A Note on Incendiary Political Tactics
On Saturday, Alan Grayson posted a video on DailyKos in a fundraising diary. The video had a fake George Bush, complete with his legendary wordsmithery, claiming he was going to Florida to fight against Grayson. Most commenters loved the skit, but some claimed it to be over the top. Apparently, such use of caricature and name-calling is demeaning and reduces us to the level of right-wingers and their teabagging minions.
As with most matters, I don’t see this as a black-or-white question. In general, it should be advisable to live by the Golden Rule: treat others as you would have them treat you. Which means that absent intervening circumstances, it is best to stick with logical and civilized debate and eschew personal attacks on one’s ideological adversaries.
However, that does not mean it is necessary or even ethically advisable to hold to that premise in the face of such intervening circumstances. I propose three criteria where, if met, incendiary tactics are justified:
1) The debate is continually muddied and progressive priorities are handicapped by a radical force with no interest in deliberative democracy;
2) Talking points exclusively built on logic are not effectively cutting through the clutter;
3) Any direct attacks must be reality-based and appeal to a higher morality.
So does that mean Grayson is justified? I’d say so, although it’s not 100% cut-and-dried. The first criterion is clearly met here – that point is pretty established. The second is also pretty clear, as the media and most establishment Democrats are unable or unwilling to call out the right wing hordes for what the radical, violent, antidemocratic force that they are.
The third, however, it not quite so obvious. Is using George Bush and parodying his speaking style necessary to get this point across? Does that serve any particular purpose, and on the other hand does it escalate the antagonistic dynamic in the state of political discourse?
I don’t really see the value-added beyond effective fundraising for Grayson, but I also don’t see the harm either because the discourse is already in such an overheated state. Given that Grayson has already exhibited inflammatory behavior in the past, and repeatedly so, it would actually be intellectually inconsistent for him to abandon that bare-knuckled strategy now.