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Immigration And The Media, Part 2

I am undocumented illegal immigrant shirt

In Social Justice Land, flouting US immigration law is deliberately portrayed as a badge of honour

This dispatch from deep inside SJW-land, purporting to provide “undocumented immigrants” with ways to “love themselves”, warrants line-by-line deconstruction.

Ella Mendoza writes at Everyday Feminism (naturally):

When you’re constantly the subject of laws, amendments, and media speculation, it’s easy to forget that you’re more than just a number.

Technically we are all the “subject” of laws and amendments – the Rule of Law isn’t some spiteful system concocted for the specific purpose of tormenting only those who choose not to respect national borders. But let us continue.

Your existence is valid, regardless of how you crossed the border, where you’re from, and where you’re today. Human beings cannot be “illegal,” especially in a country whose laws are built on the enslavement of Black people and the murder of Native people.

When the government talks about laws upon our bodies, we have to remember that no matter how much they tell us that our existence is “illegal,” they’re wrong.

Here is the first disingenuous straw man argument – and it only took us two sentences to get there. Nobody, not even the most hardcore anti-immigration zealot, believes that people themselves are illegal. That would be stupid. Nobody disputes that everyone’s existence is “valid”. Everyone is a child of God (if you believe in God), everyone has certain inherent and inalienable rights. But those rights do not presently include sticking a pin in a map and deciding to relocate to another country without first obeying that country’s immigration laws and procedures. The crime or civil violation is illegal, not the person, just as someone who drives faster than the speed limit or burgles someone’s house does not become personally illegal because of their transgression.

But it so suits the propaganda purposes of the open borders zealots to roll around on the floor pretending that Evil Conservatives are declaring their very bodies “illegal” (and what is this strange obsession with bodies in SJW-land?) that they cannot bring themselves to let the deception go. Pretending that border control advocates consider All Immigrants (activists deliberately blur the line between legal and “undocumented”) to be inherently illegitimate makes it easier to accuse them of wanton, inhumane cruelty rather than intellectually engaging with their argument and doing the much harder job of making a coherent case for a borderless world.

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Take Time to Take Care of Your Needs

Sometimes this is the hardest thing to do, as everyone faces undocumentation in different ways, and through different lenses.

“Faces undocumentation”? What a peculiar turn of phrase. It is almost as though the author is trying to suggest that “undocumentation” is a condition inflicted upon a hapless victim (whoops! where did my documents go?) by the snarling, evil state rather than the consequence of a person’s deliberate decision to violate immigration law.

As a small-C conservative who believes in upholding and strengthening the nation state but who maintains great sympathy with America’s illegal immigrant population – and who would gladly see some form of amnesty so long as it were part of a grand bargain, to be enacted when border security and internal cooperation between agencies is properly strengthened – I would have a lot more respect for illegal immigration advocates if they would just stop lying.

But unfortunately they seem determined to insult our intelligence at every turn, first by always talking about “immigrants” in general, so as to blur the line between those who followed the rules and those who did not, and secondly by pretending that illegal or “undocumented” status is something inflicted on the subject by government rather than being the direct consequence of their own action (or the action of family members in the case of minors).

How can one have a meaningful dialogue with people who have convinced themselves that your desire to see the law enforced and legal immigrants treated fairly means that you consider the very existence of “undocumented” people to be illegal? Where is the potential compromise with somebody who has no respect for the law and who will not be satisfied with anything less than fully open borders and the de facto abolition of nation states?

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As migrants, we have been taught that in order to have our needs met, we must assimilate and work through the system. But this is not true.

No, sorry, not migrants. Illegal immigrants. But yes, no matter how one comes to be in a new country, assimilating into that culture and learning to work through existing systems is surely pretty sound advice. What good do activists like Ella Mendoza possibly think they are doing by telling people that they should refuse to assimilate as a point of pride?

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As someone who has made up her mind about not pursuing citizenship, I often find myself questioning not just this choice, but all choices in my life.

