In this surprisingly compact book, Professor Brennan documents characteristics of the dehumanizing rhetoric which has accompanied so many atrocities of history. His text provides persuasive evidence that the rationalizations used to justify destroying other human beings are rather uncreative, falling into only eight categories. Brennan classifies these alibis of destruction into "Deficient" humans, nonhumans, animals, parasites, diseases, inanimate objects, waste products, and the Orwellian "legal nonperson." He focuses upon the plight of women, European Jews, American blacks, the unborn, and the disabled.
Brennan's commentary on the "semantic gymnastics" by which some people have dehumanized others is sharp, though pedants like myself would enjoy several hundred pages asking whether semantic corruption precedes mass oppression, or merely rationalizes oppressive actions already in progress.
While reading the concluding chapters, I was reminded of Simone Weil's comment that force turns a person into a *thing*, an object, a non-human. Brennan shows us the powerful force of words, those mere utterances that have for too long confined men and women to toil, terror, and death.