Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Eliminationism is a new term in my lexicon. I got it from the title of a book by David Neiwert entitled “The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right.”

Basically Eliminationism is the view that you can’t negotiate with your opponents and the only solution is their elimination or isolation. Neiwert defines it as “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.”

Neiwert appears to assert in his book that the American Right Wing more and more falls into this sort of rhetoric with the pundits on talk radio AM and the Fox News talking heads leading the charge. I haven’t read the book so I can’t say for certain but I’m willing to accept what the review and summary says it claims.

To the tu quoque response from conservatives that “liberal do it too,” Neiwert points out “they tend to focus on threatening talk toward an individual (think Cheney or Bush), not an entire category of human beings.”

In the meantime Neiwert asserts that “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.”

Neiwert takes a swipe at liberals as well and claims they’re making a bad situation worse because they are “maddeningly and disturbingly intolerant of the ‘ignorance’ of their rural counterparts.”

So what do I think about this one?

Well, first of all, I haven’t heard Glenn Beck propose opening any concentration camps recently. I’m wondering if Neiwert is confusing calls for the elimination of the positions and policies espoused by certain groups with the elimination of the groups themselves.

That the right chooses rhetoric and loud shouting over reviewing the facts and then discussing the issues I certainly agree with but that’s probably because more often than not the facts are against them.

I have to plead guilty on being intolerant of ignorance because, given the resources available today, there is little or no excuse for that ignorance. I also plead guilty to being arrogant about my intelligence and education and looking down upon the yokels clinging to their religion and their guns. And I’m sure I’m about to prove it in the following paragraphs.

Before I get up on my soapbox allow me to clarify some definitions. When I talk about Right and Left here I’m really talking about people in the Authoritarian Right and Libertarian Left quadrants of the Political Compass since those are by far the largest groups in the American Political landscape.

The Left tends to be more evidence and logic based. The Right tends to be more dogma and emotion based. The Left is, on average, better educated, more intelligent and more affluent. The Right Wing slogan that sums it all up for me is “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

That slogan spells F-A-I-L in multiple ways but the key failure is mistaking “belief” for “knowledge.”

I’ve found that facts are funny things. It never ceases to amaze me how often the facts contradict what everyone always knew to be true. A pretty good rule is don’t believe what the shouting man says without checking the facts. And the louder he’s shouting, the faster you should be heading to check the facts. The bottom line is the Left understands this rule better than the right.

In September of 2008 I wrote about a story in the Washington Post related to a series of psychological experiments performed at Duke and Georgia State Universities. Rather than rewriting what I said then I’m simply going to quote from the previous post which was entitled “Evidence, Reality and Rationalization.”

“Those experiments appear to demonstrate that presenting evidence to someone refuting a belief can result in a ‘backfire effect’ that actually strengthens the belief! The research further indicated that this affect tends to occur with Conservatives but not Liberals.”

And therein lies part of the problem. Liberals are more fact oriented. Conservatives KNOW the right answer based upon their moral compass and the facts be damned. I saw a picture of a church sign once that said “If you have enough faith, the facts don’t matter.”

Of course the Left Wing slogan “Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church” says it all the other way. Yes we’re arrogant and yes we look down upon much of the Right Wing. I call them the under 80 IQ trailer park set so I’m clearly guilty of condescension in the first degree as I’m willing to admit.

Here’s the deal. I’m smart enough, and knowledgeable enough, to know that there is in fact much to be discussed on the key Left vs. Right issues of the day.

Big government and high taxes do suck and the national debt is a catastrophe waiting to happen. The Left is very consistent about what to do about it. Stop fighting unnecessary wars, cut military spending, increase the marginal tax rates and, most important of all, get the ever rising cost of health care cost under control. To the Right, these might very well be the worst possible things you could do. But at least we’re FOR something. I’m always hearing what the Right is against. What are you FOR?

The problem with the Right to my mind is they are often inconsistent if not down right contradictory. Let’s consider the abortion debate.

I agree that abortion is a bad thing. In fact it’s a very bad thing and the world would be far better off if it never happened. Despite the ridiculous Right Wing rhetoric about having abortions for trivial reason, the bottom line is that it’s unintended pregnancies that lead to abortion.