Wait, what? The natural reading of this sentence would suggest that Ella Mendoza has the opportunity to pursue US citizenship but has “made up her mind” to instead remain an illegal immigrant in America. This is preposterous – she should question her choice, and continue questioning it until she arrives at a less moronic answer. Why willingly remain in the shadows if there is a path to citizenship available, other than to deliberately thumb your nose at the very concept of citizenship in the first place?

I can think of no other reason for this – readers, please correct me if I am wrong – than the fact that Mendoza is so wedded to the idea of herself as a hapless, persecuted victim that she is unwilling to take the steps toward legalisation and citizenship because to do so would deprive her of a critical part of her identity as a persecuted “undocumented” person. This is a sickness, pure and simple – how else to describe deliberate, self-inflicted fragility of this kind?

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Allow yourself to breathe and make hard choices, as well as postpone the easy ones. Sometimes time can feel so heavy and so uncertain. By being hard on ourselves, we are only traumatizing our bodies more and more.

Remember that you made the right choice by choosing to live.

Though many will tell you that you could’ve done it differently, remember that your migration to this country meant choosing to survive, no matter what.

Your body has survived the trauma of borders and the bureaucracy of colonization. You’re a living breathing testament to your dreams.

What is this weepy, overwrought nonsense?

Look: many people currently living illegally in America are deserving of real sympathy – pulled as much as pushed into their adopted country by a rapacious underground economy which demanded their labour and let down by successive generations of politicians who preferred them to toil cheaply in the shadows rather than acknowledge their contributions or confer the rights – and responsibilities – of citizenship. Local, state and federal government (not to mention unscrupulous employers) often bear equal responsibility for the situation, but this does not diminish the agency and responsibility of those who nonetheless choose to flout federal immigration law.

And of course many people currently living illegally in America have indeed faced trauma, violence and persecution in their home countries, that much is also not disputed. And by virtue of that fact, many (though certainly not all) illegal immigrants are sadly accustomed to adversity the likes of which most of us can scarcely imagine. Therefore, the last thing that they probably need is some prancing SJW to come along to infantilise them and teach them how to better “love themselves”. This kind of kindergarten nonsense is effective only on cosseted middle class American college kids who grew up entirely ignorant of real hunger, want or danger, and who actually think that somebody saying something mean about them online or in a newspaper article constitutes a mortal danger and an assault on their person.

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Colonization and assimilation are both very hard subjects on our bodies. As migrants, we’re not from here, and as undocumented migrants, we’re told that we don’t belong here, either.

In order to survive, we’re often forced to adapt to a country whose culture consists of appropriation and theft, as well as an overwhelming amount of artificial media.

Decolonizing our bodies is more than just a ten-step program.

Well done for avoiding Nicholas Kristof’s mistake of comparing “oppression” to a twelve-step recovery program from addiction; ten steps is much more neutral.

It’s a daily practice of reconnecting and challenging the way our lives have been whitewashed, challenging the ways our bodies have been educated to assimilate into a system that profits from our struggle.

Let’s put aside the irony of someone who claims to speak for an army of people who intend to settle in a new country in flagrant defiance of local immigration laws while proudly refusing to assimilate (her words, not mine) into the local culture actually daring to accuse the host population of somehow being the colonists in that situation. I trust that any reader of sound mind will immediately perceive that if anything, the situation is reversed.

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Remind Yourself That You Are Magical

You are a magical human being.

Your body has defied laws and lines on papers and maps. You crossed these lines and now find yourself in a strange place that you have somehow built a home out of.

In order to make this home real, you’ve had to find a way to live, a way to connect, and a way to survive.

Many of us did this without speaking the local language. All of us did this in fear. Yet, through these obstacles you have survived. You’re here, living, and breathing, and still traveling in many ways.

You’re not from here. But you’re not from there either – not anymore.

Instead, you’re from somewhere else.

Your body belongs only to you and the culture you’ve created from living in between worlds. You’re a survivor. You’re a traveler.

What does this garbage even mean? No, you are not “magical”. If you want to be seen as exceptional and deserving of praise and affirmation from dawn to dusk then for heaven’s sake, try doing something exceptional and deserving of praise. Do not expect or demand validation and encouragement for glorifying in your violation of US immigration law, as though there is something inherently virtuous in deciding to jump the queue and demand unearned residency in another country.

