Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy-J Feldmann

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Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy-J Feldmann

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed May 07, 2008 11:43 am

Let me start by saying that I have not read all of Jeffrey Feldmann's new book Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy (Ig Publishing, 2008), but I did read the excerpt below and thought it made some excellent points.

You can read more of the excerpt here.

"The emergence of a cohort of right-wing pundits who use violent logic, language and arguments in national political debate did not gradually take shape over a long stretch of time, but rose up at a startling speed in the lead-up to the national elections of 2004 and 2006. As the horrific extent of the Iraqi military occupation waxed and George W. Bush's popularity waned, a hitherto sarcastic right-wing punditry seemed all at once to step into a new rhetorical frame. Suddenly, with Bush's re-election in doubt, casualties spiraling out of control, and revelations of U.S. military human rights abuses popping up all over, right-wing pundits shifted their tone from critique to conspiracy. The shift is summed up best by the opening line in Dinesh D'Souza's book The Enemy at Home: "The cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11."

Speaking personally, I regard the supplanting of more-or-less civilized political discourse in the USA by the issuing of bullying edicts from a tin-eared White House and its officials, willingly cheered on by a slew of ranting bloggers and fellow-travelling 'journalists', as extremely disturbing. While civilized political debate still exists here -- to a degree, at least -- its relative rarity is a sign of the genuine threat to America's liberal democracy from demagoguery and misinformation.

In the 20th century, the emergence around the globe of both right- and left-wing dictatorships and one-party states was usually accompanied and preceded by similar attempts to bludgeon a fake consensus into life in the minds of the public.

How much long-term success G W Bush and his myrmidons will turn out to have in coercing the American people's acceptance of their belligerent ideology and bankrupt policy positions still remains to be seen; but in a country that once aspired beyond the bestial in its governance and political set-up, the model it has presented to the world during the past eight years has been a dismal one indeed.

The first corrective step is to acknowledge the extent and nature of the current problem, as Jeffrey Feldmann appears to be trying to do here. It is potentially a useful adjunct to Al Gore's lucidly argued 2007 work The Assault on Reason, which, besides being a devastating critique of the G W Bush presidency and its anti-democratic ethos, also suggests how America's citizens can reclaim their democratic inheritance and avoid being steamrollered and suckered by another power-mad, arrogant regime in the future.
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Re: Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy-J Feldmann

Post by PhilHunt » Wed May 07, 2008 4:29 pm

Erik, I think you'll find that the language used in America post 2001 is not isolated to just the Bush government. I've noticed over the years following 911 a steady rise in racism and right wing movements across Europe, which is usually the result of successful scare tactics and venomous rhetoric by such movements.
In Italy, what used to be a fringe party, Lega Nord, has recently claimed a larger share of the vote than ever before and is part of the new incoming government, and considering it is only voted for in the north of Italy their 8% national share actually calculated to about 20% of voters in the North. Their policies are isolationism and devolution and they use false allegations, fuzzy statistics and bogus politics to scare people into thinking the country is under imminent attack from illegal immigrants.
An example of their radical tactics and hyperbole is their campaign poster this year which had a picture of a native American Indian and the message 'They didn't have the right to vote on immigration, and now they're living in a reserve....think about it'.
This thinking is so totally illogical. For a start, to compare immigrants entering Italy illegally via dangerous water crossings from Africa carrying no possessions and then working on the streets or begging for money with the colonisation of America by armed European forces backed by governments bent on land acquisition and robbing the land of natural resources is like comparing me coming to Italy with Napoleon conquering Italy.
However absurd their campaigning sounds people are buying into it, and intelligent people. I think here we are regressing back to a mentality similar to that which founded fascism in the first place, the 'pass the buck' mentality where we blame the ills of our failing governments on the black guy selling cigarette lighters in the street.
If you could understand what politicians say to each other in Italy your jaw would drop.
A couple of years ago Alessandra Mussolini, daughter of Benito the dictator and a politician in Italy, was on a political talk show facing a transvestite politician in one of the left wing parties (yes Italy has everything). The left wing politician was saying that Alessandra's parties policies were part of an old-world mentality which went back to fascism and was a redundant ideal in the modern world. A huge argument ensued which ended with Alessandra saying 'better fascist than queer'.
Last edited by PhilHunt on Wed May 07, 2008 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy-J Feldmann

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed May 07, 2008 4:55 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote:Let me start by saying that I have not read all of Jeffrey Feldmann's new book Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy (Ig Publishing, 2008), but I did read the excerpt below and thought it made some excellent points.
The excellent point being: the distortions of these excerpts should suffice to convince you not to read this book either.

The terms devolution and regression suggest the idea that human nature had made progress. Ha.
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Re: Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy-J Feldmann

Post by zmjezhd » Wed May 07, 2008 5:43 pm

Alessandra is Mussolini's granddaughter. She is also Sophia Lauren's niece.

The linguist, George Lakoff, has written a book, Whose Freedom? the battle over America's most important idea on the conceptual metaphors used to frame arguments between liberal and conservative ideologues, which you might find interesting.
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Re: Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy-J Feldmann

Post by gdwdwrkr » Wed May 07, 2008 5:55 pm

Sounds, zmjezhd, like it's worth a look, although the reviews I read keep referring to '"progressives'" inability to take back the concept of freedom'....antithetical.
Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, while certainly distorted too, offers much that is interesting, especially on the subject of Mussolini and his political progeny.
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