Daniel Henninger wrote a post for his Wall Street Journal blog in which he says…well, let me quote for you.
“Liar” is a potent and ugly word with a sleazy political pedigree. But “liar” is not being deployed only by party attack dogs or the Daily Kos comment queue. Mitt Romney is being called a “liar” by officials at the top of the Obama re-election campaign. Speaking the day after the debate in the press cabin of Air Force One, top Obama adviser David Plouffe said, “We thought it was important to let people know that someone who would lie to 50 million Americans, you should have some questions about whether that person should sit in the Oval Office.”
So now it’s not ok to call somebody a liar. You’ll notice that Henninger doesn’t argue that Mitt Romney has not said untrue things, only that it’s not polite to attribute to him the most common word that describes people who say untrue things.
But wait, he’s a conservative writer so: Nazis!
The Obama campaign’s resurrection of “liar” as a political tool is odious because it has such a repellent pedigree. It dates to the sleazy world of fascist and totalitarian propaganda in the 1930s. It was part of the milieu of stooges, show trials and dupes. These were people willing to say anything to defeat their opposition. Denouncing people as liars was at the center of it. The idea was never to elevate political debate but to debauch it.
This is how the powerful maintain their power without having to worry about people thinking they’re gone soft. They tone troll. They claim that the problem isn’t that Mitt Romney is a liar, it’s that he’s being called one. The same can be said for people who scream “class warfare” when it’s pointed out that, for example, executive pay has skyrocketed while the median income has plummeted. The same can be said for people who just oppose gay rights, but they’re not “hateful“. The same can be said for people that don’t think it’s fair when you call them a “misogynist” just because they promote stories about men who get away with raping girls and suggest that this is a good thing.
The powerful will always try to derail conversations by tone trolling because it keeps them from having to address how they’ve abused their power. They say it “divides” people. But if the options are being divided and standing on the side of justice or being united in injustice, we should always choose division.