Words matter, especially in politics
By Alan Goforth | Metro Voice
“President Obama said his political philosophy comes down to one thing — `we all are our brother’s keeper’,” author and commentator Jonah Goldberg said. “Now there is a certain amount of biblical illiteracy here. The phrase `my brother’s keeper’ appears exactly once in the Bible, and it’s when one brother is trying to dodge the murder rap for his other brother.
“The word `keeper’ means exactly what it sounds like — it’s like a zookeeper. When the government talks about being our keeper, it freaks me out a little bit.”
Goldberg discussed his most recent book, “The Tyranny of ClichÃ©s: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas.”
“The core message of my book is that American liberals are masquerading ideology as pragmatism,” he said. “They claim they are pure, just want to do what’s right and follow the facts. They have all the data on their side. Theirs is the only good ideology. They have science and reason on their side, and if you disagree with them, you are blinded by ideology.”
No where is this attitude more prevalent than on hot-button social issues which are often discussed on television shows such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
“There is this idea that conservatives are the aggressors in the culture war,” Goldberg said. “It’s always conservatives who want to impose their views on others. Take, for example, gay marriage. We’re dealing with an institution that has been defined one way for 4,000 years. It’s only in the past decade that all of a sudden it’s being defined in another way. That position has been imposed by liberals on the rest of the country. And yet somehow, it’s conservatives who are aggressors in the culture war.”
The same approach is used when discussing abortion.
“On abortion, the ideologues are always the pro-life people,” he said. “The ideologues who are dogmatic, hidebound and want to impose their views on others are always conservative, and the people who are for freedom, choice and liberty are always pro-choice. The idea that conservatives are always the aggressors is ridiculous.”
Goldberg challenges conservatives to move past clichÃ©s to challenge stale thinking.
“When I speak on college campuses to a bunch of liberals,” he said, “I love to say, `Let me get this straight. Your professors are liberal, your administrators here are liberal, Hollywood is liberal, the media is liberal, the music industry is liberal, the fashion industry is liberal — and you think you’re sticking it to the man by being liberal?”
Conservatives need to do a better job of explaining their positions, he said.
Ronald Reagan was a master politician who knew how to persuade people by telling stories,” he said. “From the Bible on, the way the mind understands is through stories. Politicians have gotten great at talking to audiences that already agree with them. But that’s not what politics is about. Politics has to be about persuasion.”
Conservatives even have an unwitting ally in this fight.
“Barack Obama has done more to persuade people about the problems with liberalism than conservatives have,” Goldberg said. We didn’t know they were going to farm out the health-care website to one of the finest programmers in the Amish community.”
The fight will never end, he added. As T.S. Eliot said, no battle is ever truly lost, because no battle is ever truly won. “At the end of the day, we can’t lose as long as our side is committed,” he said “We can’t lose as long as we keep up the fight.”
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