by William Skink
Personal attacks, selective indignation, hypocrisy. Is it just online comments that are toxic, or has the entire realm of politics become toxic?
Let’s take Don Pogreba Vs. Ryan Zinke as a case study.
But first, let’s take a look at the person who most significantly lowered the bar for American politics: Karl Rove. This Daily Kos piece features a good summation of Rove’s handbook:
Tactic #1: Take the Offensive.
“Throws opponents “off message,” so they cannot get their message across. In addition, a candidate who is on the defensive generally makes a poor impression on voters, who are looking for positive and assertive leadership.”
Tactic #2: Attack Your Opponent’s Strengths.
“Rove’s tactic of attacking an opponent’s strengths forces his opponent to back away from the very qualities that makes them an attractive candidate.”
Tactic #3: Accuse Your Opponent of What He/She is Going to Accuse You Of.
“‘You say that I don’t love you! I think it is you who does not love me!’”
Tactic #4: Go Negative, Then Cry Foul.
“campaign typically “goes negative” early, using scare tactics or lifting comments out of context. Once the opponent retaliates, the Rove camp calls public attention to their “dirty” campaign tactics.”
Tactic #5: The “Big Lie”.
“Ironically, it is the very magnitude of a “big lie” that makes it believable. The response of the voters can be summarized as follows: “Well, there must be some truth in the assertion, or they wouldn’t be able to say it. Where there’ smoke, there’s fire.””
Tactic #6: Appeal to Moral Values.
“At campaign events, Bush openly discussed his “faith-based” approach to government, declaring that his religious beliefs were at the core of his political decisions.”
“Twenty-two percent of voters polled said that the issue of moral issues mattered most in deciding how to vote for president. Of those 22 percent, 80 percent voted for President Bush.”
There are more tactics, but you get the idea.
In Pogreba vs. Zinke, what I see is tactic #2 at play, attack your opponent’s strength. Zinke’s masculine identity, as it relates to his special forces military service, is used to its fullest to form Zinke’s political identity. To attack this, Pogreba uses what I will call political emasculation.
This was used most recently by Pogreba in the post I took issue with for a different reason, titled Zinke’s Bizarre Love for Vladamir Putin and Aversion for the Truth. Apparently insinuating homoeroticism in the title wasn’t enough for Pogreba. When Pogreba wanted to depict Putin as a “dishonest autocrat”, of the many, many sources he could have used as evidence that Putin is a dishonest autocrat, Don decided to go with a Buzzfeed article depicting the 16 most homoerotic pictures of Putin.
This is by no means been the only post that Pogreba has taken his direction from Karl Rove’s handbook. In a post titled Why is Big, Bad Zinke Such a Coward?, a bad photo-shop picture plastering Zinke’s face on the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz tops the post, along with the use of words like “mewling”:
It seems Congressman Zinke is so afraid of refugees coming to the United States that he’s spent the past few days since the Paris attacks distorting the evidence and mewling that a relatively tiny commitment to giving aid to refugees who would be thoroughly vetted somehow threatens our national security. Our brave Congressman is so afraid of letting a tiny number of refugees escape a brutal war that he’s shown himself willing to lie and demagogue to keep them from our shores.
Here is the definition of the word:
gerund or present participle: mewling
(especially of a baby) cry feebly or querulously; whimper.
I was thinking of word choice after Pogreba again used the word “shrill” to describe me. When Donald Trump used that word to describe Hillary, it was seen as a continuation of his sexist perception of women. Is this another attempt at emasculation?
A few posts back I mentioned my concern over the attempt to depict JC as mentally unstable. It seems the tactics of dismissing and marginalizing women in our culture has now become a handy political tool to try and do the same with people who have different perceptions about what is happening in our world.
Take this snip about hysteria from a Time piece, titled 11 Ways to Avoid Sounding like a Sexist Jerk:
Female hysteria was once the catch-all diagnosis for a woman with problems, and it didn’t disappear entirely from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders until 1980. But the trope of the crazy, emotional, moody, hysterical, PMS-ing, crazy woman — or worse, the crazy, emotional, hysterical romantic stalker — remains in full force.
Not only does this trope remain in full force for marginalizing women, but as a political weapon this trope has evolved into a means of dismissing or marginalizing other opponents of mainstream political partisanship.