My heart sank when I read about Jon Stewart’s Million Moderate March planned for the National Mall next weekend. My heart sank further when I learned that liberal groups have decided to take this endeavour seriously. ... This is how words, and then ideas, vanish from our political lexicon: Whatever connotations it once had, the word moderate has now come to mean liberal or even left-wing in American politics.The rest of the article is about politics and I don't do politics here. But the rhetorical point here is right on the money. If I start using the word "moderate" when I really mean "people who agree with me", the word rapidly becomes useless.
This is why ideology is so important. You have an ideology. It may be that you have it unconsciously but you have it and it sways your thought. When people use words like "moderate", or "caring", or "common sense", or "pragmatic" as a way of praising someone's political stance they are really in denial about what they believe and why they believe it.
Here is a useful way to think about it: if I say my views are not based on any ideology but on common sense and basic decency what does that say, by implication, about anyone who disagrees with my views? They have to be lacking common sense or basic decency don't they? I know lots of people make the rhetorical move Applebaum deplores it but it is important to recognize that this move is a conjuring trick to shut down argument by deligitimizing any opposition before any discussion can even start.
The more someone insists that they are the voice of calm moderate reason, the more certain you can be that they are helpless slaves to an ideology they have adopted unthinkingly.