The world runs on insults and humiliation

When Barak Obama addressed the situation in Afghanistan last year, he said, "we’ve got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops that we are not just air raiding villages, and killing civilians”. Our over reliance on air power has indeed resulted in a lot of civilian casualties, but Sara Palin recently insisted that this remark should disqualify him for the presidency because it was insulting and demeaning to the troops. Indeed, the primary rationale for invading Iraq was that any lack of support for military action would hurt the troops’ feelings and make them feel denigrated.

Meanwhile, we are told that what motivates the terrorists, and Islamic radicalism in general, is the sense of humiliation they feel in the face of military and cultural domination by the West. And we all saw how the Muslim world erupted in a violent rage because they felt that a cartoon published in Denmark was an insult to their religion.

All too often these days, reasoned discourse is being replaced by complaints that one side is insulting—not to mention denigrating, condescending, and humiliating—the other. Political correctness—minority group-based hypersensitivity to perceived slurs—is a well-traveled minefield and rich fishing ground for political points.

Racial and cultural groups can point to a history of discrimination in which unflattering portrayals, unwanted attention to attributes, and other gestures meant to inflict humiliation were part of the process. This lends credence to complaints that any unwanted reference or bit of scrutiny is more of the same, and therefore the speakers are prejudicial villains whose political side deserves to suffer the consequences.

Religious groups too have learned to play this game well. Issues revolving around the existence of God, the origin of man, and the rules of morality are red-hot matters for public debate, yet religion also defines the heritage of cultural groups. So any disagreement or criticism of the religious side of an issue is taken as denigration of their beliefs and therefore their culture. And so in debates they’ll scour their opponents’ rhetoric for any hint of flippancy that they can complain about in order to change the subject.

And lately we have this gimmick about “liberal elites” whose existence is looked on as an insult to Middle America. People who are better educated or have a broader outlook than the average small town resident or Joe Sixpack, are portrayed as arrogantly looking down their noses at them from their ivory towers. They make it sound like the very purpose of acquiring a good education and landing a job that makes use of it is to lord it over others and make them feel bad about their relative position in life. It’s the adult version of the old nerd/bully dynamic from middle school. You feel humiliated because one of your classmates is getting much better grades, and so you must retaliate as though he’s doing it deliberately.

I think it’s ironic that our current foreign policy is driven by those who wax resentful about the arrogance of “elites”, even as it is resented abroad as a load of American arogance.
Now then, what other examples of are there of people fishing for insults in order to score political points? And is there a term for that kind of thing that I’m overlooking?

In anathem (I don’t recommend the book) , Neal coins the term “bullshytt” which might be appropriate.

Oh, or you could call it spin. Good old spin.

I think the backlash against John McCain referring to Barak Obama counts as an attempt at scoring political points by complaining about an insult.

And the reaction to Obama’s refence to “lipstick on a pig” was in a similar vein.

Whoa! Don’t all pile on at once! :confused:

When it comes to political issues, people often prefer to insult each other than engage in reasoned discourse. In other news, the sun rose this morning.

The problem is there’s no debate here. Now, if you posited a rationale for why people chose one over the other, then we’d have something to talk about. Do you think it’s an intentional choice, or just an instictive reaction to ideas/opinions that challenge a person’s conception? And do you think it changes with different audiences? For example, when you say “driven by those who wax resentful about the arrogance of elites”, do you think this resentment is just for domestic political consumption, or do you believe this is how the US sets policy with other nations?

Could we all be sure that we know how to spell the name of **Barack **Obama? For heaven’s sake, the guy’s going to be president in just a couple of months! I have this eerie feeling I’m going to be oft-irked by seeing misspellings of his name on the Internets.

(Although I note that you also misspelled the first name of minor historical footnote **Sarah **Palin, so perhaps it’s just a first-name-spelling issue with you. :wink: )

OK, here’s the debate: No! You’re wrong! People are trying to score political points by either falsely accusing their opponents of insulting them or some sympathetic party, or by greatly exaggerating whatever disrespectful tone they can highlight.

You might say it’s gotten to the point that people who engage in reasoned discourse are, by their very ability to do so, are insulting and condescending toward people who are too busy being hockey moms. The latter feel humiliated by their relative lack of knowledge, and so accuse the former of deliberately trying to inflict that form of suffering, and therefore are Bad People who shouldn’t be listened to.

No, I’m saying that it’s hypocritical for Americans who complain so loudly about being condescended toward by arrogant elites to support a foreign policy that has the US behaving in such an arrogant, elitist manner. Meanwhile, Muslims in particular are themselves greatly overplaying the “they’re insulting us” card, and round and round we go.


Then again, you did reply to my thread.
(Although I note that you also misspelled the first name of minor historical footnote **Sarah **Palin, so perhaps it’s just a first-name-spelling issue with you. :wink: )

Uh, it’s the latter. How dare you mock and denigrate people with firstnamedyslexaphobia! :mad:

MODS: It actually occurred to me early on that this thread belonged more in IMHO than GD. Is it worth moving it over there to give it a second life?

Won’t hurt to try, I suppose.

Off to IMHO from GD.

I think this is part of a general tendency toward a lack of civility in the world today. Everyone is too quick to take offense even when none is intended, or feels that the only way to get anything done is to be confrontational. Look at all the people in public contact jobs who complain about being treated like servants, or even worse than servants, by customers. How many people call customer service to get a problem resolved and immediately start screaming at whoever answers the phone as if that person were personally responsible for their problem?