(Jackson Street) Books on 7th is around the corner and on the internet tubes. We strive to be your full-service new and used bookstore, emphasizing good literature, progressive politics, and, of course, books about baseball. Opened in Hoquiam October 1, 2010

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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Father's Abortion War

Today I thought of this article I read three years ago. My heart goes out to the Tiller family. Thank you Dr. Tiller for your work and your bravery.

Four years later, the deed he warned might happen did. I flew home to Buffalo on the Monday after Slepian's murder. When my father came home that night, I gave him a hug at the door. He put his briefcase down and shook his head; he looked pale, tired, somber. We sat down for dinner, during which he poked at his food distractedly, preoccupied by incredulity and grief: at the sudden loss of a colleague, at the thought of what Slepian's children and wife, whom my father told me he went to see the previous day, were going through.

After dinner we went upstairs. ''Dad, you're not a young man anymore,'' I told him. He nodded. ''You've been through a lot'' -- I paused, trying to think of a subtle way to put it -- ''maybe it's time to leave this part of your practice to some younger doctors.''

There was silence. He cupped his chin in his hands and sighed. Then, looking over in my direction, with weariness but no hint of acquiescence in his eyes, he started telling me about his upbringing in Israel, how he got used to living in a world full of danger and not allowing it to deter him from doing what he felt was right.

''It's wrong, wrong,'' he said.

''What's wrong?''

''To give in to fanatics, to terrorists.''

The very next morning, around 10, as I was talking to my mother, the phone rang. She picked it up.

''Death threat?'' she said. ''Death threat?. . .Excuse me, you'll have to speak with my son.''

Her hand shook as she passed me the phone. It was a detective from the Police Department. He was calling to inform us that a newspaper in Hamilton, Ontario, which days earlier received a package containing a photograph of Slepian with an X drawn through his face, had just received an anonymous threat that my father was ''next on the list.''

The next morning, the story that another doctor had received a death threat was splashed across the front page of The Buffalo News. By week's end, my parents were living under 24-hour protection by federal marshals. Their two-story house in the suburbs was converted into a bunker -- cameras on every corner, the shades drawn, an armed guard out front.

The wave of violence that erupted in the mid-90's did not succeed in extinguishing the entire supply of abortion providers in America. In western New York, Buffalo Womenservices is still operating. A Planned Parenthood clinic in nearby Niagara Falls has been providing abortion services since Dr. Slepian's death. In many cities, including Buffalo, branches of the group Medical Students for Choice have formed to train young physicians to enter the field. As it has throughout the country, the number of abortions performed in the Buffalo area has declined over the past decade, but the reason owes to a host of other factors (fewer overall pregnancies, wider access to birth control, improved sex education) rather than to violence.

By Eyal Press, a writer who lives in New York. This article is adapted from his book, ''Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City and the Conflict That Divided America,'' which will be published by Henry Holt in early March.
The New York Times Magazine, January 22, 2006