Hope This Helps

The Arizona shootings have brought about a secondary crisis: massive overuse of the word “vitriol”. (The word appeared in nearly every letter published on the subject in today’s Times.) As a public service, then, and in a heartfelt spirit of bipartisanship, here are some substitutes that writers on the Left can use when describing the activity known to the rest of us as “dissenting from liberal orthodoxy”, or “expressing conservative views”:


This brief offering is just a start; feel free to pitch in, readers. We all must do our part.

Related content from Sphere


  1. JK says

    How come “Sewage” gets listed twice. Perhaps just this once you could’ve dropped your PG-13 standards and included “Sh..”

    Posted January 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    You’re right, JK. Oops!

    Fixed now. I’ve replaced it with a personal favorite, “feculence”.

    Posted January 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  3. bob koepp says

    ‘Malediction’is a nice word, but not so much as to bear repitition.

    How about adding ‘conservative’to the list? Among self-described liberals, it seems to function as a “dirty word,” (much as “liberal” does among self-described conservatives).

    Posted January 10, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    My goodness – “malediction” too! In my haste to assist, I clearly did some careless proofreading.


    Posted January 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    I’ve swapped in “putrescence” for the extra “malediction”.

    Posted January 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  6. Frederik Von smellsburg says


    Posted January 11, 2011 at 1:29 am | Permalink
  7. JK says

    Too “Snidely Whiplash” in my uneducated opinion Frederik (though admittedly we’re so often described as ardent ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ fans that it might confirm us as the cartoonish buffoons we’re so depicted).

    However too, no one was tied to railroad tracks – and there was no Dudley DoRight saving the day.

    Posted January 11, 2011 at 2:32 am | Permalink
  8. the eone eyed man says

    Not so. There are those on both sides who believe that those who disagree with them are evil or unpatriotic or just plain loathsome human beings. There is plenty of overheated rhetoric from both extremes. However, let’s remove the fringe figures from the equation. For example, there was nobody in the Michelle Malkin link I have ever heard of, except for Madonna and Sarah Bernhardt, who after all are entertainers and not political figures. There will always be bloggers and assorted hotheads who will say outrageous things. So let’s not conflate everyone on one side with loose screws. The mainstream Left – the New York Times, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and so forth – have as much to do with the obscure bloggers on Michelle Malkin’s list as Charles Krauthammer has to do with Fred Phelps. Let’s talk only about people of importance: politicians, pundits, people with television shows.

    There is a level of invective and – dare I say it? – vitriol coming from Important People on the Right which is simply absent from Important People on the Left. You don’t have to look far to find it. All of the words on your Roget’s Thesaurus can fairly be applied to what Rush Limbaugh said this morning.

    “What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country. He’s sitting there in jail. He knows what’s going on, he knows that… the Democrat party is attempting to find anybody but him to blame. He knows if he plays his cards right, he’s just a victim. He’s the latest in a never-ending parade of victims brought about by the unfairness of America.”

    The notion that “the Democrat (sic) Party” is in “full support” of Jared Loughner is so incendiary and so divorced from reality that (to borrow a line from Chief Justice John Marshall) it is “a proposition so absurd that no thinking person would ever conceive it.”

    There are three facts which are unavoidable and indisputable. The first is that statements like this come on pretty much a daily basis from Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Anne Coulter, and so forth. The second is that statements like this rarely, if ever, come from Important People on the Left. You don’t hear Pat Leahy or Keith Olbermann or the New York Times telling people to “don’t retreat, reload” or “if ballots don’t work, bullets will.” The third fact is that statements like the one Rush made today are rarely, if ever, disavowed by the Important People on the Right. Ever hear a Republican criticize Rush Limbaugh? Or Karl Rove for saying that Liberals “greet terrorists with tea and sympathy?” Or Bill Reilly for castigating Dr. George Tiller as a Nazi and baby killer until someone finally shot him? I didn’t think so.

