turning vileness into virtueFrom: email@example.com
The Dictator's Handbook
Mar 13 2018 21:06:17
In a speech last weekend in France, Stephen Bannon, the former top
adviser to President Trump, urged an audience of far-right National
Front Party members to “let them call you racists, let them call you
xenophobes.” He went on: “Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a
badge of honor.”
On the face of it, Bannon’s advice is strange. After all, by any
normative understanding, “racist,” “xenophobe” and “nativist” are
negative words from both a moral and rational point of view. Their
definitions, taken from any standard dictionary, will bear this out.
Racism, xenophobia and nativism embody, in their very meanings, both
irrationality and unfairness. Irrationality is considered to be a
negative quality (except perhaps by Dadaists); so is unfairness.
For those of us to wish to understand the way Bannon is manipulating
language here, and to what end, it is important to note what he is not
doing. It is typical for far-right politicians who want to attract
racist, xenophobic or nativist voters to attempt to provide at least
the pretense of reasons, invariably shoddy ones, for animus against
racial minorities, immigrants, or foreigners.
In the United States, President Trump regularly connects individual
crimes or criminal gangs with immigration in an effort to more broadly
establish a link between immigrants with crime in the public
consciousness. Though studies have shown that immigrants, both legal
and illegal, are less likely to commit crimes than native-born
Americans, Trump continues to make such claims (his statement that
immigrants bring “tremendous amounts of crime” received a score of
“four Pinocchios” from fact-checkers).