Henry Giroux: The Language Of Neoliberalism & Towards A Fascist Politics


LBW: But I think something that I really want to point to is the ways in which you know you talk about the ways in which
language dehumanizing language sets the stage for the sort of dehumanization
that we’re seeing right now there’s us versus them kind of thing that we’re
seeing and I want to point to the ways in which not just Trump who was so
obvious about his disdain for minorities immigrants you know
people that he views as the other but I want to I want to talk about say the
ways that previous presidencies previous leaders that we’ve had you know like
Obama or Clinton or Bush or or any of these previous presidencies that
we’ve had that have definitely furthered the neoliberal economic and social
agendas but they were such they were very polite politicians I guess you
could say compared to what we have with Trump if I could ask about the ways in
which a sort of a neoliberal language has been used to set the stage for this
rising fascism and authoritarianism in the United States and maybe maybe using
examples from presidents that we don’t normally associate with that like Obama
for instance what is some of the language that’s used to do that HENRY GIROUX: I mean
look you know Reagan began his presidency attacking welfare queens
I mean Reagan began as a governor basically traded in red-baiting
particularly around somebody like Angela Davis I mean when you look at Bush the
first Bush I mean you know he gave us the Willie Horton ads you know when
you look at the way in which Cheney and that Bush regime
emerged with his endless lies it’s implicit coded sexism and racism
you have to understand something and that is that fascism starts with
language and it starts with the language of brutality which essentially abused
long enough becomes normalized I mean there’s a long tradition in the United
States in which this neoliberal narrative of separating
people along lies of friends and enemy it has always been racially and class and
gender coded it was just you know we just hidden a bit it seems to me with
some of these people I mean it wasn’t as overt as it was as it is of course with Trump I mean Trump brings the surface elements of this language of
fascism to the center of politics that’s what he does I mean the origins of the fascism in terms of its ultra-nationalism you know
it’s a template that the discourse of decline its contempt not just the
liberalism but for intellectual thought the claim that America is always in
crisis the contempt for weakness I mean what this language since
particularly since the 1980s has produced is not only a racist eco system
a class-based hatred of justice and equality but it
also has produced a language of disposability and at the culture of
cruelty that is unlike anything we have seen I mean look let’s go back to
somebody like like Clinton I mean people talk about Clinton is the great savior
because there was a somewhat of an economic boom during his regime Clinton
to me in many ways was was horrible in terms of what he did around expanding
what would be the the punishment state in imposing you know laws around three
strikes in you’re out a law and order agenda that put
millions I mean hundreds of thousands of people of color in prison what he
did to dismantle basically the economy by going after the Glass-Steagall Act
what he did by attacking welfare roles I mean these are all instances of a
language that basically sees the other as excess that sees the other as
disposable that sees the other as non-human in some way this is the
language Patrick of objectification so language it’s a
language of reification and when you do demonize people and you reify them long
enough that language operates in the service of violence I mean think about
Trump’s language which is right I mean this is the language of war this is the
language of hatred its a language of ethnic cleansing its the language of
racial purity it’s the language of white supremacy I mean it’s a language in
which certain groups a seen as not only expendable but actually when he says we
as he recently allegedly claimed that border guards should shoot immigrants in the
legs who accuses people in Congress or
anybody who disagrees with them of treason I mean this is the language of
war this is the language of war this is a contempt for people who disagree it elevates instinct over emotion it’s anti intellectual it has a contempt
it exhibits a contempt for the rule of law and it harbors an enormous fear of
what we call the other it’s an elimination language and what scares me
is that the misery imposed by neoliberalism
with its massive engine of social death its massive engine of basically human
suffering and misery it’s endless production of massive
inequalities in wealth and power has now paved the way for kind of neo-fascist
discourse that merges with racial purity white supremacy and ethnic cleansing LBW: Okay well I want to kind of talk a little more about language because there
was a part in your the article that I mentioned that you published in Truthout in which we talk about how right-wing populist create diversions
and distract away from neoliberal inequities I’ll just quote something
