Thursday, July 2, 2009

Comment rescues and doubling down on eliminationist rhetoric

According to self-annointed guru David Neiwart, there six possible characteristics of eliminationist rhetoric:

A: Expressing a desire or a demand for extermination, removal, or infliction of harm

B: Identification of opponents with national enemies

C: Identification of opponents as a target for retaliation or incarceration

D: Expressing a desire for or approval of genocide or murder

E: Identification with vermin or disease

F: All of the above

Now let's be clear: lots of people, especially those on the far right, are throwing around eliminationist rhetoric by this definition, and when it happens it deserves condemnation. I have condemned it, on occasion, but there is enough of it these days on both sides of the Demopublican divide that were I to spend my days condemning every piece as I heard it, there would be little time for blogging on anything else. Or eating. Or sleeping.

But let's think locally, and examine the two recent statements by Delawaredem, both the one he originally made and the one he then redacted it into. In responding to Mark Scheuer's outrageous statement on the Glenn Beck Show:

“The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”

First DD says this, and while I don't completely agree with this statement (you can be unhinged or have loonie ideas without hating America), it is an appropriate piece of condemnatory political speech:

First, if you agree with this statement, nodding your head thinking another attack that kills untold millions this time instead of only 3,000 eight years ago will surely make Americans scared enough to embrace the neocon way again, then you hate America. Rooting for millions of Americans to die to prove a political point is precisely the definition of hating America.

But then DD follow, first with this:

Second, if you agree with that statement, you are a traitor to the United States of America, and you deserve to be arrested, tried, and put to death in as quick a manner as possible.

That, however, following the near-unanimous disagreement of the commenters (including at least one DL co-blogger), DD modifed his original statement to this:

No, you just hate America. And you are so evil that you are personally acquianted with Lucifer himself. You have tea with him every Tuesday. The rest of this post stands.

Having taken fire for this position, DD then conducted a tactical retreat by mis-characterizing his original statement in a second post:

It is more dangerous to say that hoping millions of Americans die in a torrent of fire at the hands of Osama bin Laden is treason than it is to say that you hope millions of Americans die in a torrent of fire at the hands of Osama bin Laden so that your party gains politically.

Cute, but no cigar. Notice what he's done here: he claims he was criticized for calling out Mark Scheuer for making what he considers a treasonous statement. That's self-serving BS and not what DD did in the original post. In the original post he maintained that not Scheuer but anyone who agreed with him was a traitor to be arrested, tried, and put to death.

Yep, it was hyperbole. I do not believe that on his worst day Delawaredem would actually want to kill his political opponents.

But he wants to employ the same style of rhetoric that he roundly condemns in others.

How many ways does this meet Mr. Neiwart's definition of eliminationist speech?

It expresses a desire for both the removal and elimination of a large group of people.

It identifies his political opponents with national enemies.

It suggest the appropriateness of government retaliation and incarceration.

It does not suggest genocide--not actually--but it does want everybody with a specific political opinion to be killed.

It doesn't equate his enemies with vermin or disease--just Satan.

All of the above?

Delawaredem, who is a passionate partisan politician who hopes only the best for America as he sees it, has fallen into the trap of fighting eliminationist speech with eliminationist speech.

While it is not surprising that jason--who routinely crosses the line into eliminationism for his own political opponents--concurring in the opinion that fire must be fought only with fire, it was dismaying to read this comment this morning by Progressive Mom:

DD — I think the rule is: Repubs are allowed hyperbole and are allowed to HIDE their actual literal interpretation by crying “hyperbole!” and “free speech.”

Democrats are only allowed to be literal. Hyperbole is not allowed, since it serves to bring out the sniffing, crying Republicans with their chorus of “shame on you” and “aren’t you terrible.”

Literally, I think that words can be treasonous. And people who commit treason can be tried and punished. And calling people treasonous isn’t treason.

PM: nobody is suggesting that Mr. Scheuer's original comments were acceptable. I (even Steve Newton) surely have not done so. Nobody has allowed him to hide behind the hyperbole defense.

And Dems/Progressives can use all the hyperbole and even eliminationist speech they damn well please.

They just can't do it while criticizing others for doing the same thing, without being called on it as hypocrites and equally dangerous to the body politic.

Word can be treasonous. And people who commit treason can be tried and punished.

[Aside: note that for both DD and PM the trial and the guilty verdict are synonymous; so why bother with the trials?]

The problem is that PM doesn't mean words like, "I have been providing Osama bin Laden with directions on where to best place a dirty bomb in Los Angeles," she means words that she personally finds excessively politically offensive.

She wants those people punished.

By the way, PM: show me where anybody has accused DD of treason for suggesting Scheuer's words were treasonous. Hasn't happened.

From the libertarian perspective the generalization here is unfortunate: partisans of both major political parties (from the national to the local) now feel it is appropriate to engage in and defend eliminationist rhetoric against American citizens with different opinions.

Which is leaving less and less of a place for people who don't want to eradicate their opposition to stand.


Hube said...

Muy bien dicho como siempre, Esteban.

(Sorry -- in Spanish mode down here ...!)

Nancy Willing said...

It would be nice to think that this excellent review would give the Dellies some pause.

Miko said...

What's more, it was inevitable.

Even in the early founding days (when the federal government had very little power), elections were spiteful, vitriolic affairs. Throw in a three-or-four trillion dollar budget and two sides fighting to ensure that it's used for the dual purposes of securing political favors for their own campaign donors and oppressing people they don't like (union bosses, gays, single mothers, and the poor on the Republican side, business executives, SUV drivers, the rich, and the poor on the Democratic side), and tell me how you don't get eliminationist rhetoric.

Governmental power is violence. A powerful government and peace are incompatible goals.