Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Right Wing Demagogues and their intellectual bankruptcy

Dear Dr. (Victor Davis) Hanson:

Last week, I caught a snippet of Rush Limbaugh's show on the radio, and the part I heard went something like this: "The Left has succeeded in killing Terri Schiavo, and now they are going to move on to California to try to save Scott Peterson's life..." In your on-line column, you tried to explain the continued existence of the United Nations as "...appeasement of the U.N. by the left-wing of the Democratic Party." You described U.N. diplomats as "the frauds who love to come to New York to spout off to the hyper-liberal press..."

Comments like that remind me of the old Westerns when a drunken rabble rouser in the local saloon would provoke a lynch mob to march to the jail to try to string up the helpless soul locked up awaiting trial. Or, in real life, the Leo Frank lynching which spawned the Anti Defamation League. Comments like that are outrageous falsehoods which depend in part on attempting to ascribe terrible depredations against the favored group ("us," "real Americans," "Christians," "English speakers,") inflicted by disfavored outsiders ("the stranger in the jail," "the Jew who murdered little Mary Phagan," "illegal immigrants").

My question to you is this: why do so-called conservative commentators or pundits rely so much on vilifying a group which does not exist except in the imaginations of their audience? There is no coherent organization or group called "The Left" any more than there is a coherent organization called "White People" with a unified agenda. To determine if a commentator is a demagogue, simply substitute the phrase "White People" for whatever label they use ("Blacks," "hyper liberal press" "The Left") and so forth.

If Rush Limbaugh had said "White People" murdered Terri Schiavo, he would have been accurate, at least insofar as the decision to allow her to die was concerned. As far as I know, everyone involved in the Florida drama was white- Terri's family, the doctors, judges, and so forth. But how do you think his listeners would have reacted if Limbaugh's label had been appended to include themselves? They would have cast Rush aside as if he had been soiled laundry, and deservedly so. Wouldn't you agree that when commentators like you and Mr. Limbaugh rely on incitement through the use of pejorative labels rather than on logical reasoning grounded in fact, they are demonstrating the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of their arguments?

James Finkelstein
Albany, Georgia


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