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  • Sunday, June 03, 2007


    Tin Foil Hats Keep the Forces of Evil at Bay

    It's become a common rhetorical trope for politicians to use the phrase "forces of evil". Mostly it's the Repubs but Dems are not immune to the impulse to use the it.

    With labeling any targeted group as "evil," the (often unspoken) corollary is that Americans and/or the politician are "good" and kin to angels. It's a neat trick which is probably why it's such a popular soundbite device. Fred Thompson is today's user to politically capitalize on the phrase.

    "Evil" is such a wonderfully useful concept for politicians. Who's going to stand up and defend evil? I don't think it's going to generate mass appeal for protests and pro-evil demonstrations. Of course, evil is an entirely moral term, a blanket condemnation of someone/something without any redeemable qualities. It's also a completely unquestioning term, imbued with absolute judgment without ambiguity or subtlety. There's no ten percent evil; it's an all-or-nothing value.

    The trick in using "evil" is that it generally allows the most extreme tactics to battle it. What's a little torture when you're battling EVIL!?! What are you, a wimp? You want EVIL to win? EVIL will use any tactic, so we must not hesitate to do the same! You can't coddle EVIL!

    The second trick is to use it to tar an entire group without differentiation. Thompson used the current favorite: "Islamic fundamentalists like nothing more than a mushroom cloud over an American city," he said. It would be useless to point out that there are huge numbers of "Islamic fundamentalists" who don't give a rat's ass about attacking America. However, the generalization is important in designating and targeting a large group as "the enemy."

    There's also a level at which such rhetoric is used to create enemies rather than to merely identify actual threats. Does the USA have real enemies who wish to attack? Yes. But I'm partial to being very specific about who such people and groups are rather than generalizing about large populations. It's inaccurate and a form of demagoguery intended to incite passions rather than reasoned discussion.

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