One of the essential words of the Newspeak language, described in George Orwell's 1984, is "duckspeak", meaning "quack like a duck", and "speak without thought". It can be said accurately of any political speaker, meaning for their side spewing out harmful, "doubleplusungood" nonsense and lies, and for our side, useful "doubleplusgood" nonsense and lies. (This is political speech.)
One useful form of duckspeak in our time is dog whistle code, terms that have one meaning to supporters, and a different one to the rest of society. Such terms can substitute for thought on any subject. Republicans have been talking in code to Southern racists since LBJ signed the Civil Rights Acts in the 1960s (and Liberals have not had an effective counter most of the time). But the roots of this code language go back to well before the Civil War. It is not difficult to trace them to the debates at the Constitutional Convention. I have put some Progressive options for describing Rightwing duckspeak in today's poll. Then we have to go below the jump for examples and explanations.
There is a British Navy maxim, "Always keep the enemy in front." Where you can see what he is doing, for one thing, and where you have maximum maneuverability to respond. Engaging the enemy is the least pleasant of military duties (worse than SEAL training and KP rolled together!), but that's the mission, and they do it. We need to do the same in politics.
The existence of duckspeak in the pejorative sense, indeed of doubleplusduckspeak, has been verified in speeches of several ideologies, including Nazism, Fascism, White Supremacy, Communism generally, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and the US radical Right. The Right, of course, claims to have found it on the Liberal/Socialist/Communist/Nazi/Antichrist side, these epithets being interchangeable in full accordance with Newspeak language theory, even though it is supposedly fictional.
The Lamestream Media are pretending that the duckspeaking Tea Parties are not racist. Why? Well, because they don't consider it to be their duty to speak truth to idiocy, any more than to power. They just report, He said, They said. If you want them to report anything, somebody Important has to say it first, and it then has to be picked up by many others making a lot of noise.
So when doubleplusduckspeaker Mark Williams got caught being even more disgustingly racist than usual, and even the Washington Post, the New York Times, and cable news had to take notice of the public howls of reprobation, his Tea Party Express was bounced out of the Tea Party Federation, and he was bounced out of the Tea Party Express/allowed to resign. But when Rotten Orchard demonstrates the racism of the other Tea Party organizations here on Daily Kos, and even when Kos himself catches some of them at it, but the NAACP takes no notice, the LSM feels free to ignore us. Even MSNBC, which invites Kos on with some frequency, ignores us on this point.
The NAACP, in its own respectable way, is going along with the long-standing pretense that the Republican Party and the Tea Parties are legitimate and respectable political parties throughout, and that it is only a tiny minority of Tea Partiers who are vehemently racist. Certainly none of the Southern Gentlemen involved, who are men of Honor and Pride. (So are they all, all honorable men.) They, and the rest of respectable society, pretend that it has only been a tiny, almost insignificant minority of Southerners who have been vehemently racist while switching from the Democratic party of LBJ and Civil Rights to the Republican Party of fear and intimidation.
And why is that? Because the Republicans and Tea Partiers are actually moderately good at fear and intimidation, and they don't mind doing it. Democrats, especially Barack Obama, try to discuss the issues in an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance, even when the supposed issues are merely smokescreens. The Right's only problem with this is that they try to skirt the very edge even of implausible deniability, and thus very rarely have to throw someone like Mark Williams or Trent Lott under the bus for going over the line.
None of this is new.
The Tea Parties today, and the Republicans for decades, have been repeating the same racist bigotry as before the Civil War, indeed before the Revolution. Basically, Blacks are inferior, and slavery/Jim Crow/vicious hatred/whatever is good for them. We hear the same accusations of tyranny against Obama that were leveled at George Washington and Alexander Hamilton over the first Whiskey Tax, as I explained in Godless, Gritless Liberals, Then and Now.
The best example of extremist Southern rhetoric and attitudes, well known to the Unreconstructed South even today, is the loose group known as the Fire Eaters in the 1850s, those who were strongly urging secession even then.
Robert Barnwell Rhett, for example, was a Nullificationist during Andrew Jackson's Presidency, and continued as a leader in the South for decades after, becoming known as the Father of Secession. His views turned out to be too extreme even for the Confederacy, and he was unable to gain any office in the Confederate government.
Lawrence Keitt (pronounced Kit) declared in 1851, long before the Civil War,
Loyalty to the Union is treason to Liberty.
Even more famously, he declared,
The anti-slavery party contends that slavery is wrong in itself, and the Government is a consolidated national democracy. We of the South contend that slavery is right, and that this is a confederate Republic of sovereign States.
In 1856, Keitt held off the Senate with a pistol while Rep. Preston S. Brooks beat leading Abolitionist Sen. Charles Sumner nearly to death in retaliation for a speech insulting Sen. Stephen Douglas and Brooks's uncle, Sen. Andrew Butler, over the Fugitive Slave Law.
We hear echoes of Keitt now on talk radio.
We're now governed by people who do not like the country, who do not have the same reverence for it that we do.
Obama is accused of being John Brown, aiming at raising a slave rebellion to dispossess and murder the Southern aristocracy and their Republican and Tea Party supporters.
I have traced many usages forward to today, including those of the most bigoted Southern churches; of kleptocratic corporations and their owners and managers; and of the various Tea Party factions.
