In Defense of "Radical Politics"

Due to a number of recent events of small-scale violence done in the name of politics, a media hysteria has apparently started to develope over what is labeled as "radical politics". To be sure, the events that the media has reacted to are certainly tragic and I oppose the views and acts in question. However, the blanket use of the category of "radical politics" is problematic. It begs the question of what "radical politics" is supposed to be contrasted from ("moderate politics" or "mainstream politics"?). The way that the term is used in the media, it seems to essentially signify and constitute a blanket dismissal of anything that is outside of the underlying consensus of mainstream centrist politics - and mainstream politics is indeed inherently centrist and conservative in the sense of being resistant to any meaningful structural or systematic change.

"Radical politics" is also generally meant to signify random acts of violence, but it would be misleading to conflate "views outside the mainstream" with random acts of violence per se, especially to conflate anti-governmental sentiments with violence. It is problematic to hype up random acts of violence or what's now being called "domestic terrorism" by implying a causal relation between holding views that are outside of the mainstream and supporting or engaging in random acts of violence. Furthermore, it is not as if mainstream politics is non-violent when one considers the policies and methods of control that exist at the institutional level. The democratic process might be nominally non-violent in a sense, but in truth mainstream politics is a matter of institutional violence. It is misleading to contrast small-scale acts of violence by citizens with the presumption of a peaceful system, which cloaks violence at the institutional level.

There is nothing inherently wrong with holding political views that are outside of the mainstream, and it may often actually be a virtue to do so. What matters is not whether or not one's views are within the mainstream, but what the quality and validity of such views are, taken on their own merits. The way that the media tends to talk about "radical politics", one gets the impression that it serves the function of reinforcing a certain bias against views that are not within the narrow confines of centrist precedent on the basis of ad populum logic - it is a discouragement of large-scale and structural-level changes and criticisms of the system. While the random acts of violence commited by various fringe groups are not to be condoned, neither should they be seized upon as an oppurtunity to politisize the matter and function as a blanket condemnation of "radical politics" (which does not just include the various wrong-headed groups associated with such acts of violence, but peaceful and sensible political groups outside of the mainstream).

Published Wed, Jun 10 2009 10:41 PM by Brainpolice
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# Rick Dutkiewicz said on 11 June, 2009 11:27 AM

Just this morning, my wife and I were trying to get the local weather forecast. Switching the TV from channel to channel, we took in snippets of the overblown coverage of the white supremacist oldster gunning people down in D.C. Before I could speak my mind, my wife said what I was thinking; "they're going to take this and make it look as if anyone who thinks outside the status quo is a violent insane creep like this guy".

It's so common to see this, it almost goes without saying, but let's NOT let it go without comment. It's important to speak up, not so much amongst ourselves, but among friends and family. It's up to us to counter the fear-mongering lies of pop-political media. No one else will do it for us.