All about the dangers of political labeling


Labels make it easy to tag something or someone and help us justify our opposition and rage. Take BLM. It is true that Patrisse Cullors, who co-founded the organization and has since left the group, believes in Marxist values. But to claim that all BLM has a Marxist ideology because of their beliefs is like saying that all Republicans support Putin because a few misguided people praised him.

The Marxist rant also makes people uncomfortable with racial reckoning — a movement BLM helped spawn — coverage. No, they don’t hate BLM because it’s a black bunch (wink, wink). They don’t like Marxism.

“Radical. Socialist Left” remains my favorite because, if you take an objective look at politics, Republicans embrace socialist politics as well.

Here in Ohio, the GOP supports using $2 billion of your tax dollars every year so parents can send their kids to charter schools. Nationally, Republicans have lobbied for massive farm subsidies for farmers.

Democrats are also guilty of socialism (taxing the rich and helping the poor, another redistribution of wealth). But the GOP has done a much better job of controlling the narrative in a way that resonates with voters (and letterwriters) who would rather regurgitate a marketing message than contemplate what those labels really mean.

The definition of basic socialism says that everyone works to earn money which is redistributed to everyone – a redistribution of wealth. What do you call redistributing taxpayers’ money?

“serves a function to rally a group around a group of people and demonizes and (delegitimizes) people who are negatively labeled,” said Vaughn Shannon, professor of political science at Wright State University.

“When they belong to a group, they feel more loyal to them, but they also start to feel that they can be meaner and more cruel to those who are not part of the so-called ‘group,'” a said Shannon.

In other words, our society has turned into one giant high school, with all the variations of the in-and-out crowd. “People who become grouped, as they say, start acting in this very polarizing way,” he said. “Nice to the ingroup, mean to the outgroup,” Shannon noted.

Categorizing people – radical, left socialist, for example – goes far beyond empty words. “If you categorize, it can lead to stereotyping. Stereotypes can lead to prejudice. Prejudices can lead to discrimination. You can obviously hear that in a racial context,” Shannon said. “You can start to think they’re all the same, they’re all negative in their labeling, and that opens the psychological door to prejudice and discrimination.”

We can already see it in the polls, with worrying results. Republicans and Democrats just can’t stand each other, shows Pew Research. Republicans think Democrats are closed-minded, unpatriotic, and immoral compared to other Americans. Democrats think Republicans are closed-minded and immoral. A significant number of both think the other side is also lazy and stupid. “It’s kind of scary,” Shannon said. “This is perhaps leading to more protests, violence, disrespect in our civic culture. If you never get another prospect, you don’t know these people personally, you might start to fall in love with the label.

Are there radical left socialists? Of course, just as the GOP went full socialist during COVID. Republicans, for example, sponsored a $50 billion bailout of the airline industry. This is the same party that criticized the Obama administration for bailing out the auto industry – as a socialist bailout. Labels stick, and as Shannon notes, it’s dangerous. So think before you label something just because it sounds good.

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