Rhetoric, Rage, and the Right
Statement from Political Research Associates
June, 2009

The election of Barack Obama traumatized whole sections of the U.S. Right. Right-wing media demagogues have been quick to exploit this angry constituency by using rhetoric that demonizes not just Obama and the Democrats but liberal ideology itself. Using the rhetoric of Right-Wing populism, opportunistic pundits and politicians portray liberal government programs as picking the pockets of hard-working taxpayers to help undeserving poor people, lazy parasites, and unlawful immigrants.

By using the tools of fear, irresponsible public figures are cultivating an aggressive constituency comprised of people who feel that militant action is justified, because in their view the Obama administration has shut them out of the political process.

“The current political environment is awash with seemingly absurd but nonetheless influential conspiracy theories, hyperbolic claims, and demonized targets,” explains
Chip Berlet, senior analyst at PRA, “and this creates a milieu where violence is a likely outcome.”

Periods of right-wing populism in the United States often emerge during times of political, economic, or social stress, generating movements in which White men who feel displaced and ignored blame their sense of loss on targeted scapegoats. “This frequently happens when elections favor the Political Left and the society is seen as moving towards greater social equality or away from traditional societal hierarchies,” says Berlet. “In this scenario it is easier for right-wing demagogues to successfully demonize liberals as abandoning morality and crafting a tyrannical New World Order.

“Today targeted scapegoats include not only liberals but also immigrants, Muslims, gay people, and abortion rights activists,” says Berlet, co-author of the award winning book Right-Wing Populism in America. In the 1990s, there was a significant overlap between the Patriot Movement and the anti-abortion movement.

 “This is not the time to undermine free speech or civil liberties,” says Tarso Ramos, executive director of Political Research Associates. “Yet we must hold accountable the media pundits and political actors who through campaigns of exaggeration and deceit have created an atmosphere where some among the many anxious and angry people are bound to conclude there is no option available but to turn to violence. Likewise, we must hold accountable those civic leaders and media companies who stand by silently as this environment grows ever more toxic to democracy.”


Spring/Summer 2009
Volume 8, Number 1

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