It is no surprise to anyone paying any attention that political rhetoric has grown increasingly nasty of late.

To sure, there has never been a golden age of political discourse where everyone (or even most) treated one’s opponents with absolute respect. Political discourse has always been a contact sport. One need only recall that Aaron Burr, who served as Thomas Jefferson’s vice president, fatally shot founding father Alexander Hamilton, in a public duel over a political dispute. (And Hamilton had supplied the pistols for the duel!) The National Constitution Center reports political disagreement being settled by guns was more numerous than most of us realize in our nation’s history.

But this is not to say that political disagreement today has not hit new, very different kinds of lows.

While it used to be the case that political opponents simply accused their opponents of being misinformed, simply holding wrong positions on issues, it has become very personal today. Political opponents are no longer just wrong. They have become inherently bad people. And this stems from a new progressive moralism.

Mary Harrington, a very interesting U.K.-based writer who comes from a more liberal perspective, says this new demonization of political opponents has unfortunately reached a very childish turn of late. She is speaking of the treatment of the unapologetically pro-family, pro-life, anti-gender ideology Giorgia Meloni who recently won election as Italy’s new Prime Minister as one prominent example.

What is this childish turn?

Harrington explains that when she was a young British school girl, her classmates would play a silly game called “Contagion.” We know it as “Cooties” on this side of the pond. It’s the same game, an effective, but childish, way to mark who was “bad” and who was “good.” It let everyone know who NOT to associate because they were “infected” – the new untouchable. It has a very stinging effect as kids, and it still does today with adults. That is what makes it such an effective, but ugly, political tool.

Harrington makes the very provocative, but true, observation that this childhood game has not only entered politics, but political reporting as well.

Surely moral progress has stamped out such vicious, childish status games? Alas, no. “Contagion” provides the best explanation for why Italy’s new Prime Minister, a figure generally described by her own country’s press as “centre-Right”, has been widely described as “far-Right”.

Harrington then indicts, not just politicians throwing predictable stones, but the media themselves.

Never mind reporting accuracy, the aim is disciplinary: entire moral territories can be designated as low-status or unclean. If you touch them, you will incur Contagion. (emphasis added)

She warns the “progressive contagion is coming for us all.” And she carefully explains how this happening to otherwise liberal feminists who dare speak against how trans politics are erasing any objective concept of actual womanhood. These outspoken women who refuse to go along with the new gender madness are tagged and condemned as contagious, desperately infected with “cooties” and everyone should shun them accordingly.

It’s the new political order.

Such has been the case in Europe and the United States. Take an unfashionable view, even one that used to be highly fashionable like abortion “being women’s health care,” and you now get branded, not only as a behind-the-times flat-earther, but worse. A most hateful, despicable person. A transphobe. Why? Because remember, men can have abortions now too! Under the new gender religion, any man can be a woman by just making the claim. And no one is allowed to challenge the folly.

Harrington explains this new childish progressive game has devastating real-world consequences for those who get tagged with cooties. It is a new progressive form of old-time segregation. She explains, “Of course when adults play Contagion, its impact goes far beyond classroom jockeying for status at the expense of a low-status scapegoat.” It can ruin reputations, even lives.

Real, material decisions, alliances and consequences arise depending on who is considered part of the in-group, and who can be scapegoated and excluded. In terms of how it’s played by the now-dominant progressive class that controls access to so many of those resources, defending yourself from contagion means accepting the implicit premise that there exists a substantive positive set of values, towards which Progress is, well, progressing. Aligning yourself with these purported positive values makes you one of the Good People.

Do not, and you are one of the Bad People!

And the very bad people must be denounced and shunned mercilessly. Harrington deeply laments that this is happening to women who have the audacity to speak up and declare that anyone with XY chromosomes is not and can never be a woman. Imagine!

That is exactly what the brand new Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has done publicly with great passion. She has denounced the nonsense, declaring the Emperor has no clothes. And she is called a neo-fascist as a result. Harrington concludes her pointed piece with this bold declaration,

There is no longer anywhere to stand that’s safe from Contagion. Nowhere, that is, except in accepting … that your principles, your body, and even your basic grasp of reality may be subject to dissolution and remodelling at a moment’s notice, in the name of Progress.

She is precisely right. And this is not a new game. It is actually a game long played by communists and socialists, as carefully documented in Rod Dreher’s book Live Not Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents. It is why the great Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn warned his fellow countrymen with such a strong voice that,

The simple and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation is this: personal non-participation in lies.

This is the way to stand up to the Liberal game of cooties.

So be sure and pay attention to how this game is played against politicians who sound like they are promoting the values you hold dear. Adopt a healthy bit of skepticism when media and other elites tell you to run the other way because these leaders should be summarily shunned.

It is just the new adult version of an old childish game.


Additional Resources

Focus on the Family Broadcast with Rod Dreher – Embracing God’s Truth in a Hostile Culture (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family Broadcast with Rod Dreher – Embracing God’s Truth in a Hostile Culture (Part 2 of 2)


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