Monday, October 19, 2009

The Eliminationists.

A quote from Fredrick Clarkson's review of new book by David Neiwert, "The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right," via ReligionDispatches:

“What motivates this kind of talk and behavior,” Neiwert writes of the sometimes surprising viciousness from otherwise ordinary people, “is called eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile and ejection, or extermination.”

Neiwert is a veteran journalist who has covered some of the farthest reaches of the American Right in the Pacific Northwest, including the Aryan Nations and the Montana Freemen. He was raised in Idaho, where the fervent factions of the far right (most notably the John Birch Society) were fashionable and intersected the lives of friends, family, and neighbors. The ideas in this book were developed in an influential series of essays at his blog Orcinus (Neiwert is also managing editor of Crooks & Liars where these issues are often discussed as well).

Neiwert stresses that eliminationist rhetoric “always depicts its opposition as beyond the pale, the embodiment of evil itself, unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus worthy of elimination. It often further depicts its designated Enemy as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and disease-like cancers on the body politic. A close corollary—but not as nakedly eliminationist—is the claim that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.”

“The history of eliminationism in America and elsewhere,” he writes, “shows that rhetoric plays a significant role in the travesties that follow. It creates permission for people to act out in ways they might not otherwise. It allows them to abrogate their own humanity by denying the humanity of people deemed undesirable or a cultural contaminant.”

Much of the book is devoted to outlining eliminationism in American history, from Native Americans and African Americans, through Chinese and Japanese immigrants and more. He shows how eliminationist rhetoric was often followed by “an actual campaign of violent eliminationism.”

This history is presented with a note of urgency, because the eliminationist rhetoric as currently featured by elements of the conservative movement, “is in many ways,” he stresses, “the signature feature of fascism.” An authentic, broad-based fascist movement is not here yet, he avers, though he warns that eliminationist rhetoric is not unlike “the distinct odor of burning flesh. And when it hits our nostrils, we dare not ignore the warning.”

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