Irony Alert?

Words of supposed wisdom from Gary Hart:

Gradually, over time, political rhetoric used by politicians and the media has become more inflamatory. 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”.

Today we have seen the results of this rhetoric. Those with a megaphone, whether provided by public office or a media outlet, have responsibilities. They cannot avoid the consequences of their blatant efforts to inflame, anger, and outrage. We all know that there are unstable and potentially dangerous people among us. To repeatedly appeal to their basest instincts is to invite and welcome their predictable violence.

I find this interesting. I show my intro philosophy students a film that features Gary Hary espousing the political philosophy of Machiavelli. The same Machiavelli, I hasten to add, who advocates the use of violence in politics up to and including torture and murder as a matter of course. Gary Hart thinks Machiavelli is swell.

I hate to say it, given my own profession, but it seems likely in this case that the person in question was inspired not by rhetoric heard on television or the radio. Given the pseudo-intellectual nonsense of his YouTube ramblings it seems he was more inspired by what he heard (but didn’t understand) in a college classroom.

The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, and The Prince all employ “eliminationist rhetoric” in some fashion. Ought we to get rid of them, cutting them out of history, philosophy and political science classes before they inspire some nut? If so, what meaningful discussion of the political world could remain? Certainly not Plato’s Republic (too totalitarian). Obviously not Rousseau’s Social Contract, which advocates the elimination of the recalcitrant… etc. etc. etc.

Of course, this isn’t what Gary Hart wants. What he wants is to play cheap partisan politics, hoping his side can benefit from this tragedy. Hart shows by this very piece of writing that he believes politics is war carried on by other means. That it is done while at the same time decrying violence shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Hart’s hero Machiavelli counsels politicians to be two-faced.

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