To all of my friends, acquaintances and family members living in the United States of America.
I would like to issue a challenge to all of you not to say anything about any extreme right-wing candidate for President, any extreme right-wing candidate for Congress or some other elective office, any host of a right-wing talk show, any right-wing celebrity, any right-wing communications network, or anyone who gains notoriety for his or her right-wing views, from now until the elections of 2012.
Yes, like many of you, I have thoroughly enjoyed lampooning some of these individuals or groups. (It’s easy to do, as so many of them go out of their way to be our jokes.) But here’s the thing – if you notice these people, it puts them on the grid. The media wants a comfortable “us versus them” political spectrum, and every time you notice a right-wing extremist, it awards credibility to these folks as a “them” to counterpoise to “us”.
My point is, it’s up to “us” to recognize “them”. But why should we? What have they done to deserve such credibility?
After the shootings in Tucson at the beginning of 2011, a columnist for the Washington Post suggested that one particular right-wing extremist was getting a lot of free media exposure. He suggested going out of one’s way not to mention this person, to counteract this disturbing trend. I thought that was a great idea. It was, in fact, a great idea. Indeed, when I followed the columnist’s advice, along with many others, this particular right-wing extremist largely dropped out of the news. Turns out your grandma was right, not only in terms of moral judgment but in terms of political strategy – if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.
The people who are dragging America down right now may surprise us, of course. They may change their ways and promote something that will help the country at some point. If they do that, great. If there’s something nice to say about them, then that has nothing to do with this pledge. Go ahead and talk about them in that case.
But if it’s the same old crap from the same tired people, ignore them. And do so with the knowledge that polls consistently show hardcore right movements as out of step with American voters. Even in 2010, when the Republicans took the House of Representatives and made gains in the Senate, for the most part, the hardcore rightist candidates were still turned back. More recently, polls have indicated most Americans hold the extreme right responsible for the credit downgrade the country’s securities just suffered. Right-wing talk show hosts are also starting to suffer marked downturns in their ratings as people are clueing in to their agendas. The best available data suggests that if you ignore these folks, there’s a good chance they will go away. People are already starting to reject them.
If you want to speak to an issue, fine. Do it without mentioning the names of the charlatans who may have raised them, but speak to those issues.
Also, let’s face it…if you can go a whole day without talking about these people…won’t it make you feel happier? And what if you can make it a week? A month? A year? Right up until Election Day 2012? It’ll improve your mood and help your country…
Who’s with me?