Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Shrill Denunciation and Ritual Epithets

Few things bear the mark of this age more boldly than that one must denounce in the strongest terms and without care for temperance those unpopular views with which one disagrees; for such intemperate denunciation bears the mark of demotic politics. It appears that an unpopular opinion that is silly or wicked can hardly be remarked upon nor shown to be wrong without an accompaniment of shrill denunciation and ritual epithets, an accompaniment that serves little purpose but to advertise to one’s fellows the exaggerated view that one is a goodly and pious person utterly different from those persons whose unpopular views are deemed to be beyond the pale of public opinion.
.....In describing unpopular opinions from which he is strongly averse, must a man really spend half his time telling us that he finds them “deeply repellent”, “profoundly detestable”, “utterly vile”, and a hundred other such ritual epithets? Why must he make so bold and ostentatious a display of his aversion? Does he believe that such boldness demonstrates his moral bravery? But what moral coward cannot show so great a boldness in conformity with popularity? Does he believe that the more extravagant the denunciation, the more his righteousness is demonstrated? But what scoundrel does not make so grand a play of his morality? Methinks he protests too much. Would not many of those persons who stand now so boastfully against unpopular opinions, and who work to outdo one another in flatulent denunciations thereof, make a different sound if those same views were popular and the opposition thereto unpopular? History suggests so.

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