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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Military Metaphors and Politics

In the aftermath of the Tucson shootings, former senator Gary Hart wrote:
Gradually, over time, political rhetoric used by politicians and the media has become more inflamatory [sic]. The degree to which violent words and phrases are considered commonplace is striking. Candidates are "targeted". An opponent is "in the crosshairs". Liberals have to be "eliminated". Opponents are "enemies". This kind of language eminates [sic] largely from those who claim to defend American democracy against those who would destroy it, who are evil, and who want to "take away our freedoms".
Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid such language. The 1972 presidential campaign of Senator George McGovern (D-SD) rested on opposition to the Vietnam War and the Cold War. Yet in his memoir of the election race, McGovern's campaign manager used military language. Dedicated to "the McGovern army," the book said:
The nomination campaign for us was guerrilla warfare -- scattered, ragtag troops, minutemen, roving bands of citizens volunteers, the people of Russia plaguing and harassing Napoleon's elite corps. The general election campaign was heavy artillery, panzer divisions, massive clanking movements of cumbersome weapons, mechanized unwieldy warfare.
The book was Right from the Start (pp. 60-61). The author was Gary Hart.