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The Canard of Dog-Whistle Politics

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posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 06:13 PM
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The Canard of Dog-Whistle Politics



Recent revelations about some anti-Trump text messages between supposedly impartial investigators reminded me of a common piece of casuistry.

In regards to Donald Trump warning about voter fraud, one investigator, Lisa Page, suggested that by doing so, he was making racial appeals.

“Full of dog whistles. The racism is barely even veiled anymore.”

By now we’ve all heard about the theory of dog-whistle politics. Many have accepted it as a viable theory with explanatory power. Very few have questioned its validity.

As the story goes, dog-whistling is a rhetorical trick where certain phrases and coded words, which may otherwise seem innocuous to the average listener, contain within them hidden messages, audible only to certain subsections of human beings. For example, in a world where overt racism is unacceptable, using racist terminology would be ruinous to a campaign. Thus, in order to appeal to racists the politician must use words that are explicitly neutral to the average listener, but are implicitly racist to the racist ones.

During the 2016 election in the United States, the theory became a pronounced talking point in the mouths of political commentators, particularly against Donald J.Trump.

Typing “dogwhistle” and “Trump” into Google brings up a few examples:

Washington Post –Trump’s White Nationalist Dog Whistles in Warsaw
Time – Thank Ronald Reagan dn Bill Clinton for Donald Trump’s Dog-Whistle Ways
ThinkProgress – The Hidden Dogwhistle in Trump’s Belated Condemnation of White Supremacists
FiveThrityEight – From Wallace to Trump, The Evolution of Law and Order
Is Trump’s Call for Law and order a Coded Racial Message?
The Guardian – Donal Trump used to Dog Whistle Racism. Now he just Yells it
The New Yorker – The Racial Demagoguery of Trump’s Assaults on Kaepernick and Steph Curry
Public Radio International – ‘’Cosmopolitan’ is a dog-whistle word once used in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia
The Wrap - Are Trump-Pence’s KFC Pics a Dog-Whistle to a Sexist Clinton Joke?
CNN - Was ‘cherish our history’ a Trump Dogwhistle?
New Republic – Jeb Bush Doesn’t Understand the Concept of Dog Whistle Politics
Hillary Clinton – Quite Telling That Trump Is Willing to Attack Black Athletes, “Dog-Whistle” to Base
Brian Williams – Trump’s Repeated use of “sovereignty” is a dog whistle
Salon – Nothing Left but the Dog-Whistle. Trump, real America, and the Death of the Conservative Movement
GQ – Donald Trump Visits Puerto Rico, Proceeds to Criticize It for Not Doing More After Hurricane Maria
Rolling Stone – Trump Won by Turning Bigoted Dog Whistles into Megaphones
LA Times – Condemning Trump’s ‘dog-whistle’ campaign, Clinton Cites Endorsement in KKK Newspaper

Allegations of dog whistling have been used by critics against many politicians from all over the political spectrum. Barak Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton, George Bush—all have, in one way or another, been accused of it.

According to law professor Ian Haney-Lopez, who wrote an entire book on dog-whistle politics, Governor George Wallace was the penultimate dog-whistler, and perhaps the first. Given Wallace’s penchant for racism, it is probably true that he alluded to race countless times through otherwise innocuous words. But Haney-Lopez goes on to conclude, without evidence, that Republicans adopted this approach, for instance with Goldwater and his appeals to “states rights”, and Nixon’s “southern strategy”.

As an example, whenever Nixon used the phrase “law and order”, he was, according to Haney-Lopez, implicitly and secretly signalling to white racists that he would protect them from black folk and other minorities. “Law and Order” did not signify law, order, nor any combination thereof. Instead it was a wink-wink, nudge-nudge between racists, who were surely comforted to receive such hidden messages. Nixon, of course, denied the charge.

In the now famous ABC debates of 1968, the conservative pundit William F. Buckley remarked “I would like to say “law and order” by other means, but still mean law and order.” This humorous, but also serious criticism of the theory, raises a variety of questions. Could the phrase “law and order” ever mean law and order?

edit on 14-12-2017 by LesMisanthrope because: (no reason given)




posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 06:15 PM
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As far as I have seen or read, however, not one politician has admitted to using dog whistles in order to appeal to racist voters.

