Dog Whistling Racist Violence

Lizard BrainThe source of the problem?  Lizard Brain is diagnosed by unusually thick cranium and remarkable subcutaneous fat layer; trapped, terrified lizard is always symptomatic.

As Jacques Ellul points out in his classic 1964 book, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, propaganda cannot create something out of nothing. The human mind is not an empty vessel in which ready-made ideas can be poured like concrete into a form. Rather one must appeal to existing cultural and religious preconceptions and attach itself to feelings already present, some buried deep in the brain,  manipulating them over time until they are ripe for exploitive action.

During the 1964 Republican presidential convention, the two main contenders for the nomination were Nelson Rockefeller, representing the moneyed class who despised the “socialist”  Franklin D. Roosevelt and  who were concentrated mainly in the Northeast; and Barry Goldwater, who appealed to those who opposed the civil rights movement, mainly in the South. Rocky pleaded with the  party to expand its appeal to the larger electorate and moderate its rhetoric accordingly, noting that Congress had already passed the landmark civil rights bill earlier that year.

Goldwater refused, responding with his famous “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” speech. After winning the nomination, he was trounced by Lyndon Johnson in the general election,  carrying the five deep south states and little else.

When Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Bill in 1964, he predicted  that the Dems would lose the South for a generation. The Rethugs knew it too, and sifting through the wreckage of the election, set out in earnest to attract Southern Dems to their party via their Southern Strategy, a thinly disguised appeal to the racism and resentment wired deeply into the psyches of the vanquished Confederacy. (You can almost hear Pat Buchanan with a bullhorn manning the barricades warning that the Ne-groes now had unimpeded access to the polls.)  Four years later the Rethugs regained the White with the election of Richard Nixon.

Fast forward to the present. The 2008 congressional election saw the last of the “moderate” Northeastern Republicans, Chris Shays, erased from the electoral map, leaving that whole the section of the country in Democratic hands. And in the Senate, only three seats remain, two occupied by the ladies from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins , the other by New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg who is not running for re-election along with five other Rethug incumbents. That includes  Mel Martinez from Florida who  jumped the shark early, announcing today that he’s resigning just as soon  as the Charlie Crist finds a replacement. Apparently, being part of a party in a death spiral lead by hyperbolic crazies is no longer so much fun.

Freed from the burden of placating Dem Damn Yankees, the messaging has been remixed and more tightly focused, shedding its more civilized skin for a scalier exterior. Even so, overt political racism was still unacceptable among the majority of Americans. Hence another form of delegitimization was needed to undermine the Black Man occupying the White House standing in the way of Republican Utopia.

Enter the birther movement. Intellectually awkward to maintain (witness Lou Dobbs‘ recent ratings implosion), this lame attempt at deligtizimation was nonetheless necessary to keep the pump of the lizard brain primed, the fires of resentment and victimhood burning. But now with the revelation that Barack Obama’s supposedly genuine Kenyan birth certificate was a royal punking, the birther movement is shredding like a cheap rubber costume in a B-movie alien slasher flick.  Time to find another vehicle.

Enter the astroturfed anti-health care reform movement. Once again, we see a further escalation in the propaganda,  but this time it’s different. Where  before it was psychological priming, listening to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh this week and watching the Nazi symbolism emerge in the town hall meetings, it is now evident we are in the activation stage.

Violence is sure to follow. The dog whistle has become a klaxon.


  1. And now this week, we have people showing up at health care rallies openly carrying loaded fire arms. First a pistol, and then in AZ, AR 15s. Its coming for sure. The bullies are flexing their muskles, putting the less observant on notice.
    Also don’t forget the forces hidden in the wings of the movement. The theocratic homeschool/quiverfull aspect of the Southern Strategy. Given that about 10 years to begin to mature and things could get really interesting.

  2. Cool! Most of our readers come from suburbs of metropolitan everywhere, so your article will be most instructive. Oh, and watch out for that work-for-pay stuff; it’s habit-forming.

    If you click on my name on the About page it’ll open up an email; anytime your ready. I’ll look forward to deep frying you a tasty graphic to go with your entrée. :mrgreen:

  3. I’d love to Michael.

    Now, when can I fit it in?