If you truly believe – having actually sat down for a few minutes and thought through the consequences of what you are advocating – that you want to swiftly bring about a borderless world where anybody can demand (and be unconditionally granted) residency of any country where they wish to live, with no strings attached and no commensurate responsibilities of citizenship, then by all means make that argument. Be my guest. Explain how tearing down border fences and customs checkpoints while singing Kumbaya can be accomplished without wreaking huge economic disruption and social unrest upon millions if not billions of people. Explain how a society of people who feel entitled to indulge whatever fanciful whim pops into their head without moral restraint or the slightest thought for the consequences creates and maintains a cohesive society. Please, go ahead and make that case.

Just don’t come back with any more of this childish yet cynical and manipulative twaddle about how those evil people who believe in border security and the rule of law are so heartless and cruel that they consider the “bodies” of “undocumented immigrants” to be inherently illegal, their very existence a crime. Try to win the argument on its intellectual and moral merits, if you dare, but enough of the emotional blackmail.

But of course they will not stop. Reductive, black and white arguments and piercing moral outrage are all that the SJWs have left, any intellectual or moral basis for their beliefs having rotted away long ago.

 

Petition to make campus safe for illegal undocumented immigrants

No Human Being Is Illegal

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Immigration And The Media, Part 1

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Because the American media continues to do such an appalling job of covering issues of legal and illegal immigration in the Age of Trump, this blog will start a new series – Immigration And The Media – to shine a spotlight on some of the more insidious ways that the supposedly objective media actually seeks to distort and influence public opinion on the matter.

 

Apparently it takes a Canadian to highlight the cowardice and incompetence which has characterised the American political elite’s mismanagement of immigration policy, and the duplicity of much of the American press who then cover the subject with such overt bias.

Margaret Wente, writing in the the Globe and Mail:

But many of those who anguish about the crackdown have no one to blame but themselves. Immigration policy hasn’t been enforced for years. The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States now stands at around 11 million. (How would you feel if Canada had a million or more illegal immigrants who could receive education, health care and welfare benefits?) Republicans and Democrats alike have been both unwilling and unable to control the country’s borders. The consequences have been borne by ordinary people, not them. When the ruling classes so miserably fail to do their jobs, what you get is Mr. Trump.

America’s mainstream media project an idealized view of immigration as an enduring cornerstone of U.S. greatness. To them, the present will be exactly like the past. Immigrants are portrayed as hard-working strivers whose kids overcome incredible hardships, join the mainstream and go to Harvard.

Some of this is true. But there’s another side. Unchecked illegal immigration has also brought a massive influx of poorly educated, unskilled workers who rely on costly social services and do not exhibit the economic mobility of earlier immigrant waves.

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The main beneficiaries of current immigration policy are affluent professionals – who now enjoy an entire servant class of nannies and gardeners – along with businesses that can employ meat-packers and other unskilled labourers at rock-bottom wages. The hardest hit are unskilled native-born Americans who’ve suffered wage declines, job displacement and de-unionization. These people are disproportionately African-American, and many have simply left the job market.

[..] Obviously, there’s no quick fix for problems that have been made infinitely worse by elite negligence. Americans need to decide how to deal with all those illegals. (Even hardliners agree that mass deportation is not an option.) They need to restore control over who gets in. And they need a legal immigration system that’s a lot more like Canada’s. All this, against a background of nativist resentment, xenophobia and racism whipped up by a populist demagogue. And perhaps the worst part is that they brought it on themselves.

Yes. This is a problem that America’s political and media elite – the very people currently found rending their garments, wailing about their supposed persecution at the hands of the authoritarian Trump regime and warning of Kristallnacht-style pogroms aimed against All Immigrants – brought entirely on themselves.

Both political parties were complicit in an unspoken agreement to look the other way and tolerate an intolerable status quo with regard to illegal immigration – intolerable for those who naively expected their government to enforce US immigration law, and intolerable for those millions of people whose presence the elite allowed, even welcomed, so long as they were willing to accept living in a perpetual state of fear, insecurity and illegitimacy as the price for remaining in America.

