Thursday, July 21, 2005

What is eliminationism?

David Neiwert's blog, Orcinus, studies a disturbing trend.

What, really, is eliminationism?

It's a fairly self-explanatory term: it describes a kind of politics and culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas for the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through complete suppression, exile and ejection, or extermination.

I first encountered it in Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners, which is in many regards a problematic text, especially insofar as it describes prewar German society as almost uniquely predisposed to antisemitism. But Goldhagen's text correctly identifies and describes the essence of the Nazi campaign against the Jews as eliminationist in nature, something that was made undeniably manifest in the Holocaust.

But while eliminationism's most startling historical example was provided by the Nazis, it also has a long and appalling history in the annals of American democracy. It was manifest in the genocidal wars against Native Americans, when "the only good Indian was a dead Indian": in the many anti-immigrant campaigns waged by Nativists of many different stripes; in night-riding Ku Klux Klansmen, Jim Crow segregation, and the lynch mobs who murdered thousands of innocent blacks during the heyday of white supremacism; in the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II; in the continuing march of hate crimes that target various kinds of "undesirable" members of society for terrorization and exclusion; and in the lingering far-right "militias" and related hate groups who scapegoat minorities and immigrants, gays and lesbians, government officials, and liberals generally, making them the targets of both hateful rhetoric and actual violence.

If you don't like what you just read, better not read any further. That's just the tip of an iceberg. If you have been lapping up too much talk radio, this is stuff that will only make you angry. By the time you follow the links and let yourself be, to use one of Mr. Boortz' favorite lines "hosed down" as one of the great unwashed, you will be trembling with frustration. Better you should move on to another post.

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