Archive for March, 2011
An important diary at Daily Kos today reports that Rush Limbaugh described “leftists” and President Obama as “cockroaches” during a recent show. The diarist goes on to remind us that in the run-up to the Rwandan genocide in the 90s, “cockroaches” was the favored term of Rwandan radio provocateurs.
While the use of the term is more than coincidental, the analogy to Rwanda remains remote. Limbaugh et al are not yet pounding out eliminationist themes in proportion to the Rwandan media of the 90s. (Here is the clip.) And no one is, as far as we know, openly arming themselves with machetes or other weapons for mass killings. When making comparisons of this sort, it is important to consider the differences as well as the similarities in order to arrive at a proportional understanding of the situation.
That said, Limbaugh’s eliminationist theme is unmistakable and it is worth considering the anti-democratic implications if his entire three minute tirade, as he tells his audience that they are in a “war.”Eliminationism has been building on right-wing hate radio in America for a long time, and the potential for political violence beyond isolated incidents is evident.
Dave Neiwert details how this can happen this in his book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, which I reviewed awhile back:
“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 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.” [emphasis added]
“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.”
[Crossposted at Dirty Hippies]
President Obama has been taken to task by many of those who earnestly supported his candidacy, for turning away from the movement that swept him to power. The historic losses for the Democratic Party in 2010 are certainly partly attributable to grassroots disaffection, loss of hope, and lack of interest. That is what makes Governor Deval Patrick’s discussion of state and national politics with the The National Journal so interesting:
“Pointing to his larger-than-expected victory over Republican Charles Baker and independent Timothy Cahill, Patrick said Obama’s team, which overlaps with his own, should derive lessons from the unreconstructed-Democrat approach that Patrick projected. That would be a far cry from the centrist overtures the president has made in the last few months.
I think they’ve learned a lot from us, and we’ve learned from them,” Patrick said. The 2006 campaign that made him Massachusetts’ first African American governor drew from Obama’s successful 2004 Senate bid, Patrick said, a two-year learning cycle that repeated itself when Obama ran for president in 2008 and Patrick for reelection last year.
Patrick said Obama should not turn his back on the ground-up campaign structure that propelled both men to historic wins and helped power Patrick to reelection, a template he believes could sustain Obama next year.
“I believe strongly it’s important not to underestimate the power of the grassroots,” said Patrick, who throughout his first term expressed regrets about not doing a better job of involving his grassroots election supporters in governing.
It is not clear whether Obama has any similar regrets.