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Book Review: Dave Neiwert’s The Eliminationists

Review by Guest Contributor Susan G

The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right By David Neiwert

The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right By David Neiwert

The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right
By David Neiwert
$16.96, 174 pages
Paperback original
PoliPointPress, May 2009: Sausalito, CA
Available for $11.53 @ amazon1

It’s a neat trick. Not only has the village lunatic gained permission to continue wandering the town square poking everyone he dislikes in the eye with a sharp stick, but he gets to claim victimhood when the victims respond angrily. Unfortunately, in the process, the whole village is transformed, and not for the better.

Rarely has a book been released at a time when it’s been more relevant than David Neiwert’s The Eliminationists. Neiwert, an award-winning journalist and blogger at Orcinus and of late, at Crooks and Liars, has focused for years on that fine, scary line where heated rhetoric gives way to pure hate speech, and where fantasies of inflicting violence morph into the real thing. With the killing of three Pittsburgh police officers by a white-supremacist radical, an understanding of the right-wing extremists now deeply embedded in the modern conservative movement is more important than ever.

And lucky we are to have such a guide as Neiwert, who over the years has become the absolute master of the study of hate speech, authoritarianism and violence. His new book is the culmination of decades of watching the far right, listening to talk radio, tracking militias and extremists, and cataloging incidents inspired by false facts and the stoking of paranoia. Heck, for the naming of the phenomenon alone, he should be thanked:

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.

Admit it: We all knew there was a better word we were waiting for. Finally, it has arrived. While we’re at it, let’s have him define an overused (but strangely enough, underdefined) term for us at the outset:

Fascism is passionate nationalism, allied to a conspiratorial dualism and a crude Social Darwinism, voiced with resentment toward the forces, or conditions, that restrain “the chosen people.”

Sound vaguely familiar? It should. As Neiwert shows, this country since the 1990s has been undergoing what he terms para-fascist tendencies going mainstream as those once on the fringes have begun infecting one of the two major political parties and co-opting conservatism, making of it the paranoiac, reactionary–and, most frighteningly–increasingly violent crew we now hear regularly on Fox News and on talk radio.

The first portion of The Eliminationists lays out in careful detail the evidence, in cite after cite, of

… a particular trend that has manifested itself with increasing intensity in the past decade: 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. This tendency is almost singularly peculiar to the American Right and manifests itself in many venues: on radio talk shows and in political speeches, in bestselling books and babbling blogs. Most of all, we can feel it on the ground: in our everyday lives, in our encounters, big and small, with each other.

His insistence on the right-wing nature of modern eliminationism holds up, despite cries from the conservatives that “liberals do it too.” Neiwert acknowledges that leftists have been known–less frequently–to toss around talk of assassination or insurrection but, he points out, they tend to focus on threatening talk toward an individual (think Cheney or Bush), not an entire category of human beings. The far right, on the other hand…

In contrast, right-wing rhetoric has been explicitly eliminationist, calling for the infliction of harm on whole blocs of American citizens: liberals, gays and lesbians, Latinos, blacks, Jews, feminists, or whatever target group is the victim du jour of right-wing ire.

This distinction is crucial, and Neiwert makes an alarming case for the fact that the rhetoric that leads up to violent crimes against whole classes of individuals is a necessary ingredient to the carrying out of the penultimate acts, that without the vicious cheerleading, many of the acts would not be carried out because, he says, “such rhetoric has played a critical role in giving permission for it to proceed, by creating the cultural and psychological conditions that enable the subsequent violence.” At the bottom of such rhetoric is a savagely anti-democratic, American-hating ethos too, despite the flag-cocooning in which the shouters participate.

Continued @ daily kos logo

Blogger Note: Please take the time and read the entire review by Susan G and check out the book if you can. Even though this review was written in April of 2009, the extremism shown in the last few months make it more timely that ever.

Dave Neiwert was a featured guest tonight on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Neiwert is being interviewed by Lawrence O’Donnell in the video:

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