Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Reader/Committee Chair

Robinson, Marc


During the latter half of the twentieth century, “dog whistle” rhetoric increasingly entered the common vernacular, normalized by politicians and media personalities. Initially, the terminology was ambiguous, but it became racially charged when the media started broadcasting images of African Americans alongside the “thug” label. This research explores how “dog whistles” were, in part, a neoconservative response to the liberal policies of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his “Great Society.”

This study explores how “Great Society” policies aimed to balance the liberal expansion of Civil Rights with neoconservative “law and order” policing strategies. This research also investigates how right-wing talk radio was used as a marketing tool to promote a neoconservative, paternalistic agenda which convinced the public to accept an expanded law enforcement presence in minority communities.

This research shows that the current lack of civility and decorum in public discourse resulted from neoconservative policies that began in the 1960s and expanded during the debates over the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. In addition, this study examines how neoconservatives targeted crime prevention programs included in the Act, such as the Midnight Basketball League, using racially coded “dog whistles” to influence public opinion.