“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing,” declared George Washington, “is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” Theodore Roosevelt concurred: “Profanity is the parlance of the fool. Why curse when there is such a magnificent language with which to discourse?” The answer is that profanity is a useful substitute for discourse when one is losing a debate and needs to trump reason with passionate intensity in order to win. That is what is happening in the current degraded state of our national political conversation.
I’m not talking about the cursing that the average American citizen may do in private, which is common enough on both sides of the political fence. I’m not talking about a careless slip of the tongue during a radio interview, or being caught on an open mic letting loose with a profanity. I’m talking about an entire political party which gleefully embraces swearing in speeches and protests, on social media and clothing slogans, in news media and entertainment. I’m talking about public figures from entertainers to talk show hosts to politicians intentionally and unapologetically hurling obscenities.
It should come as no surprise that that political party is the Democratic Party, which is in the grip of the far left, and that those public figures are invariably so-called Progressives.
Needless to say, the following examples come with a maximum-level language alert.
The one notable exception on the right is President Donald Trump himself, who is more publicly self-restrained now but often cursed for colorful emphasis during his election campaign – saying, for example, that he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” But Trump is hardly the typical Republican politician, and many on the right disapproved of this kind of vulgarity.
By contrast, Democrats have made public cursing such a kneejerk habit that it’s as if the entire party is afflicted with Tourette’s. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told one audience, for example, that Trump “doesn't give a shit about health care.” Rather than disapprove of Perez’s phrasing, the DNC decided to make it a hip slogan and began selling a t-shirt which read, “Democrats give a shit about people.”
The left is fond of such scatological outbursts. Muslim Brotherhood shill and juvenile egotist Reza Aslan tweeted that President Trump is “a piece of shit” so often that CNN was forced to cut him loose.
But the left is really enamored of the F-word. The radical Salon reported that New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand recently dropped multiple F-bombs while discussing Trump during a speech at NYU’s Personal Democracy Forum. “Has he kept his promises?” she asked rhetorically. “No. Fuck no.” As for her party, Gillibrand declared that “if we’re not helping people, we should go the fuck home.” “Good for her,” was Salon’s supportive response to this indecorous outburst. Gizmodo writer Hamilton Nolan agreed: “It’s encouraging to hear more Democrats say ‘fuck.’”
Really? It’s not like Democrats weren’t already reveling in the F-word. In the wake of the shooting of Republican congressman Steve Scalise last Wednesday, HuffPost writer Jesse Benn tweeted this get-well message: “Fuck #SteveScalise.” Since Trump’s election to the presidency, chants of “Fuck Donald Trump!” have rung out from protesters in major urban centers and on campuses across America. The Woman’s March earlier this year was teeming with obscene placards, “pussy” hats, and cries of “Fuck the patriarchy!” Now try to imagine Tea Party protesters leading each other in chants of ‘Fuck Hillary Clinton!” and “Fuck cultural Marxism!” It’s literally unthinkable.
The unhinged former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, now reduced to delivering comically histrionic rants from what looks like the basement of the GQ magazine offices, recently tweeted at the President, “TO HELL WITH YOU, YOU MOTHERFUCKING TRAITOR.” Olbermann’s Twitter profile pic shows the bespectacled loon draped in a flag and hunched beneath the words, “TRUMP IS F*CKING CRAZY,” which appears to be the title of his upcoming book. Try to imagine any conservative commentator, even the button-pushing Ann Coulter, prominently featuring a profanity in a book title.
And then there’s showbiz. Late night leftist propagandists masquerading as comedians such as Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Samantha Bee regularly spew obscenities on their shows. Host Seth Myers, the unfunniest Saturday Night Live alumnus in its four-decade history, gave Trump the middle finger on the air twice in one episode last week. Celebrated stage actress Patti Lupone said in an interview at the Tony Awards that if President Trump came to her show War Paint she wouldn’t perform. “Why is that?” the interviewer asked. “Because I hate the motherfucker,” she said through a tight, mirthless smile. Try to imagine the dignified, openly conservative actor Jon Voight saying the same thing about Barack Obama. Nerdy Joss Whedon, the perpetually apoplectic director of big-budget comic book movies, hinted at a bestiality fetish when he tweeted that he wanted a “rhino to fuck Paul Ryan to death.” No one on the right – not even Greg Gutfeld – could have come up with that.
There is no end to the examples I could list. The evidence is abundantly clear: the left loves vulgarity. What’s that all about?
Some would argue that this is a generational thing, that contemporary culture is simply cruder than in the past, and that swearing comes as naturally as breathing to youth now. Sadly, our culture is indeed cruder, but only because the left has spent the last 50 years pushing the envelope of moral standards in pop culture. But that’s not all there is to it.
Swearing sends a thrill up the left’s collective leg because Marxists and their inheritors, Progressives, consider decency to be a contemptable bourgeois value. Even though leftists control the culture, they still think of themselves as counterculture revolutionaries bucking the Establishment, like teenagers rebelling against their parents.
But there is yet another explanation. The left-leaning UK Guardian noted a University of London study which showed that liberals curse more than conservatives on Twitter; “shit” and “fuck” were among the top ten words used by tweeters on the left (the right, by contrast, featured such words as “God” and “psalm” among its top ten). A linguist who led the study declared that “What we think is going on is that the liberal side are expressing themselves with more emotion.”
And that is the crux of the phenomenon: emotion. Leftists cannot win against the right on the playing field of reasoned debate, because they are animated not by logic and evidence but by feelings. They don’t let facts get in the way of their passionate conviction that they are right and the other side is not merely wrong but evil. And nothing displays passionate conviction quite like cursing. The right believes that public profanity is not just uncivil but unprofessional, and that it delegitimizes one’s argument, whereas Progressives feel that it legitimizes their passion.
After the recent attempted assassination of Republican congressmen, the cry has gone up among decent people across the country for greater civility and mutual respect in our political discourse. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen because, as their obsession with obscenity demonstrates, leftists don’t value decency, civility or respectful dialogue; their aim is to derail the conversation altogether. And that’s a damned shame.
Mark Tapson is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the editor of TruthRevolt.org.