Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Note to Prof's Critics: This Wasn't Eliminationism

Recently, the wingnutosphere went on one of its periodic jihads attacking Rhode Island law professor Erik Loomis for having tweeted the following after Sandy Hook:
I was heartbroken in the first 20 mass murders. Now I want Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick.
Among the first to pounce, labeling it "eliminationist rhetoric," was the well-noted smear artist Glenn Reynolds, who also has a penchant for indulging in the fantasy that left-wing political violence is a bigger problem than right-wing violence.


Well, as someone who has written and published a book on the subject matter -- The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right -- let me put simply something I have said many times in many different and windier ways over the years: Glenn Reynolds is completely full of crap.
As I explain in the book, the term describes not just ordinary violent rhetoric, but rather involves the "positing of elimination as the solution to political disagreement. Rather than engaging in a dialogue over political and cultural issues, one side simply dehumanizes its opponents and suggests, and at times demands, their excision."

Eliminationism, I explain, is
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.

Rhetorically, eliminationism takes on certain distinctive shapes. It 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—are claims that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.

Eliminationism is often voiced as crude "jokes," a sense of humor inevitably predicated on venomous hatred. And such rhetoric—we know as surely as we know that night follows day—eventually begets action, with inevitably tragic results.

Two key factors distinguish eliminationist rhetoric from other political hyperbole:
It is focused on an enemy within, people who constitute entire blocs of the citizen populace.
It advocates the excision and extermination of those entire blocs by violent or civil means.
Loomis's remark is a rather generic political expression -- and not even a particularly violent one, considering its long provenance in the annals of ordinary rhetoric -- directed at a single person, not a whole class of them. By definition, it simply isn't eliminationist. At worst, it is simply generic violent rhetoric of the "off with their heads" variety.

Of course, Reynolds has responded petulantly:
But hey, if you want to argue that “head on a stick” isn’t any sort of eliminationist rhetoric, well, duly noted.
Right. Just as it is duly noted that Glenn Reynolds is a right-wing jackass.

Just as when he labeled MEChA "fascist hatemongers", Reynolds seems not to understand that when one is called out on a viciously false smear, an apology is usually forthcoming. But of course, no such thing will occur here. Same as it ever was.

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