We Need More Political Rhetoric, Not Less

Freaking Bingo.  Geoffrey P. Hunt and The American Thinker shed light on the darkness that is liberal understanding of speech in our republic.   Juicy part:

John Steele Gordon in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal documents the long history of political discourse  — overheated, boiling, or even incendiary — as a trademark of American politics.  Speechmaking and opinion-mongering have always been athletic pursuits, punctuated by the well-timed sarcastic jab or sweeping insult.  Otherwise, what would be the point?  Protecting political speech, by no accident, is found in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.  If political speech were not poignant, direct, explicit, colorful, indeed overheated and frequently uncomfortable and unwelcome — short of libelous and directly life-threatening — it wouldn’t need to be protected, would it?

Political speech has content and a wrapper.  Content is the idea; the wrapper is the means by which and from whom the idea is expressed.  Often, competing ideas carry the identity of the speaker and with it, the good, bad and ugly.  Personal attacks in print and speech, while generally unattractive if gratuitous, are often intertwined with retorts and rejoinders that can be both persuasive and amusing.

At least in the Anglo tradition, debaters have fun at others’ expense.  As noted by Bernard Bailyn in his seminal work The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, there is actually a far lengthier history of astringent polemics in 18th-century Britain, where  dissuading one’s political opponent wasn’t satisfaction enough — annihilation was the goal.  The subtle dig and explicit name-calling have their place — one accepted as sophisticated repartee, the other denounced as unimaginative and immature ad hominem.  Yet the latter is just as likely accompanied by laughing out loud, if only in private.

Speech of all types — political or otherwise — is protected because it forms the fundamental platform for sustaining the marketplace of ideas without which a democratic republic cannot survive.  That’s not to say that all ideas are equally elegant or elegantly expressed, or even that they deserve to be heard.  But most ideas, even if clumsily expressed or devoid of merit, whether asserted gently or forcefully, deferentially or in your face, form the nutrient-rich red blood cells of our great nation’s discourse.



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