In praise of passionate language and name-calling

By Ted Belman

I raised the question What do you think of strong language in advocacy? because it is an issue that interested me.

    “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

Au contrere. Name calling is very effective. It is a device used in all propaganda. It was used by the Nazis to dehumanize the Jews. It is used by the Arabs to demonize and de-ligitimate Israel and Jews. It is fully responsible for widespread beliefs about Israel and Jews. Jews, more than anybody know the power of name calling.

People use strong language or swear as a means of expressing their emotions. “Fuck you” is never meant or taken literally but we get the message.

Should the emotions be muted? I think not. If Israel only presents its case to the world in academic and intellectuals terms, it will only get so far. The Arabs present their message in emotional terms. Their message seems to have more impact.

People react to how you feel about things more then how you think about things. People are more likely to believe you if you are passionate for your cause rather them if you are removed from it emotionally. Passion is convincing. Dispassion is not.

Calling Olmert a traitor is like swearing. It is generally not meant to be taken literally. It is not an opinion on whether he committed the crime of treason but it is meant to express one’s feelings that Olmert has betrayed our cause. It implies that we and Olmert share the same cause and is an angry statement that Olmert has betrayed that cause. Obviously we wouldn’t call a terrorist a traitor because we do not share a cause with them. Of course, we could get more intellectually correct and say that Olmert does not support our version of Zionism, but to do so, robs us of our passion, our sense of betrayal, our disgust, our anger.

The same might be said of calling the government of Israel, “fascist”. To do so is to convey a message. Many feel that this government has many of the indicia of fascism, perhaps enough to call them “fascist”. (What is enough?)

This government, uses its power to control and limit free assembly and free speech. It doesn’t apply the law equally to the left and the right or to the Arabs and the Jews. It oversteps its mandate all the time and does what it pleases. It is not government of the people and for the people. The administration of Justice is not without bias or political agenda. It uses administrative detention as a tool to suppress dissent. The Supreme Court takes it upon itself to legislate. All things are not justiceable as retired Chief Justice Barak once intoned.

My last paragraph accuses the government of many things all of which are not yet proven in a court of law. Must I preference all my charges with “allegedly”?

How fascist must it be to be legitimately be called fascist? How fascist must it be to emotionally be called fascist?

Finally my point is best made by reference to cartoons. They are effective because they over emphasize or stretch the truth or are extreme. Some even ignore the truth. Cartoons create an image or characterize. So does extreme rhetoric. They both send a powerful message.

September 4, 2007 | 24 Comments »

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