Gongol.com Archives: August 2023

Brian Gongol

August 25, 2023

News Nickname games are unwarranted

Kara Swisher has earned a considerable following as a brand-name commentator on technology. And because her journalistic beat intersects with many other areas of culture, politics, and society in general, she frequently uses her wide-reaching platform to editorialize on other matters. This is entirely within her rights under the First Amendment, and it is consistent with a long tradition of opinion journalism in the United States. ■ But she has also been the target of unwarranted and line-crossing attacks, particularly on social media. And she has vigorously criticized social-media outlets like Facebook for "amplifying and weaponizing hate". ■ Thus it is disappointing to see her employ her own platform to solicit critical nicknames for people like Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, reveling in appellations like "Ramasmarmy" and "Rama-lama-ding-dong". They are neither clever nor insightful. ■ Ramaswamy deserves criticism for espousing bad policies, like arbitrary tests to block young adults from voting, or withdrawing support for Ukraine as it fights for its very existence. Celebrating and amplifying juvenile nicknames is no more than a way of playing footsie with exactly the kind of toxic civic environment that not long ago propelled an utterly unfit man to the Presidency -- a man Swisher undoubtedly sees herself as better than. ■ Political satire is one thing. Playground mockery is something much less. It is not only cheap and unbecoming behavior, it creates a permission structure for people to defend bad actors -- by establishing that ideas don't matter, only team spirit. And the resulting spats can drown out the very arguments that should be used to knock their bad ideas out of contention. ■ If a candidate is a bad actor, their opponents should come right out and say so -- and why. Individuals will come and go from any given race, but the habits they bring to the public square can last much longer. If those habits are bad and the rest of us slip into them, the damage they do can turn into a chronic and debilitating condition. Maturity -- not to mention the survival of self-government -- demands that we hold everyone to higher standards, including ourselves.

Comments Subscribe Podcasts Twitter