August 5, 2017

THE rIGHT IS THE lEFT:

'Cosmopolitan' is a dog whistle word once used in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia (Amulya Shankar, 8/03/17, PRI)

"Cosmopolitan" isn't a word that's frequently heard in American politics ("elite" is much more common), but it wouldn't be out of place in Adolf Hitler's Germany or Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union.

It was an "anti-Semitic fighting term," Volker Ullrich writes in his biography, Hitler: Ascent, "used against the Jews by Nazis and Bolsheviks alike." Ullrich writes that the Jewish diaspora in Europe was "considered not only cosmopolitan, but also rootless, and in the late 1940s the term became a code word for Jews who insisted on their Jewish identity."

Today, as Politico notes, the definition has expanded -- "in the eyes of their foes, 'cosmopolitans' tend to cluster in the universities, the arts and in urban centers, where familiarity with diversity makes for a high comfort level with 'untraditional' ideas and lives."

But its ugly history means that the word "cosmopolitan" still serves as a dog whistle within the white nationalist movement in the United States.

"Dog whistles work kind of like Easter eggs," said Cristina López, who studies trends in alt-right language at the media watchdog group Media Matters. "You have to know what you're looking for to find it -- and therefore they land with a very specific kind of audience and fly over the heads of everyone else."

Dog whistles can be insidious -- they seem innocuous, and give the speaker a buffer against accusations of racism, sexism or worse, while simultaneously energizing the base. That's why they've been so popular in political speeches throughout history.

It's hard to prove a dog whistle, says López, but the use of the word "cosmopolitan" has struck a nerve. "Miller is right now being celebrated in the corners of the alt-right, white nationalistic internet as a hero."

Posted by at August 5, 2017 8:07 AM

  

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