“Kill them all” is such a terse and awful example of Dangerous Speech that Why not Kill them All? is the title of a book by the scholars Clark McCauley and Daniel Chirot, subtitled The Logic and Prevention of Mass Political Murder.
It’s also what a U.S. Congressman wrote Sunday, on his official Facebook page – over and over. God help us. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) declared that “radicalised Islamic suspects” should be hunted down and killed. He wrote: “Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all” (emphasis ours). He also dehumanized his targets, referring to them as “heathen animals.”
Though he is a former law enforcement officer, Higgins fails to grasp the rule of law. What he proposes is mob justice, vigilantism – or murder by the state. Going down that path would mean breaking down democratic norms and open the door to torture, killings, and other atrocities. He (like ISIS) uses religious language such as Christendom, heathen, and the righteous. Massacre is anything but righteous. Indeed, it would only play into the hands of ISIS, which would love to see Western governments commit acts tailor-made for ISIS propaganda, alienate moderate Muslims, and not incidentally, sacrifice democracy and the rule of law.
This is not the first time Higgins has expressed such ideas – alarmingly, he was already notorious for them when he was elected to Congress. As a policeman, Higgins produced weekly videos, in one of which he said he would hunt, trap, and kill members of a gang he said were suspected of crimes. He referred to them by name and called them ‘animals.’ His boss told him to tone down his “unprofessional” language. He refused, and instead resigned in February 2016. He should be forced to make the same choice now.