We all have our “guilty pleasures,” don’t we? I find using “stupid” and “nonsense,” for instance, quite satisfying at times. For instance, I recently called a Daily Wire show host “a stupid man” for saying that “white people are the least racist people on earth.” Michael Knowles said this:
“White people generally are the least racist people on earth. I mean that in a very technical way. There have been studies of racial consciousness. White people have the lowest racial consciousness by a country mile.”
At the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC) conference in March, he also said:
“If [transgenderism] is false, then for the good of society, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely – the whole preposterous ideology,” he said.
A Facebook friend posted that my comment was “unjustified slander” and “has no place in civil discourse.” I did acknowledge that perhaps I should have used “stupid” to refer to the comment and not the man. However, when I listened to the video clip from his show, I do not think he engages in “civil discourse.” And I do consider his comment historical “nonsense” and verifiably “stupid.”
I went on to post this response on Facebook:
Language is always a challenge. One word by itself will almost surely be understood by others in ways we did not mean it. There are dozens and dozens of synonyms for “stupid” – many of them not at all what I meant, but some of them conveying my meaning well. And some antonyms make even more clear what I mean. My use of the word, in my mind, is descriptive and not pejorative. But I understand other people would not see it that way.
His comments at CPAC about transgenderism provoked comments that went far beyond calling him stupid:
John Knefel of Media Matters called it “eliminationist, genocidal rhetoric”.
Christopher Mathias of HuffPost said it was “a straight-up eliminationist anti-trans tirade”.
Adam Vary of Variety urged people to “pay attention. This is genocidal. That is not hyperbole or alarmist; this rhetoric is calling for the eradication of a group of people for who they are”.
These two “guilty pleasure” words are actually fairly benign. Not slanderous. Not outside “civil discourse.” If anything I should have chosen words more clearly descriptive of someone who denies centuries of history as white men committed genocide, enslaved people of color, denied women basic human rights, and wrote laws to deny the reality of who some people are, enforcing those laws by imprisonment or death. Words like stupid and nonsense have little meaning in the face of such history.
I had intended this post to be about how we need to listen to people whose values and politics are so different from ours – how we need to listen in order to understand them. As I wrote this post, I realized even more that we can listen and understand – and be appalled and horrified by the inhumanity of some people, no matter how sensible they pretend to be. At that point, it’s time to be bold, blatant even, and call out their rhetoric and ideas as a danger to us all.