Dog Whistle Alert! On Wednesday 12 March 2014, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) appeared on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” radio program and linked poverty to “this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” Ryan is using a form of coded political speech to communicate ideas while maintaining plausible deniability: “inner cities” is code for “African American” and “culture,” especially when tied to “generations … not even thinking about working,” implies inherent and unchangeable behavior. This dog whistle—with no reference to race on one level but playing up race on another—seeks to convince voters that the biggest dangers in their lives are poor minorities and the liberal government that panders to them, rather than concentrated wealth and the power it exerts through politicians like Ryan over the government and the marketplace.
Ian Haney López is the author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class. He will periodically share Dog Whistle Alerts on our Tumblr, drawing attention to political dog whistles and revealing their hidden elements. Have you seen or heard a dog whistle? Tag it with “Dog Whistle Alert”.
Image credit: Wisconsin Congresman and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. 9 November 2012. Photo by monkeyz_uncle. CC BY 2.0 via djbrandt Flickr.
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