment.  And,  by the way, it makes no matter whether it’s the media, the university, the public high schools, or the Church reinforcing a leftist mindset.  The fact is it that it is being reinforced at every turn.  You “liberals” who deny that are in a weird denial of the culture war you have most obviously won.

But, if extremism is bad, the question remains: what is good?  The answer must be believing in absolutely nothing.  If believing in something without compromise is looked down upon, not believing in something is praised.  Or, if you prefer, believing in everything. Not literally, of course, only theoretically.  It is, in practice, impossible to believe in everything thanks to the law of non-contradition.

Anyway, Ralph Byrns, an econ professor here at UNC describes himself as a leftist libertarian.  While I don’t think that makes much sense, it does in a weird way describe the trend that I think my generation is taking with regards to what has become a seemingly universal worldview.  My friends think it’s cool to be a “good person” without much cramping of style.  They do not worry themselves with any concern for traditional morality or religion.  And, to be frank, religious leftists or secular libertarians who pretend to be spiritual, seem to treat religion as a social thing meant to make one feel good.  It follows, then, that without any real obligation to God, the modern easy-going libertarian type lets out his need for worship in his social political philosophy.  In other words the “fiscal conservative, social liberal” is born.

Another popular way of describing this type of person is to call him “moderate.”  The “moderate” is very much preffered to the “extremist.”  But, again, this term means basically nothing.  It is an expedient term to call people that are useful to one or the other “extreme.”  For instance, John McCain was a moderate back when he opposed tax cuts etc.  But, next to Obama, he became Jerry Falwell.  In the mind of social liberals, of course, Obama remained the moderate.

The reality?  Not only does Obama lie about tax cuts, I don’t know if he has ever been in favor of one.  And, never mind Jerry Falwell, his pastor is the winner of the Marxist-racist nut job of the year award.

In conclusion, don’t trust the popular, colloquial, understandings of politics.  People are what they are.  They aren’t either moderate or extreme.  And, for the sake of humanity, don’t fall into the trap of dividing conservatives and “liberals” up into Republican and Democratic camps.  I admit that many times it works out that way, but it’s dangerous to give people with and R or a D beside their names immunity.  Case in point: John McCain, that goofball down in South Carolina, or Pat McCrory.  They are all over the place.

10 thoughts on “Going to Extremes

  1. ___0_ Reply

    "But, it seems to me, that in the U.S. the term has a right-wing connotation."

    I believe it does, simply because right-wing extremism and violence is much more prevalent in the US than left-wing extremism and violence. The right wing embraces eliminationism in a way that the left never has.

    • NJR Reply

      Funny that you've proved Justin's point. Extremism has nothing to do with violence, and it has nothing to do with the majority. Liberals have linked extremism to anyone who is a staunch conservative and is willing to tell the left to take a flying leap (YWC for example). Interestingly enough, it was the liberals who reacted violently against the "extreme" YWC group. Were they "extreme" liberals or do you care to rescind your statement that links "right-wing extremism" and violence?

  2. ___0_ Reply

    No, my point stands. Right wing extremism and violence is far more prevalent in the US than left wing extremism and violence.

    Conservatives in general, not only the far right nazis/klan/militia types, seem to have a fondness for armed eliminationism and authoritarianism that is simply lacking on the left.

    • NJR Reply

      No, your point does not stand. Simply restating what you initially said does not prove anything.

      You have failed to show that extremism necessary results in violence. I provided a counter example to that claim by sourcing YWC. You have done nothing.

      So, now you've shifted from saying that extreme conservatives are violent to saying that conservatives are violent in general. However, owning a gun does not make one violent. Supporting the military does not make one violent.

      I'll go so far as to claim the opposite with regards to the violence of conservatives. African-Americans are far more likely to commit a violent crime, if you look at it in terms of general statistics. And yet, blacks are predominately democrats and left-leaning. (Gotta love generalizations!) So, are democrats, in general, violent people? No, but with generalizations and raw stats, you can make just about any claim.
      Do you think that you could manage to come up with a response that amounts to more than a "Nuh uh! I'm still right"?

