"Extremism" Redux

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

David Limbaugh' latest column is twice as interesting as he means it to be.

First, as he intends, Limbaugh opens his piece with an interesting point. The left is, as usual, attacking its opponents as "extremists."

With the advent of the tea party movement and President Obama's recent "shellacking," the left's long-established effort to marginalize mainstream conservative Americans as fringe extremists has reached a new stage of desperation.

For at least the past half-century, the dominant media culture has portrayed minority liberalism as mainstream and conservatives as shrill malcontents. From the time I started paying attention to politics as a young kid, liberals have been demonizing conservatives as reactionary throwback Neanderthal knuckle-dragging, warmongering extremists.
True enough, but have the conservatives learned anything in that last half-century? From the looks of things, no. Here is Limbaugh's unintentionally interesting close:
Yes, tea partyers are extremists because they refuse to compromise on our national solvency or to conspire with statists in converting America into a European-style socialist nation.

In the run-up to the 2012 elections, we're going to see a growing intensity in the liberals' frantic and fraudulent effort to depict tea partyers, Sarah Palin and other real conservatives as extremists.

As this scenario inevitably plays out, we must remember that adherence to a fixed set of tried-and-true principles, otherwise known as America's founding ideals, is hardly extremism. Besides, to quote the victim of the "Daisy" ad, "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."
Setting aside the small matter of whether the vacuous, but opportunistic Sarah Palin deserves to be counted as a defender of capitalism, are defenders of America's founding ideals extremists or not? Limbaugh's answer seems to depend on who is asking the question.

That is hardly the kind of answer that will render a smear ineffective, and it indicates acceptance, on some level, of the very premise behind the charge, which is that sticking to one's guns is somehow, as Limbaugh himself puts it, "dogmatic." But then, in the eyes of subjectivist leftists and religionist conservatives alike, any claim to certainty is fraudulent because they can't conceive of a rational process of reaching certainty. Running scared in the face of a charge of "extremism," as conservatives have done for decades, is a as much a confession of ideological impotence as the charge is of intellectual bankruptcy.

Limbaugh would have done far better to replace those last two, wishy-washy paragraphs with something like the following:
If an uncompromising stand is to be smeared as "extremism," then that smear is directed at any devotion to values, any loyalty to principles, any profound conviction, any consistency, any steadfastness, any passion, any dedication to an unbreached, inviolate truth -- any man of integrity. (From "'Extremism' or The Art of Smearing", Chapter 17 of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal)
But such a close would require Limbaugh to understand unequivocally first, that the political principle that most urgently needs defending today to preserve our nation is that the only proper purpose of government is the defense of individual rights, and second, that extremism in its defense isn't just "no vice," but is a great virtue.

-- CAV

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