All eliminationist rhetoric is not equal

I'd like to examine what I consider to be a textbook example of genuine eliminationist rhetoric. (As opposed to the highly questionable variety discussed by Rick Moran.)


I found the above picture at a post by Tammy Bruce titled "Hezbollah Among Us."

Calls for destruction of Israel and the Jews are nothing new, and had the same picture had been taken in any number of places in the Mideast, it wouldn't be all that newsworthy.

But -- it was taken at a demonstration in New York.

In this country, advocacy of genocide is normally thought of as a right wing phenomenon. Had the above people been wearing Nazi uniforms, they'd have almost certainly been greeted by huge and angry counterdemonstrations, like those which greeted the uniformed Nazis here. As it happens, I consider advocates of genocide against Jews to be on the right, but it really doesn't matter whether they're considered on the left or the right. They are engaged, quite literally, in eliminationist rhetoric.

So why is it that this literal eliminationist rhetoric -- advocacy, right here in the United States, of genocide against the Jews -- would not be called eliminationist rhetoric by the people who routinely use the term against the likes of Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh? (Or would it? Please enlighten me if my suspicions are wrong.)

Is it because "eliminationist rhetoric" is some sort of leftist code language? Frankly, I think it would be more likely that Tammy Bruce would be accused of using "ER" simply for suggesting that the genocide advocates be deported:

This is one example where everyone at this rally carrying signs calling for Israel's destruction and are sympathetic to Hezbollah should be considered supporters of the enemy, arrested and interrogated. And then, of course, either jailed or deported. And if they have somehow managed to become citizens of the United States, they should be stripped of that honor and then deported back to the pit from whence they came.
Take another look at that picture. If the same people were from Germany and they were wearing Nazi uniforms, wouldn't there be an outcry to deport them?

I think there would be. Even though we're no longer at war with Germany, but we are at war with international terrorists.

Or am I missing something?

MORE: My confusion may touch on the definition of "genocide." As Glenn Reynolds observes, all genocide is not equal:

... in lefty newspeak, "genocide" is a code word meaning "self-defense" . . .
But - but - but. Exterminating Jews as self defense?

Well, yes. There was a film with precisely that theme.

(Um, wouldn't that be "oldspeak" then?)

UPDATE: My "extremest" thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post!

Welcome all.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, here's Austin Bay on fascism:

Fascists organizations often have an imperial restorationist rhetorical pitch and political platform. Mussolini certainly did and Bin Laden does.

posted by Eric on 07.26.06 at 10:46 AM


Well, there IS a swastika in the placard, but I doubt the guy holding it appreciates the irony.

But to answer your question: yes, you are missing something. You're assuming a perspective of moral non-relativity, in which the same rhetoric from different parties is treated identically. A broad swath of political thought has never believed this is a valid way to view the world.

One implication of the acceptance of identity politics is that one's behavior is judged partially on the basis on who one is, especially in terms of how much victimhood (which excuses/explains one's actions) one can lay claim to. The effect is as pervasive as it is pernicious, visible in everything from the Duke rape case to Palestinian "martyrs" to Ward Churchill's career.

TallDave   ·  July 26, 2006 12:13 PM

yes you are missing something.

The people in question are a member of an "oppressed group" thus one may not question or make any remark critical.

This is the height of racism, not only toward Jews but toward said protected group as it implies that we can't expect them to be "civilized".

It will burn us.

peter   ·  July 26, 2006 12:16 PM

Hmm ... since Islam is the Religion of Peace maybe the protesters are using the benign Tibetan swastika?

Laika's Last Woof   ·  July 26, 2006 12:42 PM

The example of implicitly describing a certain political movement responsible for much of the grief and carnage of the 20th Century as being far right is flawed, since they were, and are, by definition, far left.

How's that for a run-on sentence?

Phillip Brisco   ·  July 26, 2006 1:21 PM


"But to answer your question: yes, you are missing something. You're assuming a perspective of moral non-relativity, in which the same rhetoric from different parties is treated identically. A broad swath of political thought has never believed this is a valid way to view the world."

Frankly, I don't think anybody does:

Not that I have a problem with that. Lets me advocate bombing Hezbollah into the Stone Age, too.

Bernard Guerrero   ·  July 26, 2006 1:33 PM

Don't be silly. Of course this is eliminationist rhetoric. And yes, it appears on all sides of various political aisleways. The question, as always, is the extent to which it appears, who is wielding it, and to what end.

Eliminationism is in fact a common feature of the rhetoric of the Middle East, and most of it is nakedly anti-Semitic. This is not exactly news, even when the demonstrators are appearing on American streets. (You may also want to note that my blog does not deal with Middle East politics, so it is unlikely to address this kind of instance.)

But that does not excuse its appearance in the American body politic, nor lessen the significance of it.

Funny that you would worry about this kind of eliminationism but still carry Misha -- a past master of the right-wing variety -- on your blogroll.

David Neiwert   ·  July 26, 2006 1:48 PM

Looks like your run-of-the-mill Democrat to me.

Peg C.   ·  July 26, 2006 1:50 PM

Mr. Neiwert,

I've looked at your blogroll, and you have no room to talk, sir. Just the other side of the aisle, and many I would consider to be in Misha's league.

David R. Block   ·  July 26, 2006 2:14 PM

Mr. Neiwert,

Misha says some stupid things, from what I can tell, mostly for rhetorical effect. Not my thing, but it hardly is the same to rhetorically do what Misha (or Sadly No!) does and to actually advocate for an action to actually occur. I would hope that we could all see the difference, but despair overwhelms me if I contemplate it.

