The Misuse of Labels

Americans, and perhaps all societies, have a tendency to label whatever they believe in and support in positive terms and apply negatives to their opponents and opposing views.

This shows up especially in political terms, where catchy and short phrases are necessary to make an impact. So that part of the woman’s movement in favor of a woman’s right to obtain an abortion refers to itself as “Pro-Choice” and their opponents as “Anti-Choice,” while those opposing the right to an abortion label themselves as “Pro-Life” and their opponents as murdering unborn children.

Those opposing immigration characterize illegal immigrants a criminals, rapists, and other unfavorable terms, while those in favor of more open immigration tend to characterize such immigrants as refugees and victims of oppression and violence.

Conservatives who oppose federal land policies champion themselves as being in favor of states’ rights, as did slave-holding states before the Civil War, and characterize the federal government as being dictatorial and overbearing, and when they violate environmental laws and regulations by tearing up federal lands, not paying grazing fees, and using firearms to stand off BLM agents, they characterize their actions as freedom-fighting. Those in favor of more environmental and land controls characterize their opponents as criminals and terrorists.

Those in favor of massive tax cuts for the rich and for large corporations claim they’re fighting for economic growth, economic freedom, and against excessive government that rewards the undeserving, while those opposing such tax cuts claim they’re fighting for economic and social justice and against special privileges for the rich.

There are similar arguments for and against more military spending, minority rights and the role of police, the issues of free trade and tariffs, and a host of other issues, but all of these issues are far more complex than the sound-bites and rhetoric make them out to be. The even larger problem and the result of such definitional oversimplification is not only a mischaracterization on both sides, but also a hardening of views and positions that makes working out a mutually acceptable [not ideal, but mutually acceptable] solution more and more difficult.

And the result is that each side, more and more, doesn’t want a compromise, but moral self-justification… which makes the partisans on each side even more self-justifying and less likely to reach a solution.

3 thoughts on “The Misuse of Labels”

  1. Tom says:

    To compromise one has to have some idea of the goal, problem, solution … which one no longer finds in the media, specifically the social media. One does get discussions upon news items but only in the news ‘magazines’ not the actual newspapers. Yes there are occasional ‘series’ of articles reviewing a fact or event or reference to historical precedent.

    Trump may be right that the ‘media’ are to blame for everything even though newspapers are disappearing from small towns. His solution of generalized destruction with (maybe) rebuilding, seems to be the only way to get people back on the path of evolving via cooperation.

    The electronic solution is to improve communication via ‘social’ media? How? Education is my wife’s answer; while she compares (negatively) her schooling, her teaching experience, and present day ‘twittering twits-in-chief’.

    Is there a solution to the problem you define?

  2. Hannibal says:

    “Trump may be right that the ‘media’ are to blame for everything…”

    Sure. And which of the media is trump right about, I wonder; Fox? CNN? Briebart? WashPost? Drudge? NYT? Sandra H? Morning Joe? Sean? Huff?

  3. Tom says:

    All of the above.

    The ‘media’ have the widest audience. I think they talk down to us rather than informing us. Reading to comprehend takes more effort than texting for one’s ego.

    Hope is eternal.

    What else other than the ‘media’ can stop us misusing ‘labels’? How else can we improve communication and thus cooperation?

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