Therein lies the limitation: without an admission of dog-whistling, to charge someone with it necessarily involves a bit of question-begging, assumption, guesswork, and worse, psychological projection.

Dog-whistle theorists have come to rectify this by postulating that dog-whistling grants the speaker plausible deniability. No only can the dog-whistle theorist make accusations of racism without providing evidence, but he can fall back on the assumption that being unable to prove it is all a part of the target’s plan. The accused is left to disprove what the accuser refused to prove in the first place.

Despite the abundance of magical thinking required to believe, without evidence, that someone is speaking in secret code, year after ear the theory’s usage gains political credibility among pundits, writers, and activists, to the point it has become a dogma among the political orthodoxy and their acolytes. See how easily it slips from the mouths of the anti-Trump crowd.

But insofar as the theory dresses itself up as a sophisticated inference regarding political rhetoric, it is at best a type of folk linguistics—nonsense—and at worst, a cynical and pernicious ploy used by sophists to try and tacitly implicate another with racism, all without needing to provide the necessary evidence to do so.

It is true that people may send “secret messages” in language. Double entendres, innuendo, allusion, and references are common rhetorical techniques. It is also true that people can interpret or misinterpret language in a manner of their own choosing. But with no rosetta stone, no psychic abilities, and no honest clarification from the speaker (and thus no confirmation of the theory), proponents of the dogwhistle theory are left with absolutely zero evidence towards the motives of the speaker. Motive is attributed.

That does not stop the dog-whistle theorists from pretending their accusations are derived from reality, and not from the sordid thoughts of their own mind.

According to American linguist Geoffrey Nurnberg, in an article for NPR entitled “Is Trump's Call for Law and Order a Coded Racial Message”, the hidden racism was “pretty obvious”, not a matter of fact but a matter of gut feeling.


“This was a new maneuver in modern American political rhetoric. Even in the South, most Americans had repudiated explicit racism. Now, crude appeals to bias had to be replaced by phrases that obliquely brought racial images to mind. People often describe these phrases as racial dog whistles, which send a signal that's only audible to one part of the audience. But their racial connections are usually pretty obvious to everyone. You don't need a Captain Midnight decoder ring to know that "welfare queens" or "inner-city culture" are references to minorities, no more than to know that "Park Avenue" is a reference to the rich.”


By Nurnberg’s own admission, it’s not because certain words carry hidden meaning, nor that the speaker intended them to mean something beyond their face value, but that upon hearing the words in question, the listener equates them to “racial images”. That’s why it was “pretty obvious” to Geoffrey Nurnberg that “welfare queens” and “inner-city culture” equals minorities, because his own thought process tends to equate the two. That says a great deal more about his own racism than that of the speaker’s. Unfortunately he assumes, without evidence, that because he conjures racial images in his own head, and equates certain terms with certain racial groups, the speaker must have intended him to think this way.

The dog-whistle theory implicates the dog-whistle theorist of racism more than the accused. It proves that the theorist tends to equate certain terms and ideas with certain groups, his own thoughts are his Rosetta Stone, but also evidence of someone else’s intentions.

There is zero evidence beyond explicit admission that people are speaking in secret code, nor any rational reason to believe “dog-whistle politics” is a real phenomenon. Used as it is, in combination with guesswork and projection and question-begging, the mere suggestion of “dog-whistle politics” is not a statement regarding states of affairs, but is a form of surreptitious sophistry used to draw relatively reasonable people away from considering the arguments of their opponents.

And we should scold these sophists for employing such a pernicious technique in order to demonize and deceive. But they probably do not even realize it! It seems more likely a feat of dogma and stupidity, as is apparent in Lisa Page’s text messages, than it is a cunning and cynical ploy to deceive others.

