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Reverse McCarthyism: Unfair Stigmatization of the Political Right
by Murray Soupcoff, The Iconoclast
23 January 2003 

Liberals have made it a risky business to espouse conservative opinions in legal contexts, in the mainstream media, or on college campuses. When conservatives dare do so, they are labeled with such hateful sounding words as "fanatic, racist, homophobic, misogynist, extremist, etc."

How does that little children's ditty go? Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!

Well, that might be an appropriate maxim for the playground, but it certainly doesn't apply to modern-day North American politics. Name calling has turned into one of the most sophisticated weapons of the political left (and its sympathizers in academia and the media) -- and probably its most effective stratagem in the cut and thrust of everyday political combat.

And what name calling would we be referring to? Why the use of such pleasant labels of disapprobation as right wing, right winger, right of center, far right, rightist , reactionary, extremist, fanatic, racist, homophobic, misogynist, anti-female, etc., etc., etc. Of late, even the term "conservative" has increasingly been tainted in everyday discourse.

Use of such adjectives in a derogatory and detractory manner has increasingly been employed by the liberal left for such varied purposes as marginalizing Republican candidates for office, justifying the denial of judicial appointments to strict constitutionalist judges in the U.S. Senate, and stifling debate on liberal college campuses.

Of course, what it all comes down to is reverse McCarthyism. Plain and simple, liberals have made it a risky business to espouse conservative opinions in legal contexts, in the mainstream media, or on college campuses. And that's for fear that the targets of liberal wrath will be politically lynched -- tarred with one of the many nasty labels employed by the liberal-left to marginalize and disarm any opponents it can't otherwise deal with.

As already indicated, we're of course taking about such common ever-so-polite liberal-leftist appellations as "extremist," "fanatic," "racist," or "homophobic" -- as in "right-wing extremist," "conservative fanatic," "hateful racist" and "homophobic right winger." Having one of these labels applied to you in mainstream North American society these days is a unique kind of status degradation ceremony -- almost the equivalent of experiencing a secular excommunication or modern-day shunning. For these days, such loosely-applied labels as "right winger," "reactionary," "extremist," "racist," "misogynist," and "homophobic" prescriptively imply that the stigmatized person is so irrational, unfair, selfish, ignorant and cruel as to be beyond the moral pale. Built into such judgmental labels is the ideologically- charged assumption that anyone espousing such "hateful" views must be so twisted and pathological as to be some kind of subhuman monster -- the left's ingenious method for 'Hitlerfying' (and thus stigmatizing) any dissent against their prevailing orthodoxies.

As many a victim of such political labeling has discovered -- especially in legal circles or on college campuses -- the unspoken intention of such prescriptive labels is to de-legitimize in the eyes of their peers (or potential employers) these selected "deviants," and to strip away any and all credibility from the ideas or opinions expressed by such individuals -- attempting to somehow identify them with cataclysmic outpourings of hate, extremism and wrongdoing in the past. In other words, this Orwellian corruption of language is used to stigmatize any vocal dissenters from the liberal orthodoxy as dangerous social reprobates so morally bankrupt they're not worthy of even being given a hearing.

And according to the unspoken strictures of this status degradation process, what should happen if a politically-incorrect dissident should still find a venue for his or her ideas? Then the individual should be literally shouted down because of the sheer "horribleness" of his or her extremist viewpoints -- a not uncommon practice on today's college campuses or in U.S. Senate hearings.

However, when we look more carefully at the left's insidious politics of marginalizing dissent, what exactly is "hate speech," "racism" and "homophobia" in such cases? Too often, it's simply the expression of irrefutable logical arguments that the liberal-left finds difficult to refute, except through the use of inflammatory, disparaging labels to discredit those who espouse such views.

And that sadly is the biggest challenge facing thoughtful opponents of "big brother" liberalism today: To cut through the inflammatory rhetoric of "stigmatization" employed as an ideological weapon by the liberal-left in contemporary discourse and expose it for what it is -- a cowardly form of reverse McCarthyism used to stifle dissent and discourage any questioning of today's rigid liberal-left catechisms.

It's a challenge President George W. Bush and his supporters should keep in mind as they begin their current battle against the discriminatory, quota-based affirmative-action admissions policy of the University of Michigan.

Murray Soupcoff is a retired Toronto sociologist who is the author of 'Canada 1984' and a former radio and television producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He is now the Managing Editor of the popular Web site, The Iconoclast.

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