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Are the Politics of 'Incivility' Paving the Road to an American Fascism?

September 1, 2018 in Blogs

By Henry Giroux, Salon

Complaints about civility avoid the big questions of the Trump era: Why is America sliding into authoritarianism?


In the face of a nauseating and poisonous election cycle that ended with Donald Trump’s presidential victory, many commentators are quick to argue that Americans have fallen prey to a culture of incivility. This is the discourse of “bad manners” parading as insight, while working, regardless of intention, to hide the effects of power, politics, racial injustice and other forms of oppression.

The rhetoric of “incivility,” when used as a pejorative ideological label, serves to discredit political rhetoric as ill-tempered, rude and uncivilized. Politics, in this sense, shifts from a focus on substance to style – reworking the notion of critical thinking and action through a rulebook of alleged collegiality – which becomes code for the elevated character and manners of the privileged classes. As John Doris points out in his book “Lack of Character,” the “discourse of character often plays against a background of social stratification and elitism.”

In other words, the wealthy, noble and rich are deemed to possess admirable characters and to engage in civil behavior. At the same time, those who are poor, unemployed, homeless or subject to police violence are not seen as the victims of larger political, social and economic forces that bear down upon them; on the contrary, their problems are reduced to the depoliticizing discourse of bad character, defined as an individual pathology, and whatever resistance they present is dismissed as rude, ignorant and uncivil. Ruling elites have used the discourse of incivility to criticize dissent as it has emerged across ideological and racial lines and includes unruly conservative working-class whites as well as left-oriented black youth groups.

Trump has marshaled the assumptions underlying this discourse to support his presidential campaign and political agenda, which warrant far more alarm than suggested by terms such as “ill-mannered.” More than other candidates, Trump not only showcased and appropriated “incivility” in his public appearances as a mark of solidarity with many of his white male followers, he tapped into their resentment and transformed their misery into a racist, bigoted, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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