Eliminationism in Action!

At a shooting range in Louisiana, a woman has a suggestion to Rick Santorum who is taking target practice.

WEST MONROE, Louisiana – At a campaign stop at a firing range, while Rick Santorum was firing off some rounds, a woman shouted, “pretend it’s Obama.”

Santorum, who was far from the woman, couldn’t hear the comment as he proceeded with his target practice. Neither could his staffers.

To his eternal credit, Santorum, who did not hear the comment at the time, said,

“It’s absurd,” Santorum said of the woman’s outburst when reporters told him about it. “No we’re not pretending it’s anybody but shooting pistols. It’s a very terrible and horrible remark and I’m glad I didn’t hear it.”

But the GOP have planted the corn of eliminationism, they should not be surprised or horrified when it pops up at their campaign events.  Hate radio has caused eliminationism to metastasize in the American body politic.  The author of the book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right talks about how, to the modern Republican voter

it’s simply become a cornerstone of conservative beliefs that all the world’s ills can be laid at the feet of liberalism. It’s also a built-in feature of right-wing ideology to construct an Enemy. So when the Enemy is something as broad and popularly embraced as liberalism, it’s not too long before your world becomes narrow and enclosed, and everything outside of it is the Enemy.

What that’s produced has been a nonstop harangue from the right demonizing liberals generally, and liberal politicians particularly. Remember that Bill Clinton was evil because he had “bad character.” John Kerry “lied” about his war service. Barack Obama was a scary “Mooslim” brown man. And more generally, antiwar liberals have been dismissed as mere “Bush haters” and “America haters” and, in the early years of the Iraq war particularly, as “traitors.”

This rhetoric is not simply dehumanizing — it also characterizes its subject as fit only for elimination, expurgation, exile or extermination. So we get frequent references to them as diseases and vermin, or carriers of them, as well as scum or filth of various kinds. We get spoken wishes to purge them, drive them out, do away with them — often couched as “jokes” for which it’s only possible to see any humor if you share that wish.


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