there are four lights

Instapundit has done his best to add to the "conventional wisdom" of the Right about the Left, by accusing liberals of yet another character flaw:

On the Left, though, we find all these pseudonymous name-calling bloggers whose specialty seems to be abuse aimed at those deviating from the party line. De Long isn't one of those, of course, but this line from his post bespeaks a certain tribalism: "There's still time for Kaus to return to his neoliberal roots."

As the old saying has it, the left looks for heretics and the right looks for converts, and both find what they're looking for

I think this is exactly backwards.

How many times was Jim Jeffords called a traitor? What is Justice Souter's reputation? Would Janet Reno have ever introduced the TIPS program? Which side coined the phrase, RINO ? Were liberals the ones accusing Americans of being unpatriotic, or even treasonous? And of course there's John McCain, perhaps the perfect counterexample.

Remember that it was Ari Fleischer that reminded all Americans that "they need to watch what they say and what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is." And that it was John Ashcroft who labeled debate on the tradeoffs of security vs. liberty as "tactics" that "aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve."

So, according to the Bush administration, it's people who speak out about their rights, or who dissent, who are heretics.

And as far as the right looking for converts, granted they have Mickey Kaus. What about Arianna Huffington? David Brock? Jim Jeffords? Could it be a two-way street after all?

And name calling is hardly limited to the right - there is Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage... There was Charles Krauthammer's assertion that liberals are fools. He also claimed that liberals think conservatives are evil, but doesn't have a single example to support that claim. Interestingly, the "liberals are fools and conservatives are evil" meme was first promoted by Eric S. Raymond, who is many things but a liberal least of all. There's definitely a degree of echo-chambering going on here.

what's the point of this discussion? to illustrate that labels have become a substitute for thought - empirical support of Steven Den Beste's theory. The only labels you really need are "Us" and "Them" and drawing that neat line opens the door to demonization and dehumanization.

This leads to double-think. Glenn can point out examples of liberals who engage in name calling, who have converted to conservatives, label them as witch-hunters, but fails entirely to see the exact same processes in operation on part of the conservatives. Ann Coulter decries those who make excuses for suicide bombers, but makes the same excuses for murderers of abortion doctors:

Coulter was asked why she condemns the terrorists so strongly, but not those who kill abortion doctors. She said that the latter have been extremely frustrated by the fact that they can�t vote on this issue, thanks to Roe vs. Wade, and that they worked within the system for twenty years withoutsuccess before turning to murder. She said that those individuals believe they had been left with no other routes for dissent in the face of an ongoing atrocity. Coulter further suggested that althoughshe would not take it upon herself to take extreme actions on the abortion issue, she will not condemn those who do.

It's almost a source of despair to see how little true denate is taking place (aside from the blogsphere). In print media and television and radio, it's this doublethink that prevails, slowly eroding away at the subtleties of our political spectrum. And in doing so, the Administration gets a clearer and clearer mandate from its supporters - Us Vs Them is all about getting You to agree with Us, in the end. Even if we end up in a police state, with citizen snoops and our library card records being vetted by the FBI and citizens detained without recourse to due process.

I wonder if Orwell's book should have been titled 2004 instead of 1984.

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