Friday, July 25, 2008

Rising and falling

From The Political Mind by George Lakoff

Those who are thorough going progressives hold to American democratic ideals on just about all issues. They are the bedrock of our democracy. But, when seen metaphorically on a left-to-right scale, the bedrock of our democracy is on one side - the "extreme left." The left-to-right scale metaphor makes it look like the bedrock of our democracy is "extreme." And conservatives have been characterizing defenders of traditional American ideals like civil liberties, the welcoming of immigrants, and public education as extremists.

Accordingly, the left-to-right scale metaphor creates a metaphorical "center" with about a third of voters located between the two "extremes" - even though their views vary every which way and don't constitute a single mode of thought at all.

Metaphor is a normal, and mostly unconscious, mechanism of thought. It is sometimes harmless, and at other times can be used for good or ill. The left-to-right scale metaphor is not harmless. It is being politically manipulated to the disadvantage of American democratic ideals.

From Glenn Greenwald

When Jesse Helms died last month, there was a discussion about Helms in an online email group of prominent liberal Beltway journalists, and one participant asked whether the Left has any equivalent to Jesse Helms, and a well-known "liberal" journalist responded: "Yes -- the ACLU extremists." Time's Joe Klein said last year that objections to the Senate's warrantless eavesdropping bill were merely "fodder for lawyers and civil liberties extremists" -- a phrase which GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra then praised in National Review.
It would seem that a significant portion of our political press have turned into relativists. Given that Jesse Helms was a racist bigot who sought to deny civil rights to a portion of American citizens and the ACLU is a non-racist organization dedicated to preserving the civil rights of all American citizens, the only measure by which both can be considered "extreme" is if you're judging commitment to either cause. In which case, it certainly is a sad reflection on the state of political discourse in America that not really caring all that much about the rights guaranteed Americans in their Constitution and Bill of Rights is considered being "moderate."

"Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations." - Joseph Pulitzer, The North American Review (May 1904)

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