An important diary at Daily Kos today reports that Rush Limbaugh described “leftists” and President Obama as “cockroaches” during a recent show. The diarist goes on to remind us that in the run-up to the Rwandan genocide in the 90s, “cockroaches” was the favored term of Rwandan radio provocateurs.
While the use of the term is more than coincidental, the analogy to Rwanda remains remote. Limbaugh et al are not yet pounding out eliminationist themes in proportion to the Rwandan media of the 90s. (Here is the clip.) And no one is, as far as we know, openly arming themselves with machetes or other weapons for mass killings. When making comparisons of this sort, it is important to consider the differences as well as the similarities in order to arrive at a proportional understanding of the situation.
That said, Limbaugh’s eliminationist theme is unmistakable and it is worth considering the anti-democratic implications if his entire three minute tirade as he tells his audience that they are in a “war.”
Eliminationism has been building on right-wing hate radio in America for a long time, and the potential for political violence beyond isolated incidents is evident.
Dave Neiwert details how this can happen this in his book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, which I reviewed awhile back:
“What motivates this kind of talk and behavior,” Neiwert writes of the sometimes surprising viciousness from otherwise ordinary people, “is called eliminationism: 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.”
Neiwert stresses that eliminationist rhetoric “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—is the claim that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.” [emphasis added]
“The history of eliminationism in America and elsewhere,” he writes, “shows that rhetoric plays a significant role in the travesties that follow. It creates permission for people to act out in ways they might not otherwise. It allows them to abrogate their own humanity by denying the humanity of people deemed undesirable or a cultural contaminant.”
Crossposted from FrederickClarkson.com
Frederick Clarkson is an independent journalist, author and editor who has written about politics and religion for thirty years. He is the co-founder of the group blog Talk to Action, Senior Fellow at Political Research Associates, and lives in Massachusetts.
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