The limits of “scum”: epithets are not analyses

I’m not one for using language like “scum” to describe even the worst political lowlifes (like Dershowitz, the Clintons, & Netanpsycho), war criminals (the list is too long to itemize), or child & women traffickers (again, like Dershowitz & maybe Clinton). I object to it not because they deserve a more elevated description for what they are, because they don’t, but because it dehumanizes & substitutes epithet for analysis. It’s no longer just an epithet but an alibi for unspeakable criminality. A dirt-ball just can’t help themselves. But those creeps can.

Many prefer the more direct route to excoriation, which works when you’re preaching to the choir, but not with others who are critical-minded & need analyses. For the latter, it’s better to lay out the brief against them & let their crimes indict & hang them in the annals of politics & history.

My objection is not from a dispassionate regard of their crimes (I can hardly bear to think about them) but a desire to nail them for their crimes. We can’t control if they go to hell but we can shame them for the suffering they’ve imposed on so many.

Leave a Reply