The late George Carlin had this comedy bit involving a four-letter word starting with S. He marveled at how it was this all-purpose expletive. He provided lots of examples. What fascinated Carlin was how everyone used the S-word figuratively. Almost never literally.
Socialist is like that. Conservatives started throwing the word around with gusto when Barack Obama began running for president. Socialist is the conservative all-purpose epithet beginning with S.
Of course, they never use it literally, either. Most could not define socialism if you put their own guns to their heads. But as an all-purpose slur, precision is not the point. As in, “If I ever get my hands on that socializing, socialistic socialist, I’m gonna shove my socializing boot right up his socialist butt!”
Conservatives complain that, after they worked so hard for so long to turn the word liberal into a four-letter word, a lot of liberals just started calling themselves progressives. But you don’t have to be Lee Atwater to figure that one out. Progressive is just the L-word with a P.
Conservatives used to prefer communist as an epithet. But using it now makes them sound silly, since not even the Chinese are communists any more (and they own stock in corporations that partner with the Chinese), so a lot of conservatives just started using socialist. Makes it sound like they know a secret, like they got their inside information by waterboarding Boris Badenov.
The great thing about socialist is -– they have workshops on this stuff at CPAC, don’t they? –- it’s a four-letter word you can get away with saying out loud on radio and television. (See, that’s because socialist has eight letters — heh-heh, as President George W. Bush might say.)
Lately, they have traded their dog whistles for bullhorns. Clowns in powdered wigs may think saying “knickers” with a sly wink is high comedy at CPAC: “What, ‘knickers’? I can say knickers because I wear knickers.” Newt Gingrich will call Barack Obama the “food stamp president” and feign offense at the suggestion his phrasing is racist. Not even Fox News would let you on TV again if you used the actual N-word on the air. But you can call the president of the United States a socialist all day and never have to explain what you really mean. Which is good. Because sometimes socialist is just the N-word with an S.
(Cross-posted from Dirty Hippies.)