Guess who fits the bill?

  • A birdseye view of political slurs


Human beings are an embodiment of virtue, evil and the prejudices that they exhibit in given situations. It is probably because of the prejudices which they entertain that we come across ethnic, racial, social and political slurs that people hurl at each other. While all other slurs are offensive and demeaning, political slurs, which are playful insults against political opponents with reference to the nature of politics that they pursue, are accepted as a normal part of politics.

These slurs, apart from their deriding aspects, sometimes are the true reflections of the conduct of the politicians in general, and sometimes of a particular politician. They also have an element of humour and entertainment. This discourse pertains to some of the political slurs that have been commonly used in the USA and Britain and have become part of the political dictionary. They can conveniently be applied to politicians all over the world and hence the rationale for sharing them with the readers.

A word that has been frequently used in the USA as a political slur is ‘squish’. It is a term used by Republican conservatives to denigrate the perceived lack of backbone possessed by the Republican moderates. This word surfaced during the time of Ronald Reagan. ‘Squish’ has also been used more broadly, to describe any liberal or conservative who avoids taking firm stands or doesn’t stand for anything– a politician who will sell out, who lacks conviction, who cares more about popularity than principles. Another definition of a ‘squish’ is someone who has difficulty in making up his mind and is too anxious to please, too eager to compromise and can be easily rolled.

Another commonly used slur for a politician is ‘flap doodler’ which means a speaker of portentous but empty words, best described as a demagogue. The term ‘flipflopper’ is used for a politician who habitually changes his or her opinion or the position he has taken on a particular issue. ‘Pollywog’ denotes a politician who is considered untrustworthy because of his ever-shifting position on the issues at hand and whose track record corroborates the epithet. Another political slur that is often used to denigrate a politician is ‘rent-a-quote’. It is someone who might be relied upon by the media to provide a comment, especially one expressing a strong or contentious opinion either in any circumstances or when a particular issue is being discussed. ‘Snolly-goster’ is used to describe a politician who is unprincipled and engages in politics of self-aggrandisement rather than serving national interests. Another epithet given to a politician who discusses and debates issues but fail to act is ‘Tire-kicker’.

In the UK, a political slur which is quite often used to shame a political opponent is ‘snowflake’. It generally implies a weak politician who is overly sensitive and incapable of dealing with any opinion that differs from his own; a person who is too easily offended, too much in need of safe spaces and is too fragile. It is also used to describe a politician who is self-centred and suffers from self-delusion.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry is another politician who is most vociferous in hurling unsubstantiated allegations on the political opponents. I am sure he and Sheikh Rashid will ditch Imran Khan the moment they sense a change in the wind

A cursory glance at our political history would reveal that the foregoing political slurs can safely be bestowed upon our politicians who have recklessly indulged in politics of self-aggrandisement; lacked the heft and spine to stand up to the anti-democratic forces; have been even conniving with anti-democratic forces to destabilise democracy and democratic institutions for their personal gains; have been changing their political loyalties to swell their fortunes and have been selling their souls to remain in the corridors of power. The end result of it is that the country has suffered enormously due to their shenanigans and most of the challenges confronting the country in one way or the other are linked to the misdeeds of the politicians. They have failed to learn from the setbacks that the country has suffered. They never tire of proclaiming their political credentials but continue to rally forces to destabilise the elected government of an opponent party and strengthening the hands of the elements inimical to democracy.

The media, as a representative of society, is supposed to defend and promote democracy which is also imperative for its own freedom, but regrettably a section of it is feverishly engaged in strengthening the anti-democratic forces in line with the polarisation that mars our political landscape. Instead of criticising and discouraging state institutions from interfering in the domain of others and standing up to anti-democratic forces, it is acting as their flag-bearer. It has no sense of proportion. It is amazing that a politician like Sheikh Rasheed who has only one seat in Parliament that he won courtesy of another party, is engaged by TV channels for his outlandish comments and some channels even extend the courtesy of hour-long exclusive interactions with him. People are also amazed at his audacity in making tall claims about his political character and morals, knowing well that he is a politician who has adopted a myriad of hues during his political journey, has been a staunch supporter of the establishment and is on record to have claimed Mian Nawaz Sharif as his leader from every convenient roof-top to whom he owed his entry into the National Assembly before the military coup by Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf. He was seen leading a rally on Murree Road Rawalpindi with a live lion to reinforce the credentials of PML-N as a democratic entity and Mian Nawaz Sharif as his mentor. And if my memory serves me right, Ghulam Mustafa Khar accused Sheikh Rasheed in the Majlis-e-Shura of getting money from him when the former was Punjab Governor in the first PPP regime. I am sure the media is aware of his track record but probably relishes the spectacle to use him as ‘Rent-a-Quote’. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry is another politician who has changed his loyalties at least four times since making an appearance on the political landscape, and is most vociferous in hurling unsubstantiated allegations on the political opponents posing as more loyal than the king. I am sure he and Sheikh Rashid will ditch Imran Khan the moment they sense a change in the wind, like they have been doing in the past.

The rest of the political slurs quoted above though can conveniently be applied to almost all the politicians of Pakistan barring a few exceptions, but in the current scenario they can be safely applied to only one leader of a political party. Guess who fits the bill?