Meanwhile, America’s prestige journalists and the punditocracy – people who would have been consistently exposing these failures and evasions over the past thirty years (dating back to the last illegal immigration amnesty) had they chosen to actually do their jobs instead of sucking up to power – chose to abuse their platform by taking every opportunity to cynically equate legal and illegal immigration, and to act as though attempts to crack down on the latter are the same as a xenophobia-fuelled attack on the former (at least when enacted by a blowhard Republican president).

The American media bears a huge portion of responsibility for the current impasse on immigration reform and enforcement – their deliberately skewed and manipulative coverage has helped to ensure that many on the Left now see any attempts at enforcing sensible border protection as being an inherently racist attack on all immigrants, and enraged many on the Right to the extent that they have been pushed into the arms of fake news, “populist demagogues” like Donald Trump, or both.

But don’t expect the self-involved media to spend many column inches dwelling on their failure – especially when there is a far more attractive bogeyman  in the White House.

 

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The Reviled American Media, Part 1

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Donald Trump versus the media: bad cop, bad cop

A throwaway line in a Washington Post article goes some way to revealing exactly why the American media is so widely despised and mistrusted.

Musing about why many Trump supporters stubbornly insist on viewing his presidency as a success thus far (rather than the cataclysmic failure portrayed by mainstream narratives), the Post reports:

Several people said they would have liked to see more coverage of a measure that Trump signed Thursday that rolled back a last-minute Obama regulation that would have restricted coal mines from dumping debris in nearby streams. At the signing, Trump was joined by coal miners in hard hats.

“If he hadn’t gotten into office, 70,000 miners would have been put out of work,” Patricia Nana, a 42-year-old naturalized citizen from Cameroon. “I saw the ceremony where he signed that bill, giving them their jobs back, and he had miners with their hard hats and everything — you could see how happy they were.”

The regulation actually would have cost relatively few mining jobs and would have created nearly as many new jobs on the regulatory side, according to a government report — an example of the frequent distance between Trump’s rhetoric, which many of his supporters wholeheartedly believe, and verifiable facts.

My emphasis in bold.

Now, this is not about the merits and disadvantages of expanding coal mining. This is about the blasé arrogance of the Washington Post, suggesting to its readers that the creation of government regulatory jobs in any way makes up for the loss of manual jobs in coal mining.

How many ex-coal miners with high school-level educations will be eligible for these new regulatory jobs? Probably very few. But these jobs will enormously benefit the college-educated, Washington D.C.-dwelling professional class who are eligible for attractive jobs in the Department of Energy or the Environmental Protection Agency.

It is difficult to know whether the Post’s dismissal of concerns about coal mining job losses because they will be “offset” by new regulatory jobs is merely ignorant or deliberately callous towards the working classes. But either way, it reveals a huge gulf between the perspective of the Washington Post and its readership on the one hand, and Trump-supporting people from coal country on the other.

Maybe those coal mining jobs should be killed anyway. Ultimately, of course, they certainly should be phased out as part of a move away from fossil fuel dependence. But for the Post to speak haughtily about Trump supporters’ aversion to “verifiable facts” while misleading its own readership by pretending that the Obama-era environmental regulations (whatever their core merits) were anything other than a transfer of wealth and opportunity away from coal country manual workers towards the DC professional class is morally dubious and a dereliction of their professional duty as a supposedly objective national news outlet.

Essentially, the Post is suggesting that Trump supporters are somehow being irrational to cheer the overturning of anti-coal regulations that will restore some coal mining jobs, because they should instead be rejoicing at the creation of other, office-based jobs for which they are almost certainly ineligible. How terribly unenlightened of them to not cheer as their small-town jobs are sacrificed to create other jobs for city-dwelling public sector bureaucrats.

Assuming the best of intentions rather than the worst, this represents a vast gulf of understanding between the Washington media class and a large segment of the country on which they report. The frequent complaint of Trump supporters is that their interests have long been ignored by a political and economic elite who have time and compassion for everyone and everything save the rural and suburban squeezed white lower middle and working classes, with politicians and the media colluding to keep their struggles, concerns and aspirations off the political agenda. And now the media, which seems to be relishing its oppositional role to President Trump, seems determined to live up to that stereotype.

