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Main points of lecture about polarizing political speech, part 6

Kathryn Ruud Lecture, part 6

She expects that propaganda will become more visual.

[:45] Poster showing Hitler, Obama, Lenin as parallel. She points out that it's presented as a political spectrum.

She mentions an anti-Ground Zero Mosque ad which uses people falling from the two towers, even though the families of the dead asked that the image not be used.

Quote from Martin Luther King: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that".

We are moving into the era of the citizen because the usual gatekeepers are falling away.

George Washington, model citizen-- he didn't want to become king, he retired. He wanted to be a model citizen. [I'm not sure what she's got in mind about Washington.]

Assertive civility: emphasis on common decency and common respect

Free speech: no censorship-- more speech is needed instead

Resist semiotic territorialization: Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and their use and interpretation. It's normal for words to have their meanings scooped out and new meanings substituted, but some changes are dangerous, in particular those which move words like "parasite" from science into political discourse. Changes in word use can become pervasive changes in thinking.

Limbaugh said, "Words have consequences." This is true.

Kathryn Rudd mentions teaching counter-strategies, I hope she goes public about the details.

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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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Main points of lecture about polarizing political speech, part 4

Kathryn Ruud lecture, part 4

[I think the material towards the end of this lecture about attacks on empathy is extremely important.]

Quotes a German historian (name not caught) who says that totalitarians are terrible simplifiers.

Scapegoating: Divide complex individuals into opposing camps.

Imagine a stadium, with the problems on one side of the stadium, and the people suffering on the other side of the stadium. The leader creates a laser beam of blame going down into his hand, where he's holding the outgroup he's attributing all the problems to. If we get rid of this outgroup, all our problems will go away.

The outgroup can be based on ideology, ethnicity, race, or class.

In East Germany, capitalists were called a threat to humanity. The Nazis said that Jews were simultaneously evil communists in they were in the east, and evil capitalists if they were in the west. Germany can be whole and pure only if they are completely excluded.

On talk radio, Michael Savage (in the same sentence) called Obama appointees Communist vermin and neo-nazis. Note: lexical fusion of opposites.

If the national media were a propaganda organ, we would be reading that Romney and McCain were fascist Nazi communists, but she hasn't seen it. Talk radio has made "liberal" and "progressive" into pejoratives. The new pejorative is "statist".

Limbaugh and other hosts are saying that liberals, progressives, and even moderate Republicans are statists.

Stereotyping: Narrowing a concept into generic form. The speaker does this by using impersonal and derisive terms. In East Germany, "the capitalist personality" was described as "inhumane, the worker's grave digger, an atomic warrior, slimey, nasty, trash, and filth", and she read a brochure which had been given to independent farmers which said "the only good farmer is he who accelerates the victory of socialism", and the message here in this brochure was "No matter how productive you might be, you are a bad farmer, and a bad person, and selfish, unless you are in a collective. In fact, you should be considered a collaborator with the fascist capitalists".

In political talk radio, liberals, progressives, and Democrats are labelled arrogant, contemptuous, lazy, gutless, whiners, and crybabies. "Liberal crybabies" and "whining liberals" might seem benign, but this was a red flag for her, because Hitler had had hurled a slew of names at elected parlimentarians, but one of his favorites was to call them babblers and whiners. The propaganda effect is to say, "I'm a grown-up with a serious purpose, but these people, all they can do is fuss and drool and cry and get in my way. I can't get anything done."

[I don't know about Hitler, but I think the American use of "whiners" has a different edge. The idea isn't "you're a bunch of babies", it's closer to "if you were adults (real men?), you'd be tough enough to not be bothered by this, and you certainly wouldn't complain about it".]

[I've never seen anyone discuss the animal attack verb-- what one's opponents say is "grunting", "howling", "oinking" etc.]

This kind of talk has become pervasive. She's seen it from liberal and conservative pundits, in style[?], science, and economic sections, and in ordinary conversations.

Limbaugh: "There are Americans and then there are liberals." Beck: "There are patriots and then there are progressives."

Ugly sterotypes from the left: "You rightwing, toothless, red-necked, bible-thumping trailer trash". That may be funny, unless you've done manual labor, you've known somebody poor, or you've done manual labor yourself, and I've spent time livin' in a trailer while working as a waitress, so that doesn't go over well with me at all. [word-for-word quote] [I've been drifting in and out of exact quotes and paraphrases. I hope this isn't a problem.]