  3. ___0_ Reply

    "You have failed to show that extremism necessary results in violence. I provided a counter example to that claim by sourcing YWC. You have done nothing."

    How many people were injured or killed by extremists during the YWC debacle(s)? I'm talking about murder and mayhem, you're talking about some people yelling and breaking a window. I understand that your personal experience and historical knowledge may be rather limited, but surely you understand the difference between rowdy protesters with signs and paranoid adults with guns and bombs.

    "So, now you've shifted from saying that extreme conservatives are violent to saying that conservatives are violent in general. However, owning a gun does not make one violent. Supporting the military does not make one violent."

    No, that's not what I said. I'll try again, with more words: The left, of course, is not uniformly non-violent, nor are all conservatives bloodthirsty killers. The GOP, however, has a remarkable tolerance for violent rhetoric from its leaders that is wholly lacking on the other end of the political spectrum. There is no left wing equivalent to Beck/Limbaugh/Coulter and their fantasies of armed conservative revolution; of blowing up the New York Times; "liberal hunting licenses" and the like. Wishing death or disfigurement upon one's political opponents is not a left-wing phenomenon. Not only is there violent rhetoric emanating from the right, there is actual violence and murder: Jim David Adkisson, Scott Roeder, James Von Brunn, Shawna Forde, Jason Bush, Keith Luke, Richard Popalowski, Joshua Cartwright, Timothy Johnson — and those are all fairly recent. Go back little further and there's Timothy McVeigh, Willie Ray Lampley, Charles Ray Polk, Ray Hamblin, Eric Rudolph, John Pitner and numerous other right wingers who killed or attempted to kill people with guns or bombs. Go back further and there's the racially/politically motivated violence of the right wing anti-civil rights movement and numerous incidents of right wing anti-labor violence.

    • NJR Reply

      There's the good old ___o_ we all know and love. Ad hominem attacks just come to you naturally, don't they?
      Oh, you're talking about guns, explosions and bombs in the first paragraph, and then you switch gears in the second paragraph to violent rhetoric. Try to stick to one and not contradict yourself before you call into question my historical knowledge.

      What you fail to realize is that extremism does not necessarily result in violence. You repeatedly prove Justin's point by linking the two. I can source many instances of left leaning violence, but that is not the point. One can be an "extreme" conservative without being violent, just as one can be a "moderate" conservative and be violent. You are arguing specific examples, while I am arguing the whole point.

    • jlcrowde Reply

      I was talking about things like wanting to lower taxes, not murdering people. Obviously violent people are legitimately called extremists. My point was that people who oppose Obama's policies are not automatically extreme. People like Rush Limbaugh are tagged as extremists by people like you in order that they may be marginalized. Rush Limbaugh is not an extremist

  4. mseelingerjr Reply

    If you want examples of left-wing violence, I don't think you have to look any farther than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, who between the three of them killed something like 300-400 million people.

    Also, I'm not sure what exactly you are referring to as regards the Beck/Limbaugh/Coulter fantasies of armed revolution. I feel like an actual source might be useful here. Unless of course, you pulled all of your information off bumper stickers you saw in the parking lot.

    • ___0_ Reply

      OK, first of all, if you think Hitler was an example of a left-wing extremist then you have failed basic history and political science. Second, we're talking about American politics and domestic political extremism and terrorism here, not foreign heads of state.

      It's not at all difficult to find examples of violent rhetoric from prominent right-wing talkers. Ann Coulter wished that right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh had blown up the New York Times building. Glenn Beck puts his incoherent paranoia on display every night, urging viewers to "take a stand, even though you know, in the end, you’ll pull out a knife and they’re gonna pull out a gun…" When this sort of well-funded, widely broadcast paranoid ranting parallels right wing support for torture, racial profiling, indefinite detention and the like, then it's not that much of a surprise when an unstable individual like Jim David Adkisson takes that right wing message to heart and starts shooting people at church simply because he thinks they're liberal.

      I recommend reading Dave Niewert's book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right.

Leave a Reply