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Product Details

  • Paperback: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Paradigm Publishers; 1ST edition (May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0981576982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0981576985
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Neiwert (Strawberry Days), founder of the political blog Orcinus, links the proliferation of radical conservative ideas in the political mainstream to the looming specter of eliminationism, an ideology rejecting dialogue and debate in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and eviction, or extermination. Eliminationism has taken many forms in American history, from the attitudes of early settlers toward the Native Americans they displaced and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan to the establishment of Sundown Towns that banned nonwhite residents and the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. In recent years, the eliminationist urge, articulated by conservative fringe groups associated with the Christian Patriot movement, has emerged in talk radio, news networks and national press outlets providing a platform for attacks on immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals and liberals. In these efforts, the author discerns a nascent American fascism, an argument that is by turns frightening and overwrought. Rich in historical and journalistic detail, the book offers a fine overview of the uglier strains in American politics. However, those looking for concrete solutions will find the author's call for ever-increasing vigilance somewhat less than fortifying.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Rarely has a book been released at a time when it's been more relevant than David Neiwert's The Eliminationists. Neiwert, an award-winning journalist and blogger at Orcinus and of late, at Crooks and Liars, has focused for years on that fine, scary line where heated rhetoric gives way to pure hate speech, and where fantasies of inflicting violence morph into the real thing. With the killing of three Pittsburgh police officers by a white-supremacist radical, an understanding of the right-wing extremists now deeply embedded in the modern conservative movement is more important than ever.

And lucky we are to have such a guide as Neiwert, who over the years has become the absolute master of the study of hate speech, authoritarianism and violence. His new book is the culmination of decades of watching the far right, listening to talk radio, tracking militias and extremists, and cataloging incidents inspired by false facts and the stoking of paranoia. Heck, for the naming of the phenomenon alone, he should be thanked:

Eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.

Admit it: We all knew there was a better word we were waiting for. Finally, it has arrived. While we're at it, let's have him define an overused (but strangely enough, underdefined) term for us at the outset:

Fascism is passionate nationalism, allied to a conspiratorial dualism and a crude Social Darwinism, voiced with resentment toward the forces, or conditions, that restrain "the chosen people."

Sound vaguely familiar? It should. As Neiwert shows, this country since the 1990s has been undergoing what he terms para-fascist tendencies going mainstream as those once on the fringes have begun infecting one of the two major political parties and co-opting conservatism, making of it the paranoiac, reactionary--and, most frighteningly--increasingly violent crew we now hear regularly on Fox News and on talk radio.

The first portion of The Eliminationists lays out in careful detail the evidence, in cite after cite, of

... 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.

His insistence on the right-wing nature of modern eliminationism holds up, despite cries from the conservatives that "liberals do it too." Neiwert acknowledges that leftists have been known--less frequently--to toss around talk of assassination or insurrection but, he points out, they tend to focus on threatening talk toward an individual (think Cheney or Bush), not an entire category of human beings. The far right, on the other hand...

In contrast, right-wing rhetoric has been explicitly eliminationist, calling for the infliction of harm on whole blocs of American citizens: liberals, gays and lesbians, Latinos, blacks, Jews, feminists, or whatever target group is the victim du jour of right-wing ire.

This distinction is crucial, and Neiwert makes an alarming case for the fact that the rhetoric that leads up to violent crimes against whole classes of individuals is a necessary ingredient to the carrying out of the penultimate acts, that without the vicious cheerleading, many of the acts would not be carried out because, he says, "such rhetoric has played a critical role in giving permission for it to proceed, by creating the cultural and psychological conditions that enable the subsequent violence." At the bottom of such rhetoric is a savagely anti-democratic, American-hating ethos too, despite the flag-cocooning in which the shouters participate.

