Less holier than thou-ism.
My train of thought ran over the nerve that inspires columns this morning as I watched an AHC program about the American Revolution. We were losing the war and partisans started to win the war by using tactics the Brits; who were by no means more pure, found unacceptable, like hit and run. One thing especially brutal: those accused of being sympathizers were tarred and feathered; a process bad enough as commonly portrayed. Hot, thinned out tar is applied the accused who has been stripped naked, then feathers.
What isn’t mentioned is that once tarred and feathered the feathers were set on fire.
My mind went to a Facebook discussion. I had suggested, in response to all the accusations and denials when it comes to inappropriate behavior, that maybe eventually we’d need something like the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Of course one person asked if I wanted necklacing too. Using one simple misplaced talking point the poster missed so many things it’s hard to count. But the most important point would be necklacing was a response to many, many equally cruel actions of racists and their fav regime, and the cruel actions of that regime happened over many, many more years.
Does that makes one side more pure, more “holy” than the other? No. War brings out the worst in us all. It must be noted that winners excesses get marginalized, even ignored, the losers not so much. Since we won the truth behind tar and feathering fades. If we had lost it would have become a well known example taught in our classrooms to frame the patriots as villains. Both would be unfair misrepresentations, false framing.
A good example from current social discourse is whenever discussing Trump behavior partisans immediately try to flip it to Clinton. Nothing Hillary ever may, or may not, have done excuses or justifies anything Donald may, or may not, have done. Of course flipping that formula is perfectly fair, as long as whatever the accusation is isn’t a lie. In today’s political environment there’s little to no punishment for lying because we’re too busy protecting those more on our side and demonizing those not on our side.
It’s a rarity that one side in any conflict or debate is pure. During a Christmas debate with a friend I was told Hollywood elites were “the problem.” Hollywood and the media were all liberal and kept funding, supporting, the left. Really? Reagan? Trump? Heston? Nugent? Murdoch’s empire?
So out from under our beds we drag the usual “scary” monsters; Soros, Kochs, Murdoch… but doesn’t all this miss the point? They all have a right to spend their money however they wish and a right to whatever political skew they may have. If we had a “fairness doctrine” or the airwaves were still considered belonging to the public there might be a point here. And those are discussions we should be having. Instead we focus on framing, which is really a fancy name for name calling, slander, libel and demonizing. It’s a way to create the perception your side is more pure, the other pure evil.
Framing to invent a perception of evil v. good creates strawmen intended to distract us from actually discussing issues. Does lowering taxes actually work, and what should we still tax for, what should we stop doing? How should we treat gun ownership in society and responsibility? What should our relationship with Russia be? Should any nation be interfering in the election of another, and if they do what should be done about it?
Hypocrisy alert: we are by no means pure.
When framing becomes the main, and mostly only, form of public discourse our arguments are circular. Social discourse becomes like the most simplistic insulting tweets. We assume our side; whatever it is, is pure, the other side is not. Trapped in a room with no exits we are doomed to forever be at each other’s throats. Even if we could make those who disagree go away we eventually turn on each other: for no two humans think exactly alike.
So have a blessed, wonderful, New Year. I can’t decide for you whatever resolution you may make. But for me, less framing; especially in a holier than thou way.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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