According to Merriam-Webster, it is "a mentally deranged person" or "one who advocates extreme measures or changes: radical." In American politics, the term is more often aimed at members of the political right than those of the political left, for which the alternative term "moonbat" is more often used. David M. Herszenhorn of The New York Times has defined a "wing nut" as "a loud darling of cable television and talk radio whose remarks are outrageous but often serious enough not to be dismissed entirely." In his book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America author and columnist John Avlon defined a wingnut as, "someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of the political spectrum—the professional partisans, the unhinged activists and the paranoid conspiracy theorists. They're the people who always try to divide rather than unite us".
Moreover, you're [sic] use of the term "wing-nut minorities" is interesting for one who decries the incivility of political discourse today. I haven't read the new and updated Miss Manners for Politics yet, but I'm guessing I'm not going to find a section in there approving of the use of pejorative namecalling and broadly delegitimizing and demonizing your opponents.
Coyote responded with a sarcastic retort:
Okay. I've been rightly taken to task by Sean Parnell for my rudeness in calling people with whom I disagree "wing-nuts." He's right and I'm wrong. But, what would you call people that believe that fully automatic weapons and cop-killer bullets should be freely available; who bomb abortion clinics and advocate the murder of doctors who perform abortions; who believe that anyone who is not a Christian is doomed to Hell, and people who would elevate Creationism to the status of science? Give me a polite name and I'll use it.
- "wing nut"
- Moon Bats & Wing Nuts. Time magazine, which advanced its publication day in order to compete with the Friday-night fights, carried an unusually combative Joe Klein column recently jabbing at “left-wing blognuts and conservative wingnuts.” He popped Eli Pariser, executive director of the liberal MoveOn.org, as “the nation’s blognut in chief” and Vice President Cheney as “the nation’s wingnut in chief.” Just before the bell, the newsmagazine pugilist in chief landed a right cross to “The Wall Street Journal’s quasi-wingnut editorial page” and strode to his corner with a Parthian cavil at “the chest thumping of the various blognut extremists.”
- Alan Grayson, the Liberals’ Problem Child, David M. Herszenhorn, New York Times, 2009-10-31
- R.M., Six questions for John Avlon , The Economist, 2010-5-16
- Parnell, Sean (April 9, 2009). "Corporate Responsibility". SFGate.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
- Coyote, Peter (April 10, 2009). "Clarifying The Rap". SFGate.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
- The dictionary definition of wingnut at Wiktionary