STICKS AND STONES
Kieran Healy notes a disturbing tendency among bloggers on the right:
Tacitus closes 2003 with a variant on one of the most popular themes of the year, viz, “I’ve noticed a disturbing tendency on the American left. . .” Yeah, me too. It barely exists. I hope you won’t stop reading Crooked Timber now that Tacitus has shown that “the American left” relies wholly on “murderous racism based on junk economic theory.” Another of our sins is noted by Steven Den Beste, who observes that we at CT think “white men don’t actually matter.” In case you haven’t twigged, CT policy is that white males are only good for use as the sexual playthings of rich and beautiful women. Email me for more details about this. [Numerous links in original omitted.]
Heh. It does get tiresome constantly qualifying one’s remarks with “more extreme elements” or actually going to the trouble of naming names, but it’s important. Surely, we can disagree without resorting to calling people stupid Fascists (unless they are in fact stupid and/or Fascists, in which case it’s fine).
All of this rhetorical overkill reminds me of a line about the late rants of F.R. Leavis: “In his later books he libelled his literary opponents so scandalously that when he tried to condemn Stalin he had no harsh words left over.” Excitable bloggers take note.
Update (2100): As Matt Stinson notes in the comments, the two Tacitus quotes are unrelated and, indeed, I don’t see how he could be read to be saying what Kieran ascribes to him. Tacitus argues that Communism was, in practice, “murderous racism based on junk economic theory,” a point with which I would agree wholeheartedly, and that those on the Left who apologize for it based solely on the abstract theories propounded by Marx and others are naive.
I agree with Kieran’s larger point and didn’t bother to click through initially because I’ve certainly seen more than a few posts that do make wild generalizations about the Other Side, whether Left or Right.
I think Tacitus’ point is fine if reserved to certain segments of the intellectual and student left, who, in my dealings with them (even at a conservative school like FSU), have been far more eager to point out the flaws of America than admit the wrongs of Communism. Their favored retreat from debate was always, “But Communism has never been tried!”
Your readers should note that Mr. Healy is practicing more than a little rhetorical overkill of his own. The Tacitus post does not say “that ‘the American left’ relies wholly on ‘murderous racism based on junk economic theory.'” That’s a bizarre Dowdification of what Tacitus actually wrote.