really quick here just to set the stage here now you say in a masterful act of
political diversion populist leaders attacked all vestiges
of liberal capitalism while refusing to name neoliberal inequities in wealth and
power as a basic threat to their societies instead of calling for an
acceleration of the democratic ideals of popular sovereignty and equality
right-wing populist leaders such as Trump Bolsonaro and Hungary’s Victor
Orban defined democracy as the enemy of those who wish for unaccountable power
they also diverted genuine popular anger into the abyss of cultural
chauvinism anti-immigrant hatred and a contempt of Muslims and a targeted
attack on the environment healthcare education public institutions social
provisions and other basic life resources so I think this is interesting
because it’s something that I kind of sensed as Trump was was gearing up for
the election was a sense that he was talking about you know globalization in
a sense or globalism I guess is kind of the word I hear often on the right when
we talk about a global economic system so he was speaking to for instance a
so-called free trade agreements as undermining you know US sovereignty and
and empowerment of workers in the United States you know which is something
that’s actually true right but of course then it’s a diversion after that it’s
not actually addressing the underlying structure of neoliberalism you’re not
gonna hear Trump present a well articulated well researched critique of
neoliberalism at all no he’s gonna blame immigrants he’s gonna blame the
other he’s going to use language of dehumanization in order to further his
campaign and sort of build his base so if you could talk a little bit about
the ways in which right-wing populist use they touch on it just enough to get
people to understand like okay he’s on my side he’s gonna use his power for me
and for my own but then divert that towards the sort of anger a resentment a
fracturing of the culture in general HENRY GIROUX: You know Patrick you said it more eloquently than I have I think you’re absolutely right I mean what they have done is they
tapped into real problems in some cases that people are
facing but they’ve only tapped into those problems in order to mobilize the
fear and the outrage in ways that benefit their own economic and political
interest that’s the difference I mean they don’t tap to outrage in ways to
reveal very basic underlying economic and political factors that have produced
the suffering that people have now find themselves in whether we’re talking
about the desolated landscapes all over the United States that have been
produced as a result of globalization or they don’t talk about the housing crisis
and how poor people had to pay and how they the Obamas of the world sort of
bailed out the bankers and the people from Goldman Sachs
they don’t really talk about how capitalism in a sense has nothing to do
with the needs of the people that they’re concerned about I mean I think
that when you live in a culture by the kind of anti-intellectualism that we
find in the United States it becomes very easy to sort of mobilize people in
ways in which you actually point to a real problem but then you divert the
issue in ways to suggest don’t worry I can solve I alone can solve this problem
when in fact the people who are arguing that are basically people who believe in
a value system that has produced the problem I mean Trump claims
he’s for the working people he’s going to produce infrastructure he’s gonna in
a sense do something about health care and so forth and so on when in fact what
he’s done is passed regressive tax measures that benefit the rich he’s
deregulated all kinds of safety and business and ecological policies that
are going to hurt poor people because their children are going to suffer under
debased ecosystem that’s collapsing he has no interest whatsoever in
addressing the health care system except to make it more difficult for people
that actually get health insurance and so it seems to me you have a
switching bait discourse here at one level we point to some of capitalism’s
problems particularly global capitalism and another
level we mobilize those fears the fears genuine fears in some cases on the part
of people who are suffering from these problems in ways that completely divert
the issue by blaming Mexicans by blaming immigrants by blaming Muslims and so in
a sense what you have here is you have the merging of the problems caused
by global neoliberalism was in fact the appropriation of a fascist politics
that trades in white supremacy ethnic cleansing and white
nationalism so this is a very interesting kind of move because it
represents the merging in many ways of neoliberalism fascism neoliberal
fascism is both a project in a movement as a project of course neoliberalism
destroys all the commanding institutions of democracy while consolidating power
in the hands of relatively few of financial elite and as a movement it
endlessly legitimates and further reproduces economic inequality massive
suffering the privatization of public goods the dismantling of a central
government agencies and individualizes social problems and that’s exactly what
Trump did

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