The extreme rhetoric about extreme rhetoric

Much of this non-Nazi talk of “eliminationism” started, it would seem, with writer David Neiwert, who chimed in on the Arizona tragedy with a post on “eliminationist rhetoric and the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords” (and a bonus bit on “Sean Hannity’s recent bit of eliminationist ‘humor’”). In 2009, Neiwert brought Goldhagen’s coinage to the lefty masses with his book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right (discussed in Jesse Walker’s terrific essay on the “paranoid center”).

To give you a sense of Neiwert’s unique brand of scholarship, The Eliminationists quotes novelist Sinclair Lewis’s quip that fascism in the United States will come “wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” In the days since the shootings in Arizona, an image of the Lewis quote superimposed on an photo of Palin has made the rounds on Facebook and a number of left-leaning blogs. An attack on Beck, Palin, and Limbaugh appeared in letters page of today’s Seattle Times citing Sinclair Lewis’s supposedly prescient observation, and warning Americans not to ignore the signs of a fascist takeover—as so many “middle class Germans” did.

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