    There is simply no equivalence here. Nor is there an equivalence of actual deeds. Some of the stories which came out in the wake of the Tucson murders detailed the various acts of vandalism, threats of violence, and actual violence which has been propagated by the extreme Right. The judge who was killed had to be placed under protection at one point because he moved forward a case which anti-immigration nuts did not approve of. There were a half dozen Congressmen whose offices were vandalized immediately after they voted for health care reform. (Paul Krugman said it best: the fact that a mildly liberal health reform bill was equated with government tyranny shows how far off the deep end these people are.) A gas line was cut at the brother of a Congressman who voted for health care reform because a Tea Party site listed his home address by mistake; they intended to have someone kill the Congressman and simply put in the wrong address. You would have to go back a generation or more to find anything similar on the Left – if indeed there were similar events, as acts of violence from the Left are nearly always against property, while acts of violence from the Right are often or mostly directed at people – and when those events occurred, they were roundly and consistently condemned by the Important People of the Left at that time. The New York Times or Ted Kennedy weren’t cheering on the Weathermen.

    One of the comments I saw on the San Francisco Chronicle site today (after the one posted by someone calling himself death2libs) said that leaders on the Right appeal to a base which has bumper stickers which say Protected by Smith and Wesson, and leaders on the Left appeal to a base which has bumper stickers which say Give Peace A Chance. I think that pretty well sums it up.

    Posted January 11, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  9. JK says

    I’m unsure I’m replying to Peter – the sign-in name appears screwy.

    “There is a level of invective and – dare I say it? – vitriol coming from Important People on the Right which is simply absent from Important People on the Left.

    “The second is that statements like this rarely, if ever, come from Important People on the Left.

    “…and leaders on the Left appeal to a base which has bumper stickers which say Give Peace A Chance.”

    Hows about a screenshot of a removed post?


    And this non-partisan observation?


    Posted January 11, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink
  10. the eone eyed man says

    I’m not familiar with Kos, as I’ve never been on his site. But he’s a blogger. Bloggers exist to say outrageous things to get people to go to their site. That’s their shtick.

    I’m talking about Important People who do Important Things, like run for Senate, serve in Congress, or have nationally popular television programs. But not bloggers. Anyone with twenty bucks can start a blog.

    Posted January 11, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Permalink
  11. JK says


    Candidate Manchin.

    And yet Peter, I found this next to be the most sensible piece I’ve come across.


    Posted January 11, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Permalink
  12. Malcolm says


    Congresswoman Giffords’ blood was hardly dry on the pavement before spittle-flecked lunatics like Krugman, deranged by their foaming hatred of the Right, slithered out to accuse Sarah Palin and other conservatives of direct responsibility for this madman’s rampage (on absolutely no rational basis, or for that matter any causal or psychological evidence of any sort whatsoever). They are the ones spewing venom (bile, feculence, contagion) here; they are the ones rousing people to hatred of (and by their own logic, violence toward) those with opposing views. To exploit this unforgettable horror for the advancement of their partisan ambitions and the expression of their caustic resentments is vile political opportunism of the very lowest kind, and you shamefully debase and degrade yourself by embracing and defending it.

    Your comment is such tendentious ditchwater that for once I am not even going to respond to it any further; we have already exchanged our views here, and readers know where we stand.

    Readers are invited to read Malkin’s offering here, and form their own opinion of it (it’s an impressive presentation, but somehow she forgot to mention the Democratic Congressman who suggested that a GOP governor be put up against a wall and shot).

    Readers can also read the transcript of the relevant portion of today’s Rush Limbaugh program here, they can refresh their memories of Keith Olbermann here, and if they missed it, they should read Victor Davis Hanson’s recent essay, here.

    They might also enjoy this little sampling of the gentle, pacifistic voices of the beatific and morally exalted Left, who of course want nothing in this world more than to “give peace a chance”.

    I have nothing more to say to you about this.

    Posted January 11, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Permalink
  13. the eone eyed man says

    Your hysterical reaction indicates to me that you recognize that your position is untenable, and probably didn’t read the Krugman piece you refer to. He does not “accuse Sarah Palin and other conservatives of direct responsibility for this madman’s rampage” In fact, he does not mention Sarah Palin at all (except in passing, in reference to attendees at McCain-Palin rallies). He certainly did not accuse her, or anyone else, of direct responsibility. Neither did I. Let’s see what he actually did write:

    “It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.“


    Let’s review. “Having (something) to do with” means there is a connection between two things. “Being directly responsible for” means just what it says. Nobody knows what causes a lunatic to murder. Neither Paul Krugman nor anyone else says that Sarah Palin is “directly responsible” for the six dead people in Tucson. If she was directly responsible, then the logical next step is to call for her to be indicted as a co-conspirator. So the entirety of your first paragraph is completely incorrect.

