Liberal name-calling reaches a new low

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted April 24, 2000

The liberals clearly are running out of arguments that work. Their ideas have long been discredited. Big government solutions have failed. Permissive fam\ilies have disintegrated. Alternative lifestyles are death oriented. So what do you do when you can no longer be credible with what you advocate? Why, of course you call your opponent names.

For years now the left has labeled anyone who disagrees with them "racist" or "sexist" or homophobic". Ironically, by overreaching in the use of those terms they have devalued the case against those who really are racists, sexists or homophobes. Still, those descriptions of their political opponents have worn thin. They simply cannot make moderate politicians who happen to oppose affirmative action, or who oppose so-called gay marriage or who don't subscribe to the latest radical feminist agenda into racists or sexists or homophobes. It isn't working and it hasn't worked for some time now.

So what to do if you are a liberal? Well, you ratchet the charges up a few notches. The latest fad now in the increasingly scary world of apocalyptic liberalism is to label their opponents as crazy. The Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen says that Charlton Heston is nuts because his views on the culture war contradict today's notion of political correctness. Jesse Jackson says that Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York "sounds like a mentally disturbed person" because the Mayor had defended police action in New York City respecting the shooting of unarmed suspects.

And so on the list goes on and on. Mind you these people are not saying that their opponents ideas are crazy. That is perfectly legitimate. There are many sane and rational people who have proposed absolutely insane and irrational ideas to solve one problem or another. That is because they perhaps don't really understand the nature of the problem or because they have bought into an unsound ideology that requires that they find a so-called solution to a problem that fits into their ideological framework regardless of reality or for any number of reasons. Ideas are often completely nuts even when their proponents are quite mentally sound. No, it has now become fashionable to label the proponents of ideas these liberals oppose as crazy. That is now a charge far worse than racist or sexist or homophobic. After all, if I personally am nuts, as opposed to this commentary being crazy, then I do not deserve to be listened to at all. We simply do not afford mentally ill people the time of day because by their nature what they say is not meaningful.

The idea of branding people crazy is not new. It was practiced for more than seven decades by the former Soviet Union. Dissidents there were not just enemies of the state because of their beliefs. They had to be mentally ill because after all to oppose the glories of the great Soviet Union was in and of itself proof that the person was out of his mind.

Now these days to oppose the most insane ideas propounded by liberals in this country is to be called mentally ill. If we let this sort of argumentation stand, then the whole national dialogue on issues will be devastated. We need to stand up and challenge this nonsense now before it becomes so accepted that we can no longer exercise our freedom of expression without the suggestion that we should be locked away for doing so.

That will be the next step, you see. It was liberals who unlocked the doors of our institutions and thus created the homeless crisis in the United States by insisting that most mentally ill people would be better off sitting on heating grates eating garbage than being cared for in mental hospitals. Their view, in the 1960s and '70s was that almost no one was really mentally ill. Now, since they have revived the category of being nuts, the next logical step will be for them to advocate that all of us who contradict their ideology and brand of this week's political correctness should be taken away to newly re-opened mental hospitals. Yes, they did that in the Soviet Union as well. Many perfectly mentally sound dissidents were treated for years in mental hospitals for their beliefs. They were even given mind-altering drugs in an effort to get them to confess that they were wrong.

That is exactly where all of this is headed if we don't stop it in its tracks. Each and every time we hear someone claiming that because a person has a certain belief in the political process he is mentally disturbed we have to call time out and insist that this is out of bounds. To say that my ideas are crazy is quite acceptable. To say that I am crazy is libel and slander.

If we succeed in stopping this absolutely intolerable practice of labeling people whose ideas you disapprove of as nuts we will force the liberals who use this tactic to debate the issues on the merits. Since they can no longer do so, if we win the first battle we will win the second as well.

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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