When They Fantasize About Killing You, Believe Them

When They Fantasize About Killing You, Believe Them

Adam Maida / The Atlantic Decades of living in, studying, and writing about the Middle East have taught me that whenever a political faction becomes obsessed with violent rhetoric and fantasies, brutal acts aren’t far behind. And while there’s always been a strain of militancy on the American right and left fringes, there is something unmistakably new, and profoundly alarming, about the casual, florid, and sadistic rhetoric that is metastasizing from the Republican fringe into the party’s mainstream. For sheer pornographic sadism, it’s tough to beat Jesse Kelly’s encomium to murder and torture published by the right-wing website The Federalist . Kelly doesn’t make any real arguments, other than declaring liberals terrible authoritarians. Instead, in language that the Islamic State would envy, he describes the visceral, almost orgasmic, joy of scalping a dying enemy: Close your eyes and imagine holding someone’s scalp in your hands. I don’t mean cradling his skull as you thousand-yard-stare at his lifeless face. I mean a real scalp, Indian-style, of some enemy you just killed on the battlefield; somebody you hated and who hated you back. You killed him, won the day, carved off the top of his skull, and now you’re standing over him victorious on the now-quiet field of battle, with a quiet breeze blowing through your hair. Your adrenaline is still pumping with that primal feeling of victory and the elation of having survived when others didn’t. Kelly hastens to add that he is discussing “not a real scalping, but a […]

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