From Brevik to Nugent: Rhetoric, Demunanization and Murder

Ted NugentOn April 20, 2012, Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Brevik gave his account of how he executed 77 people at a summer camp in Norway in July 2011.

“It was extremely hard to shoot that first shot. It is contrary to human nature. But after that…it became easier,” he testified. “To take a human life is the most extreme thing you can do, but you weigh that against superior motives. I’ve had a dehumanization strategy towards those I considered valid targets so I could come to the point of killing them.”

Brevik describes a process that is at the center of every genocide. That process is one of dehumanization. When clearly stated, as in Brevik’s account, we immediately condemn its insidious nature. However, we often fail to acknowledge the steps that lead to this process unfolding, and the role we play herein on a daily basis. Every time we as individuals or with affiliates (peers, religious bodies, political parties,) identify groups of people as “other” “unworthy” “beyond the sphere of deserved rights,” etc., we in fact have participated in the dehumanization of those persons. There is no separating our verbal disenfranchisement of others, from the physical harm committed against members of targeted groups.

Inflammatory rhetoric fueled Brevik’s anger over immigration policy and immigrants. In the USA today, talk show hosts and politicians have taken up the same mantle of creating celebrity for themselves by outdoing each other with polarizing and incendiary statements. The latest case of this is Ted Nugent’s public speech comparing Democrats to a coyote that must be shot. Here he referred to the current administration as “evil, America-hating” and stated that people needed to “ride into the battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”

When confronted by Secret Service agents for his comments, Nugent resorted to hiding behind his freedom of speech and the use of metaphor. However, as proven in Norway, for 77 victims of dehumanization, there was no hiding from the bullet of one who decided to act on the hate that empowered him to commit murder.

By William Repicci

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