Jewish World Review Nov. 25, 2004 / 12 Kislev, 5765
On the use and abuse of labels
Liberals often decry labels, but labels can be helpful. It is the misuse of labels to which we ought to object.
In secular-liberal Orwellian speak, words and concepts are cleverly twisted to demonize political and religious opponents. From "intolerance" to "racism" the liberal quiver is pregnant with verbal arrows tipped with the very poison they pretend to abhor.
Liberals don't usually call conservatives merely "conservatives." That's because the term, standing alone, is not a pejorative. Instead, we are "extremists," "bigots," "homophobes," "racists" and "intolerant." And these labels, unlike the conservatives' general invocation of "liberal," are usually gross distortions.
Let me provide context to some of these examples to illustrate how various liberal constituencies contort word meanings to slander conservatives and Christians.
The homosexual lobby is famous for painting proponents of traditional marriage as bigots and enemies of their civil rights. They've succeeded in getting some public schools to use the terms "harassment" and "bullying" as thinly disguised weapons to suppress the free speech of those who don't subscribe to their view that the state and society should affirmatively validate the homosexual lifestyle. Students who simply utter opinions contrary to the prescribed dogma are stigmatized as harassers or bullies, when they engage in no harassment or bullying whatsoever.
The feminist lobby cleverly co-opted the term "choice" to sanitize and, in some cases, even glorify the practice of abortion. If you think I'm overstating the case, I encourage you to visit some of their Websites. Check out Planned Parenthood and NARAL, for starters.
And when it comes to the issue of race, liberals have a field day. Many of them believe that conservatives, by definition, are racists. Some believe that Republican candidates speak in code to appeal to the presumed racism of red state rednecks.
For their part, liberals sometimes don't even bother with code. They just come out and say that a vote for a Republican is a vote for another black church to burn. At a subtler level, they'll imply that conservative opposition to affirmative action and support for welfare reform are motivated by race, rather than a belief in and respect for the equal dignity of people of all races.
But when it comes to their attitude toward Christians, secular liberals really warm up. Air Force Academy officials sent out a memo in September notifying staff of their policy on tolerance. "Our policy is clear. Tolerance of gender, racial, ethnic and religious diversity is required at our Air Force," one official said.
Under the policy, certain staffers were admonished for putting innocuous biblical verses at the bottom of their e-mails, and cadets were warned after using academy e-mail accounts to encourage others to see Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."
Don't be confused. This was not a church/state issue per se, but involved the school's "tolerance" policy. But can't you see how the term has been mangled to further certain ends having nothing to do with the stated policy of promoting tolerance?
Is it "tolerant" for the school to discourage Christian students or staff from speaking freely about their faith, in e-mails, no less? Only if we accept the idea that Christianity is presumptively offensive and intolerant on its face.
As far as I can tell, there was nothing remotely threatening to non-Christians in those e-mails, merely positive words about Christianity. But in many pockets of postmodern America, bold (and even meek) professions of Christianity are often seen as expressions of intolerance precisely because intolerant secularists have succeeded in branding Christianity itself as intolerant.
The lesson is that there is a comprehensive practice afoot by liberals, even if not conspiratorial, to misuse words to mischaracterize people as something they're not in order to demonize them. It's propaganda of the most calculated and vicious variety.
Conservatives, to be sure, use words to describe liberals that the latter find offensive as well. But the difference is that the words are merely descriptive, not laced with distorted undertones.
Conservatives, for example, often call liberal, left-wing Democrats liberals or left-wingers see, I just did it. We deliberately called John Kerry a liberal during the presidential campaign because the objective evidence indicates he's a liberal.
We believe that if more voters realized that, fewer would have voted for him not because we had unfairly depicted Kerry (we don't have to cheat to win), but because we had accurately portrayed him as the liberal that he is. He spent most of his time trying to pass himself off as anything other than a liberal. So in this situation, our application of the label was fitting, informative, fair and served the public interest.
So beware not of labels, but the deliberate misuse of language and concepts to demonize people for political purposes.
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David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney practicing in Cape
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