Indeed, one of the more disturbing elements in what we are currently witnessing on the right is the "mainstreaming" and normalizing of extremist talk through "patriotic" transmitters. Neiwert explains:

"Transmitters" of fringe ideas into the mainstream have two audiences. The first (and by far the largest) is made up of the many millions of ordinary mainstream conservatives who tune in and log on to the Right's army of media talking heads and movement leaders. The second includes their xenophobic counterparts on the far Right, where the memes come from in the first place. For the latter, these transmissions signal that their formerly unacceptable beliefs are gaining acceptance; they hear these transmissions as an invitation for them to move into the mainstream without having to change their views. The former hears them as an invitation to think more like the latter without shame.

The result of all this perversion of nationalism and so-called patriotism is not just sprees of deadly shootings such as we saw in Pittsburgh. "This kind of rhetoric is, in effect," Neiwert writes, "the death of discourse itself. Instead of offering an opposing idea, it simply shuts down intellectual exchange and replaces it with the brute intention to silence and eliminate." And at the heart of democracy lies the belief that no matter our differences, we are committed to communication. When silence falls, democracy loses, and the author here maintains that when hate rhetoric is employed, at its base it really is a hatred of America itself--with its stated ideals of pluralism--that is the unacknowledged target.

"Eliminationism--including the rhetoric that precedes it and fuels it--expresses a kind of self-hatred," Neiwert claims. "In an American culture that advertises itself as predicated on inclusiveness, eliminationism runs precisely counter to those ideals. Eliminationists, at heart, hate the very idea of America."

The sub-textual paradox that the second half of the book balances against such anti-American ideation is ... that such tendencies have been part of America from the start. This latter portion of the book is at times nearly too much to bear as the history of white European domination and eradication of Native Americans is detailed, as well as the lynchings of African Americans, the backlash against Chinese immigrants and the round-up of Japanese Americans for internment bears witness. Indeed, as Neiwert points out, nearly identical language is unleashed today against Latino immigrants as there have been against different waves of "others" in our collectively shameful past; even such modern "heroes" as the Minutemen can trace their lineage back to the lynching mobs and vigilantism of the early 20th century.

Tendencies toward fascism, both in our historical past and in our current political climate, can be triggered by what the author calls "the mobilizing passions." As a checklist, it's probably one of the most useful I've run across:

1. A sense of overwhelming crisis beyond the reach of any traditional solutions.

2. The primacy of the group, toward which one has duties superior to every right, both universal and personal, and the subordination of the individual to it.

3. The belief that the group one belongs to is victimized, which justifies any action without legal or moral limits against the group's enemies, both internal and external.

4. Dread of the group's decline under the corrosive effect of individualistic liberalism, class conflict, and alien influences.

5. The need for closer integration of a purer community, by consent if possible, or by exclusionary violence if necessary.

6. The need for authority by natural leaders (always male), culminating in a national chief who alone is capable of incarnating the group's destiny.

7. The superiority of the leader's instincts over abstract and universal reason.

8. The beauty of violence and the efficacy of will, when they are devoted to the group's success.

9. The right of the "chosen people" to dominate others without restraint from any human or divine law, "right" being decided solely by the group's prowess in a Darwinian struggle.

While most of these sound at least vaguely familiar, Neiwert goes out of his way, repeatedly, to point out that America is in no way in the throes of true fascism. Even some of the above criteria, he claims, remain clearly unmet. But that "permission" factor, the precursor that hate language brings, is most certainly present.

What, then, is the way out (or back)? How do we, both as individuals and as a country, begin to put the brakes on such eliminationist language? Well, Neiwert has some tough words for liberals, who are, in his estimation, making a bad situation worse:

For all its logic and love of science, a consistent flaw weighs down modern liberalism: an overweening belief in its own moral superiority. (Not, of course, that conservatives are any better in this regard; factoring in the religious Right and the "moral values" vote, they are objectively worse.) This tendency becomes especially noticeable in urban liberal societies, which for all their enlightenment and love of tolerance are maddeningly and disturbingly intolerant of the "ignorance" of their rural counterparts....

If we want to look at all those red counties and come to terms with the reasons the people there think and vote the way they do, it's important to come to terms with our own prejudices, our own willingness to treat our fellow Americans--the ones who are not like us--with contempt and disrespect....

