Image via Wikipedia
I take no joy in writing this, but if the latest column from the always-frustrating Charles Blow is an indication, then Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart and their comrades are winning the racism debate.
Well, that’s not exactly true. They’re winning insofar as there’s a debate in the first place, once which, predictably, plays out like so in Blow’s column:
Americans are engaged in a war over a word: racism.
Mature commentary on the subject has descended into tribal tirades, hypersensitive defenses and rapid-fire finger-pointing. The very definition of the word seems under assault, being bent and twisted back on itself and stretched and pulled beyond recognition.
Many on the left have taken an absolutist stance, that the anti-Obama sentiment reeks of racism and denial only served to confirm guilt. Many on the right feel as though they have been convicted without proof — that tossing “racism” their way is itself racist.
And so on. This is how it plays out, and will continue to play out, in every major newspaper and on every major television network: “Both sides are calling each other racist! What a crazy debate! And who am I, just a humble columnist for the most prestigious Op-Ed page on the planet, to evaluate their claims against one another? All I know is that they’re both being very, very indecorous.”
If that pungent aroma you smell is bringing back memories of the Bush era, it’s because the right has used this exact same tactic before—most famously when they successfully obfuscated the meaning of the word “torture,” and passive, compliant news agencies played along. Now they’re doing the same thing with “racism,” and even “lynching” (For those keeping score at home, “to lynch” now means “To criticize a white person on the Internet.”).
I have slightly more respect for the nihilists who at least admit their complete lack of moral principles. This is something different: Rather than ever admit to violating a moral principle, or even engaging in a debate over whether or not they violated a moral principle, they instead argue over the meaning of the words used to articulate that principle.
It’s pretty amazing how far they’ve taken it, but I think they could go further. If Breitbart were ever caught beating an unarmed homeless man to death, he could probably extend the trial by at least a few months by calling it, “enhanced robust preemptive self-defense,” and accusing liberal bloggers “high-tech murder” for condemning his actions. Then Charles Blow could write a column about how nobody can agree on the definition of the word “murder,” and we should just agree that no American is a murderer anymore, ever.