Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hate words and inflammatory rhetoric

Two news of a quite different kind keep on whirling together in my mind:

of a new edition of Huckleberry Finn expurgated of the word nigger;

of the shooting in Tucson, where Rep. Gabrielle Gifford got a bullet in the head and six other people died.

To bring them forward so naked, it's like playing one of those quiz games in which, given two words, one has to guess what they have in common.

Well, I'll give you the answer: a question of elocution.

The forced avoidance of hate or despise words investing one of the masterpieces of American literature seems to come from the same source that unleashed a squabble about inflammatory rhetoric in political disputes: the "liberal" left, I'd say, if I weren't afraid of falling into using that same kind of branding words, expressing political animosity.

If I called them so, someone might think that I want all of them liberals shot. I actually advocated some times in playful conversations with friends the Renaissance notion of tyrannicide, which even some theologians considered at the time legitimate, even though, I argued, today it would be quite hard to practice because it would involve the mass killing of university professors, journalists, etcetera, all of the people making up in Europe as well as in America the dominant educated class: too many, should I have said it publicly, to fear that my words could be taken on face value.

To speak of a mass tyrannicide was just a kind of joke to point out the harshness of a situation, in which we appear to have a hard time to find common grounds of conversation. Which would be what I rather do, instead of calling names.

Some commentators have blamed inflammatory rhetoric for the Tucson shooting. Appearing to want to sedate the tone of political squabbling. Actually keeping it alive. Providing further reason to argue.

All that matters is to ban the public use of hate and despise words, seems to suggest the Huckleberry case; and banning in the same way inflammatory rhetoric.

The hope appears to be that in such a way people would be conditioned into avoiding hatred and political warfare; but I am afraid, instead, that this would result in the institution of a police state, in charge of having that avoidance respected.

Where conversations ends, tyranny is around the corner, ready to set in.


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