As the poisoned well of so-called “conservative intellectualism” continues to dry up, its foot soldiers are forced into increasingly debased tactics in their attempt to sell ruling class politics to the disgruntled masses. One of the tactics so often employed by the far right in their psychopathic crusade for power and wealth is the scapegoating of minorities. Whether through voter suppression or fear-mongering about immigrants, these bad actors seek to use democracy against itself and appeal to their base’s worst tribal impulses to increase their support.
Those of us who see through this evil charade remain unconvinced by the attempt to blame the most vulnerable among us for society’s ills. We remain steadfast in our contention that it is a global plutocracy that lays waste to everything it touches — not the landless peasants whom they harbor endless contempt for — that lies at the root of so many of our most poignant predicaments.
Thankfully, more and more people are waking up to this reality. We are truly at a watershed moment in history. This is precisely why the reactionary right is currently engaged in a mad scramble of sorts. That is, they are scrambling to come up with fresh rhetorical strategies to slander and subdue their political opponents.
One of the newer weapons in their arsenal is what I like to call the appeal to civility. Therein, the far right and their deployed operatives accuse those on the Left of being “uncivil.” For example, Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld dedicated a nearly fifteen-minute monologue on primetime cable to accuse the Democrats of not being civil. Koch brother errand boy and host of The Rubin Report Dave Rubin has practically made a career out of propagating this lie, even going so far as to accuse anyone left-of-center of being “intolerant.” The myth of the Left’s lack of civility has risen to the level of universal truism in the realm of modern conservative thought.
This line of attack is markedly different from the racism we have become so accustomed to seeing from the far right. As I touched on earlier, when it comes to their nativism and xenophobia, we see the far right appeal to people’s worst impulses. However, when it comes to the civility “argument” (I use that word exceedingly loosely), they are actually attempting to appeal to folks’ sense of decency. After all, who could be against civility?
It is also important to note that this only ever runs one way. The radical right only really value civility insofar as they can use it as a cudgel to beat liberals and leftists over the head with. The events of this past week are a perfect example of this.
After firing off a headline-grabbing diatribe of several racist tweets in which he urged four Democratic congresswomen of color— three of whom were born in the United States—to return to the “places from which they came,'' Trump continued his mendacious attacks on these four noble public servants during a July 17th rally in Greenville, North Carolina. His fanatics proceeded to serenade their dear leader with chants of “SEND HER BACK!” directed specifically at Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota’s 5th congressional district.
For those unfamiliar, Ilhan Omar is one of the few unequivocal heroes we have in the world today. Fleeing terror and persecution in her birth country of Somalia as a child, she spent four years living in squalor in a Kenyan refugee camp before coming to the United States where she was eventually able to secure citizenship. In 2018, she took on the Republicans and the Democratic establishment as she ran a successful campaign on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor ticket, earning the right to represent her community in Congress.
Omar has not looked back since taking office back in January of this year. She has been a tireless advocate, sticking up for the rights of working families, and has showcased her gifts of leadership every step of the way. Omar has also perfectly resisted the radical, end-times agenda of the worst presidential administration of all time. By my own personal estimation, she is the single best person we have in government at the federal level today.
The attacks leveled against Representative Omar fall under any reasonable definition of “uncivil.” However, that didn’t stop the talking heads at Fox News from dedicating a huge chunk of their recent coverage to defending both the chant and Trump’s tweets. And, to no one’s surprise, rather than standing up and doing a mea culpa for his vicious and grotesque rhetoric, Trump has since doubled-down on his comments. Not only did he refer to his rabid supporters calling for an American hero to be forced out of her country as “incredible patriots,” but he also — in typical Trump, bird-brained fashion — attempted to flip the script, and tried to claim that “The Squad” of four progressive congresswomen were, in fact, the racists. It is worth mentioning that Republicans are actually now more fond of Trump following this fiasco.
It therefore makes sense that the vile attacks on these four congresswomen go far beyond just Trump himself. Recently, veteran Louisiana police officer Charlie Rispoli called for the assasination of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying “this vile idiot… needs a round— and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve”, referencing Ocasio-Cortez’s past as a New York bartender.
Allow me to provide yet another data point. The Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association posted a poorly-edited, fake movie poster to their Facebook page in which they referred to the aforementioned four congresswomen as “The Jihad Squad.” With two of the four ladies being Muslim, and the other two being strong advocates for the Muslim community and against Islamophobia, there can be no doubt as to the deep-seated bigotry that lies at the heart of this cheap stunt. If the far right wish to drone on about “civility” — or the supposed lack thereof — on the Left, they must first fix their own house.
Moreover, while civility certainly has its place, we should prioritize the victory of a political project that emphasizes social justice and seeks to decommodify human survival over simply being nice to those who so desperately wish to destroy everything we hold dear. Allow me to defer to 2018 Michigan gubernatorial candidate and progressive activist Abdul El-Sayed to articulate this point further…
“Want [civility]? Don’t attack our civil rights.
Our mommas raised us to have manners and to be kind to all. But they also taught us to fight for our rights.
For you, civility may be a matter of convenience. For too many of us, civil rights are a matter of existence.”
While our movement is certainly a burgeoning one, we must reckon with the fact that the basic rights of working people the world over are still very much under constant threat. I agree that niceness is superior to meanness, but we mustn’t allow the appeal to civility to be wielded in an effort to defang those standing up for what is rightfully theirs. After all, what is more uncivil than denying a person’s basic humanity?
And thus, it is my honor to proclaim that until the dignity of all human beings is secured, we will not be civil.