I wrote this as a comment to another article which is soon to scroll off the newswire, but I thought it is a very important subject that deserves a lot more attention:
People on the left are as likely as anyone else to fall for reactionary rhetoric.
What is "reactionary rhetoric"? I think it has various hallmarks.
But the most important and notable aspect of it is the overall function that it serves: Reactionary rhetoric depoliticizes people.
Depoliticizing people means distracting them from real analysis, debate, organizing, and effective action in the political realm. Distracting them from the crux of political issues onto tangential irrelevancies. The whole meaning of "radicalism" means getting to **roots** of a problem (RADIX=root). So it perfectly stands to reason that the OPPOSITE of radicalism would be anything that refuses such a disciplined discussion, and instead attempts to distract the participants and wear them away with anything else, however trivial or ridiculous or beside-the-point.
So, one hallmark of reactionary rhetoric is to focus on the supposed "moral failings" of individuals. To reduce a political discussion into a series of petty moralizing recriminations. "Bill Clinton was a lecherous womanizer!" etc. "Homeless people are lazy!" or "The unemployed just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps!" etc etc.
Of course, left-leaning people fall for this kind of trap all the time themselves. Rather than do the crucial work of analyzing the actual workings of the capitalist system, and developing reasoned responses to it, they content themselves too often with formulaic rants against the evils of "big business," for example. Or rather than developing a strong analysis of imperialism, they content themselves with just denouncing "Bush's war crimes," or some other political personality, or even this or that particular soldier's war crimes.
It wouldn't be so bad if they were actually spending most of their time doing other things, like actual political education, actual organizing, etc, and being effective at them. But all too often, their political immaturity torpedoes and impedes their effectiveness at these things, which are the crux of real politics.
At the risk of being accused of engaging in mudslinging myself, I think it is appropriate to point to a real-life example: It doesn't take a political genius to figure out that, if you want to stop a war, and most of the guns are in the hands of American soldiers, and the only way to stop the killing is to convince those soldiers to courageously put their guns down, then you're not going to make much headway by attacking them and their families personally as "murderers." ( http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2005/11/329030.shtml). Talk about dumb politics.
While such a blatant and extreme example is not the rule, I believe it nonetheless illustrates a real phenomenon. Leftists are bad at politics, partly because they fall for the same reactionary rhetoric that is used by the rightwing. But the rightwing use it skillfully, in a very disciplined and deliberate way. Whereas left-leaning folk do it unconsciously, because they have been just as brainwashed and damaged by the hegemony of reactionary ideology as everyone else.
Related discussion and links: