The Difference Between a Dog Whistle and a History Book

For those of you who participated in last night's Institutional Memory Quiz, the answer is: Adolph Hitler.

One commenter noted: "I didn't want to go there, as the whole Republican=Nazi narrative is insulting to many, but if I am correct I may just weep."

I agree that any sane person would be insulted to be compared to the founder of the Third Reich, and personally, I hate it when terms like "feminazi" and "fascist" get thrown around with abandon (and without any substantiating, factual evidence to back such characterizations) -- and that, my friends, is the difference between a "dog-whistle" and a history book.

You may have seen/heard the term "dog-whistle" quite a bit lately -- it generally refers to the use of a coded phrase which allows the speaker to "signal" a certain meaning to a targeted population which understands this meaning, while maintaining plausible deniability if they are called out.

I'd like to talk about what I call the "pavlovian dog whistle", which is the use of a word or phrase that touches on pre-existing enculturated fears and biases -- I believe that we see a lot of these in the news, and in political speech today.

I believe that this is why the phrase "Homosexual Agenda" works so well to inflame the radical Right.

The word "Homosexual", all on its lonesome, seems to engender a visceral response in those who have been trained, from birth, to believe that homosexuality is Teh Evil (yes, even in me, a die-hard queer).

Quite honestly, I've always found"homosexual" a fairly unpleasant word, in both sound and structure. It has too many syllables, for one thing, yet the first part of it simply cannot roll off the tongue in the light and lilting manner that the greater-syllabled "hetero-" seems to do.

Add to this the fact that, in order to pronounce "homosexual", you have to say the word "homo", which lingers in most English-speaking brains as the most withering school-yard taunt possible -- a word so awful that children had to point out that their milk was "homo"genized, and then dare each other to drink it. Yuk. Yuk.

Take this nasty, dreadful word and tack on the word "Agenda", and Voila! -- you summon the image of meetings, plans, organized action, and the dire plottings of the kids you terrorized on the playground by calling them a "homo", now bent en masse on exacting their revenge.

Now that's scary.

The thing is: There has never, in the history of civilization, been a mass take-over of any country by "homosexuals". Never. Homosexuals have never instigated executions of heterosexuals, or closed down heterosexual night-clubs, or made laws that prohibited heterosexuals from enjoying sex or marriage with their chosen partners. Never. Not once.

There are all sorts of pavlovian dog-whistles out there these days, rousing the hounds who consciously want to continue racism, sexism, antisemitism, and xenophobia -- and worse, evoking responses in people who don't consciously embrace such views, but who may be unaware that certain deeply enculturated biases are being stimulated in them.

I hear them all the time -- the most prominent being: "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

This meme saturates the "news"-media. It doesn't really matter what "they" say, or imply, you "should" be afraid of -- the big black guy, the money-grubbing jew, the conniving woman, the homo who wants to molest your kids, the Muslim terrorist, the illegal-alien -- it just matters that you're afraid.

Some could argue that, by posting my Institutional Memory Quiz, I'm blowing a Bush=Hitler dog-whistle -- however, to me there is a difference, and that difference rests in what I'm asking you to do with the information. I'm asking you to take a look at documented actions of one individual, and compare them to documented actions of another individual -- not so that you will be afraid, not so that you will demonize that individual, but so that you will critically consider those actions, and draw your own correlations and conclusions.

We, as a species, within living memory, have seen actions like these before. Our parents and grandparents can speak to us about the likely consequences of such actions. They can tell us where these roads lead, so that we can take a different path.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." ~ George Santayana

Insanity: Doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:45 PM  


Anonymous said... January 12, 2008 at 2:51 AM  

And there are also those duck metaphores: lame duck and walking like a duck.

I really fear that America cannot survive the next year. We are going to experience some really ugly times, domestic violence and date rape violence times, I fear.

The Rooches

pidomon said... January 12, 2008 at 8:53 AM  

Best of example of a dog whistler is Rush Limpballs.

And now that Barrack "HUSSEIN" Obama is in a tight race for the nomination he brings out the Hussien, and Magic Negro more and more all the while claiming "I didnt say that"

And dont even get me going on how he responds to Hillary.

I often find it humorous when Rush and those of his ilk talk about deranged bush hatred syndrome.

Then you say CLENIS to them and it's 1995 all over again.

JackGoff said... January 12, 2008 at 10:19 AM  

Excellent point, PD. One of the things that gets lost when people claim the Bush = Hitler thing is an ad hominem attack is the simple fact that, when judged ethically, both should be unequivocally condemned.

lB said... January 15, 2008 at 8:09 PM  

Ok, but I go back to Reagan/Clinton. Who was it that signed the Family Act. Or was it teh protection of marrage act? Dipshit that he was and is...uhhmm Clinton.

I'm not a Republican by any stretch but the Dems haven't been so attentive either.

GACK. There are more recent murderers and scroundrels than Hitler. Take a look around the world..madness, everywhere. Or is Hitler just the library reference point of all that can and has gone wrong everywhere in the world? I guess we can thank politics or religion for most of it.

Example of what is still happening: OH? We invade Iraq bcause Saudi Arabia has the terrorists..but gee! They are our friends..and they have the oil? That would be Major Frank Burns, MASH Unit 4077. Except he wouldn't understand the oil owning part of it. Should we all stick our heads in the sand? That is what "They" are expecting. Whose oil is it anyway? And all those cheap TATA cars...well, just lets bomb India. They will cause global warming..not us.

OK, I guess I just made the "no fly" list. Screw them. Sometime we all have to speak up.
Fine, I'll never fly to Canada again. They are so squeamish there at that border..

PortlyDyke said... January 15, 2008 at 8:55 PM  

LB -- My post certainly is not intended to simply cite Hitler as the only murderer and scoundrel of history, but rather, to point up the difference between using a "dog-whistle" and citing legitimate concerns about real actions.

My concern is that, if Americans do not remember something so obvious as the correlations between Hitler's early acts as Chancellor, and Bush's in his first four years, the more "subtle" examples are sure to be overlooked.

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