In the end, we cannot prevent fascism from happening here by pretending it is something it is not; it must be confronted directly and straightforwardly, or it will not be confronted at all. Yet, at the same time, those who are the targets of its eliminationist bile must resist the temptation to wield this recognition like a cudgel. We cannot dehumanize and demonize those who have fallen under its sway. And we cannot stop the forces of hate by indulging it ourselves.

Ultimately, Neiwert argues, both sides--liberal and conservative--need to surrender the unhelpful idea that they are the "heroes" of the American story. For in order for there to be a hero, he explains, we need a demonized other from which to "rescue" the nation. True heroism in a democracy is not killing "bad guys" or rounding up scary people or shouting fellow citizens into silence, effectively forcing them to eliminate their voices and themselves from the democratic scene. Rather, it is recognizing the human in the other, the messy nuance of competing interests and sub-cultures, honoring the ability to disagree (strongly) without wishing death or silence on one another. True heroism can look, from the outside, kind of drab and lacking in drama.

And sometimes it can lie in writing a book about a disturbing subject that makes us all take pause and pay attention to the political scene around us in a new way. --Daily Kos

This chilling indictment of modern conservatism concludes that the traditional Republican Party (the author was raised in a Republican blue collar home in Idaho) has been infiltrated by a far-right movement that views liberals, gays, and minorities as un-American elements deserving to be eliminated. Neiwert, a journalist who won a National Press Club Award in 2000 for his reporting on domestic terrorism for MSNBC.com, indicts such conservative icons as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs, and Glenn Beck for inciting the lunatic fringe to remove all undesirables, much as Nazi Germany did to the Jews and Gypsies.

The cheerleaders, or "transmitters" as Neiwert calls them, of eliminationism are not limited to talk radio hosts but also include prominent politicians like onetime Senate majority leader Trent Lott and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Palin was "the most significant transmitter in recent years," according to the author. This account of far-right power in America concludes that domestic terrorism might increase like it did during the Clinton years now that America has its first African American president and that a fascist state is a real threat. Readers will decide for themselves just how far to the right the Republican Party has been pushed and how widespread the fanatical far right is. This provocative narrative will stir interest in public libraries. -- ForeWord

Neiwert (Strawberry Days), founder of the political blog Orcinus, links the proliferation of radical conservative ideas in the political mainstream to the looming specter of "eliminationism," an ideology rejecting dialogue and debate "in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and eviction, or extermination." Eliminationism has taken many forms in American history, from the attitudes of early settlers toward the Native Americans they displaced and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan to the establishment of "Sundown Towns" that banned nonwhite residents and the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. In recent years, the eliminationist urge, articulated by conservative fringe groups associated with the Christian Patriot movement, has emerged in talk radio, news networks and national press outlets providing a platform for attacks on immigrants, Muslims, homosexuals and liberals. In these efforts, the author discerns a nascent American fascism, an argument that is by turns frightening and overwrought. Rich in historical and journalistic detail, the book offers a fine overview of the uglier strains in American politics. However, those looking for concrete solutions will find the author's call for ever-increasing vigilance somewhat less than fortifying. (May)


More About the Author

David Neiwert is a journalist and author and an acknowledged expert in American right-wing extremism. He has appeared Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Newsroom, and The Rachel Maddow Show and is the managing editor of the popular political blog "Crooks and Liars." His work has also appeared in "The American Prospect," "The Washington Post," MSNBC.com, Salon.com, and other publications. His previous books include "The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right" (Polipoint) and "Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese-American Community" (Palgrave), and he has won a National Press Club award for Distinguished Online Journalism.

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I felt this book was very timely.
jpbooklover
I was kind of hoping for something more relevant to, oh I don't know, 2007 or 2008, not material that was written more than a decade ago and jammed into a book.
M. Carmody
This is a great read for those concerned with the dangers of the radical right wing fringe.
Vesh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 109 people found the following review helpful By Panopticonman on June 29, 2009
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Back in 1962, within shouting distance of my neighborhood in Pasadena, California, lay that hotbed of anti-liberalism: Orange County. Back then, Orange County was home to Goldwaterites, hell and damnation religionists, John Birchers and other right-wing groups. Nowadays, it's home to many of their successors.

