The Left’s ‘Gotcha!’ Politics

By Rachel Alexander Published on May 16, 2018

Everyone says stupid things. Or things that can be made to look stupid. People say things in private they wouldn’t say in public, because in private people know what you mean and don’t get hysterical. Now someone might take something innocent said in private and yell “Gotcha!” and tell the world you’re a horrible person.

Both sides do it, but the left does it more and they do it better.

How the Left Does It

How? For one thing, they expand the number of things that look stupid. They label  more and more speech as “hate speech and “intolerance.” Talk about marriage as a relation of a man and a women? Talk about sex being more important than “gender” when it comes to which bathroom or locker room someone can use? Talk about borders and citizenship as if they matter? A lot of people will denounce you as a bigot.

For another thing, they expand the time someone’s responsible for his words. News sites are full of articles reporting on someone’s offensive tweet, Facebook post or comments they made years ago. There’s no statute of limitations for people saying dumb things — or things leftists can make sound dumb.

People change their minds, they learn to speak better, but never mind. The left will dredge up from the farthest past anything it can use to hurt them.

The Left Against the Little Guys

Here’s the third thing. The left expands the range of people they will take down. The really big conservatives they can’t do much about. Trump doesn’t care. Ted Cruz doesn’t care. But the little guys, the left can ruin their lives.

Anyone even slightly in the public eye can be a target. A low-level journalist on the right with merely a thousand followers on Twitter, for example. You groggily wake up in the middle of the night, not thinking through a tweet very carefully — you can expect to have that tweet follow you around the rest of your career.

Someone will create a Wikipedia page for you. That tweet will be featured prominently along with everything you’ve worked hard for your entire life. Articles written about you in the future will bring up that tweet. Google your name and articles about that tweet will show up at the top of search results indefinitely. The thousands of clever tweets you have written don’t matter. No one paid any attention to you until the one tweet the left deemed insensitive.

Finally, the left keeps changing its standard for what’s acceptable and unacceptable. It is impossible for conservatives to keep up. The left has made certain remarks about every political topic taboo. Pro-life? Woman-hater! Defend our borders? You want to hurt immigrants! Want government spending cut? You hate the poor!

The left slowly boxes the right into a very narrow area of acceptable free speech. The right won’t even be able to defend its positions because the left includes almost every conservative belief in its list of offensive statements. For example, the right generally does not believe that man causes global warming. Anyone who says this gets ridiculed as a “climate change denier.”

Clickbait, Real News and Fake News

What does this do to our public life? Since “gotcha!” stories make great clickbait, they push out reporting on real news. Because Trump likes to tweet extreme-sounding things, he’s regularly targeted. The tweets become the news. What he was arguing for doesn’t.

The “gotcha!” stories also keep people from arguing about the issues. A tweet about former FBI Director James Comey gets picked apart for its “insensitivity.” Few try to analyze the validity of the accusations.

What’s more useful to the country? Policing the way people talk about someone like Comey or trying to decide whether he did right or wrong? America will only get the second if we take free speech seriously, and that means the left must stop its “gotcha!” politics.

You know what’s ironic? Hillary Clinton invented the phrase “the politics of personal destruction” to describe what she thought conservatives were doing to her. But it’s the perfect term for what the left is now doing to conservatives. 

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There’s no end in sight. Conservatives need to push back and defend free speech. While it may be refreshing to catch the left in gaffes, the major news sites aren’t covering them and they don’t end up in Wikipedia entries. There are also fewer incidents, because the left has created the rules in this game and specifically targeted conservative viewpoints. Conservatives can’t win playing by the left’s rules. Fight back by pointing out how mean the left is tearing people down for free speech and destroying their lives and careers.

Every time a conservative is attacked over something they said (unless it’s clearly offensive, such as a racist remark), there should be a concerted effort to denounce the attack. Just because you wouldn’t have said it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be defended. We have to stop the slippery slope now, before even more opinions are labeled offensive.  

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