The flurry of internet activity in the wake of my article on the Mike Lee-Ted Cruz homeschool bill S.306 was just about to die down when RedState.com entered the fray with what has to be the nastiest contribution on the subject to date. Usually, base attacks are not worth the attention of a response, but this merits a passing mention as an example for bloggers and journalists everywhere: when aiming a bazooka at your opponent, it’s best not to have it pointed backwards. It will also help explain a current cultural phenomenon which conservatives seem to hate, but can’t seem either to explain or eradicate.
I was at first shocked that such a respectable publication as RedState.com—formerly, I thought, of Erick Erickson gravitas—would publish something so childish and mocking, not to mention incoherent. A short search of the particular author, however, turned the alarm to revulsion. The post is by a pseudonymous blogger named “streiff” who seems to be most consistent in two areas: anonymity and arrogant petulance. In particular, in the piece in question, Mr. streiff condemns my original article as “douchebaggery” written by “idiots,” “cretinish douchebaggery,” and quipped that “the Trump-ish critique is dishonesty on stilts.” One feels the irony already.
My quick search revealed a score or so of posts by this same gentleman using the term “douchebaggery” going back at least to 2009. This is where the revulsion sat in. This means that even throughout its august Erickson phase, this type of vulgarity was allowed to thrive regularly as an example of how conservatives respond even to other conservatives with whom they merely disagree. Why Mr. Erickson, as CEO and editor-in-chief of Red State ever allowed this level of discourse to flourish is as mysterious as it is disappointing.
Folks, when your favorite epithet is a reference to vaginal rinse, you’ve brought ad hominem to a new all-time low. Worse, since ad hominem usually reveals the bankruptcy of your actual position, you’ve dug a new hole for that, too. In short, you’ve thoroughly degraded both logic and rhetoric as low as they can go. This is an important point we will return to in a moment.
But then I found it. The only other person on the Red State website who ever stooped to describe a fellow conservative’s position as “douchebaggery” was Erickson himself.
Hmm. With streiff’s anonymity, this makes for a curious coincidence. Don’t forget that Mr. Erickson famously showed us what he’s like when he thinks the camera’s not rolling. In an early tweet, before he realized that his tweets were actually public, he celebrated Justice Souter’s retirement by calling him a “goat f***ing child molester”—only he didn’t provide the courtesy of asterisks. I wonder, just wonder, is streiff is an alter-ego or just a protégé?
Of course Erickson left RedState eventually and handed off this pot of profanity to the Christian media group Salem, which continues to feature streiff on their front page. With Christian media like this, who needs Howard Stern?
Erickson aside, let me say just a couple things. First, when one resorts to such discourse, it not only comes at the cost of character, but also often at the cost of veracity and coherence. Streiff’s response suggests I need to be tested for “reading comprehension” because I allegedly misread this bill so badly. He quotes where I argue that 529 accounts are subject to federal regulations and that these things, although not onerous right now, could be subject to executive orders in the future. Here’s what I said and he quoted directly:
What’s so sinister about a tax-free education account? Simple: it’s a federal program that comes with federal government strings attached. Granted, the strings may not seem that onerous right now, but the shadows of tyranny are already looming. Currently, in order to use the funds tax-free, you must send your child to a school that is accredited and also able to receive federal student aid. If you use the funds outside of such parameters, you not only have to pay the taxes but penalties on top of them.
More importantly, what could these accreditation and federal-aid regulations portend for homeschoolers? Maybe very little at first, and maybe nothing, some supporters would even say. But remember that such regulations can be tweaked and redefined by activist administrations, no matter what Congress allegedly did or did not intend. Take the money, and you just signed a contract that could allow the federal government to impose mandates on curriculum and more. Common Core would be just the beginning. Under an executive-order-happy president like Obama (and they all are), you could easily have common core, evolution, and the gay agenda shoved down your throats, or else face steep fines.
Most people understood what I said. A few did not. But this is how Red State’s front-page representative answered:
Ummm… NO. It doesn’t do any of that stuff. The bill does not create either “accreditation” or “federal-aid regulations.” It simply amends the definition of a qualified Coverdell ESA expense in IRS regulations to specifically include homeschool expenses.
Please reread my paragraphs. Did I say anywhere that Cruz’s bill “creates” accreditation or federal-aid regulations? No. I simply stated that these things are already a fact in regard to 529 plans, which is accurate.
Lesson: when you insult your opponent for his reading comprehension skills, you’d better not fail the test yourself.
Second, did you notice how the author refuted himself without even realizing it? See where I said “such regulations can be tweaked and redefined”? The author said, “NO. It doesn’t do any of that stuff.” Then one short sentence later he professes that the Cruz bill “simply amends the definition of a qualified Coverdell ESA expense in IRS regulations. . . .” [my emphases]. Thank you!