Accusations that the mainstream media is “fake news” go too far – the Washington Post or New York Times will never publish a breathless story about Michelle Obama being arrested for treason or Hillary Clinton participating in witchcraft rituals, the kind of ludicrous and obviously false clickbait which pollutes the internet and is sadly shared by too many a credulous conservative. The mainstream media’s form of bias is subtler and much more insidious. There are few outright falsehoods in the prestige media, but one can often achieve just as much through deliberately one-sided story selection and a deliberately skewed angle of coverage, made all the more effective because unlike fake news sites, respected outlets like the Washington Post and the New York Times actually influence the worldviews and opinions of key decision makers in Washington D.C. and beyond.

In other words, too many respectable, prestige mainstream media outlets have squandered any trust and goodwill they one held with the public by subtly but repeatedly pushing a political agenda (the largely bipartisan agenda of the DC political elite). This climate of distrust is a problem of the media’s own making. And it all begins with having newsrooms full of reporters and editors with so few (if any) roots in the kind of community which came out strongly for Donald Trump in the 2016 election that they are utterly incapable of reporting on them with any real understanding, subtlety or empathy.

If the goal is to avoid events like the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, surely our first step must be one of introspection – not furiously shouting insults at people who often voted for Trump through despair or resignation, not misrepresenting their political views to the point of slander, but rather understanding how the political mainstream managed to consistently fail these people so badly that they felt they were left with little alternative. The Washington Post, for all the good reporting they often do, is light years away from recognising this fact, let alone showing such introspection in their coverage.

Indeed, if anything, the American media is moving in the opposite direction. Spurred by President Trump’s reprehensible attacks on the media as a whole, the Washington press corps is doing what they love to do best – talking about themselves and wallowing in a sense of victimhood and persecution, laughably painting themselves as noble and selfless heroes and seekers of truth in this new authoritarian age.

I’m sorry, but that is nonsense. Many of these reporters are the same ones who in the 2000s used to leap smartly to their feet, offering obsequious respect and nary a searching question whenever president George W Bush strolled into the White House press briefing room to announce the erosion of core civil liberties, exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq and then downplay his administration’s calamitous handling of the war. This is the same press corps that often treated every utterance from President Obama as sacred, unquestionable unicorn song, hyping his candidacy and forgiving his administration’s missteps.

This is the same press corps which gathers every year for the White House Correspondents Dinner, in which journalists and politicians slap each other on the back and toady up to power in one of the most sickening modern day political rituals known to man. Oh yes, and they are the ratings whores who gave blanket, uncritical rolling news coverage of Donald Trump’s every garbled word back when he was still just a laughable Republican Party presidential primary candidate, acting as oxygen to the the flames of the Trump campaign in the first place.

A healthy democracy needs a free press. But it sure as hell doesn’t need the craven, self-satisfied press we are stuck with at the moment. You can probably count the number of Washington or New York-based political journalists with a record of consistently principled, inquisitive and objective work on two hands. None of them work in television news. The rest are every bit as much a part of the fetid, corrupt political class as the politicians on whom they report. And now they take the angry anti-media rantings of President Trump and use them as an excuse to prance around playing the noble, heroic victim. We should not fall for their tawdry act.

Increasingly, the presidency of Donald Trump will require us to hold two competing thoughts in our head simultaneously: that yes, the Trump administration is troubling in a whole host of ways, but also that many of the people opposing Trump (from the sanctimonious, rootless, unreformed Democrats to the lazy and morally compromised Washington media) are also grievously at fault. And the sins of Donald Trump do not excuse the failings of those forces ranged against him, just as the spineless, uncurious, self-aggrandising behaviour of the Washington media does not excuse the authoritarian, impulsive excesses of the new president.

