the hardening of society and
THE CULTURE OF CRUELTY
HENRY A. GIROUX
A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair
Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural
Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship
at Ryerson University. He is the author of more than 50 books
including The Educational Deficit and the War on Youth
Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism.
Many of his essays, including The Spectacle of Illiteracy, appear
on his website at www.henryagiroux.com.
His interview with Bill
Moyers is must viewing.
COMMENTSWhat does the culture of cruelty look like
under a neo-fascist regime?
language is emptied of any sense of ethics and compassion.
a survival of the fittest discourse provides a breeding ground
for racial and social sorting.
references to justice are viewed as treasonous or, as at the
present moment, labelled dismissively as fake news.
the discourse of disposability extends to an increasing number
ignorance becomes militarized, enforced not through an appeal
to reason but through the use of the language of humiliation
and eventually through the machinery of force.
any form of dependency is viewed as a form of weakness, and
becomes a referent and eventually a basis for social cleansing.
That is, any form of solidarity not based on market-driven values
is subject to derision and potential punishment.
the language of borders and walls replaces the discourse of
bridges and compassion.
violence becomes the most important method for addressing social
problems and mediating all relationships, hence, the increasing
criminalization of a wide range of behaviours in the United
the word democracy disappears from officially mandated state
the critical media is gradually defamed and eventually outlawed.
all forms of critical education present in theory, method, and
institutionally are destroyed.
shared fears replace shared responsibilities and everyone is
reduced to the status of a potential terrorist, watched constantly
and humiliated through body searches at border crossings.
all vestiges of the welfare state disappear and millions are
subject to fending for themselves.
massive inequalities in power, wealth, and income will generate
a host of Reality TV shows celebrating the financial elite.
this project is one of the most powerfully oppressive ideologies
of neoliberal neo-fascism. That is, the only unit of agency
and analysis that matters is the isolated individual. Shared
trust and visions of economic equality and political justice
give way to individual terrors and self-blame reinforced by
the neoliberal notion that people are solely responsible for
their political, economic, and social misfortunes. Consequently,
a hardening of the culture is buttressed by the force of state
sanctioned cultural apparatuses that enshrine privatization
in the discourse of self-reliance, unchecked self-interest,
untrammeled individualism, and deep distrust of anything remotely
called the common good. Freedom of choice becomes code for defining
responsibility solely as an individual task, reinforced by a
shameful appeal to character.
critics argue that choice absent the notion of constraints feeds
Ayn Rand’s culture of rabid individualism and unchecked
greed. What they miss in this neo-fascist moment is that the
systemic evil, cruelty, and moral irresponsibility at the heart
of neoliberalism makes Ayn Rand’s lunacy look tame. Rand’s
world has been surpassed by a ruling class of financial elites
that embody not the old style greed of Gordon Gekko in the film
Wall Street, but the psychopathic personality of Patrick
Bateman in American Psycho.
notion that saving money by reducing the taxes of the rich justifies
eliminating health care for 24 million people is just one example
of how this culture of cruelty and hardening of the culture
will play out.
Times are truly upon us. There will be an acceleration of acts
of violence under the Trump administration and the conditions
for eliminating this new stage of state violence will mean not
only understanding the roots of neo-fascism in the United States,
but also eliminating the economic, political, and cultural forces
that produced it.
is more at work here than getting rid of Trump, there is a need
to eliminate a system in which democracy is equated with capitalism,
a system driven almost exclusively by financial interests, and
beholden to two political parties that are hard wired into neoliberal