No Concern for the Opposition

by Micheal Siebert on December 1, 2016

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More than any other buzzword, the term heard most throughout the 2016 election cycle was “political correctness.” The American public was obsessed with the idea of words and their connotations — what was, and wasn’t okay to say. Republicans and the burgeoning far-right vehemently opposed the notion that any words were off-limits, and gleefully insulted their opposition with reckless abandon.

Curiously, liberals did not fight back. Instead, a smug sense of detachment came over the movement’s key voices, and a new set of rules for how to delegitimize conservative arguments arose. We could certainly call them racist, homophobic and xenophobic, but attacks on their appearance, for instance, were uncouth. Liberals were above the right’s vulgarity, and they would beat them based on the tenets of decency and our superior morality.

This failed spectacularly. Though the ascension of some of the most vile characters in American politics to the executive branch was certainly not exclusively caused by our unwillingness to engage with their brashness, the fact remains that neo-Nazis and fascists will soon be in the White House — what’s more, they got there on a platform that is the literal personification of a middle finger.

Liberalism’s embrace of so-called political correctness was a step toward inclusivity, an attempt to create a unified body where the poorest and most marginalized members of society could feel they were represented. Leading party voices said time and time again that the outright phobias of the conservative establishment were not present in the Democratic party, and that the blue-minded would offer safe harbor to those affected by the right’s oppressive policies.

This has always been a ruse. The minimal progressive triumphs of the Democratic elite have always been outweighed by their neoliberal horror campaigns enacted both on and off American soil. The Republicans, in their outright oppressiveness, have allowed the Democrats to present themselves as the conscientious objector’s choice. It provided a perfect smokescreen for their own brand of oppression — Bill Clinton’s all-out war on black America, Obama’s indiscriminate targeted assassination campaign against foreign innocents, and much more.

But Democrats simultaneously want to be the party of politeness, the side of the coin that talks big about bridging income gaps and ending systemic oppression while maintaining an air of haughty superiority. The moderate left’s need to be the good guys, to always be on the right side of a manufactured morality regardless of whether or not it is strategically beneficial, pervades even as we watch a megalomaniacal rapist take control of the country with the most military might in the world.

They want to be nice, and for many that is a noble desire. There is no denying that the oppressed have been harmed by words. Trump’s rhetoric can be directly traced to the scores of hate crimes we have seen in the immediate aftermath of this election. And if the country were not currently headed for the brink of collapse, there may be an argument in favor of kindness.

But we are rapidly approaching destruction, sprinting toward Gomorrah as if the goal is to get there in time for annihilation. The time for niceness, the time to police how we fight back against those who seek to destroy us, has long passed. Liberals sat back and let the right take the piss out of them constantly, planning comebacks so that they fell in line with the tenets of respectability politics. Their gotchas, zingers and slays fell on deaf ears because they were not cutting. Conservatives mocked our attempts at verbal pushback because they weren’t anywhere close to mean enough to have any impact. They served only to benefit ourselves, to make us feel as if we were not only fighting their hatred, but doing it in a way that conformed to our own ideas about what is and is not okay to say.

The left’s inability to meaningfully antagonize will allow those rising to power to continue to call them weak. The first steps toward truly combat the coming fascism must involve not just outspokenness and protest, but vulgarity and cruelty. It is not in our interest to humanize our enemies, because they are not human. Their near-cartoonish evil affects the entire world, and their concern for our feelings on the matter has proven to be nonexistent.

The left must unify under the banner of mean-spiritedness — not against the middle American Trump supporters we underestimated, but against the conservative elite. They have insulted our appearances, ways of living, and values. We must use those same weapons against them.

Now is not the time to wonder if fat shaming Chris Christie is counterrevolutionary. When we discuss Steve Bannon, simply calling him a neo-Nazi will not do. He knows what he is — we must also call him a spineless, bloated, gas-filled corpse. Donald Trump is not merely orange, and calling him “Drumpf” will not phase him. He must instead be a repulsive, childish, damp, limp-dicked slimeball. We must ruthlessly mock their appearances, and disrespect them the way they disrespect us.

The truth is that insults alone will not destroy those in power, but they will certainly start to reveal their cracks. Signalling to our oppressors that we are no longer concerned with concepts they despise — feelings, respect, niceness — proves to them that there is something to fear in us. It is when they tremble that they will take the first step toward falling.

