- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Mary L. Rose, in a letter published the day prior to my visit to St. Mary’s (“Nothing nonpartisan about this organization,” Sept. 26), seemed to be in something of a panic mode over the speaking invitation extended to me by the county’s League of Women Voters. Since 1995, I have been giving public talks on polarizing political speech, and I have spoken at churches, civic organizations and colleges. She wrote that the event, held at Leonardtown High School on Sept. 27, would be an “orgy” of “indoctrination” organized by what she called “masters of manipulation,” your fellow citizens in your local League of Women Voters.
She came to this conclusion, she wrote, by Googling my name and discovering that I had “studied Hitler in Munich and [use] his hate speech in connection with Rush Limbaugh.” It is a good sign when a person reads articles, writes letters to the editor and is concerned over any kind of political manipulation. But I share Mary’s fear of indoctrination. It is the main reason I spent eight years (in the United States and Germany) studying German, the history of Germany and the use of manipulative language by the extremists of both fascism and communism.
The best way to prevent propaganda from taking hold in one’s own mind, or in a democracy, is to know how to spot it. It is that information — how to identify the tools used by propagandists (especially scapegoating, stereotyping and dehumanization) — that I came to share with the good citizens living in your beautiful county. Along with the League of Women Voters, the talk was co-sponsored by the College of Southern Maryland, the NAACP and the St. Mary’s College Center for the Study of Democracy.
At each talk I give I state very clearly that neither Rush Limbaugh, nor any other talk show host, is another Hitler. But the language of extremism is now being used as a kind of sales technique, and not just by hosts on the right. I hope Mary, and any other citizen worried about propagandistic speech, will visit my website, www.stoppolarizingtalk.org, click on “Talk Videos,” listen to my full talk, and decide for themselves whether the historical and current examples I share are detrimental, or beneficial, to maintaining a vigorous, healthy standard of political debate in the United States.
Kathryn Ruud, Middletown