Monday, January 18, 2010

Reading Room: The Eliminationists - How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right

So what is Eliminationism? It is the view that your political opponents are so far beyond the pale that they need to be eliminated (politically growing into physically...) for the health of the body politic as a whole. The book starts with the true and chilling story of a guy going into a church and going postal - shooting people at random - until the congregation there wrestled him to the ground. The shooters justification? The church was full of liberals and liberals are trying to destroy America. It's a powerful opening and the author traces the ideas that motivated the shooter back though right-wing talk radio to far-right groups and conspiracy theorists - where they were born. What he argues is that the far-right has become enmeshed into the Republican Party to such a degree that crazy wacky ideas - the the global warming conspiracy or the 'reconquista' theory (where immigration is part of the plot to take back Texas from the US) - are now not fringe, but mainstream. In effect he is arguing that the kooks are running the asylum. It's a convincing argument and other that a slight diversion into the history of US slavery in the middle (less about Eliminationism and more about white-supremacy) is a well evidenced argument. What the book also lays out is how these crazy-ass ideas become the fertilizer for what the author calls proto-fascism - witness looney anti-Jewish ideas being the glue of the Nazis's rise to power. So what can we do about it? The author argues that we need to be robust is defending our ideas, to not back down. Yes we need to respect the average political opponent, but not in a craven way - and when the talk conspira-loon ideas (from left or right) call them out on it. It is also important to not allow ourselves to be type-cast, as that allows them to place us in a box. I enjoyed the book and it is good on the problems of US media (and to an extend the UK too) but there is not enough on solutions...

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