We often saw Birchite handbills and posters which warned about the Communist conspiracy that was overtaking a weak, emasculated Liberal America. We found the Birchers mysterious, furtive, and frankly, didn't pay much attention to them. But then along came the Birchite campaign against the fluoridization of the drinking water in southern California.

My father, a dentist, having seen the positive effects of fluoride on his patients' teeth, could not believe that a policy which had clear, visible and demonstrable benefits, could be opposed on the outlandish, unscientific grounds that fluoridation was a Communist plot to emasculate American men. Under the pressure of the Birchites' pamphleteering and local publicity stunts, a number of my father's patients actually became worried enough about fluoride to confess their fears about the dangers of fluoride in the drinking water. He attended public meetings on the issue and was shouted down by Birchites. He even lost a few patients over it.

With the aid of the THE ELIMINATIONISTS: HOW HATE TALK RADICALIZED THE AMERICAN RIGHT, I can see now that water fluoridation is an early example of right-wing eliminationism as described by David Neiwert in this important book.
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131 of 154 people found the following review helpful By Vesh on April 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
Neiwert explains that by co-opting conspiratorial rhetoric from the farthest shores of the right, mainstream conservative talkers can inflame the passions of paranoiacs to a dangerous degree. "It's always been a problem when major league demagogues start promulgating false information for political gain," Neiwert notes. "What it does is unhinge fringe players from reality and dislodges them even further. When paranoiacs hear Glenn Beck touting One World Government and they're gonna take your gun theories, they believe then that it must be true. And that's when they really become crazy."

This is a great read for those concerned with the dangers of the radical right wing fringe.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By William Alexander on November 26, 2009
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Neiwert has written a book with, I think, a somewhat misleading title. I believe that it was his effort to discuss how he believes right-wing "talk" has degenerated into a real-world and dangerous proto-fascist movement in the United States. But, the attempted anaylsis is so far ranging and delves so deeply into pre-radio/TV historical antecedent, it's rather difficult for him to hold the central premise. This is not to say the research is bad. Quite the contrary. It's very good, and contains many, many interesting nuggets of information from American broadcast history I have never seen. But, the assembly of all the data is somewhat haphazard in presentation, making the text, which is not large and written in a very accessible style, rather garbled at points. It is very easy to see his argument, less easy to follow how he seeks to prove the argument.

It is my impression that Neiwert, who freely confesses his political bias, felt rushed to get some counter-point into print as the far-right has been especially shrill since the last election. And while I can see how he might feel this urgency, he still should have taken a little more time to organize his material in a tighter fashion and eschew his "bloggy" roots. As is, he made what could have been a very good and even thoughtfully provocative book into just a "good" book. It is my hope that he will publish a second edition and correct these deficiencies. I think he is on to something very powerful about right-wing radicalization in American broadcasting, but maybe concentration on mass media in a more disciplined approach as opposed to the more "freestyle" analysis he prefers is called for. Some of his examples were a bit of a stretch.
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66 of 77 people found the following review helpful By KathyinOK on May 5, 2009
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Unique perspective on hate speech and actions in US history. The book chronicles the damage hate speech and rightwing groups have done, and continue to do, to our country. I am from Oklahoma City and lived through the bombing of the Murrah Building, so it was especially personal for me.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Layod Sivad on July 6, 2009
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"The Eliminationists" will startle conservatives if they bother to read it. Progressives and liberals likely will find something new and bothersome in this book. Neiwert brings to the fore overwhelming commentary and observations, in addition to thoughts of others who delve into the national psyche, about what it means to be a social conservative in this country. He does not stroke egos in this book. He tells it like it is, and tells it like it has been and reveals an historical pattern that is as old as civilization. It all boils down to a lack of distributive justice in this country and in the western developed world. Niewert exposes the rampant breastbeating and jingoism that has made this country an imperial country likened unto the Roman Empire. In fact, serious readers should read John D Crossan's "God and Empire" as a companion piece. The two carry much the same message: Civilization is inherently unjust beginning with Cain and Abel forever after.
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