By Nathan Barton
There are many ways to fight your opponents. You can face them squarely and counter their claims, show that they are wrong by presenting the facts. Or you can make them objects of fear and even objects of ridicule, assign to them motives that are dark – even demonic.
We see it today in the way people who question vaccinations against various diseases are being treated. While there are still attempts to respond to their objections, increasingly we see the attacks against them taking on uglier tones.
Including the coining of the very term. Anti-Vaxxers are those who have even doubts, much less outrightly rejecting the modern, large-scale and ever-increasing vaccination against diseases, especially of children.
And to hear the various sources trying to mold public opinion, the evil Anti-Vaxxers are coming.
They want to kill our children, our grandchildren, and they especially want to kill children of color. And they are stupid, anti-science, anti-logic, anti-social nutcases. Or so we hear today, in a steady drumbeat on the mainstream media, social media, and increasingly the alternative media.
The effort to demean and discredit anyone who questions the medical authorities is supported by government and growing in strength, as people “wake up” to the threat that being opposed to vaccination creates for the public health.
We’ve seen this all before. Sometimes, in support of “good causes” and other times for causes that are anything but good. Coining a name is always part of that: “birthers” and “truthers” (referring to 9-11), and on and on. We see it daily in Congress and the media, on a variety of subjects.
Usually (not always) it is a tactic used when the truth by itself is not enough to support their cause. Or when using the truth would expose those being challenged to further challenges, and revelations that they cannot tolerate.
We saw the evolution of the techniques as well. From the crude and (by modern standards) primitive methods used by the FedGov to whip up public hatred for the evil Huns between 1914 and 1918 (and those of German origin Stateside), it moved to the more polished but still crude and brutal methods used by the FDR regime against the Nisei of the United States and their relatives in Japan.
Private organizations – or at least non-governmental ones – quickly adopted the tactic during that period, also. Trade unions used the technique of rousing public fear and condemnation, and then moving to ridicule and completely discredit their opponents. Environist groups have made effective use of it. “Peace” groups have used it.
In recent decades, we’ve seen the technique used constantly. It doesn’t always succeed, but it still has a strong track record. It worked against the old South African regime with its apartheid and homelands. It didn’t work as well with Vietnam, but it wasn’t a complete failure either. We could look at the geopolitical front, and consider the various factions dealing with Afghanistan, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Syria, Libya, and especially Israel and Venezuela. The technique is used by both so-called Liberals and Conservatives, and often both sides of a controversy.
Actually it goes back much further than the Twentieth Century. Early followers of Christ Jesus were condemned by society and government as being cannibals (eating the body and blood of their god), practicing incest (they called each other brother and sister, even their own mates), and even atheists (because they didn’t believe in all those gods). Later on, dominant “christian” churches would use the same technique against those who followed Christ in accordance with the Bible and rejected human hierarchies: they hated children (because they refused to baptize infants and therefore were condemning them to hell), were anarchists and rebels (because they refused to follow the religion of their king or duke), and their presence in the nation threatened the wrath of God on the entire nation!
It is a technique which those who love liberty are unable to use, or at least effectively. Because we understand that truth is necessary for freedom. Without truth liberty is not going to flourish. Those who want to control people, who want power and ill-gotten gains for themselves (however they justify it), are more willing to smear and demean and use all kinds of lies to support their cause. They know that fear and ridicule are effective tools of tyranny.
Obviously, it is a technique that can be, and has been, defeated time and time again through history. But that struggle is never easy. The battle is not won by using the same tactics, but by constantly, consistently, sticking to the truth of the matter. And doing so in a way that persuades people to listen. To listen and reason for themselves. And to use their emotions as part of the process. Rather than letting their emotions dictate their response. Emotions whipped up by those who seek to demonize their opponents.
Still, the technique has been so useful that even lovers of liberty are tempted to use it. It is a temptation we must resist.