The Most Bullying Argument in Politics
Is it just me? Or is everybody in the media stealing ideas from Jonah Goldberg these days? I’m not suggesting Dougherty‘s column was inspired directly or indirectly by previously-articulated arguments calling attention to this phrase, to the contrary, Dougherty’s take here is insightful and original. But readers familiar with Jonah’s book will recognize the “wrong side of history” cliche as one of its funniest chapters. And it gives me another excuse to encourage people to read it. (Plus, any orders made through links to Amazon helps support my cigar habit, so there’s that)
As Dougherty illustrates, the verdict of history is never really final. Enjoy. The whole text is here.
There is no more bullying or empty piece of rhetoric in political conversation today than to accuse someone of being on the wrong side of history.
“To tell someone that the story of history will be the story of their demise is to make a bet on your future power and to make a frightening promise: The arc of the moral universe is long, and those who disagree with me should be impaled on it.”
And yet, we do it all the time. Over the past month, we’ve heard that the Washington Redskins are on the wrong side of history because of their refusal to change their name. Vladimir Putin, of course, is an enemy of the future. Politicians who are against gay marriage, them too. Even poor Scarlett Johansson is set to fall under the opprobrium of tomorrow.
“We invoke the future’s verdict of guilt precisely because we’d like to smuggle back into our politics the moral force of Divine judgment. But our appeals to progress are a pathetic substitute for the concept of Providence.”
At its most innocent, telling someone they are on the wrong side of history is an assertion that they stand in the way of others who will deservedly soon acquire more power and respect.
But often, the phrase has the ring of a threat. Read the rest of this entry »