LesMis



edit on 14-12-2017 by LesMisanthrope because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 06:51 PM
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I do believe there is dog whistle politics...
It’s not always racially motivated, it can be used in regards to any “Tribe”.

However I’d never apply it to President Trump...
For the simple fact he is too honest (in a certain sense) and blunt to disguise his thoughts.


David Duke is a pretty good example...
But due to his history it could be argued he’s too convenient an example, and therefore not really proof of a larger mindset amongst politicians.



It’s not limited to Repubs either...

Bernie absolutely dog whistled to the ardent Communists while playing the Democratic Socialist...
But he’d have been one of the first to put a bullet in the Tsar.

Like you say, I have no proof of this...
But I trust my suspicions nevertheless.



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 06:54 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

I came back after simply flagging and starring your post, wish I could do more. It is obvious that you did such an awesome thread that none can dispute the reality of your prose...thus no comments.

I know I did not comment since it was obviously true...more simplified...dog whistling says more about those making declarations than those most often speaking plainly.

Kudos to you sir...though I was disappointed that there was not more comments to debate.

Edit add: oops...thank you Hazardous####! I was typing before seeing your response. I am more a reader than typer, so looking forward to future comments!
edit on 12 14 2017 by CynConcepts because: (no reason given)


Edit add 2: to contribute to topic...Naturally, we all can use our bias personal perspectives to contaminate what any other individual may state and say. It is human and natural. It is instinctive for survival to base on personal experiences. The fallacy in this in a civil society vs wild nature is what we are seeing more and more in today's world. No one is taking what anyone says at face value...it is all supposedly a secret code for something else.

What the question should be is...how do we get beyond this thought process and trust?
edit on 12 14 2017 by CynConcepts because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 07:03 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope


The dog-whistle theory implicates the dog-whistle theorist of racism more than the accused. It proves that the theorist tends to equate certain terms and ideas with certain groups, his own thoughts are his Rosetta Stone, but also evidence of someone else’s intentions.


Being able to recognize racism and dog whistles doesn't make one racist. Seriously? I grew up around entire communities of idiotic racists while seeing racism every day.

That I can notice it in others means I'm racist?




posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 07:34 PM
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a reply to: Hazardous1408

Any examples?



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 07:38 PM
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originally posted by: underwerks
a reply to: LesMisanthrope


The dog-whistle theory implicates the dog-whistle theorist of racism more than the accused. It proves that the theorist tends to equate certain terms and ideas with certain groups, his own thoughts are his Rosetta Stone, but also evidence of someone else’s intentions.


Being able to recognize racism and dog whistles doesn't make one racist. Seriously? I grew up around entire communities of idiotic racists while seeing racism every day.

That I can notice it in others means I'm racist?



No, what ai said was assuming certain words implicitly refer to racial groups is racist. In the example I gave, the man said it was “pretty obvious” that “welfare queens” refers to minorities. Not only is that untrue, but it is racist.



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 07:40 PM
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The only thing about this theory is that the only person who hears the whistle is the dog. Not even the person who blows the whistle hears it.

So what does that mean that all the commentators who pride themselves of spotting the "racist code" that makes up the dog whistle are the only ones who usually spot it?

If this is code only racists understand, the commentators are the only ones who hear the whistle ... well, they must be the dogs.
edit on 14-12-2017 by ketsuko because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 07:41 PM
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a reply to: CynConcepts

I think it is a simple matter of not confusing our own thoughts, which we have access to, with another’s, which we have zero access to. It takes a sheer act of will, but it is possible to notice ones own biases and fallacies, and overcome them.



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 07:44 PM
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originally posted by: ketsuko
The only thing about this theory is that the only person who hears the whistle is the dog. Not even the person who blows the whistle hears it.

So what does that mean that all the commentators who pride themselves of spotting the "racist code" that makes up the dog whistle are the only ones who usually spot it?

If this is code only racists understand, the commentators are the only ones who hear the whistle ... well, they must be the dogs.


That’s right. The man who wrote Dog-Whistle Politics, Ian Haney-Lopez, refers to race in nearly every sentence, treating them as monoliths, and assumes that everyone else does the same.

