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January 10, 2011


False equivalence. Very.

Saying that speech "encourages violence" is NOTHING like saying that speech "encourages our enemies."

First, "encouraging violence" is not specifically defined in the Constitution as treason, while giving aid and comfort to our "enemies" is.

Second, the historical record does not show many authoritarian regimes gaining and maintaining power by claiming that their opponents were "encouraging violence." But authoritarian regimes *have* found it useful to accuse their political opponents of siding with the country's enemies.

Third, the conservatives statements from a few years ago were not aimed at the tone of political discussion (e.g., about staying in Iraq), but rather about the fact that political discussion was actually going on. They were trying to squelch that very debate. Again, that's an authoritarian move -- and a frightening one.

In contrast, liberals are not trying to squelch debate about the issues that are driving conservative anger, such as the health care reform law. They are just complaining about the overblown hateful and violent tone.

In other words, I think most liberals are trying to encourage an actual discussion about the actual merits of the health care bill. The conservatives, on the other hand, were trying to *avoid* discussion about the merits of staying in Iraq.

I'm not claiming perfect equivalence, but there are many parallels.

I see one parallel -- insurgents in Iraq used violence, and so does the occasional nutjob who gets riled up by Glenn Beck and the like. So in a sense, both sides are accusing the other of inciting "violence."

But c'mon.

What are the other parallels?

Again, you used the phrase "silence dissent" in your post. Is there any instance of a prominent liberal trying to actually silence "dissent" about the health care law?

A conservative who feels their dissent is under attack is mistaken. It's not their dissent that's being attacked, but their rhetoric.

I'm sure many conservatives felt the same way about liberal rhetoric vs. dissent in the post-9/11 period.

"I'm sure many conservatives felt the same way about liberal rhetoric vs. dissent in the post-9/11 period."

If they really did feel that way, they were morons. Conservatives really were saying that dissent "in a Time of War" was a Bad Thing. Jeez, back in the Spinsanity days, didn't you have a lot of posts about how the right wing was casually throwing around charges of treason in response to dissent? And not based on the tone of the treasonous dissent, but because of its existence.

(Here's one: http://www.spinsanity.org/post.html?2003_02_02_archive.html. The New York Sun was suggesting treason prosecutions for participants in an anti-war march. The New York Sun was not responding to rhetorical excesses that might happen in such a march, but rather to the march itself, i.e., the dissent itself. You rightfully took offense. You also stated that there were "many instances in which pundits and politicians have tried to demonize dissent.")

It certainly hasn't always been the case, and it's not the case on every issue, but over the past several years, there has been a major substantive difference between the left and the right in their approach to "dissent."

Sure, I wrote all about that (and have continued to do so -- see http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/.services/blog/6a00d83451d25c69e200d83451d26269e2/search?filter.q=dissent ). My point was that conservatives didn't actually silence dissent in legal terms. They tried to delegitimize it, which is what some liberals are trying to do to conservative dissent now. Again, the parallel isn't perfect, but I don't think the distinction you're making is always being upheld in practice either.

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