Are Liberals being demonized these days or merely dehumanized? The answer depends upon whose eliminationist language you are listening to. Plenty of it is being directed at Liberals these days.
I’m reading a book by D.J. Goldhagen called “Worse than War: Genocide, Eliminationism and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity.” It’s very interesting, I’ll give it that, the quality of the analysis is generally very good. It’s a tough read though, not for the feint hearted, the presentation is very dense and the style is (faux) academic. The sentences themselves can be grammatically maddening.
The victims of the various murderous eliminations of the Twentieth Century are divided into categories and examined. Some are dehumanized; some are demonized. Some can be rehabilitated; some must be exterminated. Some of the analysis describes the treatment of Liberals in America right now, although the question of Liberals is not reached in the book. In my reading, Liberals seem to fall into the category that Mr. Goldhagen calls “Heretics,” people who are demonized without being dehumanized. Heretics are “conceived of as not biologically different from other people, they, for some articulated reason-usually in the grip of a pernicious religious or secular ideology-willfully dissent from the hallowed creed and seek to harm you or prevent humanity’s salvation.” P. 332.
(See what I mean about those sentences?)
The whole situation is comical for several reasons. For one thing, what is a Liberal in Twenty-First Century America? The best definition might be anyone who does not completely agree with the popular Conservative orthodoxy. For another thing, somebody like me could turn that “Heretic” definition right back on the Conservatives with approximately equal justification. (Without, I hope, resorting to eliminationist rhetoric.)
As usual, nothing is simple. Quite a few ideologies are competing for attention in America. It’s not a simple question of “Right” v. “Left.” There’s the Right of congressional Republicans, the Right of Senate Republicans, the Right of the Christian Dominionists, the Right of the Tea Party, the Right of the militia crowd, the Right of the Rand Paul/Ayn Rand Libertarians, and even the slightly gentler Right of President Obama and most Democrats. Yeah, I said that.
What’s happening on the Left? The Left is far less vigorous but it does encompass some activism and considerable diversity. Oh, excuse me, “diversity” is a code word, I mean diversity of political opinion.
What most categorizes the current political debate in America is that there is no debate. There is only a lot of sloganeering and shouting across the chasm. Almost everyone claims to be protecting democracy, or expanding it or something, restoring it maybe. To me the almost universal truth is that democracy is suffering, at best, and, at worst, disappearing. Given the choice of voting for either one side of a coin or the other side of the same coin, you get the coin no matter who wins.
I am not, however, suggesting some kind of “they all do it” argument. There is one important difference between the modern American Right and the modern Left. The Difference is the degree to which the Right embraces violence and eliminationism.
So far this comes in the form of violent language and eliminationist rhetoric. There’s very little of this on the Left, just some open mocking, and lots of sarcasm, nothing as serious as what you find on the Right. The content of Right Wing media is bad enough in itself, but what you find in the comment sections is frightening and extreme. The writers of these fantasies are not scholars, they are largely uninformed and they are, like most people, of average intelligence. Somehow, from someplace, they are being fed an agenda of fear, hatred and eliminationism.
A truly delusional world view is prevalent, a view in which Liberals are actively conspiring to deprive people of their rights, their freedoms, to take away their guns, or even their children, to put people in camps for some reason, to turn the United States over to the United Nations or some other international group, to put America’s black people in charge and subjugate the poor white folk, really strange, unlikely stuff for which there is no compelling discoverable evidence. It’s all very “Turner Diaries.” Some individuals, like Timothy McVay, have even taken this paranoid novel as their blueprint for reality.
Faced with this perceived reality, how else can the Right respond but with violence and extremism? As Mr. Goldhagen says, “if a being willfully threatens all that is good, the Volk, God, a world of justice and plenty for all; if a being is evil incarnate, then it follows that one must eradicate the disease, squash the bug, kill the wild animal, expel or slay the barbarian, destroy the threat, or extirpate the evil. Not to do so would be negligent folly, like leaving your young child in a bear-or devil-infested forest.” p. 330.
Note that Mr. Goldhagen is not suggesting this as a rational course of action, no, he’s just stating the position that has been maintained by lots of groups in the recent past, right before they up and killed a lot of their demonized enemies. In each case, the pot-stirring that preceded the horror bore disturbing similarities to the current anti-Liberal rhetoric.
Let’s hold this thing up to the light. Liberals, if they even exist anymore, are no threat to freedom and justice, no enemies of liberty, nor of the family or the American Dream. So maybe we can back up on the word play here.
I don’t think anything like that is going to happen though, not the backing up thing, I’ve given up already on anything like common sense prevailing. This particular Genie is hard to get back in the bottle. The denouement, when it comes, may not reach the fever pitch of that episode of Tutsi v. Hutu in Africa, but whatever it is, it won’t be pretty.
P.S. I read that Bryan Fischer is afraid that “Homofascists” will soon treat Christians in America like the Nazis treated Jews during the Holocaust. (Raw Story, April 12, 2013.) And Janet Mefferd, who evidently is some kind of syndicated host on Christian Radio, has very similar fears, also couched in Holocaust language. (From the blog, “Brilliant at Breakfast,” which coined the phrase, “Holocaust envy.”) Point made!