Thursday, April 17, 2014

The far right, the government, the media, the ranchers, and the environmentalists: some historical and philosophical context

This week, Rachel Maddow featured two related segments about radical rightwing movements in the US and the responses of the government and the media to these movements. On Tuesday, Maddow asked why the government hasn’t been more focused on violent, terrorist white supremacist groups and has been largely unwilling even to recognize the far right as a political movement.*

“Why,” she asks, “are we so willing to not be afraid of the threat of rightwing extremism in this country?” I’m pleased that Maddow’s calling attention to this, but somewhat surprised that she’s at all puzzled. It’s not that governments have done nothing historically to address these groups and their terrorism. But politics, ideology, racism, misogyny, and speciesism have always determined the direction of the government’s attention and their treatment of different groups, to the extent that they’ve often ignored obvious indications of conspiracies and terrorist plans on the right while obsessing over nonexistent threats from leftwing or minority activists.

Will Potter, in Green Is the New Red and on his blog of that name, has focused on this in detail; I’ve described various episodes in the history of harassment of leftwing academics and others here. In fact, successive US administrations (including Obama’s) have welcomed and supported movements of the far right that refuse to recognize and even seek to overthrow the democratically elected government – as long as it’s a leftwing government in Venezuela, Honduras, Haiti,… It’s really not much of a puzzle.

Last night, Maddow talked about rightwing media coverage of the government standoff with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, arguing that the story is being hyped and that the reports could contribute to an escalation of violence.

Meanwhile, some environmentalists seem to believe that the ones to blame in this situation are…the cows, who deserve to be disparaged and threatened with (more) violence.

What’s missing in all of this is some historical context, both in terms of the involvement of ranchers in politics and in terms of the moral failings of some environmentalist philosophies. So, for those who want a better understanding of the issues involved, I have two reading suggestions. First, David A. Nibert’s 2013 Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict:

Second, the chapters “License to Kill: An Ecofeminist Critique of Hunters’ Discourse” by Marti Kheel and “Beyond Just-So Stories: Narrative, Animals, and Ethics” by Linda Vance in Animals & Women.

*Unfortunately, Maddow considers the problem from an entirely US-centric perspective.

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