Ramping Up the Rhetoric


Down here we’re going about our normal lives as routinely as possible while of course keeping an alert if not anxious eye out onGustav. I’m lucky–Baton Rouge is well inland. If the track continues, we’ll see a storm, but won’t have to deal with the consequences of storm surge…or levee failures. Nonetheless, while I’m not on pins and needles, I’m wary enough: I’ve got family near the coastline around New Iberia and friends in NOLA, two of whom, with their two dogs, have an open invitation should they need to evacuate. And, while I’m quite fond of them, I’m obviously hoping we WON’T be seeing each other this weekend.

Unfortunately, asScout andJude (correction, VirgoTex) pointed out yesterday, there’s been sort of an opposite approach in the political rhetoric of late, i.e., a LOT of people are pointing to Gustav as a possible Katrina redux and the consequences for John McCain and the Grand Old Party. Well…I’m just as eager as everyone else to not only see John McCain defeated this November, but also witness the total repudiation of Cheney-Bush-Rove’ism, a political strategy as sickening as it gets…still, let’s keep things in perspective.

Sad to say, some of the talk reminded me first ofCharlie Black’s ugly little statement about how nothing would serve the Rethuglican electoral cause like a repeat of 9/11, which further reminded me of another example of rhetorical excess carried well beyond logical limits:an insuniation, believe it or not, that the floods in New Orleans could create sinister alliances between its citizens and “the Muslims.”


Yesterday, at my own blog (shameless plug), I noted that 9/11 wasn’t “New York’s problem,” storms and levee failures aren’t “Gulf Coasters’ problems” or “Midwesterners’ problems”…to shamelessly use some political rhetoric we might even hear this evening, these were/are “America’s” problem. Because last I checked, we were still one country.

I also think we’ve had quite enough dehumanizing from a generation or so of wingnut “philosophy” (for lack of a better term), culminating in an administration that’s governed with all the sophistication and subtlety of an embittered old drunk at the local watering hole. Which would be mildly amusing were it not so terribly tragic. 

9 thoughts on “Ramping Up the Rhetoric

  1. While I appreciate the props, all glory for that post should go to the estimable and indefatigable Virgo Tex.
    Give it up for Virgo Tex, everybody!

  2. I sincerely hope that Gustav passes the Gulf Coast and swerves or something… I don’t want the good people of NOLA or the Coast to have to deal with storms for a long time.

  3. I’m watching Barbara Jordan’s 1976 Democratic Keynote address and she addresses this very thing: “Many fear the future. Many are distrustful of their leaders, and believe that their voices are never heard. Many seek only to satisfy their private work — wants; to satisfy their private interests. But this is the great danger America faces — that we will cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest groups: city against suburb, region against region, individual against individual; each seeking to satisfy private wants. If that happens, who then will speak for America? Who then will speak for the common good?”

  4. And 32 years later, look where we are.
    But taking another look at that statement- “…this is the great danger America faces — that we will cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest groups…”- is that really a danger to be avoided? Some of our worst excesses as a nation have occurred when we were united in some narrow vision or philosophy: the subjugation of the Native Americans, the Spanish-American War, the early Vietnam era, and certain aspects of the response to 9/11 are the ones that stand out to me. Would it have been such a bad thing for there to have been a bit of dissension and disunity to slow down the momentum, to have people pause for a moment before rushing headlong to atrocity? The Federalist Papers warned of various dangers of factionalism; and yet the Founders realized that it was to some extent inevitable (there certainly were factions at the Constitutional Convention), and instead of abolishing it though oppression and tyranny it would be better to co-opt it into the system. So in some sense “who speaks for the common good” would be the sum total of all the various collections of interest groups, each pursuing their own parochial interests and forming alliances and coalitions with each other to get their agendas enacted, albeit in a mostly incremental and haphazard way.

