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An Introduction to stoppolarizingtalk.org:  Protecting Freedom of Thought When I first began listening to political talk radio (PTR) in the early 1990’s, I was saddened, shocked and alarmed to hear strategies of deeply polarizing propaganda being used by Rush Limbaugh, … Continue reading

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U.S. Leaders Dehumanize Fellow Americans

02/27/2012

U.S. Leaders Dehumanize Fellow Americans

On the political talk radio shows of major hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage, polarizing linguistic strategies, such as stereotyping, scapegoating and dehumanization, are used as part of a deeply unethical business model. I call it “a business model with political benefits for some,” while the rest of our political culture suffers and is dragged into the rhetorical gutter as others imitate the mega-voices.
Most of the imitators are regional and local talk show hosts, including liberal ones, such as Mike Malloy. Listeners, too, repeat what they hear, and memes promoted from the top-down (such as health care reform being “jammed down the throats of the American people”), show up in blogs and on threads following stories on political issues.
Linguistic strategies of polarization are the currency of propagandists. It is cause for genuine alarm if national representatives or political leaders begin to use them. In 2011 and 2012, this has become the case. Scroll down to read an open letter I mailed to Democratic Representative Maxine Waters, who recently labeled GOP leaders “demons” at the California Democratic Convention. This is in the same mold as Republican Grover Norquist, who labeled Democrats “parasites” at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. In the tradition of demagogues and dictators, language is spewed from the podium to dehumanize those one disagrees with. It is bad enough that dehumanization is used to grab attention on talk shows, where Limbaugh or Beck call liberals “parasites” or “leeches”, but it is truly dangerous when political leaders publicly promote the use of deeply denigrating words. Is it any wonder that, with increasing frequency, dehumanizing labels are used by neighbor against neighbor, in the public square we call the blogosphere? This is the language of ethnic or ideological cleansing. It is tearing at the fabric of democracy.

For a more detailed definition of dehumanization, see http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-dehumanization.htm

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Open letter to John Sununu & NH Republican State Committee

10/16/2012

An Open Letter to John Sununu and
The New Hampshire Republican
State Committee

In his book, “The Dark Side of Democracy”, UCLA professor Michael Mann documents the history of ethnic cleansing, from the Armenian genocide during WWI through more recent horrific events in Bosnia and Rwanda. The language of dehumanization (calling out-groups “parasites”, “leeches” or “vermin”, for example) is characteristic of those carrying out the ethnic, racial, religious or ideological cleansing (“extermination” of “pests”). So, to put it mildly, it is very alarming to see the Chairman of your committee (and a former Governor of your state) choose such labels for Democrats in the current 2012 campaign.

On Aug. 27, Gov. Sununu, in a nationally broadcast interview on C-Span says “It [NH] wasn’t a battleground state in 2010 – We swept the vermin out and it’s now a solid Republican state.” Sununu’s trash talking starts @ 1:04:10 below:

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/PANCon

Just two weeks later, he is quoted in the NYT using the same dehumanizing label, and in the same way.

“We have seven weeks of hard work after Tuesday,” Mr. Sununu said. “I came in to clean the vermin out, then I’ll leave. I’m done. Done-zo. Finished. Kaput.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/us/politics/13newhampshire.html

So this is clearly no slip of the tongue, but an intentional use of language that is characteristic of demagogues and dictators.

Both of the quotes above are also documented on my public Facebook page, Stop Polarizing Talk, posted on Oct. 14 and 15. There I also include this description of the language of dehumanization, from wisegeek.com: “Dehumanization is the deliberate removal of sympathetic human traits when referring to members of an opposing ideology, race, political party or other source of conflict. Adolf Hitler’s references to Jews as ‘vermin’ or ‘rats’ is one example of dehumanization in action.”

This letter has also been published on that public page and on my website (see below).

I have also previously published on the topic of the increased use of stereotyping, scapegoating and dehumanization in our political discourse (in the book “At War with Words”) and I currently do public speaking on this topic. For more on that, see my website, www.stoppolarizingtalk.org

Kathryn Ruud

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02/16/2012 – Open letter to Maxine Waters

Feb. 16, 2012 Kathryn Ruud www.stoppolarizingtalk.org Congresswoman Maxine Waters 2344 Rayburn House Office Bldg. Washington D.C. 20515 Honorable Congresswoman, I am a Democratic voter who agrees with you that GOP policies are “not bringing us together” as you stated from … Continue reading

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Special to The Frederick News-Post (MD)

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Paths to Peace Post-Tucson soul searching not yet done Originally published in the Frederick News-Post March 19, 2011 By Kathryn Ruud Special to the News-Post Kathryn Ruud is a contributing author to the book “At War with Words,” published in … Continue reading

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Open Letter to Senators McCaskill and Menendez

The left and the right do the public a service when they keep an eye on radical statements made on the other side. Responsible Democrats and Republicans also need to make every effort to reject the worst of the polarizing … Continue reading

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