The casualization of eliminationism in the modern USA

One of the processes that was well-documented during the rise of the Nazi Party to power in pre-World War II Germany was its ability to persuade supporters to adopt progressively more extreme and enabling views about out-groups in Germany. The number one out-group was the Jews, but other groups such as homosexuals were also declared to be out-groups.
The process was a progressive one like this:

Criticism –> Demonization –> Dehumanization –> Extermination

This could be seen very easily with the Jews, who, by the beginning of World War II, were being routinely described as filthy animals and vermin by Nazi supporters and in the media. The whole idea was that by re-defining them as animals and vermin, and not humans, the next step, extermination, seemed utterly logical. And so it proved. The demonization was an excellent example of what was once termed “the banality of evil”. People casually and reflexively came to believe that Jews were not entitled to live. No contemplation, no second thoughts that perhaps this might be a Really Bad Thing.
The whole approach in Nazi Germany to opponents was casual eliminationism, the idea that opponents were not even entitled to survive, because they were a threat to Nazi purity and control.
Today we have this delightful news item from the Carolinas. A local political fundraising project for the GOP decided that it would be OK to raffle off an AR-15, 1000 rounds of ammunition and a picture of Hillary Clinton.
The money quote is this one:

“Of course we won’t tell you what to do with the photo, but when we ran a picture of Hillary on the front of our newsletter, we heard that it was VERY popular down at the range”

This, folks is the casualization of eliminationism. It’s just like reading the history of Nazi Germany all over again. The writers of this screed are not only ignorant of world history, they are participants in the casual demonization of a politician that they disagree with. They’re nothing better than enablers of creeping, casual, unthinking eliminationism. In short, the writer of this is a rabble-rousing scumbag. Thinking about it, maybe the right response is to label the author a Nazi, and when they protest, tell them to STFU and go study some history.

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Sinister actions by Donald Trump

Donald Trump is engaging in activities at his rallies that are clearly designed to foster an Us and Them mentality. This tweet will illustrate:

As a student of European history, I know exactly where I have seen this behavior pathology before. It’s not pretty.
If anybody reading this is going to try and make the argument that Donald Trump was joking, or that this is not sinister and threatening…
STOP.
Don’t even go there. I don’t want to have to be the one to tell you in sharp words how utterly un-versed you are in world history.

UPDATE – If you want to see what Trump’s remark triggers on an online forum where the barrier to assholes is non-existent, here we go:

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Advance warning this election cycle

I have a pretty high tolerance for bullshit. If I didn’t, I would not have reached the age of 61 and still be gainfully employed.
However, I am going to make a promise.
If anybody sends me a message urging me to vote for any political candidate because the candidate’s spouse is so nice/smart/good-looking/would make a great First Lady, I will excoriate and ridicule their message to everybody on my friends list.
If I vote for a candidate, I am voting for that candidate. Not their spouse, pets, hairdresser, accountant, PR flunky, or yard worker.
If I dislike a candidate, it makes no difference that they have a “nice” spouse (whatever that might mean).
If you intend to vote for a candidate, my assumption is that you like the candidate’s message. If you then send me a message asserting that the candidate’s spouse is so nice etc. etc., what you just told me is that you don’t have a cogent case for voting for that person at all. Pointing to their spouse in this way, quite simply, smacks of desperation. Desperate appeals are never appealing.

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So politicians lie? I assume you just landed from Mars

Politicians lie!
I read this all the time, even out of election season.
Most of the time, the person yelling about this is hot under the collar because they despise (or even hate, dangerous for them) the politician or candidate Because They Lied.
First off, there is a legal definition of a lie, and it is a lot less expansive than some people think. A lie is a falsehood uttered by somebody

