I have watched with deepening dismay as the American left has increasingly embraced a political strategy which aims to keep people on their side by creating fear over the consequences of NOT being with them.
Example: Robert Bork was a highly respected legal mind who vigorously questioned the various liberal orthodoxies about constitutional law. He was successfully painted as a racist theocrat.
Example: Rush Limbaugh makes a career of lampooning the left. On a nationally televised program, he made a questionable assertion (in my mind, an incorrect one) that the black quarterback Donovan McNabb benefitted from a form of media-driven affirmative action. A remark that deserved either mild debate or dismissal as wrong-headed turned into bile so bitter the man ultimately loses the chance to engage in ordinary commerce as an investor in the NFL.
Example: Fox News runs a straight news operation with a sideline of hosts who offer conservative analysis and comment. Some hosts, like Greta van Susteren do not offer ideological comment. President Obama’s top adviser David Axelrod tells George Stephanopoulos that the other networks should not treat Fox like a news organization and that the administration does not treat them as a news organization. (This is a particularly odd assertion since then-candidate Obama did a lengthy interview with Bill O’Reilly which ran over the course of several nights.)
What is happening in these examples is not an attempt to engage in intellectual debate over a policy, but rather to make one point of view appear to be so out of bounds as to not belong to polite society. And so, Keith Olbermann, whose big trademark item is labeling various conservatives as “the worst person in the world” and who has spent years tossing out platitudes at least as far left as anything Limbaugh has offered to the right, is a suitable host for NBC’s Football Night in America, while Limbaugh is portrayed as nothing more than some kind of rich, red meat political pornographer with apparently obvious racist beliefs. So obvious, in fact, that a series of outrageous statements can be attributed to him without even being CHECKED by the media.
This is a form of pre-totalitarian politics. When we single someone out, particularly a relatively mainstream figure like Rush Limbaugh or Robert Bork or an organization like Fox News, and then act as though they are beyond the pale the message is clear. Don’t listen to such people. Don’t associate with them. Don’t ever say anything they would say. The price is lost opportunity, lost friendship, and a bad reputation. And you don’t want THAT, do you?