No Room for Escalation

No Room for Escalation

Calling your political opponents Hitler has become a cliché. Especially if you are on the left side of the political spectrum. There is a fundamental difference to using “extreme” terms versus labelling your opponents with more benign terms like “potato-lover”. Terms like “Nazi”, “Fascist”, “Hitler”, “Evil” etc create an emotional effect in the audience spectating on current events. Having disagreements and name calling your political adversaries is not inherently problematic. As a supporter of the sacred right and central column of civilization itself, free speech, I encourage vigorous debate.

The problem arises when the terms used in common political parlance have reached “the end” of the spectrum. How can you escalate the verbal altercation once Hitler has been invoked? (I guess you could call them “Stalin”, taking into consideration his body count). There is simply nowhere to go once the end of the spectrum has been reached. It represents the end of verbal discourse. Just like war has been described as the continuation of politics with other means, the logical next step once verbal conflict has reached its end is physical violence. The Western world in general seems to be in the foggy grey area between the non-violent verbal and physical violence spectrums at the moment.

Street violence is unfortunately becoming increasingly common in many different countries. Clashes in Greece, France, the US and on and on take up an ever-growing amount of space in the media sphere. I don’t have a definite answer for what is the primary causal agent for this development. But, I do have some theories. If you lack good arguments and the situation you find yourself in is emotionally charged, resorting to violence to vent your feelings seems like something that could reasonably be expected to happen. The lack of a unitary sense of belonging to a group or culture probably decreases the bonds between individuals and the respect that is accorded to those in the opposing camp. The internal resistance to violent escalation is lower in this situation compared to people from a coherent society. We must also consider the copycat effect. Once one movement becomes violent, others will take the cue and be inspired (If they can, why can’t we?).

From a consequentialist standpoint, this means that we all have a responsibility for the temperature in the general political discourse in society. This should not be confused as an endorsement of political correctness. There is a significant difference between having the right to do something and doing it. You absolutely should have the right to call your enemies every vulgar, disgusting term found in the most gutter-wrenched dictionary. But whether or not its good optics, or good from a strategic perspective should be duly considered. That being said, should it be expected of you to take the high-road if your antagonists are beyond redemption? (Think Antifa and their extensive relationship to violence). Holding yourself to a higher standard and a different ethical rulebook is a recipe for getting your ass kicked. I worry about the future of the civilized political exploration of ideas if current trends aren’t vigorously opposed by people from all over the political spectrum.

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