    However, if a person in a position of high importance – and you can’t get much higher in importance than being a Vice Presidential candidate – puts a congressional district in crosshairs, talks about reloading, and so forth, then that person cannot coquettishly feign innocence when some nut job decides to seek a Second Amendment solution. If your political rhetoric is inciteful and inflammatory, and some nut job gets incited and inflamed, then there is a relationship between the two things. But it’s there and it’s undeniable, which probably explains the wrath and indignity of the Right when anybody dares suggest that using violent imagery and rhetoric probably has something to do with real violence, whether it is people throwing bricks through Congressional district offices or actually assassinating their Congressman.

    There is not a straight line between the atmosphere of toxicity created by Anne Coulter, Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck et al and what happened in Tucson, just as there is not a straight line between Bill O’Reilly demonizing Dr. Tiller and his eventual assassination. However, there is a dotted line, and only those who are unwilling or unable to see it would deny it. Words have consequences, as the audience which hears those words is comprised of those who are unhinged as well as those who are hinged. So Krugman is absolutely correct: putting a Congressional district in cross hairs “has (something) to do with” the Congresswoman from that district being assassinated. It’s a perfectly obvious connection to make, and has nothing to do with spewing venom, urging hatred, or any of the other hyperventilation in your first paragraph.

    If you are going to fulminate against “spittle-flecked lunatics,” then maybe you should wipe off your chin first.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 12:57 am | Permalink
  14. jimbo says

    eone-eye, you’ve got the wrong Krugman piece.

    Right after the shooting he named Palin and then said “violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate.”


    Sounds pretty direct to me.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 1:20 am | Permalink
  15. the one eyed man says

    I don’t read it that way. Perhaps this will explain.

    Jonathan Alter today made the point that blaming the Right for the murders in Tucson is like blaming heavy metal for Columbine. I don’t know much about either heavy metal or Columbine, so I won’t go there. However, I think Alter’s remark misses the point. If you have rock musicians filling stadiums and playing druggy music which glorifies violence, then inevitably some nut job will do something awful. I’ve heard rap music which is so violent and misogynistic that ineluctably it will lead some to rape. Are they directly responsible? Of course not. Are they indirectly responsible? I think so.

    These are not uncorrelated events. An example of two uncorrelated things are the murders in Tucson and the fact that our gracious host does not like blueberries, because they are blue and he doesn’t like blue food. I’m pretty confident in stating that Jared Loughner and Malcolm’s aversion to blueberries are uncorrelated. However, a Congressman in cross hairs and her eventual assassination? I’d say there is some correlation there.

    If you glorify violence or rape, and enough people hear your message, then inevitably some people will commit violence and rape which otherwise would not occur. I think the connection Krugman makes is so obvious and sensible that it shouldn’t even be controversial. I also think that those in positions of power ought to be held to higher standards than heavy metal and rap musicians. America is the most heavily armed country in the world, with 90 guns for every 100 citizens. There are plenty of lunatics out there. If you are a national political leader who wants her constituents to be “armed and dangerous” (Michelle Bachmann), seek “Second Amendment solutions” (Sharron Angle), or put Congressional districts in cross hairs (you know who), and something happens, you can’t just walk away and say you had nothing to do with it.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 2:35 am | Permalink
  16. JK says

    Scroll down a bit Peter (to the end of the text).


    Posted January 12, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  17. the one eyed man says

    JK: your point somewhat eludes me. I don’t have time to read the DLC document, but at first glance it appears to be a lengthy and detailed road map for improving Democratic electoral prospects. In the middle is a map which shows targeted districts. I’m guessing that the inference is along the lines of Look! They do it too! They’re just as bad as we are! (So much of this is like fighting with your spouse: I’m bad but you’re worse). If so, my answer would be that despite the superficial similarity, the document could not be more different than Sarah Palin’s website. However, to explain why requires a circuitous path.

    Whether Jared Loechner is only dimly aware of Sarah Palin, or shows up at court wearing a Sarah Palin T-shirt, is unimportant and irrelevant. From a moral perspective, if you aim a gun at someone and pull the trigger, but the gun jams and doesn’t fire, you are guilty of murder. The relevant criterion is what the actor knew to be the likeliest consequence of his action at the time the action occurs.

