Linguistic Terrorism

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My letter to the editor, as submitted to Spokesman-Review:

In modern American politics, the word “racist” and its synonyms are often used in the same way “communist” was in the 1950s: to smear and destroy political opponents. Last week, we saw it play out in Spokane County.

The word strikes fear in the hearts of Republican candidates; there is nothing worse than to be accused of racism. It’s terrifying, because anyone can be labeled a ‘racist’, and it’s impossible to prove that you are not a white supremacist, or an anti-Semite, or a plain-vanilla bigot. There is no defense against this smear tactic, and nobody is safe from it. It’s linguistic terrorism.

Just as McCarthy saw communists behind every bush, liberals see a racist behind every ‘R’. Predictably, opportunists in the GOP exploited the paranoia to character-assassinate fellow Republicans. Ozzie Knezovich leapt at the chance to use the hysteria to get back at his critics: force out the GOP Chair, accuse a Tea Party group of fostering “hate and extremism,” and slander two sitting Republican officials.

The time has come to confront the bullies and ask “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

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