Who did dog whistling deceive?

I must have been busy late November last year, and missed this Australia Institute paper, Under the Radar: Dog Whistle Politics (pdf), by the appropriately named Josh Fear. It did get a little media coverage, eg here.

It defines dog-whistle politics as

the art of sending coded or implicit messages to a select group of voters while keeping others in the dark.

Fear clearly thinks that dog whistle politics is bad, but the reader is left a little unsure as to exactly why. The conclusion summarises his reasons

* dog whistling undermines democracy by working against clarity and directness
* dog whistlers have sought to ‘create and inflame paranoia about minority groups and outsiders, and to taint the politics of immigration and Aboriginal affairs with parochialism and suspicion’

But these two criticisms seem to at least be in tension, if not contradiction. If messages so subtle they need decoding inflame paranoia (which they certainly have in Fear’s case), how much paranoia would they create if they were stated with clarity and directness?
Continue reading “Who did dog whistling deceive?”