U.S. Leaders Dehumanize Fellow Americans
On the political talk radio shows of major hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage, polarizing linguistic strategies, such as stereotyping, scapegoating and dehumanization, are used as part of a deeply unethical business model. I call it “a business model with political benefits for some,” while the rest of our political culture suffers and is dragged into the rhetorical gutter as others imitate the mega-voices.
Most of the imitators are regional and local talk show hosts, including liberal ones, such as Mike Malloy. Listeners, too, repeat what they hear, and memes promoted from the top-down (such as health care reform being “jammed down the throats of the American people”), show up in blogs and on threads following stories on political issues.
Linguistic strategies of polarization are the currency of propagandists. It is cause for genuine alarm if national representatives or political leaders begin to use them. In 2011 and 2012, this has become the case. Scroll down to read an open letter I mailed to Democratic Representative Maxine Waters, who recently labeled GOP leaders “demons” at the California Democratic Convention. This is in the same mold as Republican Grover Norquist, who labeled Democrats “parasites” at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. In the tradition of demagogues and dictators, language is spewed from the podium to dehumanize those one disagrees with. It is bad enough that dehumanization is used to grab attention on talk shows, where Limbaugh or Beck call liberals “parasites” or “leeches”, but it is truly dangerous when political leaders publicly promote the use of deeply denigrating words. Is it any wonder that, with increasing frequency, dehumanizing labels are used by neighbor against neighbor, in the public square we call the blogosphere? This is the language of ethnic or ideological cleansing. It is tearing at the fabric of democracy.
For a more detailed definition of dehumanization, see http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-dehumanization.htm