The Corner

Searching for Just the Right Slur

Last month it was terrorist, last week it was dominionist, and this week it’s apparently barbarian, or, if you prefer, barbarian “sons of bitches.” Name-calling has a long and illustrious career in American political life. And for good reason: it works. There’s an old saying (I first heard it from Ravi Zacharias, but it predates him) that in the battle of ideas, stigma beats dogma. If you can successfully stigmatize the opposition, you don’t have to win the argument. 

However, the old insults have lost their power. Epithets like “racist,” “bigot,” or “homophobe” are dated and overused. They’ve become a punch line on the right — especially with conservative veterans of the campus culture wars. So it’s apparently time to focus group the new slurs.

“Terrorist” failed for lack of terrorism. “Dominionist” can’t work because even the alleged dominionists haven’t heard of the term. “Barbarian?” I don’t see it having legs. After all, who’s cooler than Conan? (Original version, of course). So what’s next? Troglodyte? Neanderthal?

The Left’s essential problem is that a majority of the American people now see their dogma as a stigma. As big government strangles the American economy and chokes the American spirit, they can call us barbarians, and we’ll simply smile our most civil smile and respond by calling them what they undeniably are — liberal.   

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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