Michael Siebert is a 21 year-old journalism student at the University of Montana who writes about everything from queer issues to Montana state politics. https://twitter.com/michaelcsiebert

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

aaron hawley December 1, 2016 at 2:43 pm

As Stan Goff recently wrote, “We want to grow the resistance, not build a wall of self-righteous purity around it.”

http://chasinjesus.blogspot.com/2016/11/call-out-culture-and-new-elect.html

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David Walters December 1, 2016 at 4:44 pm

“The left’s inability to meaningfully antagonize will allow those rising to power to continue to call them weak.” Wow…as if this is the judgement of the ruling class. What utter politically immature nonsense this is. You write “The truth is that insults alone will not destroy those in power, but they will certainly start to reveal their cracks. ” No, just the opposite. It will fill those cracks with a hardened cement and get those currently, hopefully in the wrong camp, to identify further with him they are currently look to for “leadership”, such as it is. This is the *opposite* of what we need to do. What we need to do is discuss with those at the base about actual policies and how rotten the ruling classes policies are. Hurling insults at “at the ruling class” is like pissing in a wet suit, it might make you feel on soft and warm, but the fish really don’t give a shit.

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Reza December 2, 2016 at 1:25 am

Part of the author’s basic point may be better expressed by this short excerpt from a Frederick Douglass speech, delivered on July 4, 1852 (to the leading citizens of Rochester, NY who had asked Douglass to give a speech as part of their Fourth of July celebrations):

“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must must be denounced.”
From: The Hypocrisy of American Slavery: http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/douglass.htm

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Reza December 3, 2016 at 3:42 am

Here’s another take on the matter:

“Suckers, liars;
get me a shovel,
Some writers I know are damn devils!

For them I say don’t believe the hype
Yo Chuck, they must be on a pipe, right?

Their pens and pads,
I’ll snatch ’em,
‘Cause I’ve had it!”
__ Don’t Believe the Hype, by Public Enemy

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Reza December 3, 2016 at 4:19 am

And another take, from Juvenal: Satire 1, Why Write Satire?

“When a soft eunuch takes to matrimony,
and Maevia, with spear in hand and breasts exposed, to pig-sticking;

“when a fellow, under whose razor my stiff youthful beard got grated,
challenges the whole upper class with his millions, single handed;

“when Crispinus, a blob of Nilotic scum, bred in Canopus,
hitches a cloak of Tyrian purple onto his shoulder,
whilst on his sweating finger he airs a summer ring of gold, unable to endure the weight of a heavier gem;

“It is hard not to write satire.

“For who can be so tolerant of this monstrous city, who so iron of the soul,
as to contain himself when the brand-new litter of lawyer Matho comes along,
filled with his own huge ego,
and after him one who has informed against his noble patron and will soon despoil our pillaged nobility of what remains to them.”

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Farans Kalosar December 3, 2016 at 11:05 am

This article has provoked a storm of reaction, including a lot of off-the-point snippy commentary–some of it from “boomers”–about the awfulness of “boomers” and the need for them to encourage, if not kowtow, to young radicals even at the cost of self-immolation.

IMHO, any political critique based on the virtue or lack of virtue of entire generations is the province of scoundrels who have no place in any serious political discussion.

That said, the whole shitstorm seems entirely overblown and the generational controversy a red herring. The author’s point about the sniffy moralism of liberals who insist on being “better” than the likes of you-know-who and his crew of you-know-whats is, IMHO, exactly right as far as it goes.

Of course the article doesn’t constitute an entire political agenda and may be overemphatic here and there. So what? We all know that dirty words and nasty comments accomplish nothing in and of themselves. In my view, this is secondary to drawing a line between radicalism and accommodation disguised as morality, and that is what I see as the main thrust of this piece

Those who are in opposition must oppose. The enemy will find something to reprove or punish in the blandest opposing discourse. Why pull punches?

That said, two points that walk this back somewhat

1) Fighting words lead to fights. Fascism uses death squads and gang violence to silence opposition–big rallies exist to fire this up and bring out the bovver boys to be organized. We do not yet know to what extent the incoming regime will move in this direction. But history teaches us that if and when this happens, political opposition becomes vastly more difficult than anything white people have experience in this country in recent decades. So radicals intent on calling names should expect to get physically hit, and very probably hit hard, if not (in some cases) killed.

This has been and continues to be the case with nonwhite people in this country anyway. I haven’t seen any stories on police executions of innocent civilians for being black since the election–the media no longer seem to report on this–but Black Lives Matter (the “thug” movement per Trump’s fanbase) was started for a reason. and is now in grave danger. And of course Standing Rock is yet another object lesson.

2) Calling That Guy a bunch of dirty names may feel good but it isn’t really political. One reason why the right loves name-calling is that it diverts attention from clarity in political matters, including social inequality. Morality and Personal Superiority aside, the left has to (somehow) foster genuine political clarity in place of the starspangled hallucinatory bullshit of the right. Where tough and dirty language obscures this, IMHO it should be avoided.

’nuff said

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peter storm December 4, 2016 at 2:26 pm

There is another thing. Every time one calls Trump “fat”- as s if THAT is what ‘s so evil about him – it is not him that is hurting. It will be our friends and comrades who happen to be overweight that are hurting because we appear to think that fatness is a bad, insult-worthy, thing.. Insulting our enemies by referring to the we way they look, their bodily features and so on, is not just “not nice” . It is not just “attacking them for the wrong reasons”. It is attacking OURSELVES.

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