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indi wrote

Dehumanization is not just a form of violence. It is the only form of violence that justifies further violence, even when the need for violence is past. It is the only form of violence that says taking away people's basic rights and dignity is okay.

Punching Nazis (to use a popular example) is necessary because they are a threat to others, and must be stopped (and, as you note, you can't discuss things with them; there's almost certainly no peaceful way to stop them, so... punch away). But once the threat is over - once the Nazis have surrendered, and are no longer pursuing or pushing their ideologies in any way - then the job you needed violence for is done; there's no need to punch them anymore. At most you need to keep watch on them to make sure they stay surrendered, but so long as they do, you've won, and you don't need violence anymore.

But with dehumanization, it isn't over. Once you've managed to dehumanize someone, you've justified any violence against them, for any means, without end. Even after they've surrendered, they're still worthy of violence. You're no longer using violence to stop them from hurting others, you're now just using it to hurt them, to punish them, because they deserve it; because they don't deserve the same respect a person deserves. At that point the violence is no longer justified violence... it's just abuse.

Every single atrocity in history - every single genocide, pogrom, ethnic cleansing, holocaust, and hate crime, and even every case of racism or systemic discrimination - it all starts with dehumanization. It's no accident that every fascist dictator wannabe starts with dehumanization of some group, be it Jews, immigrants, people of colour, Mexicans, Muslims, or whatever. Dehumanization is the only way to turn an otherwise "normal" population into one that cheers on denying certain groups their rights, rounding them up, throwing them into concentration camps, and ultimately extermination. You can't do that with any other form of violence: No amount of punching Jewish people in the face would ever lead to the Holocaust; it is only via dehumanizing them can you get people on board with the idea of targeting them.

And there has never been - nor can there ever be - any case where dehumanizing people led to good. Because dehumanizing is ultimately arguing that people don't deserve the basic rights and dignity that all people deserve - even fascists. And anyone who is arguing about stripping people of their fundamental rights or dignity is not on the side of justice, and never can be.

I don't think our disagreement here is about whether dehumanization is always wrong. I think the problem here is that what you're calling dehumanization isn't really dehumanization. "Subhumans, animals, or vermin" is a shorthand for what most people think is not worthy of any consideration or respect, so if you still think those things are worth of consideration or respect then we'd need different terms. Most people wouldn't think twice about exterminating vermin that infested their home - they wouldn't even consider the vermin's feelings on the matter, they wouldn't make any attempt at trying to find a less extreme solution, they wouldn't hope or bother to wait for the vermin to become better and benign, and they wouldn't give the vermin a second thought after they'd been eradicated. If that's not how you feel about vermin, then we need a new term to use with you to capture those sentiments.

Everything you've described about how you want to deal with fascists does not smell like real dehumanization. The fact that you recognize fascists can change their beliefs, and that you want them to "hopefully start to learn something and change", means that you are not really dehumanizing fascists. You are recognizing them as people. Bad people, yes; people who need to be stopped, yes; people who can't be reasoned with, yes; people who deserve a boot to the face for what they're trying to do to others, yes... but none of that is dehumanization - especially if you have good reason for thinking those things (and you do; they're fascists, after all).

None of the things you want to do to fascists is actually dehumanizing them, nor does any of it even require dehumanizing them. Wanting people to shut up, ostracizing them, and even using violence against them - none of those things require dehumanizing them; all of those things can be perfectly legitimate tactics to stop people if they're doing bad things... like fascists are.

If you were really okay with dehumanizing fascists, then you would be okay with raping them. But you're not okay with raping them, so you're not really okay with dehumanizing them. If you recognize that, as bad as they are, they are still people who might be able to change and become better, then you're not really okay with dehumanizing them.

That's what I think the nature of this disagreement is: What you are calling dehumanization isn't real dehumanization. If you won't support raping fascists, then you don't really support dehumanizing them. If you won't support rounding them up, gassing them and throwing them into ovens and mass graves, then you don't really support dehumanizing them. Because that is what real dehumanization leads to. If you listen to those who really dehumanize people, that's the kind of stuff they talk about (even when they try to pretend they're "just joking", as they usually do to cover their true desires). That is why it is the preferred tool of fascists. And that is why we can never use it ourselves.


[deleted] wrote


indi wrote

I really don't have a better term, unfortunately, and frankly I've never really been fond of "dehumanization" either. You've actually hit on some reasons why - like that it encourages human-centric thought and implies that animals aren't worthy of even basic rights (like the right to not experience unnecessary suffering).

"Dehumanization" is simply the term of art most people use for the concept, so that's what I use. The concept isn't merely about doing things that you wouldn't do normally to other people - like punching them or ostracizing them - it's about denying the basic fundamental rights and dignity that everyone has. Using violence against people to stop them from acting badly is fine (assuming the violence is necessary and proportional, which it usually use when most anti-fascists are dealing with fascists) - that's not denying their fundamental rights or dignity. Hell, sometimes even your best friends need a smack or two to stop them from doing something stupid that might hurt other people (like trying to drive drunk or high, for example).

Perhaps a less theory-heavy way to think of the difference is to imagine the person at some point in the future when their head has cleared from the current clouding caused by drugs, emotion, or fascist thoughts, or whatever, and ask: would they thank you for what you did? In the cases of restraining someone who wants to drive drunk or punching or ostracizing a fascist who is advocating to take away others' rights... it's perfectly believable that some future them with their head out of their ass would say "thanks for trying to stop me then; I was a real shit, and you stopped me from doing things I would now be regretting". But in the case of raping a fascist (for example)... it's hard, if not impossible, to imagine them thanking you for that even after they've renounced fascism.

Anyway, now that it's clear you're not talking about dehumanization in the sense of stripping someone of their fundamental rights or dignity - that you're not talking about the kind of dehumanization that would make things like rape or enslavement okay - that's good enough for me.