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We Must Love Each Other Or We Must Die

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The Daisy spot from Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 Presidential campaign is legendary:

As soon as the ad aired, Johnson's campaign was widely criticized for using the prospect of nuclear war, as well as the implication that Goldwater would start one, to frighten voters.

Someone on the intertracks suggested that the tu quoque (your side does it, too!) response it not the best counter to those crying against violent rhetoric. Better is to observe that angry or threatening words are an ancient technique used by all factions at all times.

It isn’t a matter of moral equivalence, where your mistakes absolve me of mine. Instead it is a dismissal of the premise that violent rhetoric has any special power or poses any special threat. It’s just a technique of persuasion that can be employed with great skill and effect, like Daisy. Or it can done poorly and persuade or influence nobody.

Denninger at Market Ticker is not the first place I came across this point, but he gets the hat tip for reminding me of Daisy. Here’s his version:

Politics has always been a nasty sport; "Daisy" anyone?  What's worse than insinuating that your opponent will literally lead the nation to be vaporized in a nuclear holocaust if he's elected?  May I remind everyone that in point of fact this sort of rhetoric is nothing new, and in fact is about as old as politics itself - there were all sorts of "leaflet wars" in the early years of our nation with various scurrilous and outrageous charges leveled by people nailing flyers (anonymously at that) up on poles and similar.

If you go read his whole thing (and a few more posts rants), Denninger also makes the interesting point that to declare threats to certain political officeholders as a special crime is to effectively grant something like Titles of Nobility. (It is a crime to insult the king!) The US Constitution prohibits titles of nobility.

Denninger observes that threatening to kill anyone is already a crime. One that doesn’t get enforced much. And J. Lee Loughner is a poignant example of non-enforcement, as the boy is evidently on record threatening a bunch of people over a span of years before he made good on one.

Since death threats are already criminal, why would we need special rules for special people? Perhaps some people merit more precaution in the face of threats and more protection from potential harm, but those things help keep the targeted personage alive, which is the goal in the first place. To hold it is more criminal to threaten Barry Soetoro than to threaten Barry Soetoro’s barber flies against the principle that all of us are created equal.


Johnson's ad is timeless. If only a business could get such a great ad.

Yeah, Dunwoody, how did any business survive before the age of comment spam.

I see what you did there…