    I also think we’ve had quite enough dehumanizing from a generation or so of wingnut “philosophy”

    I quite agree. But we’ve tried being nice and collegial and more or less non-confrontational with these people and all it got us was a big bag of nothing. Much as I hate to agree withBrad atSadly, No!, he does have a point: the politics of spite have been quite successful at winning elections. Spite works, unless you fight it. That’s why I supported Hillary in the primaries, because I was pretty sure she’d be better at fighting back. I hope to be proven wrong.
    One more thing. This is now the third post lamenting the “dehumanization” of pointing out that Gustav hitting New Orleans would remind people of Katrina. Come on! It’s like calling Rwanda or Darfur “genocides” is somehow dehumanizing and belittling the Holocaust. No, it isn’t. It is pointing out a literal truth. Do you deny that people will in fact be reminded of Katrina, if it happens?

  5. That’s a sobering quote, JJJ. I’ve really been wondering much the same…even before, but especially after the 2005 storms and NOLA flood, and the inevitable comparison to the horrific attack in 2001.
    Would the reaction, particularly re: the NOLA flood, been the same if it’d been a terrorist attack (i.e., dynamiting the floodwalls) instead of an engineering disaster? And what if the disaster had occurred not in conjunction with Katrina, but during a significant but not at all out of the ordinary storm?
    An otherwise conservative NOLA blogger noted that last thing…and it’s entirely possible that could have happened, in which case we would’ve easily been looking at tens of thousands of casualties. Would we still be seeing what in my opinion is a small albeit shrill minority (e.g. Glenn Beck) complaining about “the expense” of rebuilding?

  6. LiberalRob–
    “Dehumanizing” is in context not of the Gustav/Katrina comparisions, but Bush administration/wingnut “philosophy.” I thought that was plenty clear from the post…but to spell out my point, here goes:
    1. the Gustav/Katrina comparisons are, to those of us down here, in rather poor taste.
    2. They are in poor taste in the same way that Charlie Black’s statement about another terrorist attack being good for the Republicans/John McCain is in poor taste
    3. That same poor taste was demonstrated by Charles Payne a couple of years ago with his remarks re: New Orleanians and “Muslims” (an insult to New Orleanians AND Muslims, and, just to be even more clear, no, those are not mutually exclusive.)
    and, finally,
    4. Perhaps such poor taste is a reflection of a general philosophy on the part of neo-conservatives/wingnuts that encourages a dehumanizing of political enemies, foreigners, etc.
    I suppose there are those who consider it whining; I was hoping to place it more in context of going from things local to matters global. Plus I was satisfied with the graphic (to be fair, that’s a graphic I’d previously done, but it was in keeping with the spirit of the post plus I was busy with work this morning.)

  7. Dehumanizing of political enemies is not the exclusive province of neocons/wingnuts or the Bush Administration, though they certainly are exemplars of it. And because something is in poor taste doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. Or that it’s bad politics. I refer you toDave Neiwert’s essays on “Eliminationism in America.” So, what’s your answer to my question?
    Glenn Beck is a douchebag and wrong (as far as I can tell from his lengthy list of appearances on Media Matters and Think Progress, he’s always wrong about everything). Charlie Black apparently is also a douchebag, but he was right. Charles Payne just sounds like a nut.
    I like the graphic. Good job!

  8. I’d like to think we don’t need a reminder. Yes, that’s not really answering your question, but that’s the point a lot of us are trying to make. Similarly, we don’t need to be reminded of 9/11 with another terrorist attack (or, for political science nerds like myself, another coup in Chile), I hope we don’t need a presidential assassination to remind us of JFK…personally, I don’t need another violent assault at gunpoint to remind me that way, way back (January 1, 1984–the date makes it easy to remember) I became a crime statistic.
    Like I said, I’m as eager as anyone to consign Bush/Cheney/Rovism–and their latest proxy, McCain–to the political dustbin. But the reaction to a potential killer storm as agent was and a bit casual when you consider the costs for those who were affected.
    Let’s hope the damn thing just fizzles out, drifts away with no further harm, and ends with a whimper…which is what I’d also like to see with this administration.

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