James Comey (that James comey) once said that everyone is a little racist. That seems more to me an admission of guilt more than a statement of fact.



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 07:54 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

I'd like to posit the question...

What's worse...... Politician's that use Dog Whistle political techniques....

..... or the mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging morons that plague the gene pool and appear to have no elevated level of cognitive ability able to see the spewing of feces for what it is?



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 07:55 PM
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a reply to: LesMisanthrope

What I can't figure out is if the "dogs" in this case are truly the racists or if they simply live in a dark reality haunted by racists and seek to create what they *know* must be there even if they can't actually find the overt evidence for it--in other words, the dog whistle phenomena is an attempt at self-fulfilling prophecy or world building ... a reject reality to substitute my own sort of reflex.
edit on 14-12-2017 by ketsuko because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 07:59 PM
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I think one of the best examples of "dog-whistle" politics, which is a term I dislike, was Lee Atwater at the Southern Stragedy.

www.thenation.com...


You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, 'n-word', 'n-word'.” By 1968 you can’t say “'n-word'”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, 'n-word'.”


That seemed to have given way to using phrases like "welfare queens" and such, in regards to poor women, etc.

Dog whistle politics is par for the course.



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 08:00 PM
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a reply to: introvert

You must not ever have been in midwestern trailer park to have met a white welfare queen.



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 08:05 PM
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You mean like “draining the swamp”. No one agrees who or what that is, so trump must have been dog whistling. See who would come.



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 08:06 PM
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originally posted by: ketsuko
a reply to: introvert

You must not ever have been in midwestern trailer park to have met a white welfare queen.


Sure I have. Plenty.

That is why I said poor women and not poor women of any color.

You did notice that, correct? The term was not limited to people of just color.
edit on 14-12-2017 by introvert because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 08:19 PM
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a reply to: introvert

Of course, I haven't heard welfare queen used very much outside this thread lately. For some reason, I've always associated it with Leona Helmsley myself.



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 08:23 PM
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originally posted by: LesMisanthrope

originally posted by: underwerks
a reply to: LesMisanthrope


The dog-whistle theory implicates the dog-whistle theorist of racism more than the accused. It proves that the theorist tends to equate certain terms and ideas with certain groups, his own thoughts are his Rosetta Stone, but also evidence of someone else’s intentions.


Being able to recognize racism and dog whistles doesn't make one racist. Seriously? I grew up around entire communities of idiotic racists while seeing racism every day.

That I can notice it in others means I'm racist?



No, what ai said was assuming certain words implicitly refer to racial groups is racist. In the example I gave, the man said it was “pretty obvious” that “welfare queens” refers to minorities. Not only is that untrue, but it is racist.

I think a lot of your ideas about racism in the U.S. stem from having no actual experience with it. Certain phrases are racist, regardless of who uses them because of the history of that phrase and how it's been weaponized against people. Whether the person meant it to be racist or not is irrelevant in that context.

A lot of older people in the U.S. were raised in a time where things that are obviously racist now, were seen as not. My grandmother, who was a foster parent for kids of all colors for over 20 years and doesn't have a racist bone in her body, still makes racist comments, just because she's from a different time and doesn't see it as racist.

But that doesn't mean her comments about black people being able to smell snakes or whatever else she might say aren't racist, in 2017.



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 08:27 PM
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originally posted by: LesMisanthrope
a reply to: Hazardous1408

Any examples?


Of?

I said quite a few things in my post.
You’ll need to narrow it down for me.



posted on Dec, 14 2017 @ 08:29 PM
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a reply to: underwerks

Oh, but what you are talking about is different than a speech laced with a racial "code" that presumably only others who know this code can understand ... oh, the people who bark at the whistle!

Do you know any politician who gives speeches laced with your grandmother's rhetoric?

"And let me tell you ... I am nominating Demetrius Benson to be my AG because this town is full of criminal snakes and he sure can smell snakes!"
edit on 14-12-2017 by ketsuko because: (no reason given)




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