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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bully for Haters

The great Thomas Sowell writes:
"There is a lot of talk from many people about bullying in school. The problem is that it is all talk. There is no sign that anybody is going to do anything that is likely to reduce bullying."

Thomas Sowell is a lot smarter than I so with trepidation I point out what he writes is beside the point. Of course nobody is going to do anything about bullying. Nobody can. Adam couldn't keep Cain from bullying his little brother Able; it's not likely we're going to succeed where Adam failed.

Two things would have to be done, and neither is possible. First, children would have to be raised to always respect others and refrain from taking advantage of the weak. Always. All children. All the time. Anybody want to bet money on that proposition? Second, punishment for bullies would have to be swift and consistently applied. Can you picture that, in our current society? Me neither. The best corrective to bullying is thwacking the dickens out of the bully when you catch him in the act. It's a solution that may as well be on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It's across the border in Cambodia and we're not allowed to go there. We'll simply patrol around, conducting 'hearts & minds' campaigns, and every now and then find a bully, or the body parts thereof. Occasionally we'll declare this week's body count is better than last week's so we must be winning.

Where I think Professor Sowell misses, is that the current sturm und drang is no longer about (if it ever was really about) bullying per se. Nobody sensible believes we can actually, you know, do anything about bullying. In America, real, live bullying will happily continue, and even increase, for everybody but heterosexual, Christian, white males, who, as has become customary, will be singled out for anti-bullying campaigns whether they are as nasty as Eddie Haskell, or as true-blue, decent and fair as Little Joe Cartwright.

Bullying is merely this season's must-have fashion. It is the "Glee" of cultural and political discourse. It is what we talk about to stay on top of the up-to-the-minute fashion. We are simply experiencing another temporary societal obsession such as we have been developing, with increasing frequency, whose only lasting results are always the same: we take a perfectly serviceable word and make it forever useless for anything other than vilifying opponents in an argument. "Bully" will now join "racist", "sexist", "extremist", and the recently added "hater" on that special list we draw from when we want to tell somebody to shut up, and tell everybody else not to listen to a single word that person says.

Recently on Facebook someone wrote he was contemplating "defriending" a certain person for being a "hater". The contemplative fellow supplied a new-fangled definition of hate: "the willful desire to cause harm without right justification. Right justification is defense of self or defense of others." I leave it to the reader to look up the word "hate" if he cares to, but trust me when I declare that were we to adopt the above definition, it would mean George H.W. Bush does not really hate broccoli, and Inigo Montoya did not really hate the six-fingered man.

Since Bush did, and so did Sr. Montoya, this interesting new definition of hate is no longer very useful for its old purpose - identifying real, live "hate", but it becomes quite useful indeed for wrapping an insidious moral accusation inside a supposedly descriptive word. With such a definition, when the good guys hate for "right justification" it is not really hate at all, and when the bad guys hate, it is by definition an immoral act in and of itself. The good guys, we will find, will always look like progressive leftists and the bad guys will be the usual suspects (the above mentioned heterosexual, Christian, white males, and of course Americans in general, Republicans in particular, and most especially members of the Tea Party).

"Hate" has metastasized into the latest progressive buzzword to use against conservatives. The Left's depraved attacks on Sarah Palin lowered the stock value of the word "sexist"; many now yawn if accused of "racism" (currently defined, apparently, as anybody that thinks Barack Obama just may be a knave and a fool); "Islamophobe" and "Homophobe" were always weird, artificial-sounding things and, being the truly stupid terms they are, they have inevitably lost much of the sting they once inexplicably possessed. We need some new words on deck. Hate can't last forever, unless you're Ricardo Montalban in a Star Trek movie, or the average Palestinian.

I suspect "bully" will do nicely as the next trendy accusation. Progressives can customize the definition, and then they will for a while enjoy its heft and feel as they swing it at conservatives. They will overuse it, as they did "racist", or violate its true meaning beyond even their own ability to dissemble, as they did with "sexist", or shoot past it so forcefully with their own despicable behavior (see "incivility" and Madison, WI) that eventually the day will come when bully will never be mentioned again. But for the near future, expect to notice a lot of Republican "bullies" among the "haters", and keep your eyes open for the next word we may want to make useless in the cause of progressive newspeak.

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