Dog Whistles

Normally, Alexander’s log entries are nearly incontrovertible. With this one about mis-diagnosed dog whistles, I think he’s missed the forest for the trees. A dog whistle is a social phenomenon. It’s some sort of an error to assert that so-and-so, sans consideration of the audience, did the whistling. So, it’s inappropriate to analyse (“s” in honor of the content) the statements of people like Cruz, Livingstone, and Trump solely in the partial context of the particular speaker and the particular statement. No one sentence or phrase constitutes a dog whistle diagnosis. It takes a family of tuples (or a tuple of families) {speaker, statement, audience}.

So, consider Alexander’s discussion of Ted Cruz. I agree Cruz is not really a (classic) anti-semite. It’s reasonable to assume he’s averse to some properties of the Jewish stereotype. But, in general, he, his statements, and his usual audience are (at least) pro-Israel and pro-Judaism. So, any whistling cf. the “New York Values” has much more to do with urbanism (urbane?), atheism, snarkism, liberalism, etc.

I’m ignorant of Livingstone and not inclined to enlighten myself just yet. But re: Trump, it’s relatively easy to classify Trump in regards to multiple marriages, beauty pageants, arm candy, comments about women (including his own underage daughter) as if they’re works of art rather than humans, etc. As such, with a class/set of Trump-like people and Trump-like behavior, we have a family of speakers. We then collect all the statements that come from members of that family into a family of statements and the class of audiences with which such statements resonate; and we have easily met the social requirements for dog whistling.

And even if you believe Trump is not some master media manipulator, perhaps we can say it’s not a dog whistle so much as, simply, the sounds instinctively made by that type of person … sounds to which other members of that type are innately tuned. So, even if it’s not a “dog whistle”, per se, it’s a phenotype that operates in much the same way as a purposefully blown dog whistle might, attracting and fomenting misogyny.

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