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The Art of Playing the Victim

On Tuesday, March 11, Michael Austin published a story examining the argument that the government should not be picking winners and losers. He said that he would vote this the “Most Obnoxious Talking Point in 2014.” While it certainly can be considered in contention for the title, perhaps a more obnoxious talking point comes from politicians and political groups who claim to be bullied by anyone who would challenge their position or approach on an issue.

It seems the go to strategy in contemporary American politics is who can play the biggest victim. People can see this with phrases like “the war on…” and using the label “bully” to describe anyone who openly challenges one’s perspective on any given issue. It takes away from the seriousness of the word, “bully,” because there are people who are persecuted in American society or denied equal consideration under the law.

Some groups claim to be bullied by the IRS merely because the agency asked them a few more questions regarding their application for tax-exempt status. These are often groups who file for 501(c)(4) status — meant for social welfare organizations — when certain keywords in their names indicate that the purpose of these organizations is likely to influence elections. Are these groups denied tax exemption? In most cases, no, but we must have congressional hearings investigating how the federal government is specifically targeting these groups because of their political beliefs.

Perhaps the most telling example of how playing the victim has become the go to argument for many political commentators, politicians, and political groups are recent comments made by Minnesota U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, who has made headlines more than once in the past few weeks for ill-advised comments (especially during an election year).

“I think the thing that is getting a little tiresome, the gay community, they have so bullied the American people, and they’ve so intimidated politicians,” she said during an interview with conservative radio host Lars Larson at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “The politicians fear them, so that they think they get to dictate the agenda everywhere.”

Bachmann made the comments while discussing the fate of Arizona’s SB 1062, a law that would protect business owners from lawsuits for denying goods and services based on religious convictions. According to Bachmann, there was nothing about gays in the bill, implying that because the gay community is not explicitly mentioned in the legislation, there was no reason for them to protest it.

I guess fighting for equal consideration under the law has become a form of bullying. Under this logic, any civil rights movement in American history has really just been a group of people bullying Americans and the U.S. government. I am curious what intimidation methods Bachmann would say the gay community has used to strong arm politicians.

The gay community in America knows what it means to be bullied. These are individuals who are often treated like second class citizens and denied equal protection under the law in many states in the U.S. It is baffling, to say the least, that Bachmann would make these comments, but playing the victim does garner attention and Bachmann wasn’t getting much press coverage until recently.

Just like the athlete who fakes an injury at a sporting event in an effort to draw a penalty against an opposing player, there is an art to playing the victim. When done right, the referee will call foul. But when it is clear that a person is merely trying to fool people, it is certain that they will be called out for it. Very few people are willing to take politicians who make outlandish comments seriously anymore, but this is what American politics has become.

Photo Source: Think Progress