Eliminationist rhetoric and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords: There were plenty of precursors

Giffords Event

Please see this update

David Neiwert writes:

It can happen, in fact, because conservatives so thoughtlessly and readily use violent eliminationist rhetoric when talking about “liberals” (to wit: anyone who is not a conservative). They will adamantly deny it, of course, but the cold reality is that this kind of talk creates permission for angry and violent people to act it out.

Crooks and Liars: Eliminationist rhetoric and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords: There were plenty of precursors

Neiwert wrote in his book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right:

a particular trend that has manifested itself with increasing intensity in the past decade: the positing of elimination as the solution to political disagreement. Rather than engaging in a dialogue over political and cultural issues, one side simply dehumanizes its opponents and suggests, and at times demands, their excision. This tendency is almost singularly peculiar to the American Right and manifests itself in many venues: on radio talk shows and in political speeches, in bestselling books and babbling blogs. Most of all, we can feel it on the ground: in our everyday lives, in our encounters, big and small, with each other.

I have a hard time blaming Palin’s antics and the “Target” campaign, any more than I blame rap music or action movies for other violence. At the same time, I don’t think this elimination rhetoric is entirely blameless. I’m reminded of Leon Wieseltier’s words about religion and terrorism:

If the standpoint of broadly collective responsibility was the wrong way to explain the atrocities, so too was the standpoint of purely individual responsibility. There were currents of culture behind the killers. Their ideas were not only their own.

It’s worth revisiting Sara Robinson’s writing on the 2010 election as the a tipping point for fascism. This is the first high profile case of non-state violence since the election. This incident does not a trend make. If we’re lucky, this could be the event that turns discredits the Tea Party. They get shamed out of public life and the violence stops. I wouldn’t bet on it though.

This conversation around Dr. Tiller’s death is also very relevant today.

(via Zen Werewolf)


  1. Godwinned yourself in the first word of the title of your post, good job.

  2. Careless – that may well be the case (FWIW, I didn’t write the headline, but I didn’t choose to change it either).

    However, I don’t think “eliminiationist” is an exaggeration here. Check out the list of quotes at the end of this article:


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