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Main points of lecture about polarizing political speech, part 5




Kathryn Ruud lecture, part 5

Last strategy: dehumanizing imagery: Common on right wing talk radio, creeping into left wing talk radio, and showing up in private conversation.

This tactic is so closely associated with extermination camps that she has never heard it used by any German, whether from East or West Germany. It is absolutely taboo.

The purpose of this tactic is to activate gut-level revulsion towards an outgroup. The specific method is metaphor, which is a fundamental mechanism of language change.

Hitler called Jews a plague, an infection, a pestilence, a cancer, tumors, poison, parasites, bacilli, vermin, leeches, bacteria, tuberculosus, and ulcers. He would say that Jews are maggots devouring the body of the German people. What's your natural reaction if your body is being devoured by vermin? Cleansing.

The outgroup can be anyone. Dachau was initially used for political prisoners.

Until Hitler, "parasites" and "extermination" were not used in political language. They were strictly biological terms.

Hitler said that Jews were parasites who must be exterminated, obliterated, and eliminated. He didn't talk about murder.

Such language is becoming more common in the US. Limbaugh has called liberals "maggot infested" and "parasites". He's called Democratic representatives in Congress "leeches". Lou Dobbs on CNN called leftists "blood-suckers". Rachel Maddow (who's normally at the high end of this pile of muck) told one of her guests "You are a parasite getting fat on America's fears". Keith Olberman called Tea Partiers shouting at Congressman Barney Frank "vermin".

Glen Beck, at the nationally braadcast CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) cheered by his audience as he called progressivism, and by implication, progressives, a disease, an infection, a poison, a cancer eating our constitution, perpetuating an economic holocaust, and making us vomit. On his show, he has said that progressives are rotting America from the inside. They are like a virus, or like a leech on our neck. He's described progressives-- both Democratic and Republican-- as leeches feasting on their respective parties.

Six months after CPAC, Beck spoke at his Restoring Honor rally at the Lincoln Memorial, he called for modeling ourselves after our founders and restoring the principles of "truth, integrity, honesty, and unity", all of which are principles the founders made serious efforts to live by.

Five days later, a rabbi on Beck's show described atheists as parasites, and Beck responded with a smile and a chuckle. On national tv. More recently on his radio show, Beck described immigrants as leeches.

Neil Boortz, who identifies himself as a libertarian, and has the seventh largest political radio talk audience in the country. He has seven million listeners a week, and broadcasts from Atlanta. The following is spliced from his show, and shows six of the seven strategies.

This is going to be a summary of the summary. Anything in quotes is as accurate as I can make it

Boortz complains about John Edwards-- sneers at Edwards' work for Habitat for Humanity. Describes the people being helped in New Orleans as not "down-trodden", as Edwards says, but as "useless", "worthless", on welfare, "parasites", they "could not and had no desire to fend for themselves". A hurricane was coming down on them, and they "sit on their fat asses and wait for somebody else to come rescue them."...Decribes them as people who've never done anything for generations to improve their lot in life. But Edwards says it was all Washington's problem. It was all George Bush's fault. "City of parasites and leeches..."

Caller says that she worked in the Post Office and people in New Orleans were waiting for their welfare checks, and this is evidence of refusal to take care of themselves. 100 refugees from New Orleans went to Newport, RI, but none showed up for a job fair. Boortz: "When those Katrina so-called refugees were scattered around the country, it was just another episode of putting out the garbage." Caller says that people from New Orleans wanted their homes rebuilt, but it wasn't their homes, it was public housing. Boortz: "It's like people saying 'They're taking my jobs and sending them overseas. Not your jobs."

Royal {Boortz's engineer and sidekick] explains that a lot of people in New Orleans owned their homes. Boortz backs him up. Caller temporizes by saying that a lot owned their homes, a lot didn't. She imagines [her word] that the people who didn't were the most vocal. Boortz says that she can imagine what she wants, but he doesn't believe people were waiting on their welfare checks to get away from a flood, but their lives before Katrina contisted of waiting for welfare checks. [I've heard that people were waiting for their paychecks because some of them didn't have gas money to get away until they were paid.]

Boortz admits that Habitat for Humanity is good works, but thinks it's unfair to blame Katrina on George Bush. "The primary blame goes on the worthless parasites who couldn't even wipe themselves, let alone get out of the way when the levee broke." Caller agrees, and says that "Anyone who had the right mind to get out of there, did."

[I could have saved myself some work-- more complete transcript of Boortz on Katrina refugees.]

[Story about Katrina refugees not using buses supplied to get to a job fair. Context-dropping libel, combined with mysterious failure to gloat over government snafu. This is about a job fair in Texas. A fast googling didn't turn up anything about Rhode Island.]

[Harry Shearer of LeShow believes that the levees protecting the Ninth Ward were shoddily constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers. This is not the responsibility of ordinary people in New Orleans. Arguably, keeping track of that sort of thing is a responsibility of the federal government, but the problem predates GWB.]

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Tags: limbaugh, linguistics, nazis, polarizing political talk, ruud
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