This is serious stuff. If the blogosphere wants to play games over who's rhetoric is more over the top that is all fine and well. Glenn Greenwald has built a nice niche, granted with a legion of homegrown fans if you will, but nevertheless a nice niche with this particular career choice. It is not serious however and if we cannot separate real murderous thugs from normal partisan obsession we are doing ourselves a profound disfavor.

Reading Misha shows bad taste, saying that reading him and what Eric is talking about is similar is tragic in its obtuseness.

Lance   ·  July 26, 2006 3:00 PM

I agree with the main point of your post but an honest reading of the poster in foreground doesn't support the idea that it promotes genocide. While advocating for the destruction of the state of Israel is often used as code for "kill all the jews" not everyone means it that way.

For example, Americans often conceive of our enemies as states ex Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, Red China, which exist separate from the vast majority of the people within them. We seek the utter destruction of the state without attempting any kind of extermination of the population within. Likewise, someone can advocate for the destruction of the state of Israel while not intending to slaughter the inhabitants.

Perhaps you should get a different image to illustrate your point.

Shannon Love   ·  July 26, 2006 3:22 PM

You're reading a bit much into this picture. It's just a photo of a noisy and unpleasant fellow lowering downtown property values. He's not actually advocating genocide, or even anything against Jews. He is stating a faith, albeit overly fervent, that Allah will destroy a country. No hostility to anyone, Jewish or otherwise, outside the country, is necessarily implied. The sign doesn't qualify as incitement to violence, as we can be moderately certain that Allah doesn't take his marching orders from noisy people in New York. In fact, no violence, even by Allah, is actually demanded - Allah might use some old trick (say, a plague of locusts) to destroy the country by rendering it economically non-viable. The "terrorist state of Israel" part is rubbish, of course, and could appeal only to someone who is a bit vague about the meaning of the word "terrorist", but that can be excused in what may well be a non-native speaker of English. And there is no legal requirement that any public statement in the US be demonstrably correct.

So, the guy's a jerk, but we're supposed to tolerate jerks. Up to a point, at least, and that particular jerk doesn't seem to have reached that point yet. Of course once he or his buddies do reach that point - well, that's why we keep gadgets like the A-10 in service. The trick which evades so many in American politics - like, say, the DNC - lies in identifying that point.

tom swift   ·  July 26, 2006 3:48 PM

Regarding my blogroll. . .


I know my blogroll is a bit crowded, but anyone who takes the time to look over to the right and scroll way down will see see that in addition to blogrolling Misha, I also blogroll Mr. Neiwert! (As "Orcinus" -- located between "JunkyardBlog" and "Ideofact.")

Feel free to question my judgment, but that's the way it is.

Eric Scheie   ·  July 26, 2006 3:55 PM

It's not the poster, per se, but as Peter up there comments, the paradigm is in fact very simple.

Racism and Fascism CAN NOT EXIST.... in any form.... unless it is practiced by a white, Christian, Euro-Amero person.

This is beyond any debate to the left, as Christ's divinity simply is not in any way a point of discussion with an evangelical. There is nothing to discuss, it simply is.

Try out that theory and tell me I am wrong. Is there anywhere on earth, with any regime committing the most unfathomable crimes, but if they do not fit the above description, well, there you go...

This is, of course, by definition itself racist. Now try an tell them that.

Andrew X   ·  July 26, 2006 4:38 PM

The sign that really scares me is the one that says that Islam will dominate, and shows a picture of a crescent flag flying over the White House. Theocratic rhetoric is scarier to me than picking the wrong horse in a war in the Mid-East.

Jon Thompson   ·  July 26, 2006 5:05 PM

In this country, advocacy of genocide is normally thought of as a right wing phenomenon. Had the above people been wearing Nazi uniforms, they'd have almost certainly been greeted by huge and angry counterdemonstrations, like those which greeted the uniformed Nazis here. As it happens, I consider advocates of genocide against Jews to be on the right,...

I realize that this is merely a side issue to your main point, but I would like to comment on it anyway.

This attitude ("Calls for Genocide=The Right") is extremely puzzling to me. I just can't see how anyone can come to that conclusion. After all, wasn't it the National Socialists who are guilty of trying to systematically exterminate the Jews? The very name indicates which side of the political fence they sit on, yet people still insist that the Nazis were of the Right.

And let us not forget the Man of Steel. Didn't Stalin manufacture a famine in an attempt at genocide? I don't think anyone can reasonably claim that a Communist is anything but of the Left, yet people still claim that anyone advocating or attempting genocide is Right-wing.

James Rummel   ·  July 27, 2006 9:56 AM

None of this matters.

The higher degree of eliminationism from some sources does not mitigate the eliminationist, threatening, harmful, hateful rhetoric of Coulter, Savage, etc.

Further, the comparison makes no sense whatsoever. The two realms are not comparable.

Ann Coulter should be compared to her equivalent on the left, such as Gore Vidal or Michael Moore. I challenge you to find one expression in the writing of either of these people that suggests that people hit their political enemies with baseball bats, wish terrorists to attack their families, or put people in jail based on their sexuality.

RayButler   ·  July 27, 2006 3:02 PM


Maybe comparing Ann Coulter to Gore Vidal might have some merit...maybe. But Michael Moore? At least Ann makes serious attempts to source her material and to obtain some level of accuracy.

Her rhetoric may be shrill, but I've found her reasonably accurate. She make mistakes, but she does not deliberately lie.

Michael Moore OTOH, is not so discriminating...

Natrium   ·  July 27, 2006 5:52 PM

Ray- I actually seem to remember Mike's 9/11 message saying something to the effect that he was confused that the terrorists targeted Democrats and not Republicans. To me, that isn't far from saying, "Yeah, go ahead and kill them. That's just fair."

Jon Thompson   ·  July 28, 2006 3:10 AM

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