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I guess it depends on what church. My old friend from Centre College, Professor Bob Martin, put out this OpEd in response to one of our colleagues brandishing the “dog-whistle weapon” on people that disagree with him. Without my commentary, the excellent analysis follows:

A Dog Whistle?


Bob Martin*

A common refrain among the race, class, gender warriors in the Democrat party is conservatives resort to “dog whistles” to communicate secretly with their bigoted base.  Since humans cannot hear dog whistles, while dogs can, they are also asserting that conservatives are not human (note: this is a dog whistle reading of those who believe in conservative dog whistling).

If uttered by conservatives, the list of “dog whistle” phrases is unlimited; any expression can be deemed a whistle by any motivated liberal.  The race, class, gender “whistle” doctrine holds that only Democrats can identify these whistles.  Curiously, this means conservatives use whistles, but cannot identify Democrat whistles.  It’s all very confusing.

So, let’s examine the dog whistle doctrine more carefully.  Proposition 1: Since “dog whistles” are secret communications between two groups/individuals, there is no objective data that verifies the existence of a “whistle.”  The only evidence of a whistle is in the mind of the whistle decoder.  Those who say they know a dog whistle when they see one reveal more about themselves than their intended targets.  Or, the whistle decoder is able to read minds.  Anyone claiming they have decoded a dog whistle assumes they know what is in the other person’s mind and heart; hence, they have god-like powers.  It requires an unseemly level of arrogance to claim to be a dog whistle decoder!

Proposition 2:  “dog whistles” are employed to hide evil/malicious intent.  If conservatives use dog whistles, then liberals must also use dog whistles.  An honest dog whistle decoder is duty bound to reveal evil/malicious intent whatever the source.  A dog whistle decoder who reports only conservative dog whistles assumes only conservatives are capable of evil/malicious intent.  Assuming only the “Other” has evil/malicious intent is de facto bigotry.  Further, it is evidence of what psychologists call projection.

Proposition 3: Given the fragility of the dog whistle doctrine, people who consider themselves dog whistle decoders demonstrate the only contribution they make to public discourse is character and motivation attacks on those who disagree with them.  Demonizing the opposition is a classic Fascist tactic (as in blaming Jews for all evil in society).   This is grossly authoritarian and undemocratic; it is also just plain lazy.

In summary, the dog whistle decoder reveals some very unflattering things about himself and very little about his targets.  He presumes talents unavailable to mere mortals, while drawing firm conclusions without the benefit of objective evidence.  He presumes to know things that cannot be known.  These are not the characteristics of a judicious, disciplined mind.


*Bob Martin is emeritus professor of economics at Centre College.

2 Responses to “Sunday Morning Ponderance: Can You Hear a Dog Whistle in Church?”

  1. Harry says:


  2. Instant Karma says:

    Dog whistles are the new absolutely guaranteed way to win any argument. You can malign your opponents motives and project anything you want into their argument.

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