Saturday, September 5, 2009

Isa al Masih

A number of readers have pointed out to me that Isa al Masih is Arabic for Jesus the Messiah. I should have known but didn't.

Don't ask me why I didn't google the term before I wrote the response. I have no good answer.


Rule #12

Students sometimes wonder why and how our politics have gotten so nasty. Actually, this is not a recent development. Many conservative commentators trace the nastiness back to the ugly slanders to which Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas were subjected by Senate Democrats, particularly Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden, in the late 80s and early 90s. Liberal pundits, on the other hand, point to the impeachment of Bill Clinton by Republicans as another event that created wounds so deep that it may be decades before our public discourse ever recovers.

Whatever the more public catalysts may have been, it seems that a lot of people in politics today have taken rule #12 in Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals to heart: "Pick the target. Freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct personalized criticism and ridicule works.)"

It's worth noting that Alinsky was a left-wing radical writing a manual for progressive activists. There's nothing that I'm aware of in all of conservative literature that comes anywhere close to Alinsky's adjuration to dehumanize and degrade one's political opponents. One searches in vain through Edmund Burke, William Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Russell Kirk, or even Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levine for anything that matches in cruelty or odiousness Alinsky's rule #12.

Yet Alinsky is the left's tactical lodestar and guru. Obama incorporated his teaching into his work as a community organizer. Hillary Clinton wrote her thesis on him. Reading Alinsky is a tacit requirement for leftists in good standing. Thankfully, not all of them follow him but evidently enough do that our political discourse has been gravely coarsened.

It's perhaps no coincidence that the left's attacks not only on Bork and Thomas, but also Ronald Reagan, Ken Starr, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Joe the Plumber, Sarah Palin, Carrie Prejean, the tea partiers and town hall protesters, were so personal, vicious, and vile. Like Alinsky said, it works. Anyone who gets in the way of the progressive agenda can expect to be smeared, insulted, libeled, slandered, and ridiculed. It's the tactic their esteemed mentor urged them to employ and Alinsky's votaries, or at least too many of them, employ it with distressing gusto.

Unfortunately, we're likely to continue seeing this ugliness in our politics until the media and the public demand an end to it. Meanwhile, it's imperative that those on the right who value civil discourse ensure that their side, no matter how much they're angered by the behavior of the left over the last two decades, doesn't fall into the same destructive, degrading rhetorical cess-pool and that we dissociate ourselves from those on the right who may already be swimming in it.

Let's shine a light on this depraved behavior when we encounter it, but let us not succumb to the temptation to respond to it in kind.