June 07, 2018
David Livingstone Smith, Ph.D., professor of philosophy and author of the award-winning book Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, made a guest appearance via Skype on Wisconsin Public Radio's "The Morning Show."
The topic of the program was "Dehumanization and Democracy." Smith spoke about why people dehumanize others to feel better and how that manifests in U.S. politics.
He also recently spoke with TIME Magazine and New York radio station WNYC about President Trump referring to some immigrants as “animals.”
In the interviews Smith explained that dehumanizing language has been used as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, but that doesn’t justify Trump’s comments.
He also weighed in on dehumanizing comments made by people who were offended by Trump, saying that’s falling prey to the same bad instinct.
“I wanted people to understand that dehumanizing talk, talking about human beings as sub-human creatures, is both prevalent and dangerous,” he said.
Smith says dehumanizing words can often lead to violence.
“It both relaxes inhibitions against harming others and also motivates harm,” he said.
Smith's comments were picked up by the Washington Post in an article titled "We can all hear Trump's dog whistles to racists."
His work was also referred to in an article on a separate topic published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The article features an interview with Rev. Gary Mason, a leader of the Northern Ireland reconciliation movement.
Smith's new book, titled Making Monsters: The Uncanny Power of Dehumanization, is being prepared for publication by Harvard University Press.
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