Yes, I will agree with that definition of slander. It is my contention that the right engages in it much more than the left does.
Like you, I also consume a wide spectrum of political news and commentary.
I have no partisan allegiance in theory. The only allegiance I have is to my ideals, and while Democrats do not always align with my ideals, the Republicans almost always are at odds with them. Whether the topic is wealth inequality, taxes, budgets, immigration, abortion, same-sex rights, or whatever else, I would be hard-pressed to find an issue where I agree with the Republican position.
That may sound a lot like I do have a political allegiance, but again, I stress that my allegiance is to my ideals.
Sitting the fence, or remaining “politically agnostic” as you call it, isn’t necessarily as reasonable as you may think. I think a big problem with the media today is that they try to embrace that same concept. Those on the right accuse the media of having a left-wing bias, but the truth is they’re not as biased as they should be.
If that sounds like a bold claim, then let me use an example to illustrate my point.
Not long ago, I saw a segment on my local news about vaccinations. First, they interviewed a doctor — an expert in the subject — who explained why vaccines are necessary, and strongly urged all parents to vaccinate their kids. Then they cut to a suburban mom out on the street, a woman who is not a doctor and who has no training or expertise on the subject besides some stuff she read on the internet, telling the reporter why she refuses to vaccinate her kids.
There was no fact checking. The story was presented as a disagreement where both sides have valid points. That is shoddy journalism.
Just because there are two sides to an argument does not mean that both sides have equal validity. It’s entirely possible for one side to be grounded in reality and the other side to be floating off in cuckoo-land. A responsible journalist will let you know which side is most strongly supported by the facts, by evidence, by reality.
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But anyway, back to the point about slander.
I’m perfectly willing to admit that progressives engage in character attacks, I’m just not willing to agree that they all rise to the level of slander. A great many of those attacks, to me, seem to be grounded in reality. If there is truth to them, that means they are not slander.
Let’s look at some of your examples.
Shapiro and Ocasio-Cortez. AOC was not accusing Shapiro of catcalling. She was making an analogy. Just as a woman has no obligation to respond to a catcall, she was saying that she has no obligation to accept a debate challenge from someone who argues in bad faith.
That strikes me as a perfectly valid analogy. She is not accusing him of being a catcaller. She is accusing him of being someone who traffics in bad-faith arguments. And he does do that. Sometimes.
As for the sexism accusations. Obviously I would agree that not all of the criticisms of Nancy Pelosi are rooted in sexism. But I think a lot of them are, in a subtle way. The Republican party does have a sexism problem. One poll showed that 41% of Republicans say they are uncomfortable with the idea of a female president.
I believe that a large number of Republican voters distrust the idea of women in power, and conservative media capitalizes on that by demonizing women like Clinton, Pelosi, and AOC.
Look at AOC specifically. She has been rocketed to fame, largely by conservative media. With Clinton fading out of the limelight, AOC is their new boogeyman. Can you honestly say that it has nothing to do with her being a woman? Not even a little bit?
I see nothing hypocritical about feminists calling out women who vote Republican. I don’t think it’s any different from calling out supposed Christians who embrace Trump or calling out gay people who endorse anti-gay candidates.
Your final example is the only one I will wholeheartedly agree with you on. Calling Sam Harris a racist for his comments on Islam is nonsensical, if for no other reason than the fact that Islam is not a race. Calling him a bigot or an Islamaphobe is, I think, also unjustified
Again, I agree that the left makes a lot of claims about bigotry, but it’s only slander if it’s not true. And I think there is a lot of bigotry on the right. Not necessarily among the pundits or the politicians themselves (though, sometimes there too) but among the voters. And the politicians are only too happy to exploit that bigotry in exchange for votes, and the pundits are only too happy to exploit it in exchange for ratings.
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Now, onto the subject of slander committed by the right. Instead of cherry-picking individual incidents, I’ll try to focus on things that are common among conservative media as a whole.
How about the widespread accusations of socialism? Conservatives are constantly labeling certain liberal candidates, politicians, or ideas as socialist. But socialism has a very specific definition. A government service that benefits the collective good is not socialism. That’s a social program, and social programs are not antithetical to capitalism in the way that socialism is. As most Americans have unfavorable views of socialism compared to capitalism, these lies rise to the level of slander.
How about the Obamacare death panels?
How about calling the Russia investigation a partisan witch hunt?
How about birtherism? As recent as two years ago, a survey found that 51% of Republicans still believed that Obama was born in Kenya. The so-called controversy was peddled by conservative media for the majority of Obama’s time as president.
How about the recent claim that Democrats support infanticide? House Democrats recently voted down a bill that would make it illegal for doctors to withhold medical attention to infants after failed late-term abortions. Democrats opposed it because it was unnecessary, because that is already illegal, and because late-term abortions are not done because the baby is unwanted — you would always want to save the baby in those cases. So Democrats voted the bill down, and this prompted conservatives to start claiming that Democrats not support the newborn infant murder.
How about all the claims about crisis actors? I’m not just talking about Alex Jones and Sandy Hook. Ann Coulter has said the same thing about immigrant children.
How about usage of the term ‘fake news’ in general? Most of its usage may come from Trump himself, but he’s far from the only one that uses it. It’s essentially calling the opposition liars.