The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.
Kudos to John K. Wilson for illustrating what David Guth’s critics have themselves said online.
For anyone on the Far Right to criticize “intemperate” speech or writings by anyone else is an absolute joke. Even if individuals on the Far Right aren’t themselves guilty of “offensive” speech or writings, as Patricia Stoneking clearly is in this instance, they have been mute in response to an almost endless litany of very offensive remarks not just by relatively anonymous people on the Far Right but by relatively prominent political figures on the Far Right and by figures in the popular culture courted by those political figures.
Without doing much of a Google search one can come up with literally dozens of offensive comments made by any one of the following political figures on the Far Right: Michelle Bachmann, Paul Broun, Ted Cruz, Ken Cuccinelli, Louie Gohmert, Steve King, Rand Paul, and Rick Santorum. Nor is that by any means an exclusive list, not even of political figures currently in office. And it doesn’t include the likes of Todd Akins, Richard Mourdock, Joe Walsh, and Allen West, whose remarks were offensive enough to cost them elections that they should have won. It also doesn’t include any of the media figures such as Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh–or several dozen of their imitators–or lunatic-fringe figures from the popular culture such as Ted Nugent and Hank Williams, Jr. And it doesn’t include any of the “haters”—individuals whose main focus seems quite simply to promulgate hate–such as Bryan Fischer, Pamela Geller, and E. W. Jackson, who is now actually running to be Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.
Beyond the fact that almost no one on the Far Right has denounced any of these people for anything that they have said, there is the issue of ethical proportion. For instance, during the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, the Far Right commentary echoed the very rational-sounding but absolutely ridiculous argument put forward by Zimmerman’s defense attorneys that people should feel more sympathetic toward the guy with the gun who suffered some scratches on his head than for the teenager carrying a soft drink and a bag of skittles who took a bullet through the heart.
And this sort of very twisted ethical perspective carries over into policy debates. As a result, the continuing series of mass murders committed with semi-automatic weapons fed by large magazines of ammunition has not led to a ban on either of those things, or even to legislation that makes it more difficult for people with mental illnesses to purchase such things. Instead, the rights of a steadily declining percentage of Americans—of what is now a decided minority of Americans who own an ever-increasing number of guns–to purchase just about any sort of weapon that they fancy are, in effect, being deemed more important than the rights of school children to feel safe in their schools, of moviegoers to feel safe in a theater, and of all Americans to feel safe anywhere. The alternative solution proposed by the Far Right is that everyone be armed. Specifically, they have argued that public school teachers, whom they have relentlessly caricatured as incompetent, over-paid, and over-protected by their unions, should be trained to use guns and authorized to keep them in their classrooms. So, in effect, the very teachers who supposedly cannot be trusted with the education of our children should be trusted to protect, ostensibly, the lives of those children with guns.
And this sort of twisted logic is not just evident in gun-related arguments. The Far Right has argued for decades that the government must be kept out of our bedrooms. But, while insisting that their primary focus continues to be on jobs, they have passed almost no legislation that has actually created any jobs, on either the federal or the state level. They have, instead, passed whole rafts of legislation severely restricting abortion rights and thereby eliminating the access of large numbers of women to inexpensive reproductive healthcare of all kinds. Having warned Americans for decades about the dangers of allowing the government to intrude into the healthcare decisions that should be made by them and their physicians, the Far Right has actually scripted what physicians need to say to their pregnant patients and has mandated that those physicians must perform vaginal ultrasounds on those patients who request abortions–ultrasounds that serve a very pointed ideological purpose but no medical purpose whatsoever. Likewise, the political ideologues who have continued to condemn Obamacare as the work of the devil himself have, purely for political convenience, completely “forgotten” that it is actually their own plan–their preemptive, private-sector alternative to Hillary Clinton’s never formalized proposal for government-provided, universal healthcare. They have “forgotten” that when Mitt Romney introduced the plan in Massachusetts, he was actually courting, not seeking to antagonize or to alienate, the Far Right.
Which all brings us back to Kansas—to Sam Brownback’s Kansas. Brownback has pursued a Far Right agenda in Kansas more relentlessly than almost any governor in the nation. He hasn’t gotten as much attention as Walker, Kasich, Snyder, Corbett, McDonnell, et al, because Kansas is a less populated state, farther removed from national media attention, and because everyone has already assumed that it is very conservative. But Brownback has taken a very conservative state and tried to make it ultra-conservative. So, although he has largely avoided saying much of anything that might be controversial enough to attract national media attention, he has pursued, relatively unchallenged, an ideological agenda that should certainly be the cause of vigorous debate. That such debate has not occurred in Kansas, or has occurred there only in very muted ways, suggests the core problem with any doctrinaire ideology: whatever is said in its defense is deemed morally justifiable and whatever is said against it is deemed morally reprehensible. “Free speech” becomes a code phrase for politically acceptable speech couched in moral authority.
