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Main points of lecture about polarizing political speech, part 5 - Input Junkie
March 20th, 2012
10:42 am

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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.]

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/534411.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:subnumine
Date:March 20th, 2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
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"Parasite" was originally political language; the basic meaning was somebody, like the Roman poets in Martial, who eat at a rich man's table and serve for their supper, usually at election time. The biological meaning is transference.

But the meaning of "excrescence on the body politic" is much older than Hitler; it can easily be found in Lenin (try Google Books) and I think it dates back to the French Revolution.

The OED has a facinating nineteenth-century quotation on undertakers as parasites (full context at http://books.google.com/books?id=twsUAAAAIAAJ&dq=Haden%20parasite%20Earth%20tradesman&pg=PA60#v=onepage&q&f=false ); a class of undertakers apparently subcontracted out the work, and lived quite handsomely on the difference. (Jessica Mitford held that little had changed half a century later.)



Edited at 2012-03-20 09:38 pm (UTC)
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From:nancylebov
Date:March 20th, 2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, though I think usage is also interesting.

Edited at 2012-03-20 10:20 pm (UTC)
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From:bradhicks
Date:March 20th, 2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
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This is reading like an appendix to Eric Hoffer's The True Believer.

On the role of eliminationist rhetoric in modern talk radio, Dave Niewert got here years ago, as summed up in his 2009 book, The Eliminationists, which drew flak for arguing that when right-wingers call for the extermination of their political opponents, some of them aren't just joking around, some of them aren't exaggerating, and the rest of them do, in fact, know full well that eliminationist rhetoric results in unhinged paranoids turning to assassination. They stick with it, even so, not because they're murderous psychos, but because they've concluded that rhetoric that's any less inflammatory costs them elections.
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From:nancylebov
Date:March 21st, 2012 12:08 am (UTC)
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I think they also stick with it because for a lot of people, malice is fun.

I'm not immune to it-- I used GWBush as a pinata, and I enjoyed it, but for some people, malice is an addiction.
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From:agrumer
Date:March 21st, 2012 12:24 am (UTC)
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I used GWBush as a pinata

But we never got the candy!
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From:subnumine
Date:March 21st, 2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
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He smashed nice though, didn't he?


And we are out of Iraq; not in sixteen months, but we're out.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:March 22nd, 2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
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He was re-elected. Plenty of people still like him. It doesn't seem likely that he'll be prosecuted for war crimes. In what sense was he smashed?
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From:subnumine
Date:March 22nd, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
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I meant the end of his second term. There aren't enough people who like him that he is a poster child for repeal of the 22nd Amendment; he's not a symbol even in his party, and nobody would run Cheney or Rumsfeld as a promise of more of his governance. Compare that with Reagan or Clinton.

War crimes trials would need a more determined President (in this case, more determined NOT to use Bush's methods, which never seems to have occured to Obama.)
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From:st_rev
Date:March 21st, 2012 12:57 am (UTC)
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right-wingers[']...eliminationist rhetoric results in unhinged paranoids turning to assassination

Examples? I'll grant you McVeigh, with reservations. Beyond that...? Neiwert's theory is persuasively argued but doesn't really account for the data, and he really loses me when he engages in mind-reading ("the rest of them do, in fact, know full well..."). Kaczynski is a primitivist anarchist (and still highly regarded by many in those circles), a ton are simple schizophrenics (e.g. Loughner) who don't seem to notice any rhetoric except the voices inside their heads, and for every James Earl Ray there's a Lee Harvey Oswald.

Edited at 2012-03-21 02:35 am (UTC)
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From:asakiyume
Date:March 21st, 2012 12:28 pm (UTC)
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The fact that people turn to politically inflammatory sites for entertainment depresses me for the level of jadedness it reveals in society. It's a kind of decadence almost? To let the fear-and-hate centers of your brain (are there fear-and-hate centers? If not, then take it as metaphorical) be stimulated, essentially for entertainment. It's like going to a movie with bad guys and a chase and explosions--except that this is real life, and those people are real people.
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From:st_rev
Date:March 21st, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
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Well, they're at least as real as the people on the other end of the Xbox or World of Warcraft connection are. It's worrying, but actual incidents don't seem to amount to much. Something is missing.
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From:asakiyume
Date:March 21st, 2012 07:01 pm (UTC)
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Do you mean that actual incidents of dehumanizing speech aren't that many? Or that the consequences of talking that way don't seem too bad?
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From:st_rev
Date:March 21st, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
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I mean actual incidents of concrete harm inspired by dehumanizing speech. Dehumanizing speech in itself is unpleasant but not something in itself to worry about that much, I think, any more than blasphemy or cursing are.

To put it another way, if people aren't actually getting shot, it's a free speech issue. Progressives used to believe in that, I think?
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From:asakiyume
Date:March 21st, 2012 07:44 pm (UTC)
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Yes indeed--I just wanted to be sure I understood.
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From:womzilla
Date:March 30th, 2012 03:13 am (UTC)
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Pat frickin' Boone said the White House should be put under a tent and fumigated.
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