Monday, September 12, 2011

Dehumanization 101

“Don’t eat anything with a face!”

That’s a slogan meant to encourage all of us to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle.  It does so by “humanizing” food.  The idea is that if our food takes on human characteristics, we lose our desire to eat it, much less kill it.

This type of appeal is emotional, and comes at us from different directions.  We see it in the politics of capital punishment.  Those against capital punishment humanize the individuals who are facing this legal sanction.  The opposing side dehumanizes them.

Dehumanization is usually a precursor to violence. Yesterday’s commemoration of the events of September 11, 2001 reminds us that people can be motivated to turn airliners into killing machines.  Once a political adversary no longer perceives us as human, the moral issues associated with killing evaporate.

Luckily, dehumanization on a grand scale doesn’t happen often.  When it surfaced in Germany in the latter part of the 1930s, it was devastating.  But, thankfully, that couldn’t happen in the 21st century, could it?

Perhaps we should note the dehumanization that is alive in our anti-Republican culture.  Here, dehumanization is used as a tool of political power.  Keith Olbermann characterizes Republicans as being ghouls and sub-human.  Maxine Waters believes Republicans should go straight to hell. Richard Trumka and James Hoffa want Republicans taken out.  Steve Cohen sees Republicans as worse than Nazis.

And now the dehumanization has become entertainment.  StarvingEyes Advergaming brings us “Tea Party Zombies Must Die.”  It features (You guessed it!) Sarah Palin and other Republicans as targets to be killed.

It is hard to imagine, but our culture now legitimizes the proxy-killing of Republicans as sport.

And this is ok, don’t you see, because Republicans are really just a bunch of Zombies.

UPDATE 9/14/2011:
Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit directs us to the Comments section of this post from The Hill.  In America our culture makes it comfortable for us to publicly declare, "The only good Republican is a dead one."

UPDATE 9/16/2011:
Molly Ball at Politico has an article on recent attention directed toward Sarah Palin. A soon-to-be-released book by Joe McGinniss delivers a variation on the dehumanization theme. Mr. McGinniss advances the notion that a Republican leader who exhibits human traits is "scandalous" and therefore must be banished from the public square.

The extent to which our culture legitimizes Mr. McGinniss's narrative and promotes his double standard makes this story worth watching.

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