Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Crude Conservatives

It is no surprise to find crude liberals. After all, liberals are big on toleration, including toleration of every manner of bad behavior. Indeed, some of them are so tolerant that they tolerate those with no respect for the principle of toleration. This is part of the explanation of why they tend to be soft on terrorism. And, since their toleration extends to the toleration of illogical thinking, they cannot see that to tolerate everything is to tolerate the rejection of the principle of toleration.

It is more of a surprise to find crude conservatives. Tucker Carlson on C-Span a while back used the ‘F’ word. Using it, he detracted from an otherwise excellent presentation, cheapening it, but also removing some of the force from a word that ought to be reserved for very special occasions. One occasionally meets people who need to be blasted with the strongest language one can muster, just as there are some folks who need shootin’ – as Clint Eastwood might put it. But just as you should never shoot a man who doesn’t absolutely need shootin’, you should never verbally blast a man who doesn’t absolutely need blastin’. And just as you can’t properly shoot a man without the right caliber of ammo, you can’t properly deliver a proper verbal blast if formerly strong words have been weakened by overuse.

So there are two reasons to avoid the overuse of harsh language. One is that it demeans its users, cheapens debate, and makes the world uglier than it already is. The second reason is that the overuse of harsh language, while coarsening its users and polluting the social atmosphere, drains these words of the punch they need to do their job on the occasions when it is appropriate to use them.