    who knows that it is a falsehood at the time that they utter it

. Note the last part of the sentence.
That makes a lot of difference. If I guess that the stock price for a corporation is $10, and say so, and it turns out to be $15, that is not me lying. It is me being mistaken. If I know in advance that the stock price is $15, but I state that it is $10, then I just told a lie.
So, a lot of people’s claimed lies are nothing of the sort.
But moving on, you just discovered that politicians lie.
Well, No Shit Sherlock.
The sky is blue.
The Sun rises in the East.
Those three statements are always going to be true.
Politicians are salesmen. They want to sell Them and Their Program to You. So, like all salesmen, they talk up their product, denigrate the opposing product, and shade the truth in their favor.
When I read people ranting about politicians lying, I laugh inwardly. I laugh because politicians, like all salespeople, are acutely aware of what works when selling stuff.
They lie because it works. If lying and being found out resulted in their never winning another election, they would become honest. Very very quickly.
So, when people complain that politicians lie, that is not really what they are saying.
What they are really saying is “We The People let politicians lie to us”.
When I see electors buying propositions from political candidates, I often alternate between worry, amusement and outright amazement. One thing I realized a long time ago is that many electors will cheerfully accept total bullshit from political candidates that they would never accept from anybody actually trying to sell them something for use in their household. If a salesperson spent their entire time slamming rival products without talking about their own product, most people would be wary and rightfully so. However, electors let politicians do that all the time. It is as if all normal critical thinking facilities get suspended when it comes to making electoral judgments.
Effectively, We The People have proven that we just do not take electoral politics seriously. If we did, we would have a better class of politician.
We have choices. Big choices. We can vote for people who in a number of cases have proved that they are liars, or where independent scrutiny has proven that they are liars. If we do that, we really have no right to complain about the outcomes. We are enablers.
Or we can stop voting for people who have no credibility. Credibility is more than not lying by the way. The subject of another post for another time.
Here’s the bottom line. You don’t have to buy what they are selling. Voting is not compulsory. You can pass, or you can vote for some other political salesperson.
So, as you can tell, complaining that politicians lie is, for me, like hearing somebody acting surprised that water flows downhill. ’twas ever thus, and the only way you stop it is to stop voting for liars. Voting for Your Party’s Liar doesn’t cut it either. That simply makes you a partisan follower, an apologist for the continuing role of lying in the political process. And no, rationalizing it on the grounds that Your Guy tells fewer lies than the Other Guy doesn’t make the issue go away. You’re still enabling the pathology.

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You hate one of the candidates for POTUS? Oh dear

So, you hate Hillary Clinton?
Donald Trump?
Gary Johnson?
Limberbutt McCubbins?
(By the way, there are 95 filed candidates for POTUS with more than $100 in their campaign kitty as at today. When I hear people complaining about not having a choice for POTUS, I laugh inwardly.)
Hate.
An emotive word.
Here’s my take on hate. If you really really hate somebody or something, you have a bigger problem than the person or thing you hate.
You see, hate is one of the most mentally and emotionally taxing of the great emotions.
That person you hate? They now live in your head and heart every second that you are awake. They are impacting many of your thoughts, actions and deeds. Every time the hatee’s name is mentioned, your primitive emotions, like a person who hates snakes stumbling upon one, are stirred, and not in a good way. Your heartbeat and respiration alter, and the risk of you doing and saying dumb stuff goes up. Dumb stuff including ranting on Facebook, often by posting dumb-ass memes or bullshit which must be right, because you hate the subject of the meme.
For some people who are seriously out of control, hate takes the form of pulling out weapons and going on a shooting spree, or plotting the overthrow of the government, or murdering and brutalizing family members. Hate is the slippery slope that leads down to some of the worst possible human behavior.
So, when I read people claiming to hate other people, I worry. Most of the time I worry about the person doing the hating. That person has lost control of perspective and emotions, and is wasting energy and effort that they will never get back.
But, let’s be charitable. Let’s assume that you simply despise the person, group or thing. Isn’t that better?
Well, yes and no. They still live in your head. There’s a good chance that you won’t do dumb stuff, at least not Right Now. However, the rest of us will still have to find the dumb-ass memes and other random outbursts on social media. Yes, we get it, you despise whatever it is or whoever it is. But…so what? Are you so conceited that you think that everybody else should be at all interested in what you despise on a daily basis?
If you were merely ranting, or seeking affirmation, carry on. (In case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t run around seeking affirmation. I grew up in an out-group, trying to get affirmation, and being told that I was a lower form of life for years resulted in me not caring very much about any form of affirmation, positive or negative).
If you want me to take your ranting seriously, you need to realize that, just like the huffing and puffing of “I’m offended”, I really don’t have a lot of time left in my life to listen to poorly or incompletely argued cack to support emotionally-based claims. If you hate or despise somebody or something, that’s really your problem, not mine. If you want me to understand your angst and take it seriously, then you need to drop the memes and get with the idea of logical arguments based on critical thinking.