No one likes to be stereotyped. She hasn't seen widespread use of these stereotypes on leftwing national talk radio, except for this "whining" which is everywhere.

Your opponents are made to be seen as despicable, both as groups and as individuals.

Propaganda is always mixed with natural language, even in totalitarian countries.

7:22 Limbaugh: Complains that the left is anti-war, but is claiming credit for victory in Iraq, while the credit should go to Bush. Refers to the current administration as dishonest and diabolical. Also sick and mentally unstable. Limbaugh doesn't know who their friends are any more. [Why would he expect to? He isn't exactly going to be invited to their parties.]

Manipulation of key moral concepts: Very insidious-- the object is to alter the moral meaning of key words.

The Nazis used words like ruthless, brutal, and fanatical in positive contexts. Previously, all those words had been negative. They would say things like 'brutal courage', or 'fanatical loyalty'. The word 'fanatic' [I'm not hunting down the German] had previously been very negative, but was used commonly in the Nazi press.

The words penetrated so far that they would be used casually by Jews-- "I'm a fanatical tennis player". It would no longer sound weird to say "I'm a Hitler fanatic".

Words like empathy, kind-heartedness, and tolerance were only used by the weak.

Hitler told the German people they were made of steel: ruthless, intolerant, and pitiless against all enemies, and he referred to "poisonous Jewish humanitarianism".

She's seen a tendency on political talk radio in this direction: During the healthcare debate, Limbaugh called liberals "compassion fascists" or "compassion mongereres" during the health care debate.

There's been an effort to make "social justice" alarming.

In general, the brakes are taken off meanness.

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Main points of lecture about polarizing political speech, part 3

Kathryn Ruud Lecture, Part three

00:15 7 Strategies of Polarization
Ingroup/ "We" vs. Outgroup "Them"
Used by extreme left and extreme right
On PTR, used as sales technique
Overlapping similarities [between far left, far right, and political talk radio]
Extremes can take hold in democratic states
Not just what is said, but how is is said

People are harder to control if they can identify rhetorical methods of control

Hitler is unique-- there's no one in American politics who's comparable.

Contrast of tone: When Hitler spoke about his followers, his tone was of uplift and exaltation, when he spoke of his enemies, his tone was harsh and scathing. The effect of this was that it set loose an unrestrained political attack of defamation, ridicule, and hate. Opponents were made to feel disoriented, because this was a new way of arguing. Opponents weren't fellow citizens with bad ideas, they were bad people.

Examples from left wing talk radio, selected by the Conservative Media Research Center as the worst of 2009, and she agrees that they are good examples of a problem, and as bad as it gets in left wing political talk radio at a national level.

4:37 Olberman attacks Malkin with a series of insults
4:48 Ed Schultz says that Republicans want to see you dead. Also attacks Democrats for not being able to deal with Republicans.

Poisoning the well: inflating one's own credibility while demeaning opponents.

Hitler called the major newspapers "the Jewish press". He called their readers "the so-called educated circles" and "the so-called intellectuals". In East Germany, western newspapers were called "tools of capitalism". Limbaugh talks about opposition between the mainstream (national) media and conservative media. Limbaugh calls himself "the truth detector". Beck calls himself "the constitution czar". Recently, she's heard national media referred to as government-controlled or state-run media.

Lexical fusion: two words are welded together and used repeatedly. Nazis called their opponents "liberal socialists" or "liberal socialist communists". A range of critics are fused into a single threat.

Ideology over information: Beliefs of the group are defined as true. The outgroups' views have no merit, EVER. There's no middle ground or compromise.

Political radio showcases ideology. Opponents can call in, but what they say is generally followed by derision and ridicule.

The three strategies so far are part of normal political discourse. However, the next four strategies are wading into deeper waters.

There's gotten to be a much stronger emphasis on fighting enemies.

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Main points of lecture about polarizing political speech, part 2

Kathryn Ruud Lecture, Part two

June 2010 issue of Talkers Magazine, an industry publication-- an article compares political talk radio to pro wrestling

It's the job of the talk show host to crank up fear at the other side because that gets attention and advertising revenue:

Fear the enemy: the government
Fear the Other: political opponents
Rachett up fear through polarization
A sales technique with serious consequences

2:39 Glen Beck clip: He's selling gold because Marxism will wreck the country and people will need soemthing to start over with. [Anyone who's pretty sure they'll be able to protect their gold in a totalitarian dictorship probably deserves to give their money to Glen Beck.] Followed by malice about illegal immigrants.

