Saturday, June 6, 2009
Department of Book Reports: The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right
There is probably no better authority writing today about the American Right than David Neiwert, who is the founder of the Orcinus weblog and frequent poster at Crooks and Liars. And Neiwert brings his knowledge and analytical gifts to his important, new book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right ( PoliPoint Press $16.95). And nothing brings this book more into focus than the events of the past two weeks, with the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the assassination of Dr. George Tiller.
Neiwert defines Eliminationism as "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" and that uses a rhetoric that is focused on an "enemy within" and that advocates the excision and extermination of said enemies by violent or civil means. This brand of endemic nativist American thought is transmitted into the mainstream of political discourse by the usual suspects: your Limbaughs, Coulters, O'Reillys and often presented as "jokes". Limbaugh, for instance, once said, "I tell people don't kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus -living fossils-
so we never forget what these people stood for".
Neiwert goes onto show how these once fringe ideas have permeated the Republican Party in the past two decades, especially those who had previously been involved in the Reform Party and the Patriot movement, with the result that the political center of the the Conservative movement has shifted further to the Right and morphed into what Neiwert calls Para-fascism. Although not outright revolutionary in tone, and paying some lip-service to law and order, para-fascism is in danger of becoming more proto-fascist in the coming years. The final chapter of the book is titled "It Can Happen Here".
Neiwert examines the nature and history of fascism, which is not so much an ideology, than an emotional response to the modern world. In fact one of its more important facets is the mutability of fascist thought. He looks at the history of Eliminationism in American history, from the American Indian from the beginning of European colonization, to post-bellum lynchings of African-Americans in the South, to the anti-Chinese exclusion acts and the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. It continues today with the Lou Dobbs' of the world, in the anti-immigration crowd, who fear a "Hispanic Reconquista" of the American Southwest and the "English" only movement.
He points out the root of eliminationism is the objectification of "the other" and it's pursuiant demoniziation of one's enemies. We can see that in the manner of which the Right has talked of Sotomayor. And it is certainly visible in the discussions of "baby killer" Dr. George Tiller.
Neiwert's book was published before those events. But he warns, "As America moves forward amid the reality of a President Obama, it may want to brace itself for a spate of domestic terrorism and homegrown violence. Because even before Obama's election, it was clear that some of the more violence-prone sectors of the Far Right were winding themselves up for such an eventuality". He aruges that we cannot ignore the spectre of American Fascism, and we must be willing to confront it and do so with our better natures: by giving them the very recognition that they would deny us, not indulging in demonization and dehumanizing our "others".
This book is the most important book on contemporary politics this year. I implore you to read it.
*cross-posted at teh General's place