Monday, November 9, 2009

Paul Krugman on the Demise of "Commie" as a Term of Abuse

Paul Krugman notes that the right-wing of the US has turned from charging their liberal and progressive opponents with the being "Commies" to being "Nazis".

Of course, opponents of health care reform have regularly been calling single-payer and the public option "socialism". Hasn't had much effect. Maybe too many Americans are just too young to be able to tap into the hysteria that term once provoked. (I myself remember the vile Wyoming senator Alan Simpson leveling the charge of "comsymp" at those who dared suggest that Reagan had committed impeachable offenses in the Iran-Contra scandal.)

By contrast, the image of the Nazis as the greatest evil ever to visit Earth (and even the greatest evil that could visit Earth) is alive and well.

I believe that the charge of "Nazi!" can rightly be leveled in some circumstances — certainly not idly as some on both right and left do. Much of the rhetoric of Reagan, George W. Bush and many on the right extreme is strikingly similar to that of the Nazis. If I remember correctly, for example, former New York Mayor Rudolf Giuliani referred to the notorious Saatchi show at the Brooklyn Museum as "degenerate art".

What language would be too strong to characterize the Ann Coulters, Glenn Becks, Bill O'Reillys, Dick Armeys, and others who tar with one brush the world's entire Muslim population as terrorist. Ann Coulter called for the bombing of Muslims — all of them. The right wing of John Yoo, Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney and others has endorsed the bombing of civilians, the torture of any person on the president's say-so, and the effective conversion of the president to a monarch or dictator. What is the appropriate name for this?

Some would say that the term "Nazi" should be reserved exclusively for the members of the National Socialist Party in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. But what then of the term "neo-Nazi"? What of "fascist"?

As for the American right-wing and its casual abuse of the term: I believe the right-wing is undergoing a fully-fledged psychotic break. They are genuinely, deeply divorced from reality. As their connection to reality has become ever more tenuous, they have adopted rhetoric that is similarly divorced from reality.

They are consumed by rage, ignorant of and indifferent to fact, largely incapable of rational or critical thought, and most importantly, incapable of one of the key requirements of the Christian religion many of them formally endorse — compassion for those different from or less fortunate than themselves.

They oppose health care for 300 million in the interest of preserving billions in income for a handful of insurers.

They go ape over something as innocuous as the move of a few words on a coin (as Sarah Palin did over the move of "In God We Trust").

They oppose 1 trillion for the well-being of the American people while supporting unknown trillions for disastrous wars.

They deny climate change and oppose action on such change despite glaring evidence that action is needed.

They persist to this day in trying to foist "creationism" or "intelligent design" on students.

They rave about freedom while supporting the systematic erosion of Constitutional rights.

These are not the behaviors of rational or compassionate people. Granted, the charge of irrationality should not be made lightly, and the charge has been abused (notably by Stalin), but frankly, it is time to admit that the 20% of the US population that constitutes the right-wing hobbling the United States is simply not rational, simply not in touch with reality. That includes, sadly, some of Paul Krugman's colleagues at The New York Times, like David Brooks.

The systematic denial of fact (regarding health care, or the political health of a nation in the face of monstrous disparities in the distribution of wealth, or any of a number of other things) is best explained as an irrational delusion.

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