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    « Tale of the Private Are | Main | Right-Wing Labels Translated »

    Why Liberal Rhetoric Loses

    We’ve been receiving a lot of emails about our last blog post, many of them asking why we don’t do a list of liberal labels. Well, we responded, liberals don’t do labels.

    Oh, yeah? Figarists responded. How about “Tea Baggers?” How about “Nazis” and “fascists” ?

    Those aren’t labels. They’re name-calling. Name-calling isn’t labeling. It makes liberals seem childish and stupid—an excellent way to make right-wing extremists seem almost reasonable. Liberals! If you want to win an argument, stop trying to make your mates giggle. “Tea Baggers” gets you nowhere. (“The Glenn Beck Party”—that label could stick.)

    Take an issue, any issue, and you’ll see conservatives carefully crafting tropes that help them. Bush tax cuts, for instance: Do you hear a lot of conservatives hurling names at those who want to end the cuts? No, they talk instead about “crippling the job creators.”

    Or take climate change. Liberals’ first instinct is to call the climate deniers “earth haters” or “ignoramuses.” What if they looked for a trope instead of a silly name, attacking the issue instead of opponents? Call climate change “carbon poisoning,” and you might get somewhere.

    Want Figaro to suggest more labels? Name the issues you want labeled, and we’ll do our best.

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    Reader Comments (13)

    As a carbon-based life form, I don't find "carbon poisoning" particularly scary-sounding.
    April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephen P
    Running your car in the garage with the garage door closed will quickly kill you from carbon monoxide poisoning (assuming you are also in the garage, of course :)
    April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNandokun
    How about campaign finance reform? Or is that a label in itself?
    April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterContent
    I knew from Day One that "Net Neutrality" was doomed. How does Neutrality appeal to a war-mongering nation such as ours? Neutrality sounds wussy and indecisive to us. "Internet Freedom" would've been a label that people might've gotten worried about.
    April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJosh
    Corporate welfare?
    April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarco
    OK, Marco, you got me there. That's a great label--one borrowed from the conservatives. Content, "Campaign Finance Reform" is a label developed by moderates, including Republicans--not liberals. In fact, many on the left opposed reform in the beginning. Stephen, too much of a good thing is a poison.
    April 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterFigaro

    Conservatives used to talk about welfare mothers back in the day. Somehow I want to tie that down with companies doing their best not to pay taxes and use loopholes for this.

    Public-funded corporate free-riding?
    Publically funded

    -We could say that this country was originally built on the premise of "No taxation without representation" but that companies nowadays want
    "Representation without taxation" In other ways, they want all gain, no pain.
    I remember you discussed this figure before, twisting the order of the words to make your point more apparent.

    I now this is convoluted, but this could be worked into an argument. Don't you think?
    April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJaime
    Yes, I do, Jaime. But there already is a label for what you're talking about: "Corporate welfare." It's one of the few liberal labels that have stuck.
    April 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    Got any of them thar fancy rhetoric (pro and against) for the eco-fashion industry?
    April 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Barry
    There's something especially forked-tongued and unambiguous about labeling. I think that's why liberals tend to skirt it. They are keen on keeping an eye at looking at the in all their complexities. Conservatives, I believe, cling to strongly moral stance against a simple evil and a simple good, which they view as simple truth.
    May 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarco
    You could also say that the Republicans argue with values--a more tribal form of debate--while Democrats tend to argue more deliberatively.
    May 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    This really struck me. It is so true. The more "helpful" the label appears, the more power it gives to "brand" the other side...
    May 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterConor Neill
    Both side do damage on their own way. Both claim that the other side wants to ruin the country. Both claim that the other is completely lost. Both claim the other an enemy. If you want to look at it from a business or marketing standpoint, MAYBE there is something to this. But when you remember that this is politics, not the circus that it appears to be, it's all the same.
    May 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJake LaCaze

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