Another item in your list could have been about the increasing cries by (especially young) US right-wingers for people they disagree with or find annoying to be tased. I've heard this sort of thing frequently over the past few years, and people here know full well that tasers are not safe, that they do destroy people. I somehow doubt that even a small segment of the Canadian population regularly calls for people they disagree with to be shot with enough volts to cripple or kill them, yet it's become a familiar cry now in the US.
Dean's comment was on my mind when I read this post in Joy of Sox. [Emphasis mine.]
Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter Bill Conlin believes that Jimmy Rollins was the National League's Most Valuable Player.
Rollins was decidedly not the MVP (as FJM points out), but that's not important.
A Phillies fan who writes the Crashburn Alley blog emailed Conlin and made the case for David Wright of the Mets. Conlin was not very polite in his responses. Indeed, during the discussion, Conlin wrote:The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler's time on earth – I'm sure he would have eliminated all bloggers. In Colonial times, bloggers were called "Pamphleteers." They hung on street corners handing them out to passersby. Now, they hang out on electronic street corners, hoping somebody mouses on to their pretentious sites. Different medium, same MO.
A commenter asks:By the way, does Conlin realize that the "Colonial pamphleteers" he's comparing to bloggers were the ones who instigated and led the American Revolution? So he's placing bloggers in the company of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Alexander Hamilton ... and siding with Hitler and King George III.
And while we're chatting about the Third Reich, remember when [New York Yankees announcer] Michael Kay compared the idea of an announcer "jinxing" a no-hitter with the Nazis marching people into ovens?
(Audio? You better believe there's audio.)
[See the Joy of Sox post for relevant links.]
Don't worry that you've never heard of VORP, and don't know an MVP from a BLT. Baseball is not the point here. The point: this is considered acceptable discourse in the sports world.
It might be easy to dismiss this - "it's only sports" - but sports is a dominant element of American culture, and nearly every modern culture. Values seen in sports reflect the values of the larger society. Everyone who complains about high player salaries or steroid use (and I am not among those) should realize that. I would venture that the culture of sport exerts a stronger and more immediate impact on society than any academic or scientific community. You may find that a sad commentary, but it still may be true.
In the sports world - as increasingly in the political realm - it's perfectly acceptable to speak this way. Someone disagrees with you? Hitler would have known what to do with him.
Often when we scrutinize language like this, we are derided with that most hackneyed of accusations: political correctness. But language matters. I'll use the sports columnist Conlin's own extreme analogy. Hitler didn't wake up one day and snuff the life out of millions of human beings. He brought "his willing executioners" in line with his ideas. Ideas expressed through language.
Every action begins with an idea. Ideas are communicated through language. Language leads to action.
Or it can. Usually there is not an immediate cause-and-effect. More often language creates conditions that make action possible. Why else do militaries dehumanize their enemies? Why call the Iraqis "sand niggers", why call the Vietnamese "gooks"? Because those words help create the necessary conditions that enable soldiers to kill. Because how we speak influences how we feel. Because if we acknowledge the common humanity in all of us, it is more difficult to have enemies. And if we deny that humanity, step by step, word by word, we arrive at Abu Ghraib, My Lai, Wounded Knee, Katyn, Darfur.
Opportunities for that acknowledgement - and that denial - are with us every day. And the consequences of denying each other's humanity are vast, and very grim. A sports columnist who implies that people who disagree with him should be exterminated walks a dangerous road. But he's got a lot of company.