    So whether Loechner took her words literally or not hardly matters. If you make statements where there is a significant likelihood of resulting in violent actions, you are culpable of any violence which result, whether or not there is a direct causal link. America has a history of violent political action, is heavily armed, and filled with people who, like Loechner, are cuckoo clocks. Using violent imagery is irresponsible at best and fanning the flames at worst.

    Nor is it limited to violent imagery. The incessant talking about government tyranny is equally at fault. (Let’s forget for the moment that it is based on nonsense. Health care reform was enacted by duly elected representatives. If the legislation is unconstitutional, it will be struck down by the courts. Trust me: it’s all in the constitution. Tyranny has nothing to do with it.)

    However, if you describe the government as tyrannical, and combine that with constant references to the American Revolution, you are insinuating that true blue patriots should rise up in violent revolution, as the Founding Fathers did. It’s no accident that the Tea Party named themselves after the acts in Boston Harbor: the clear implication is that the people on the other side of the equation are to be equated with the British. It delegitimizes the government and tacitly condones action taken against it. It’s not fanciful to connect all of this anti-government rhetoric with the guy who flew his plane into an IRS building. Or if you ostentatiously refer to yourself as patriots, you are not only insinuating that those who disagree with you are not patriots, but you are allying yourself with the original Patriots who were, after all, violent revolutionaries. You create an atmosphere which legitimizes your actions and delegitimizes those who have opposing views.

    Nobel Prize winning economist and Princeton Professor Paul Krugman notes, among other things, the fact that threats against government officials have increased dramatically in recent years, in congruence with the growth in political speech which gets more virulent year after year. The connection between this atmosphere of hate and the vandalism directed at Congressmen who voted for health care reform, or the judges who received death threats, is real and undeniable. Jared Loughner’s actions are the most heinous in this series of events, but the leap between death threats and actual assassination is a small one, if indeed it is a leap at all. If enough people are getting death threats, you know that sooner or later someone is going to get shot. Whether Jared Loechner was influenced by Sarah Palin or the demons in his head hardly matters. It’s the moral equivalent of the guy with the gun that jams.

    Because Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and so forth surely know that there is a likelihood that some loony tunes would take their words to heart and do something crazy, therefore their loose and inflammatory words, broadcast to millions, have a role in this. No different from the connection between Bill O’Reilly’s incessant description of Dr. Tiller as a baby killer and his assassination. It is hardly unreasonable for Paul Krugman or others to point this out. The context of the DLC website is completely different. It is a wonky document apparently written for Democratic strategists and contributors, and has zero likelihood that one of the wonks who reads it would actually pick up a gun and do something. Quite different than tweeting, posting on facebook, and speechifying in front of mass rallies, all of which comprise an audience large enough to include the hinged and unhinged alike.

    And this concludes my remarks on the subject.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  18. Mike G. says

    “blood on their hands” is a very serious charge. To say the AZ shooting was caused by crosshairs on maps or any of the rest of it is basing that big charge on no evidence at all. Even calling it “political” is going too far, because that man is just a parnaoid nut-case. Did you read his YouTube stuff? You might as well say it was about grammar. If you are going to say “blood on their hands”, you should be able to prove it.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  19. JK says

    “JK: your point somewhat eludes me. I don’t have time to read the DLC document, but at first glance it appears to be a lengthy and detailed road map for improving Democratic electoral prospects…”

    Well Peter, perhaps you have the time to read simply the first three (short) paragraphs to this. Lacking the verbal skills (while at the same time not lacking arthritic fingers) perhaps you can discern the “point” which eludes you.


    Posted January 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  20. the one eyed man says

    JK: I will respond to your post in order to close the loop, and then I will keep to my word and drop the subject.

    The difference between the Hassan event and the Loechner event is simple. Crazed individuals will do crazy things and justify them with whatever logic or illogic they choose. However, within the American Muslim community, there are no prominent figures urging violent jihad. If there were, you would be sure to hear about it on Fox News, if not the New York Times and elsewhere. If there are obscure imans preaching hate, you can be pretty sure that they’ve been infiltrated and wiretapped by the FBI. With Hassan, the story ends with Hassan.