Lesson: when you contradict your opponent’s position, it’s best not to make his point for him immediately afterward.
Mr. streiff’s article title accuses its targets of “Pig-Ignorance.” Then its subtitle reads “you are making a clown argument, bro.”
Well, I am certainly not above such things, I’ll admit, but it will take more than Mr. streiff’s contribution here to demonstrate it. When in the end all you have is epithet, ad hominem, vulgarity, and misreadings, and then you end up proving your opponent right anyway, it’s best to save the insults for another day. No, rather, it’s best just to remain silent altogether.
Lesson: when you call your opponent’s position a “clown argument,” it’s best not to be the biggest clown in the room.
Why Trump is winning
Someone once said that it’s best not to wrestle with a pig: you get filthy, and the pig just likes it. In my opinion, this is what Donald Trump, for example, brings to the election cycle. His vulgarity is legendary, and his ability to wield indiscriminate vulgarity and get away with it is mystical. Perhaps demonic. Or perhaps just democratic. Whatever it is, every time they wish to respond to such vulgarity, GOP rivals risk descending into the mire with him if they are not careful.
Red State took a strident anti-Trump stance early-on in this primary cycle. Erickson disinvited Trump to his Red State debate event. Burn!
But reviewing the history of writers like streiff, Erickson’s own gaffes, and now this latest vulgar attack on me, I have to say that the burn comes too long after the district is already burned over. If you want to know why Trump’s blasting, ad hominem vulgarity has not yet disqualified him in the eyes of most voters, look no further. Whether it comes through regularly (streiff) or by perhaps by mistake (Erickson), you see what these concerned Christian moralists can really be like: they’re just as vulgar as anyone, indeed more so.
And it’s hardly just Red State. I have heard vulgar curses and reviling from all manner of pundit and would-be pundit hurled at everyone from the deserving left and Planned Parenthood to the most hard core conservatives who’ve done nothing but stand on principle—all because said person did not line up the critic’s narrow view of things. That view more often than not turns out to be shaped by personal relationships, desires, hopes, pipedreams, prejudice, and quite often ignorance as well. I have seen big-shot establishment conservatives hurl nothing but insults at those they deem fringe or lesser, then turn right around and cry about Trump trying to win the party with nothing but insults. It’s sheer hypocrisy. One is only a more seasoned and rasher version of the other, and the one is the perfect complement to the type of ethic heretofore cultivated by the other. In short, with your hypocritical insulting, vulgarity, and demeanor, you’re about to get the candidate you deserve. And it will do no good to point fingers when the time comes. You’re the man.
The hate spewed towards Trump’s vulgarity is only self-loathing on the part of so many party leaders, pundits, and many voters as well, Mr. streiff being only a minor, pitiful example of the type. He speaks to their true heart, and they know it. They know that if they had Hillary or Obama in a room with no cameras and no consequences, they’d spew a line of vulgarity that would peel the paint off the walls. When the camera comes back on, they put back on the façade and write posts about the lamentable death of civility. Trump merely presents a version of themselves without that filter. He shamelessly insults, stoops to the lowest common denominator, flip-flops readily, and pivots immediately to tell voters whatever they want to hear.
With his flawlessly-executed shamelessness, Trump has touched the hearts, deep down inside, of all the hypocritical demagogues of civility. This is why that even after the disastrously uncivil debate performance the other night, Trump still leads in SC by gargantuan portions. And guess what, “gentlemen,” when the voters go into the voting booth, the cameras won’t be rolling. They will vote their true selves.
In large measure, political discourse a thin, barely-polished façade covering corruption, dissembling, and angry pride. This is why strieff’s type of post is illustrative: it’s a crack in that façade. Through it we get a peak at incivility and bombast wed to no substance. Cue: Donald Trump, enter stage Right.
This post cannot be construed as supporting or not supporting any candidate. American Vision is a 501c3 and we are not allowed to state such positions, and I don’t. I can say that I absolutely reject vulgarity, dissembling, demagoguery, corruption, inconsistency, flip-flopping, and a variety of other sins that these discourses bring to the surface—whether in a candidate, journalist, pundit, Facebook post, tweet, or otherwise. I would distance myself from such tactics and those relying upon them. Anyone who wishes to know my views of principled conservatism simply read Restoring America One County at a Time—which is a FREE download currently.
As most readers know, a true fix requires a much longer outlook than the current election cycle. Yet our nearsightedness with national elections eats up vast quantities of valuable time and money, distorts reality, and often destroys relationships in the process. There will be no progress made until the Christian and conservative world starts cleaning up its own house first. There is simply no way to overcome the force of the Trumps of this world as long as we are acting just like them. Clean up, clean up, clean up.