Cicero: "He who knows only his own generation remains always a child."

There are good reasons to fear communism and fascism. Both were very pro-violence.

In Germany, there were political street battles between the wars.

In totalitarian countries, there was control which extended into people's homes.

Things went differently in the US-- while there were believers in far left and right ideas, but mostly, there was a rotation around a pragmatic middle. In Germany, the middle was weak and small.

Totalitarianism starts with ideologies which do not describe themselves as totalitarian.

Glen Beck and others put libertarianism exactly in the middle between totalitarianism and anarchy. This leaves out a lot of context about the range of non-totalitarian possibilites which are not libertarian, Republican, or constitutionalist.

Beck places Nazism on the left rather than acknowledging that totalitarianism can come from the right. Nazism and Communism get lumped together rather than being described as having quite different ideological roots. You can't recognize a problem if you have a mental framework which excludes it.

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Main points of lecture about polarizing political speech, part 1

I recently posted about this lecture, and I've gotten some interest in a text version. Here are main points, since I'm not willing to do a full transcript. My comments are in square brackets].

Kathryn Ruud Lecture, Part 1

Change of names for the other party (Libtards and Rethugs vs. Democrats and Republicans). [I'm old enough to remember a time when Americans weren't nearly as nasty about politics. It took me getting some decades under my belt to have a gut understanding that things can change, and I expect I'm not the only one.]

"Only he who can describe the problem can resolve the problem."

Background: linguist with specialty in polticial speech, and who specifically studied Nazi and East German rhetoric

Talked with people who remembered listening to Hitler speak, and people who were shot at escaping east Germany

She's also been a long-term listener to talk radio

2:26 [slide] Linguistics:
Scientific study of the features of language and its use
Spoken language
Sociolinguistics: language in groups
Political linguistics: language of persuasion

Linguists look at language the way meteorologists look at clouds-- ever-changing amorphous subject matter which nonetheless can be somewhat classified

4:41 Political speakers put themselves at the center as truth speakers, and range from there into the past and the future, and from self to others.

"Listeners have built in baloney detectors." [I'd say that a large part of persuasive speech (just on the other side, of course) is an effort to subvert baloney detectors.]

"The listener is never entirely passive."

Rise of fascism: hyperinflation, the great depression (unemployment 36%, disputed border areas, monarchy and a history of authoritarianism, during the Enlightenment Germany was 500 principalities so that the ideas didn't spread [I'm not sure this makes sense, but maybe Enlightenment ideas are more of a centralized government thing than I appreciate], the Versailles treaty....

But still, why Hitler? Why so much enthusiasm for him?

7:51 In 1982, a German professor teaches her about some Nazi propaganda and recommends Missbrauch der Sprache (Misuse of Language): Tendenzen nationalsozialistischer Sprachregelung (Tendencies in national socialist language control).

Reading the book was a very vivid memory-- she'd never seen German used like that. The book was a dissertation written in 1970 about the common use of Nazi language in the press and such, not the official propaganda.

The propaganda was in small chunks, and framed before and after by discussion of the techniques of persuasion.

Even so, she could only read it 10 or 15 minutes at a time, and then she'd look at the gray skies to let the propaganda wash out of her mind, and she'd remember her Jewish friends.

She never wanted to read the book again, she thought she'd never have a use for it, but she photocopied it because it seemed important. [A fast googling doesn't turn up a translation in English-- if there isn't one, I wonder if there's a publisher who'd like to take a crack at it.]

About 10 years after the class, she heard Rush Limbaugh on the radio, and something seemed familiar....

Limbaugh isn't a Nazi-- the intense racism isn't there, he's not a fascist....and his riffs on conspiracy theories were funny, but she reread the book on misuse of language and started recording Limbaugh and Ken Hamblin.

More research.... things are getting worse, and moving into the left and poplular discourse.

12:39 Graphic of talk radio in one week-- more than 90% of it is right wing.

Provocative talk sells....

[The lecture is broken into six chunks, and the breaks are at arbitrary points.]

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