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On Opposites

March 21, 2010

There is an unfortunate tendency for the politically inclined to engage in the game of “Whose extremists are worse?”

In some sense, the extremism game is pretty much an aesthetic debate and anyone who lets it influence their policy preferences is foolish. However, I do think conservative commenters use the game to draw false equivalencies that 1) shield certain far right views from scrutiny and 2) de-legitimize certain far left views.

For example, here is Glenn Reynold’s response to media coverage of the protestors who hurled racist and homophobic slurs at Democratic congressmen:

And, by way of contrast, here are some photos from that antiwar rally today in DC. Note the Soviet-nostalgia T-shirt. But guess which one the press will cast as “extremist?”

The implication here is that “Communist” is the opposite of “Racist,” and that both are equally bad. I think the opposite of “Racist” is actually “Not racist.” And if a Communist is someone who thinks that 100% of the economy should be under state control, then the opposite of “Communist” is a “Market Fundamentalist” who thinks 0% of the economy should be subject to state control.

So by allowing “Racist” to serve as the polar opposite of “Communist,” the Overton window is shifted far to the right, because the extreme end of leftist political thought is lopped off and deemed as unsavory as racial hatred. But if “Communism” were opposed to “Market Fundamentalism,” we’d realize that a very small percentage of Democrats support extremist Communist ideology, while the modern GOP is defined by dogmatic adherence to the similarly extreme Market Fundamentalist ideology.

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