Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Matthew Yglesias’s Hutu Power Rhetoric

Courtesy of Mickey Kaus, we now have a view into the infamous “Journolist,” on which over 300 liberal journalists and activists debate — er — gossip all day like a group of high schoolers. Kaus got his hand on one thread, dated March 24, in which Center for American Progress blogger Matthew Yglesias starts off a discussion by exposing the supposed racism of Marty Peretz.

Today, Yglesias writes about the Foreign Policy Initiative, a new think tank/advocacy group founded by Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan. He opines:

When I was a kid, I remember hearing that cockroaches would not only survive the sure-to-happen US-Soviet nuclear holocaust, but actually emerge stronger than ever as they devour our irradiated corpses. Similarly, there’s a new think tank in town, headed by Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, and former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesguy Dan Senor.

The use of the word “cockroach” to describe undesirable persons has a long history, but there’s a specific and ugly context that is most pertinent. In the run-up to the Rwandan genocide of 1994 — in which nearly 1 million people were massacred over the course of just 100 days — “Hutu power” radio stations used the word repeatedly to describe members of the minority Tutsi tribe. Historians and political scientists who study Rwanda cite the intensity and pervasiveness of this hate speech as playing a crucial role in mobilizing Hutus to kill so many their fellow countrymen. Such language is used to dehumanize.

As an expert on nearly everything, surely Yglesias is aware of the word’s loaded history. That he would simultaneously act as traffic cop for internet civility is risible.