When I wrote about Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment" segments on Countdown a couple of weeks or so ago [link], I mentioned that I don't always agree with the tactics Keith uses on his show. Case in point, at least half the time Keith makes some mention of Rush Limbaugh (usually in the "Worst Person in the World" segment), he slips in some sort of snide remark about Limbaugh's weight. Now, I am certainly no fan of Limbaugh's, and I think his rhetoric has done this country an incredible amount of harm over the past twenty years or so, but not only does Limbaugh's weight have no standing whatsoever on the relevance of his opinions, but Limbaugh's been at a fairly healthy weight for several years now. Limbaugh gives those of us on the left enough material as it is just from the absurdity of the things he says on his radio show; making jokes about his size is not only pointless and way behind the times, but I think it also shows a certain hypocrisy when these same people talk about how the right-wing in this country relies so much on personal attacks.
This is coming up again because late last week Ann Coulter used a homophobic slur in describing John Edwards at a conservative conference. I really, really don't like Coulter, and this incident was just another example, to me, of the despicable politics of the modern conservative movement. Unfortunately, many on the left turned right around and started in on their whole "Ann Coulter's a man baby, yeah!" crap. I'm hoping that the irony of people going after someone who used a homophobic slur with transphobic rhetoric isn't lost on anyone. (Again, this is a common tactic Keith Olbermann uses on his show.) Not only is this sort of stuff unnecessary, but it offends me, and it would offend me even if I wasn't a transsexual myself. Even if Ann Coulter were born with a penis (which I sincerely doubt), what standing does that have on her views? Again, isn't the material Coulter already gives us with her columns and speeches enough for those of us on the Left to talk for hours about how wrong she is on almost every issue she speaks about?
I'm not saying that I don't understand the visceral pleasure that insults like these give to some people, and certainly there have been times in my life when I've done that kind of insulting. Even now, when I try my hardest to avoid participating in that kind of rhetoric, I'm not going to deny getting a little guilty pleasure every once in a while when someone crafts a really good insult against someone I don't particularly care for. (I don't think that's something you can ever completely get out of your system, no matter how hard you try.) That still doesn't change the fact that it is utter and complete hypocrisy for so many people on the left (certainly not everyone) to call attention to the personal attacks that have become such a staple of modern right-wing rhetoric -- something I think needs to be pointed out and rallied against -- and then to turn around and use those exact same tactics against people on the right-wing. As Paulo Freire points out in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, you can't tear down the oppressor's house using the oppressor's own tools.