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Accusation and calumny

Danielle Allen’s well-crafted op-ed in today’s WaPo is on the theme--with Machiavelli well-used--of the distinction between accusation and calumny, or slander. She explains why accusations are fine, but calumny is not. She is right, of course, in principle and her piece is a good short treatise on the subject. Yet, her soft-accusation that the slander is only against Obama is another matter. I would guide her to be careful not to start slandering those who may just be accusing Obama of something or other (needless to say, by saying this I mean no defense of those who are actually slandering). For example I think I am going to start accusing him of not standing for anything, or, of not being principled. I wouldn’t mind it so much that he lacked principles, if he had a larger record of accomplishment, but, alas, he does not. As far as I can tell, he only has charisma at the moment. And, of course, I will sign my name to such accusations.

Discussions - 6 Comments

Anonymity and indirection in political expression can have great truth-preserving value. Strauss in his "Persecution and the Art of Writing" teaches such a lesson. And the public signature does not necessarily validate nor authenticate the content of the speech. The whole idea of the 'public sphere' has changed since Machiavellli. No doubt a couple of opponents of Cesare and the 'condotteiri' at Sinigallia could have benefitted from anonymous political expression as well. Machiavelli seems to sign his name in delight of their having been deceived and strangled.

I would like to know what slander has been thrown at McCain, and from where (even approximately) it came...

I read plenty of the sites and blogs that deal with urban myths and legends that circulate online and via e-mails. Most of them aren't remotely political, and deal with alligators in city sewers and such. But I have noticed that at least 4 out of 5 politically-oriented urban myths are those that serve to smear a Dem or a liberal. John Kerry never served in Vietnam, or was never wounded in combat, or Obama's a Muslim, or is the "Manchurian candidate" for Farrakhan and tommyrot of that sort, these are just the most well-known of dozens, if not hundreds...

Your view that being unprincipled is acceptable if accompanied by a record of (unspecified) sizeable accomplishments (presumably legislative in this case), melds conveniently with McCain's egregious
collection of flip-flops and longer residence in the Senate. It should be noted that his Senate record during the Bush II presidency has largely demonstrated agreement and devotion to the man now widely viewed, across most of the political spectrum, as anywhere from problematic to disastrous.

But see this list for starters as to the level of slandering being aimed at Obama (the same site also shows the handful of items regarding McCain, most of which look to simply be some basic facts about him, spun fairly by his supporters, not slanderous smears propogated by the opposition).

Ohmygosh, yes, Mr. Scanlon, the Democrats are such a lovable bunch of sweet little dears, always playing fair and being polite. Whatever did they do to deserve the nasty, mean Republicans?

Funny, this is a theme the Democrats keep repeating ad nauseum, constantly awarding themselves National Brotherhood Week awards while claiming that the Republicans are racists, warmongers, traitors, crooks, etc. The Republicans can be rough, too (although not nearly as nasty as the Dems, to my mind), but at least they don't pretend to be saints as the Dems do, in the fashion of the smarmy, two-faced, goody-two-shoes mama's boy in Tom Sawyer.

As has already been stated, the Swiftboat attacks on St. John Kerry for exagerating his wartime heroism, whether accurate or not, were not anonymous. Your comment is the first time I've ever heard of a claim that Kerry did not serve in Vietnam. Your complaint about "myths" linking your Saviour to Farrakhan would have my sympathy, were it not that His Holiness showed up at the Million Man March, was a prominent member (for 20 years) of a "Church" that noisily bestowed some sort of award (Jewbaiter of the Year?) to the "Minister", and would only reject the support of said "Minister" when forced to do so by Hillary Clinton (who actually looks like a mensch when compared to Him of the Ineffable Middle Name). As for rumors about McCain, I don't make a study of these things, but I have seen graffiti in the NY subway asserting "McCAIN=INSANE." I'm sure plenty of other such crap is out there on the Internet, if you look for it.

Incidentally, something like 30% of the American population believes that the U.S. Government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, or had foreknowledge of the attacks and allowed them to happen. That is quite a bit more disturbing than the rumors about Obama being a Muslim. As far as I know, nobody is claiming that Obama is a jihadist.

Sheesh, where were you eight years ago when another candidate of slim accomplishment and considerable charisma of the moment was ascending the national stage?

Did someone just suggest that GW had some charisma? Seriously suggest that GW had "charisma;" instead of simply noting that Gore was one of the supreme political stiffs in American history. ANYBODY would appear to have charisma in comparison to Gore, or to Kerry for that matter, who were perfect bookends, both being nerds and stiffs.

Democrats have an awful fondness for nerds and stiffs.

Schramm is foolish to say that a lack of principle is fine in a politician -- or at least Obama -- if he has a record of accomplishment. The combination of the two would actually make such a person more dangerous.

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