Q&A Friday #94: The Poisonous Political Rhetoric

by John Hawkins | September 12, 2008 9:59 am

Question: “In recent weeks, you’ve shown us many examples of very corrosive postings and commentary from liberal websites regarding conservatives. Some of the comments are repulsive both in language and in the ideas they portray. I think most people would agree that over time, the anger and vehemence of the rhetoric between right and left has escalated significantly over what it was 20, even 10 years ago. Where do you see this trend heading, and, as an online opinion entrepreneur yourself, are you concerned that such unchecked expression of hatred is going to “invite” government intervention in the form of regulation?” — martinhale

Answer: Free speech is always a threat to the liberal political hacks and bureaucratic toadies in DC, so I have no doubt that they will try to muzzle us with regulation, no matter what the rhetoric is like, if they can get away with it. It’s what they want to do to talk radio via the Fairness Doctrine and it’s what they’ll do to us if they can. That’s just the nature of the liberal beast and it’s something we’ll always have to be vigilant against.

As to the rhetoric becoming more strident over the past few years, it certainly has — and it may continue to do so, especially on the Left. As long as liberals can say just about anything, no matter how poisonous, and pay almost no price for it with other liberals, it’ll get worse and worse.

However, political rhetoric tends to be cyclical. As the public becomes more and more turned off by over-the-top comments, columnists and commentators will temper what they say.

At the moment, given who the two presidential nominees are (John McCain, who has done more to reach across the aisle than anybody else in the Senate and Barack Obama, a guy who initially presented himself as a bipartisan reformer), I’d say the public is reacting negatively to the rhetoric and pushing back. That trend is likely to continue and if the Left starts to think that their comments are really hurting their chances politically, other liberals will start to demand that they straighten up and fly right and it’ll start having an impact.

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