If you had zero unintended pregnancies you would have almost zero abortions. So, how do you get to zero unintended pregnancies? You provide adequate sex education and effective birth control both of which the Right OPPOSES!

Even when they’re forced to grudgingly give in on sex education, they insist upon “abstinence only” policies which have repeatedly been shown not to be effective. They are “morally” opposed to the so-called “morning after” pill which could be used to not only insure a disaster doesn’t occur from a weakness of the moment but could also go a long ways towards preventing pregnancies from rape or incest.

When an unintended pregnancy does occur, their alternative to abortion is adoption yet they oppose allowing gay couples, often the only couples that will accept some of the babies taken to term rather than aborted, the right to adopt.

What the hell is left? Get with reality people because unfortunately the world isn’t like “Leave it to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best.” You cannot define all of the variables because some are dependent upon others.

People, and especially teenagers, are going to experiment with sex. You can’t convince them not to (the abstinence only approach) because it doesn’t work. When they do experiment, you need to provide them a means of avoiding unintended pregnancy (in other words effective birth control) and when they let themselves get carried away with the moment, or just get lazy, you need to give them a way to undo the damage (the morning after bill). If everything fails, you have to convince them that the child they carry to term has a fighting chance of being adopted into a loving home.

Don’t think “Juno” here. Many of those with unintended pregnancies aren’t nice middle class white girls. The majority are minority or poor girls sometimes with a history of drug use and psychological problems. In other words they’re not the type of girl that the nice middle class families that are queued up to adopt a baby would have over for Sunday afternoon brunch.

Let’s talk facts shall we.

According to the Guttmacher Institute there were 1.21 million abortions in 2005. This was down from 1.31 million in 2004. The abortion rate in the US is dropping. It has dropped from a high of 29.3 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 1981 to 19.1 in 2005.

Almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. The 1.21 million number represents about 40% of all unintended pregnancies and 22% of all pregnancies. So clearly abortions are the direct result of unintended pregnancies. You reduce one and you reduce the other. 40% of the pregnancies among white women are unintended, 69% among black women and 54% among Hispanic women. The unintended pregnancy rate among women below the poverty line is four times the rate for women at twice the poverty line or greater.

As for who’s getting the abortions, there’s no surprise there, 37% of all abortions occur to Black women, 34% to White women, 22% to Hispanic women and 8% to other. The abortion rate for women below the poverty level is four times the rate of women at three times the poverty level or greater.

To make a long story short, unintended pregnancies and abortion happen most to the minority and poor segments of the population.

The abstinence only strategy has failed. A study completed in 2007, mandated by Congress and performed by Mathematica Policy Research, concluded that abstinence only programs were unable to “demonstrate a statistically significant beneficial impact on young people’s sexual behavior,” and that was after cherry picking the four programs that were expected to have the best results.

As for adoption rather than abortion, there were 1.21 million abortions in 2005. According to the US Census, there were a total of 1.59 million adopted children under the age of 17 in 2000. Who is going to absorb those 1.21 million children especially when almost 60% of them are Black or Hispanic?

The bottom line is that the whole philosophy of the Right toward abortion is one of wishful thinking and inconsistency. They’re confusing beliefs and desires with reality.

I could probably do the same thing with virtually every issue. Granted the Left has to understand what is driving the Right and not simply dismiss its positions as ignorance or stupidity. But the Right has to acknowledge the facts. A “solution” which does not match the facts (think Creationism) is no solution at all and is more likely to make things worse than to make them better.

So the problem becomes one of both sides becoming frustrated that the other side can’t “see” what the “right” answer is. The problem is that the left interprets “right” to mean “TRUE” and the Right interprets “right” to mean “MORAL.”

To the Right morality is absolute while to the Left it is relative and dependent upon the facts of the situation. The Right looks upon things as how they should be and the Left looks upon them as how they are.

Of course looking upon things as how they should be is not necessarily bad. What is bad is thinking that everyone shares your vision of how things should be and, if they don’t, they should, and you’ll pass laws to make damn sure they do.

I’m debating if I should read Neiwert’s book after I finish “Idiot America.” Right now I’m leaning towards not doing so but that could change.

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