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Election time and conspiracy theories

Here we go again…
Somebody on my Facebook wall appears to be of the opinion that the only thing that can explain Hillary Clinton’s performance in last night’s debate is that she was wearing some device that magically dictated her responses (instantly, given the speed of debate exchanges) to every question from the moderator and every comment from Donald Trump. Althernatively, it was a device to prevent her from suffering seizures.
I also had to read somebody else on Facebook waving the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory trope, along with a list of some of the favorite authoritarian follower list of conspiracy theories. Before the election cycle is over I fully expect Son of Jade Helm or Daughter of Jade Helm to put in an appearance.
Look, I know it is hard for people emotionally invested in a candidate when that candidate suffers an apparent setback. Clearly you were so emotionally wrung out from the events, and from posting to Facebook, that you couldn’t have done some fairly basic online research.
But, if your first reaction to that setback is to fasten on to the latest cockanamie conspiracy theory that just popped up on the interwebs, this is not likely to demonstrate that you are smart or deep-thinking. It is far more likely to signal that you are a credulous follower desperately engaging in post-hoc rationalizations to explain why Your Guy did not do well. This type of motivated reasoning doesn’t give me a feeling that your assertions or arguments on this topic have any intellectual heft or seriousness. And if you continue to do it, you will start to look more and more like a gullible nitwit, which will probably in turn lead to me waving you goodbye on Facebook.
The internets are now the numero uno 24-carat repository and amplification device for every conspiracy theory invented in the last x hundred years (and in the time it took you to read this, somebody probably just published another one). Most of these theories truly do put the “con” into conspiracy. They rely on people suspending most of their skills in critical thinking and signing on lock stock and barrel to some weird idea of how Stuff Happened.
One thing that I discovered many years ago is that dedicated conspiracy theory adherents behave just like followers of religious cults. They brook no dissent, regard everybody who is not signed onto the theory as a dupe or sheeple, and when challenged, cycle slowly and painfully through the A to Z of motivated reasoning and post hoc rationalization techniques, usually trying to win a prize for the number of logical fallacies they can deploy along the way. In short, they are impossible to have a sensible logical discussion with, so by and large I refuse to do it. Life is too short etc. etc.
My favorite conspiracy theorist rationalization is “well of course there’s no evidence for the conspiracy – the conspirators have hidden it!”. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to spot the logical problem hidden in that statement.
(Note for the historically inclined – Donald Rumsfeld’s quote from 2002 that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” is a more subtle variant of this sort of claim. At the time Rumsfeld was using the quote to argue that even if there was no visible evidence of WMD in Iraq, that did not necessarily mean that Iraq did not have WMD. It was an attempt to neutralize all of the people pointing out the lack of evidence. However, if there is no available evidence to support a claim, then the claim becomes totally speculative and possibly hypothetical.)
The sad thing, as I keep finding, is that high intelligence and rational thinking abilities do not in any way prevent people signing on to conspiracy theories. Smart people are, in fact, the worst promulgators of conspiracy theories, not necessarily because they sign on to a lot of them, but because, when challenged, their intellect allows them to deploy a seemingly infinite number of smart-sounding rationalizations and explanations for why It Must Be True! They resemble a smart drug addict in denial, furiously rationalizing why they don’t really have a drug problem. I hear and read a lot of the same intellectual sophistry mixed with logical fallacies and the uttering of total bullshit.
In the same way that some people react to uncertainty by signing onto binary worldviews, some people react to inexplicable or utterly puzzling events by immediately concluding that there must be some conspiracy causing the event or events. The idea that no, there is no conspiracy is difficult for them to process since it implies that it is possible for Bad Stuff to happen without bad actors driving it. Sad to say, anybody who has lived in Corporate America or watched any government body for as long as I have will have seen plenty of examples of bad stuff or dumb stuff, but will also have realized that not everybody in a corporation or government is a bad guy. The world is full of cock-ups, and only a person with a vivid imagination and way too much time on their hands would be able to plausibly connect multiple cock-ups and make a cogent case that they are part of some conspiracy.
Are there conspiracies in the world? Oh yes, you bet there are. However, if you persist in seeing every event you don’t like as a conspiracy, you probably left critical judgment behind somewhere along the line. Cock-ups are much more common.

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