Thursday, March 18, 2010


I keep looking for a nod or a wink or some other indication that this item, which was posted yesterday by William F. Gavin at National Review's Corner, is a joke, a parody, a satire. I can't find any such sign. I think it's serious -- and if so, it's yet another sign that the right, which recently gave us Sarah Palin's serial language-based complaints and Jay Nordlinger's assertion that "teabagger" is the moral equivalent of the N-word, is now far outstripping the left in heavy-handed language policing:

...Liberals in the media, universities, and politics: Emulate the great saint who, we are told, drove the snakes from Ireland, by driving the reptilian word "McCarthyism" from your vocabulary. It is bigoted, and I'm sick of hearing it.

McCarthy is an ethnically identifiable Irish Catholic name, yet it describes despicable political behavior that transcends ethnic and religious backgrounds. No other American ethnic, religious, or racial group has been so stigmatized for so long, with so little public outcry, by a word that is acceptable in polite society.

"McCarthyism" is the second favorite epithet (after "fascism") of liberals who would sooner donate money to Palin for President than utter a word that would violate political correctness.... And yet this same sensitive, compassionate group still uses an Irish Catholic name as a term of abuse to describe political practices that are not unique to the Irish, to Catholics, or even to the late senator....

Not persuaded? Here's Gavin's trump card:

Consider the following thought experiment: In 1953, around the same time the term "McCarthyism" was coined, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for conspiracy to commit treason by passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Suppose that some hard-right anti-Communist polemicists had coined the word "Rosenbergism" to describe such acts of treason. We know what would have happened: Men and women of good will -- left and right, Christian and Jew -- would have raised an immediate and justifiable uproar over the slur....

Really? I strongly doubt it -- and so do you, in all likelihood, because it probably took you about thirty seconds to think of words that would be construed as ethnically offensive if we followed the Gavin standard, yet are perfectly acceptable. The folks in this Washington Post discussion thread didn't have much trouble:

According to this logic, "Maoism" is an insult to the Chinese and "Stalinism" is an insult to the Russians (actually the Georgians).


'McCarthyism' a slur?

Just as much as Quisling or Petain.

Slurs against the person and their actions, not solely because the person is Irish or Norwegian or French.

In fact, one of the worst insults a Norwegian can use against another Norwegian is to call them a 'Quisling'. And the same (substituting 'Petain') in France.


I suppose Marxism is inherently anti-semitic, and Calvinism is anti-Sunday-Comics.

I'd add our use of "Mafia" to describe any group of reputedly thuggish wielders of power (and I suppose our use of the word "thug" would also be considered problematic).

And what about "Machiavellian" as a synonym for "shrewdly ruthless"? I ask because a novel Gavin once wrote was sold with a blurb that read in part,

Think Machiavelli meets the Marx Brothers.

Why did Gavin permit that on the back cover of his book? Doesn't Gavin owe all us Italians an apology?

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