An Open Letter to John Sununu and
The New Hampshire Republican
In his book, “The Dark Side of Democracy”, UCLA professor Michael Mann documents the history of ethnic cleansing, from the Armenian genocide during WWI through more recent horrific events in Bosnia and Rwanda. The language of dehumanization (calling out-groups “parasites”, “leeches” or “vermin”, for example) is characteristic of those carrying out the ethnic, racial, religious or ideological cleansing (“extermination” of “pests”). So, to put it mildly, it is very alarming to see the Chairman of your committee (and a former Governor of your state) choose such labels for Democrats in the current 2012 campaign.
On Aug. 27, Gov. Sununu, in a nationally broadcast interview on C-Span says “It [NH] wasn’t a battleground state in 2010 – We swept the vermin out and it’s now a solid Republican state.” Sununu’s trash talking starts @ 1:04:10 below:
Just two weeks later, he is quoted in the NYT using the same dehumanizing label, and in the same way.
“We have seven weeks of hard work after Tuesday,” Mr. Sununu said. “I came in to clean the vermin out, then I’ll leave. I’m done. Done-zo. Finished. Kaput.”
So this is clearly no slip of the tongue, but an intentional use of language that is characteristic of demagogues and dictators.
Both of the quotes above are also documented on my public Facebook page, Stop Polarizing Talk, posted on Oct. 14 and 15. There I also include this description of the language of dehumanization, from wisegeek.com: “Dehumanization is the deliberate removal of sympathetic human traits when referring to members of an opposing ideology, race, political party or other source of conflict. Adolf Hitler’s references to Jews as ‘vermin’ or ‘rats’ is one example of dehumanization in action.”
This letter has also been published on that public page and on my website (see below).
I have also previously published on the topic of the increased use of stereotyping, scapegoating and dehumanization in our political discourse (in the book “At War with Words”) and I currently do public speaking on this topic. For more on that, see my website, www.stoppolarizingtalk.org