All my adult life as a newspaperman I have been fighting, in defense of the Left and of a sane politics, against conspiracy theories of history, character assassination, guilt by association and demonology. I.F.StoneA "new McCarthyism" is seen in the manner in which guilt by association has been pursued by the likes of Glenn Beck and "mainstream" GOP leadership (if there is such a thing). Katrina vanden Heuvel, The NationIn the United States of America, we don’t practice guilt by association. And let’s remember that just as violence and extremism are not unique to any one faith, the responsibility to oppose ignorance and violence rests with us all. Jeremy Ben Ami, President, JStreet
This is the story of a late-twentieth century invention, namely the ostensible moral and intellectual sin of accusations of "guilt by association."
This trope, "guilt by association," or GbA, has a curious history and a curious present. It has the following characteristics:
1) The trope user is almost invariably a self-described person of the "Left," or, in somewhat more modern usage, a "progressive." The target is someone perceived as, or at least designated as someone opposed to the Left, a "right-winger."
2) The trope has a surface resemblance to accusations of established errors of reasoning -- fallacies -- but in fact it is the user of the trope who is illogical and irrational.
3) The accusation underlying the usage of the trope is as much moral as intellectual; the trope user combines a disdain for the ethics and morality of the target (the ostensible bad faith of so-called right-wing McCarthites, for example) with an accusation of intellectual incompetence (failure to understand elementary logic).
4) The trope enables its users, who are often devoted supporters of totalitarian and other hateful movements, to pose as moral and intellectual superiors.
The totalitarian Left decries "Guilt by association." And yet, if you remember just a few months ago, after the mass murders committed in Norway by the crazed lone gunman Anders Breivik, they were the same people trying to associate his rampage with Christianity, Israel, and any writer who was critical of extremist Islam. This is far from being the only example of western totalitarian leftist hypocrisy. In the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, people like Noam Chomsky and George Galloway came out immediately blaming not the fanatical expression of a religion with which they have allied themselves, but the United States and the West for having angered the Islamists.
I would encourage everyone to read all of Professor Werner Cohn's fascinating essay HERE.