    However, when you have some of the most powerful people in the country regularly using violent imagery and rhetoric, heard by millions, it is legitimate to ask whether there is a relationship between words and actions. Nobody is suggesting that Sarah Palin was egging on Jared Loechner in the same way that Charlie Manson egged on his followers, which is how the argument has been mischaracterized. We will never know the exact relationship between Jared Loechner and the political environment. But that’s not the story.

    However, when Michelle Bachmann urges Americans to be armed and dangerous, the reaction when someone actually becomes armed and dangerous should not be: Gosh, who ever thought that would have happened? Who knew?

    Well, plenty of people knew, including Giffords, who said after she got the Cross Hairs Award that words and images have consequences, and this image was simply unacceptable, especially when spoken by perhaps the most important person in the Republican Party. Against the backdrop of a series of events which included vandalism, death threats, and one instance of apparent attempted murder, to adamantly refuse to even look at the possibility that there may be a connection between inflammatory words and the acts of inflamed people simply avoids reality. These are not bloggers or twits who tweet. Not only are these words spoken by some of the most powerful and influential people within the Right wing, but the near total refusal to disavow violent and inflammatory words and images – ever hear a Republican criticize Rush Limbaugh? – is the most damning thing of all. As Paul Harvey used to say: that’s the real story.

    Urging people to become armed and dangerous is not metaphorical and it is not just robust political speech. If this is not an incitement to violence, then I don’t know what is. By refusing to acknowledge that words like these, spoken by a rising star in the Republican Party, are simply beyond the pale shows the moral timidity of those who are unwilling or unable to look at reality and ask the questions which may have some hope of starting the process to solve the problem.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Permalink
  21. jimbo says

    That Bachmann thing is really a reach.

    For the record, here is what Michele said: “I’m going to have materials for people when they leave. I want people armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back.” Yes, that’s right: she wanted Minnesotans to be armed with “materials”–facts and arguments–not guns. If this is the best example of “eliminationist rhetoric” that the far left can come up with, you can see how absurdly weak the claims of Krugman and his fellow haters are.


    Posted January 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  22. JK says

    “Urging people to become armed and dangerous is not metaphorical and it is not just robust political speech.”

    Who said (keep your promise – don’t respond ’cause I already know) “If they bring a knife to the fight, we’ll bring a gun” ?

    And isn’t there some American running around over in Yemen by the name of… oh give me a minute… Awaliki maybe? Since he holds US citizenship, would he not qualify as a member of the “the American Muslim, er, Community?” Whether you include him on your seemingly exceedly exclusive “Prominent List” Obama certainly does.

    I didn’t get that off FOX incidentally – I haven’t had a TV since the shift from analog.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Permalink
  23. JK says

    Oh too Peter, that Julian Assange fellow we seemed in agreement on not so long ago – Right or Left?

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink
  24. the one eyed man says

    Sorry JK, I’ve said my piece, and I am disinclined to get into further discussion of why Barack Obama quoted from Sean Connery’s speech in the Eliot Ness movie, whether “blood libel” is an appropriate term to use for a Jewish Congresswoman who was shot, or any of the other topics du jour. Anyway, it’s sixty and sunny out here, and I am taking the dog out for a walk.

    Regarding Assange: I have no idea what his politics are, but if I had to guess, I would say he is probably somewhere between anarchist and radical libertarian. What does he have to do with anything?

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink
  25. the one eyed man says

    Incidentally JK, the guy in Yemen is of no particular importance, except insofar as he poses a thorny Fourteenth Amendment issue: whether the President can order the assassination of an American citizen who has never been brought to trial. This would be an unprecedented expansion of executive power, as it allows the President to order death without civil procedure or judicial review. I would think that any self-respecting Tea Party member would have quite a problem with this.

    My personal view is that there ought not to be any restraints, as I believe that someone who is fighting against us has effectively renounced his citizenship, making his right to due process moot.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink
  26. JK says

    Perhaps Peter, given your concluding sentence, the two of us then offer what seems so little sunshine to our mutual friend, what optimists call “a ray of hope.”

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink
  27. the one eyed man says

    It’s not a simple question. Giving one man the authority to be executioner, without oversite, is uncomfortably similar to the situation Josef Stalin found himself in. It is antithetical to core principles of American governance. If you want to talk about tyranny, this is inching in that direction. However, on the balance, I’d say: fry him.

    Posted January 12, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink