For generations, Western society has taken pride in welcoming all types of discourse in the press, radio, or television; the livelier, the better. Outrage often awaits individuals or institutions suggesting that some passionate rhetoric in the public square invites danger that outweighs the theoretical value of free expression. This Article proceeds from the assumption that—from a less lofty, more grassroots perspective—modern, organized, formal, one-time venues for extremist political speech do not present the most potent threat to physical safety and a stable democracy. The greater danger emanates from pervasive right-wing extremist themes on radio, television, and some online news sources (often as a modern-day replacement for hard-copy newspapers and newsletters). These media support an increasingly passionate and virulent message in public discourse. This message encourages persons who feel uneasy or displaced in society to expiate their grievances not through the political process, but through murder.
In some quarters, this particular type of extremist rhetoric is helpfully denominated as “eliminationist” to distinguish it from standard political content or even hate speech. This form of extremism condones the use of killing to eliminate all contrary political viewpoints. When Americans encounter this type of discourse in in the United States, we become deaf with denial. We assume that American notions of civilization reach too deeply and broadly to permit the tragic outcomes seen in other nations, such as Germany, which provided the template for more recent tragedies in Rwanda.
This Article addresses pervasive, long-term, mixed messages that blend ostensible news with entertainment, politics, religion, and appeals to ethnic identity and general fear-mongering. Although such discourse receives the greatest coverage in the mass media, the better forum to mitigate and neutralize the incitement to action may be on a person-to-person level. This Article will explore interventions in Rwanda and Nigeria that adapted American dispute prevention and resolution methods to African media and dispute resolution traditions. The African collaborations offer a different view of justice, based on relationships, which may provide a better fit and forum for America to address extremist media messages and their impact on society.
Phyllis E. Bernard,
Eliminationist Discourse in a Conflicted Society: Lessons for America from Africa?,
93 Marq. L. Rev. 173
Available at: https://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/mulr/vol93/iss1/12