So, it is not a little ironic that the very ideologues who have railed for so long and so vociferously against “political correctness” have become the proponents of a different kind of political correctness, one that simply serves their own ideology rather than that of their opponents. At its core, this is all political expediency and parochial self-interest very thinly disguised as moral outrage.
For other posts with a similar focus, see:
“Far-Right Reformers Is an Oxymoron, a Euphemism for Reframing a Public Service as a Source of Private Profit”: http://academeblog.org/2013/09/16/far-right-reformers-is-an-oxymoron-for-reframing-a-public-service-as-a-source-of-private-profit/
“A Thought-Provoking 9-11 Commemoration from the Far Right”: http://academeblog.org/2013/09/12/a-thought-provoking-9-11-commemoration-from-the-far-right/
“How the Far Right Is Behaving like Communists”: http://academeblog.org/2013/08/12/how-the-far-right-is-behaving-like-communists/
“GOP Tries to Turn Labor Day into ‘Nation of Builders Day’”: http://academeblog.org/2013/09/02/gop-tries-to-turn-labor-day-into-nation-of-builders-day/
“A Howitzer in Every Garage”: http://academeblog.org/2013/09/13/a-howitzer-in-every-garage/
“Louie Gohmert and Ted Nugent, Proud to Be Ignoramuses”: http://academeblog.org/2013/08/07/louie-gohmert-and-ted-nugent-proud-to-be-ignoramuses/
“Hating a Black President Isn’t Necessarily Racist–But All of These Expressions of That Hatred Are Clearly Racist, and If You Don’t Think So, You Are Either a Racist or the Word ‘Racist’ Has Lost All Meaning”: http://academeblog.org/2013/08/18/hating-a-black-president-isnt-necessarily-racist/
“Far-Right Rewrites of Recent Events–Rabid Partisanship or Abject Stupidity: Item 1”: http://academeblog.org/2013/08/29/far-right-rewrites-of-recent-events-rabid-partisanship-or-abject-stupidity-item-1/
“Far –Right Rhetorical Co-Opt, Item 1”: http://academeblog.org/2013/08/14/far-right-rhetorical-co-opt-item-1/
“Far-Right Rhetorical Self-Contradictions, Item 1”: http://academeblog.org/2013/08/16/far-right-rhetorical-self-contradictions-item-1/
“Ted Nugent’s Presidential Aspirations”: http://academeblog.org/2013/07/06/ted-nugents-presidential-aspirations/
“Campaigning Isn’t Governing, Sound Bytes Aren’t Journalism, and MOOCs Aren’t Education”: http://academeblog.org/2013/05/06/campaigning-isnt-governing-sound-bytes-arent-journalism-and-moocs-arent-education/
“A Rhetoric of Demonization and Exclusion”: http://academeblog.org/2013/05/23/a-rhetoric-of-demonization-and-exclusion/
“A Rhetoric of Demonization and Exclusion: Addendum 1”: http://academeblog.org/2013/05/26/a-rhetoric-of-demonization-and-exclusion-addendum/
“In Politics, Violating Your Own Truisms Is the Definition of Cynicism”: http://academeblog.org/2013/07/02/in-politics-violating-your-own-truisms-is-the-definition-of-cynicism/
“House GOP Passes Farm Bill Stuffed with Corporate Pork But No Funding for Food Stamps and School Lunches—and in the Process Puts the Lie to the GOP Truisms about Cutting Spending and Conducting the People’s Business in the Open”: http://academeblog.org/2013/07/11/house-gop-passes-farm-bill-stuffed-with-corporate-pork-but-no-funding-for-food-stamps-and-school-lunches/
“And Here I Thought That Louie Gohmert Was the Most Ridiculous Congressman from Texas”: http://academeblog.org/2013/06/20/and-here-i-thought-that-louie-gohmert-was-the-most-ridiculous-congressman-from-texas/
“Postscript to My Recent Post on Louie Gohmert”: http://academeblog.org/2013/06/24/postscript-to-my-recent-post-on-rep-louie-gohmert/
“Suppress the Vote, 2013-2014 Versions, on Campus”: http://academeblog.org/2013/04/28/suppress-the-vote-2013-2014-versions-on-campus/
“Ideologies and Strategies”: http://academeblog.org/2013/04/24/ideologies-and-strategies/
“What Would Hitler Have to Say about This”: http://academeblog.org/2013/02/11/what-would-hitler-have-to-say-about-this/
“How to Respond to a Right-Wing Rant”: http://academeblog.org/2013/02/10/how-to-respond-to-a-right-wing-rant/
“Voter Suppression and Democratic Expression”: http://academeblog.org/2012/09/15/voter-suppression-and-democratic-expression/