Rush Vs. Rwanda

Jeffrey Feldman's Frameshop has always been a favorite of mine. Jeffrey has recently published Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Rig

Jeffrey Feldman's Frameshop has always been a favorite of mine. Jeffrey has recently published Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy, which is a real eye-opener.

Jeffrey looked at Rush Limbaugh's recent crowings about "Operation Chaos" and looked at other instances where airwaves were used to foment violence:

During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, radio broadcasts called for direct acts of violence to be committed by one faction of the Rwandan public against another. These broadcasts drew considerable attention because (1) radio was the major source of information for the listeners in question, (2) the audience was largely non-literate, and (3) there was an ongoing nationalist struggle into which the broadcasts fed (emphasis mine):

In March 1992, Radio Rwanda was first used in directly promoting the killing of Tutsi in a place called Bugesera, south of the national capital. On 3 March, the radio repeatedly broadcast a communiqué supposedly sent by a human rights group based in Nairobi warning that Hutu in Bugesera would be attacked by Tutsi. Local officials built on the radio announcement to convince Hutu that they needed to protect themselves by attacking first. Led by soldiers from a nearby military base, Hutu civilians, members of the Interahamwe, a militia attached to the MRND party, and local Hutu civilians attacked and killed hundreds of Tutsi (International Commission 1993: 13-14). (from "Hate Media in Rwanda")

The broadcasts in Rwanda, thus, were directly engaged using false reports as propaganda, the goal of which was to encourage listeners to commit acts of violence. The effort worked, and subsequent investigations linked the violent language to the actual deaths, thereby including the broadcasts within the framework of the genocidal action both legally and morally.

In stark contrast, Limbaugh's broadcasts were removed from encouraging direct acts of violence, focusing instead on creating the conditions for violence--what Limbaugh described as 'chaos.' In this transcript (Apr 23, 2008), Limbaugh explains how his broadcasts are intended to incite political violence. Notice how he describes creating conditions for violence rather than actual violence (emphasis mine):


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This is about chaos. This is why it's called Operation Chaos! It's not called Operation Save Hillary. It's not called Operation Nominate Obama. It's called Operation Chaos! The dream end... I mean, if people say what's your exit strategery, the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That's the objective here. And there has been nothing that's happened on the battlefield for my vision of this to change just because Hillary won. We got what we wanted last night, and people want me to change course now? "We got what we wanted, okay, now time to support Obama." No. If Obama runs the table with the rest of these primaries, it's over, and the superdelegates are going to have a much easier choice choosing him, because he'll end up with a big lead. (from "Why It's Called Operation Chaos")

So the goal of the 'operation' for Limbaugh is not to encourage his listeners to commit acts of violence, but encourage his listeners to commit acts of politics that 'end' in Democrats committing acts of violence on each other.

Even though the violence is one step removed for Limbaugh in comparison to the 1990s broadcasts in Rwanda, Limbaugh clearly includes the eruption of political violence as an ideal goal of his rhetoric. Read on...

So the question falls to us: what can we do to not only reject this kind of violent framing, but to discourage it from continuing?

About Nicole Belle

Nicole Belle's picture
Mom, Wife, Media Critic/Political Analyst, Blogger, Austen Fanatic, Unapologetic Liberal NicoleBelle@crooksandliars.com

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