It began with high-sounding words and phrases such as "unalienable/inalienable rights", "liberty", "toppling tyranny", "equality", and "the Constitution", and also words with a more contested history, such as "States' Rights", and later "Socialism". All of them have multiple meanings, depending on who says them, and to whom. Both Left and Right profess to own the true meanings of each, and also claim that the other side perverts these meanings, that this language in the mouths of their opponents is pure—I don't know what. You tell me, in the poll.
In Colonial America, Liberty meant the liberties of the Englishman, going back to Magna Carta and beyond. This includes Habeas Corpus and eventually the right to vote for Parliament, with Parliament over time usurping or otherwise taking over various traditional powers of the Monarchy. The principal issue in the American Revolution was whether Parliament had the right to tax citizens of the colonies, acknowledged as British subjects, who had no right to vote for Members of Parliament.
As we know, the US extended the idea of Liberty in many ways in the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights. However, some rights were omitted or left completely unclear, and some that seemed clear at the time have been contested or muddied later. The most important clash was over property rights in human slaves vs. human rights, although resistance to Federal taxation of whiskey began in Washington's first term and continues to this day in some areas.
In 17th century England, at the time of the founding of the American colonies, the word tyrant could be applied to
- "Good" King John, who was eventually forced to sign Magna Carta Libertatum, including the right of habeas corpus
- Pope Clement VII, who refused to grant Henry VIII an annulment so he could marry Anne Boleyn
- The Emperor, King Charles V of Spain (nephew of Henry VIII's first wife Catharine of Aragon), who wouldn't let the Pope grant Henry an annulment
- Almost any English Monarch, at least from Richard III to Charles I, including Henry VII, Henry VIII, "Bloody" Mary, Elizabeth I, James I.
- Charles I, of Divine Right of Kings, who was tried for treason and executed, leading to the English Civil War and the Cromwell period.
- Oliver Cromwell. Ask anyone from Ireland about him, or anyone in England who likes dancing and theater.
The best known case in America is, of course, King George III, so vociferously denounced in the Declaration of Independence.
The next stage was the denunciation of Washington and Adams as would-be Kings, and Jefferson as a Jacobin atheist (roughly, in modern terms, a Commie terrorist Muslim Nazi ratfink, only worse). Hamilton came in for particular vituperation for the Whiskey Tax mentioned earlier. Jefferson comes in for more vituperation, continuing even to our time, for his affair with a slave girl, Sally Heming, and for opening up the Louisiana Purchase to slavery.
We see this, too, continuing to the present day, particularly over Bush/Cheney and Obama, but FDR, Truman and Eisenhower got their shares, also. Apparently the John Birch Society still thinks that Eisenhower was a Soviet agent. When Strom Thurmond bolted from the Democratic party and ran for President as a segregationist Dixiecrat, Federal "Tyranny" was the essence of his speeches.
The Articles of Confederation didn't give the central government any authority over the states, not even the power to collect any taxes, so South and North began fighting over "Liberty" and "Tyranny" in the context of slavery during the writing of the Constitution, and have never stopped since. This soon turned into States' Rights, Nullification, and a number of other supposedly principled political/Constitutional kerfuffles firmly based on racism, perverted and bigoted Christianity, and simple greed. By far the worst of the tyrants, in this narrative, is Abraham Lincoln, whose election as President triggered Secession and the Civil War/War of Northern Aggression. (As to that incident at Fort Sumter with Gen. Beauregard, why, it was just that South Carolina fired back first.)
Afterward, as we know, it turned out, according to the South, that the CW/WNA was not fought over slavery at all, but over Constitutional principles, the Honor of Southern Gentlemen, and other such high-sounding themes. Those principles, whether before or after the War, are the primary, original racist code words of the South, since every one of them meant slavery, and still does.
I want my country back.
House Majority Leader John Boehner said this most clearly and most recently about Democrats: "Snuffing out the America that I grew up in." That would be the white-bread 1950s of racism, bigotry, and unbridled corporate greed, when minorities, women, and even most teenagers knew their place, and gays were firmly-closeted faggots. (But fortunately for older Kossacks, the original Mad Magazine.)
It is impossible to tell from the words themselves what the Tea Parties and others mean by words such as "liberty", "tyranny", "real American", or "Socialism". The meanings are not at all secret, although of course many do not actually know anything about them. The point is that the real meaning should be plausibly deniable. They can pretend that "Liberty" and the "Original Intent" of the Constitution doesn't mean the right to treat African-Americans as unpersons, and that "my country" means only a time when you could leave your front door unlocked in small towns.
The point of Southern Strategy code words is to be able to rile up the base reliably, while maintaining plausible deniability in the Mainstream Media. Well, this is plausible according to the True Believers, the Dittoheads, The Base, anyway, when talking to the Mainstream Media. Or if it isn't really plausible, we can shout down anybody who questions it. Basically, a more sophisticated version of playground talk: "I know you are, but what am I?"
That's not racist language. We aren't racists at all. In fact, you're the racists.
Because "racism" too has become Newspeak, applicable equally to friend and foe alike.
Note: The Daily Iowan got to the meme before me, in If It Quacks Like a Bigot, as did a few other non-MSM sources.
- If They Quack Like Racists, They're Probably Not Ducks
- If It Walks Like a Bigot and Quacks Like a Bigot...
Later addition: African-American school board member manhandled by police Tea-Party-led resegregation in NC.