Enabling eliminationist rhetoric (and the Dolchstoßlegende) with the word "extremist"
NPR is teh suck, really. They too have followed Pony Blow and migrated to using "extremists" to describe whoever the Fuck Bush sent to troops to fight in Iraq. There are some big problems with this:
1. "Extremists" is an Orwellian use of language to conceal rather than express thought. Bush and the Beltway YAAP s have never been able to define the enemy in Iraq--Bitter enders? Al Qaeda? Some combination of Sunnis and Shiites? Islamists? Iran? Enemies of freedom? Evildoers? All of the above?
But sharks gotta swim, pundits gotta pontificate, and so, not knowing who the enemy is, yet still needing to form sentences that include the concept, NPR and their ilk resort to "extremists": A vague word that translates to "bad people," or the "not us".
2. "Extremists" applies the YAAP left-Moderate-right template for domestic politics--that is, the margins of the Overton window--to international politics. In SCLM usage, "extremist" means outside the left margin of the Overton window--and never, ever outside the right margin. In authoritarian usage, an "extremist" is anyone who rejects the Leader's authority.
Analytically, this formulation is childishly simple, like all authoritarian thinking.
Politically, it's incredibly dangerous (ditto), because it's a key enabler of the Dolchstoßlegende-- the "stab in the back" theory that the conservatives are busily preparing against the day when they are called to account for their sin, crimes, and blunders in Iraq.
3. So what, one may ask, is the thought that "extremists" really conceals?
Consider: In Iraq, we're fighting against "extremists"; and on the "home front, it's "extremists" like Howard Dean or Nancy Pelosi or the neighborhood DFH that prevented us from winning. The enemy abroad is the enemy within. QED!*
And heck, what do we do with extremists? What we did in Iraq, of course. If we're nice, put them in camps; if we're not so nice, torture them; if we're really not nice--or having a bad hair day, or want to avoid embarassment, or win a contract or a promotion--we kill them.
After all, we should take the conservatives eliminationist rhetoric seriously, eh? And "extremist" will become a key component of that rhetoric.
* This is the logic, by the way, that enables the Cheetohs-gobbling, bedwetting, circlejerking 101st Fighting Keyboarders to actually believe that they are fighting the same war as the troops.
UPDATE And speaking of sticky-fingered Cheetohs-gobblers, Hoover Institute "scholar" Dinesh D'Souza makes the eliminationist argument in his well-publicized tract, The Enemy At Home. "The left is the domestic insurgency that provides a counterpart to the Iraq insurgency. It is at least as dangerous as any of bin Laden's sleeper cells." One only need replace "insurgent" with "extremist" to propagate a meme as virulent as any we've known.
And since this is what conservatives believe, is there any reason to think they aren't acting on their beliefs, right now?
UPDATE Welcome, Crooks and Liars readers. Here's an example of what worries me. Jay Reding [DCOW] calls the netroots "extremists". But Glenn Greenwald calls Instaputz an "extremist", too. Two things can happen here, one bad and one worse. Readers may throw out "both extremes," thereby reinforcing the YAAP ideology that the Centrist, the Moderate, the Bipartisan is all important. Worse, the VRWC use of "extremist" may simply drown out our own.
So, to describe the Republican Partei and other enemies of constitutional government, why not use the term "authoritarian"? Not only is it more accurate, it arguably packs a greater punch. And it has not, and cannot be, coopted by the right.