The Quintessence of Political Vitriol

Earlier this month, 12-year-old Graeme Frost delivered a two-minute radio address. Straining against damage from a 2004 car crash that put him in a coma for a week and left one vocal cord paralysed, he spoke up in favour of a proposed extension of federally-funded medical benefits in the United States known as CHIP, or the the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This popular measure has bipartisan support in Congress, although likely not enough to repeal a veto imposed by President George Bush.

For the Democrats, this may have been just a political stunt. Putting an innocent child before the cameras is something politicians of all political stripes have done for time immemorial, but one would think that rational people would assume that the Frost family were speaking to what they believed in. One would think that rational people would assume that the Frosts accepted the opportunity to exercise their rights of free speech as any other rational person would do, and should have a right to do. What they could not have expected — what I think most rational people would believe should not be expected — was the level of bitter and vindictive vitriol their simple plea unleashed.

Put simply, the Frost family were made subjects of a witch hunt and personal harrassment by such hard right-wing scavengers as Mark Steyn and Michelle Malkin. The substance of the Frosts’ plea was not considered, but rather the state of their finances. What sort of home did the Frosts own? Did both parents work (the father works “intermittently”, so as to care for his son and his daughter, who was even more severely brain damaged from the accident)? What school did they attend (private, but under a scholarship)? In other words, any sign of hypocrisy to invalidate the Frosts’ plea was hunted down with the tenacity of a psychopath, or possibly one who fears the Frosts’ words the way an adulterer fears photographs taken by a private investigator.

And speaking of private investigators, the commentary on these scavengers’ websites was even stronger.

If federal funds were required [the Frost children] could die for all I care. Let the parents get second jobs, let their state foot the bill or let them seek help from private charities. … I would hire a team of PIs and find out exactly how much their parents made and where they spent every nickel. Then I’d do everything possible to destroy their lives with that info. —Red State conservative

Hang ‘em. Publically. Let ‘em twist in the wind and be eaten by ravens. Then maybe the bunch of socialist patsies will think twice. —Another one

Hat tip to Dr. Dawg’s Blawg

How is this in any way acceptable? What does it say about the people who behave in this manner? How can rational, decent individuals advocate “destroying people’s lives” for the sole crime of speaking out in favour of policy? Answer: they can’t. Rational, decent people don’t act this way. What we have here are individuals who need medical help. Or possibly some kind of divine intervention. As one commentator wisely put it: “They talk about the War on Christmas, but they conduct the War on Christ.

Now, don’t talk to me about equivalence. Don’t point me to various intemperate things said by those on the left side of the blogosphere. I’ve been keeping score, and the left doesn’t have kooks this vicious or this numerous. There has been no incitement towards personal harassment from the left. I’ve heard of no death threats, no outright racism, and no implications that violence was justified on individuals whose only crime was speaking out.

And if any such examples exist (and I’m sure they do; no side is lily-white), let me make a prediction: none of these individuals have a fraction of the audience of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin or Mark Steyn. Some on the right like to mark up Michael Moore as the leftist equivalent, but he is tame compared to these loudmouths. And he’s about the only example that matches up in prominence with the above-mentioned four.

In general, the small number of real kooks on the left are rightly seen as nothing more than kooks who deserve either to be ignored, or possibly put into a mental institution to get the medical help they so desperately need. If anybody accuses me of a double standard, let me say that I wish the same standards were applied to the right-wing kooks as are currently applied to the imagined kooks on the left. Then, at least, we can finally chat in peace. A fair number of trees can be saved from the shocking waste of paper required to give these kooks their soapbox, and the rest of us (read, the normal population) can finally have some decent conversations and productive debates about the issues of the day.

Credit Where It’s Due

Conservative-supporter Raphael Alexander criticizes Ann Coulter’s faux pas. I’ve been quite enjoying his thoughtful centre-right commentary overall. He’s well worth watching, especially with the departure of Andrew’s Bound by Gravity or Olaf’s Prairie Wrangler.

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