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October 6, 2012 / needhamgrassroots

The Art of the Dog-Whistle

from the Grio – The art of politics is the ability to stay afloat, to walk that fine line between two worlds: what the public thinks and reality. The art of the dog whistle came into prominence with the advent of the Southern Strategy and was distilled into today’s modern political playbook by a fellow South Carolinian, the late Lee Atwater.

Atwater’s specific views on racial code words were crystallized in an interview he gave back in 1981 to the late Alexander Lamis, a Political Science Professor at Case Western Reserve University (and fellow South Carolinian):

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Ni**er, ni**er, ni**er.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘ni**er’–that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than white. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Ni**er, ni**er.’ “

Yeah, there it is, in your face. All of its ugliness and the grotesqueness of it all is laid bare, exposed. I suppose at the very least Atwater was being honest.



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