Dog-Whistles, and The Racists Who Hear Them.
onald Trump has been called the Pied-Piper of Dog-whistle politics by Ian Haney Lopez in an
. The dubious insinuation in
that charge is that Trump is speaking in secret code to racists, bigots and xenophobes, whom I wager are hiding in the bushes, like dogs, awaiting the
long-awaited sound to bring in the coming race war.
The thing about a dog whistle is that only dogs can hear it. So when I am lead to believe that Trump and his followers are engaged in “dog-whistle
politics”, I have to wonder why these sounds always seem to ring so loud in the ears of the accusers.
What is a political dog-whistle? It is a coded phrase that means one thing to the general population, but means something else to others. According to
an example in Lopez’s own book “Dog Whistle Politics”, when Nixon spoke of “Law and Order”, he was secretly sending “coded terms” to
racists via cyphers. To the racist hounds who were able to pick up on this covert racism, “Law” means race and “Order” means anti-activism,
as they tend to do. Luckily for us, Lopez had learned to decode the ciphers, though he never gives us insight into how.
When Paul Ryan had the audacity to link poverty to a “tailspin of culture”, especially in the “inner cities in particular”, “of men not
working” and “generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work”, the words magically morphed
into the inaudible sound of a racist dog whistle. Rep. Barbara Lee recognized this as a “thinly-veiled racial attack”, and that when Ryan spoke of
“inner-city” and “culture”, he actually meant “black”. According to Ryan, race never crossed his mind. It did cross the mind of Lee,
however, whom when presented with the words in question, immediately thought of black people. She too knew how to decode the ciphers.
Former president Jimmy Carter knew all too well that the animosity against President Obama from the racist right was because he was a black man, and
not because of, say, his policies, as has traditionally been the case between Republicans and Democrats. Mark Potok from the Southern Poverty Law
Center agreed. "I think what President Carter said is precisely what is going on. I am not saying that everyone involved in opposing healthcare reform
is a Klansman in disguise, but it is the elephant in the room." Congressman Henry Johnson echoed his statements. "I guess we'll probably have folks
putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside." The RNC chairman at the time and obvious racist Michael Steele
denied the accusations; but the racist code, manifested in the form “opposing healthcare reform”, had already been delivered. It makes me wonder
why Obama’s race is the first thing to pop into the head of Carter, but it is probably because he is well-versed in the meaning of dog-whistles.
Alex Hern, technology reporter for the Guardian, wrote on the subject of Republican dog whistles for the New Statesman. When a Mitt Romney aide
commented that Romney would be a better president than Obama because he better understood the Anglo-Saxon heritage that Britain and America share,
Hern’s ears started ringing. “This sort of statement is known in politics as a ‘dog whistle’,” he wrote. “To most people, it looks
innocuous, if a bit weird, but to its target audience – in this case, racists – it reads as a perfectly clear statement that Romney is better
than Obama because he is white.” Perfectly clear to racists, and oddly enough, perfectly clear to Alex Hern.
While it is probably true that there is a pack of racists out there making hilarious connections between such “coded terms” and racial
stereotypes, it appears that they aren’t the only ones making these racist connections. So then, why do these dog-whistles always ring so loud and
clear in the ears of the accusers?
The simple answer is because they are racist. When someone hears the phrase “men not working”, and instantly and without further inquiry thinks of
black people, it is because she has made that connection herself, because she herself is racist.
In another example, when Avik S. A. Roy of Forbes watches the Republican National Convention, hears about strong policies against illegal Mexican
immigrants and Muslims, then continues to write a headline about how the general message of the GOP is “Brown people make us less safe”, he is the
one making racist connections, and not the GOP. Both Mexico and Islam are multi-racial and span all colors. It takes an ignorant racist to confuse
both Mexico and Islam with “brown people”, because we know "brown people" was the first thing that popped in his head upon hearing those terms.
In conclusion, beware of anyone who constantly appeals to dog whistles, because you know they will project their racism on others, long before they
realize their own prejudices.
edit on 25-7-2016 by LesMisanthrope because: (no reason given)