    Oh yes, after my two volunteer jobs and the websites I’m trying to create this week.

    I finally got someone to actually pay me for something I’ve done, so I’ll have to find the time to write up why the South is soooo deeply committed to delusional thinking (which may be instructive to those outside of the South, but fairly regular stuff to those stuck inside).

    Cash’s book has a ton of research there; I was introduced to it by the brilliant Dr. Merle Black waaaay back in undergrad school at UNC. Imagine how excited I was to discover why all my relatives were so crazy and bigoted.

    I really would like to give that essay a shot sometime.

    Thanks for asking.


  4. Sure ‘nuf, P.

    Just speak very slowly and they will catch on.

    Sure. Right. No problem.

    If you’ve never been to the South before, do not come expecting to be able to clear things up by explaining easy to understand issues to the ignorant masses. They will surprise you with their depth of ignorance and know-all-nothingness.

    The problems are much deeper than the loss of the Confederacy and their inability to pay for their dental needs. It runs slap into what W.J. Cash wrote about in “The Mind of the South,” and cannot be cured by a modicum of good will, government programs or in-depth discussion of issues.

    Even Sen. Sam Ervin would have warned you about that.

    Thanks for all you do to get the word out to those who are still able to listen and think.

    There is a reason that the Nixon Southern Strategy worked in the 60’s/70’s and still works for that 27% who vote rightwingnut every chance they get. And they are not all in the South.


    Obama has to do a better job at making that point.

  5. Propagandee Propagandee

    Hi Mary & Suzan:

    Mary, apart from a weekend in Florida for a meeting, I’ve never even been to the South, let alone lived there. You have my sympathy.

    The racist subtext of the healtscare crazies is that they see opposing Obama’s efforts at reform as payback for losing the election to a black man. When South Carolina Senator Jim Demint said they could make failure of healthcare reform Obama’s Waterloo, he blew off the gates of their repressed resentment. This has blinded them to the reality of how changing the status quo will benefit them personally. Mission accomplished.

    Do you remember seeing that tall, thin red headed woman with the glasses, screaming hysterically at one of the town hall meetings? Apparently Fox did an interview with her afterwards. And apparently she has very bad teeth, which reminded me of an interview I heard with southern Democrat consultant Jim Mudcatt Saunders. He said that he was in a local bar and the issue care reform came up with the guy sitting next to him, railing about gubmint interference, socialism, yada yada. Mudcat cut to the chase and asked him why his kid’s teeth were so bad, and didn’t he know that the gubmint could help him with that.

    Bingo. Instant convert.

    Obama has to do a better job at making that point.

  6. Avatar mary b

    “Violence is sure to follow. The dog whistle has become a klaxon.”

    This is what scares me the most. Living here in the south is anathema to me. Most everyone here is a die-hard, true blue republican who will follow their commands as if in a strange, violent cult. It is too easy for anyone to buy a handgun legally, never mind the ones bought in the streets. I really worry about President Obama and his family and also, the way they try to demonize any Democrat in Congress. I do realize they have the protection of the Secret Service but nobody, no matter their beliefs should have to live in fear. That is the mentality of the republicans. Didn’t a few of them even say they have to take the position of the Taliban since Obama has been elected? They will resort to violence. History repeats itself all too often. And people who were born and raised here still think that the Confederacy should have won. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called a yankee in a derogatory way. It’s just like their mega churches. Do as we say or you are evil. There is no use trying to hold an intelligent debate or conversation with these people. Proof, look at the Town Halls. They are not there for dissent or questions or debate. They are there to demand it go their way or no way. If only they didn’t have lizard brains and would sit down, STFU and listen. Health Care reform is in their favor. But like you said, lizard people with lizard brains.
    I hope to Sweet Jesus that they realize what the hell they are doing is so wrong.

  7. we need someone like lbj today to get real health care reform passed. he kicked asses and took names.

    the rethuglican party is now officially the party of rushbo and beck. no rethug could possibly have an ounce of self-respect left.

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