Friday, January 21, 2011
Reflections on the Use and Abuse of Eliminationist Speech: Do Conservatives Really Want to Kill Liberals and Progressives?
Something to think about for the weekend. And many, many questions.
The aftermath of The Arizona Massacre has sparked much discussion about political speech and its relationship to violence. For example, one of the phrases tossed about by the pundit classes as they try to make sense of Tea Bag John Bircherism and its relationship to the Right-wing echo chamber is "eliminationism": the idea that some members of the body politic ought to be destroyed or "eliminated."
These efforts to link Right-wing bloviating by the types of Beck, Limbaugh, and others to the concept of genocide is an intuitive and not too far leap of faith: on conservative radio, television, and websites, liberals are routinely called "cancers," "traitors," "mentally ill," or "a disease." Ultimately, the language of violence is a lingua franca of sorts among the leadership classes of the Right because 1) it works to unite them as a tribe; and 2) it leverages their authoritarian personalities for the purposes of partisan cheer-leading.
But, I have a few concerns and considerations...
Primarily, eliminationism speaks to the literal murder, destruction, and removal of whole peoples. And certainly, there is a violence of speech by the Right that is now so utterly common it is taken for granted. But, do we more responsible folks want to massage that observation into what is a historically specific concept that may or may not apply to the United States in the 21st century?
Moreover, in a country that has actually practiced eliminationism as both a matter of national policy (Manifest Destiny and the genocide of native peoples), and as an informal enforcer of America'r racial order (where pogroms against black Americans in such places as Tulsa and East St. Louis were not uncommon) do we want to abuse said idea in order to rebut the vitriol vomited forth by the Tea Party GOP?
These are open questions where the answers are dependent upon how one reads the intent underlying the eliminationist speech offered by the New Right Tea Party Republicans. Are Beck, Palin, et al. simply playing with words in order to marginalize and demonize their opposition, but in fact hold no actual intent of bodily harm?
Stated plainly: Is the new Right's hatred of liberals and progressives just a metaphor for something else?
Or is there a type of protofascism at work (as displayed by mainstream conservatism's fetish for Nazi-talk) in the rhetoric of the Right in which the real end goal is in fact the literal murder of their political opponents on the Left?
In the mainstream media's yearning for false equivalence where the rhetoric of Conservative and Liberals, Democrats and Republicans, somehow is imagined as relying equally on an appeal to violence, these questions are rarely asked. Let's remedy that oversight...if even for a weekend.