The Richmond Democrat is great at bare-knuckle politics. --Bart Hinkle, Richmond Times DispatchHear that Virginia Democratic Politicians? I am available at very reasonable rates. I can bring that special "bare-knuckle" edge to your next political campaign.
But in all seriousness, Mr. Hinkle's praise of my blog is--like all positive comments about Democrats in the RTD--left-handed and merely a preface to criticism. Like many others on the Republican side of the ledger, Mr. Hinkle took issue with my post about Representative Michele Bachmann's call for her supporters to become "armed and dangerous."
The Richmond Democrat is great at bare-knuckle politics. But sometimes even a good boxer swings wild. This post does so, and in so doing, inadvertently calls attention to a lamentable trend in America: the death of metaphor.I enjoy a little back and forth with Bart Hinkle from time to time. We discover all kinds of things inadvertently: I've apparently stumbled onto the death of metaphor, while Mr. Hinkle has accidentally called attention to the Republican art of double talk: a kind of doublespeak or dog whistle politics. Maybe the RTD should hire me to do some point-counterpoint with Mr. Hinkle: maybe we'll stumble onto a cure for cancer.
Satire already is just about kaput. It’s so just about kaput, anytime the newspaper prints a piece of satire, we slap an overline above the headline reading, “SATIRE” to clue readers in. Even so, a few readers who have read the item as literal reporting inevitably call up, infuriated or confused or both. It’s a minor miracle that The Onion has managed to do so well.
RD’s post, “Republican Member of Congress Commits Sedition,“ might be a very clever satire of overheated partisan rhetoric. I’d like to believe that. But I don’t think it’s meant in jest.
But back to my point about doublespeak or dog whistle politics. Republicans like Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Michael Savage exploit these rhetorical devices to encourage political violence in our country while escaping legal--and at least in conservative circles--moral responsibility for the tragedies they cause. The list of their victims is not short: the Knoxville church shootings, the assassination of the Arkansas State Democratic Chairman Bill Gwatney, and the ongoing pattern of threats against Democratic politicians. Whenever someone is murdered by the "fans" of these Republican "leaders," they are quick to say "I was joking," or "I was just using a metaphor!"
In Mr. Hinkle's world, when Ann Coulter calls for the bombing of the New York Times it's just satire. In my world, when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City it was mass murder and domestic terrorism. It's no mystery what motivated McVeigh, and right-wing radio hosts use McVeigh's list of grievances as crib notes for their hate speech. Writers like Coulter, radio hosts like Savage, and politicians like Bachmann are well aware of the fact that they are speaking to a mixed audience that consists of people who understand concepts like "metaphor" and people who take their exhortations to violence quite literally. They count on people like Mr. Hinkle to make excuses for them when someone acts on their violent rhetoric.
I've written quite a bit about the growing problem of Republican inspired terrorism against liberals and Democrats. Mr. Hinkle can try and pretend it doesn't exist, but it does.