It is sheer lunacy to believe that the forces which gave us President Trump will be placated and put back in their box by a coordinated campaign of opposition from a Democratic Party and Washington political media class who have spent precisely zero hours pondering their own role in this period of “American carnage”, and who have shown zero willingness to change their own behaviour and policy preferences. Indeed, as newspaper subscriptions and cable news show ratings rise in step with the turmoil emanating from the White House, many in the Washington media are probably deluding themselves into thinking that they are actually doing a good job.

This could not be further from the truth.

As things stand, both sides will continue to antagonise one another; an out-of-touch Washington media class will continue to report on the residents of Trumpland as though they are some kind of fascinating but dangerous medical specimen best kept behind the safety glass in a lab, and Trump supporters, feeling patronised and wilfully misunderstood, will continue to distrust everything that the mainstream media says (including the 90% which is reasonably accurate, if sometimes politically skewed).

One side will have to blink first. You would hope that it might be the DC chattering class – through some instinctive self-preservation reflex, if nothing else.

 

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New Year Update

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A few changes for 2017

Greetings from Texas. Getting the blog up and running again after a longer-than-anticipated Christmas and New Year break is somewhat harder than in previous years – or rather, I should say that it is proving difficult to spurn the joy of unstructured leisure time for the largely thankless task of ranting into WordPress.

Having taken a full fortnight away from the daily grind has been refreshing, and also revelatory. 2016 was the fifth year of Semi-Partisan Politics and by far the most successful, with a threefold increase in readership compared to 2015, helped along in large part by the EU referendum campaign and the American presidential election. But this positive trajectory has come at the cost of nearly every free moment in my all-too-undisciplined free time.

Writing a political blog (and trying to make it successful) is hard. In order to build and maintain an audience you have to publish nearly every day, often multiple times. Unless you have the benefit of establishment connections to furnish you with gossip or pimp out your work, you have to be demonically active on social media, tweeting effectively and trawling for pageviews on Facebook. And for a one-man outfit like this, time spent promoting the blog on social media is time taken away from writing and the all-important reading and research which adds value to the content, while too much time spent reading and writing at the expense of self-promotion means that one’s best work often goes largely unread.

Whatever value Facebook has as a medium for discussion and promoting this blog, it is also a black hole from which I now intend to escape. I could easily double or triple this blog’s readership in a short time by actively promoting articles on the various political Facebook groups – and indeed I did so for a time in the buildup to the EU referendum. But my time is limited, and I will no longer waste it affirming people’s current biases to a lazy applause of “likes” or posting in hostile groups only to receive endless comments telling me that I am Hitler. A well-placed Facebook intervention may draw in countless likes and re-shares resulting in a thousand additional pageviews, but too often this is low quality traffic with no loyalty or engagement. The readers I value most are the ones who stick around without Facebook nagging, and who both educate and argue with me through the Comments.

SEO is a cruel mistress. This blog’s most-read piece for 2016 was a short, throwaway piece about Tony Benn’s euroscepticism and likely stance on Brexit. Because of an inadvertently well-chosen headline and a dearth of similar articles it placed well on Google, and attracted many thousands more views than the polemics, fisking pieces or other articles of which I am far more proud and which contain much greater originality.

Meanwhile, the British media establishment continue their demented hostility toward the political blogosphere and dogged refusal to acknowledge some of the best and most original analysis out there (though fully aware that it exists) simply because it appears on a site with a .wordpress or .blogspot suffix and does not carry the imprimatur of the prestige titles which increasingly churn out so much unoriginal pseudo-analysis or breathless court gossip.

This blog has been linked several times in both the National Review and the New Republic, the premier conservative and liberal journals in America, despite the limited attention that I have given to US politics this year. Meanwhile, links from the incestuous British media are almost non-existent – though I am grateful to the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow for occasionally citing this blog in his own excellent and comprehensive political liveblogs. But the idea of sullying myself trying to attract the attention of SW1’s finest on Twitter in exchange for a mere “like” or (rarer still) a retweet no longer holds any appeal.

Then there is the constant feeling that one is only as good as one’s most recent blog post – which, if you are me, means long periods of self-doubt and wondering why I am bothering in the first place. As the email bulletins and Google alerts ping into the inbox every hour of every day there is the constant feeling of needing to go “on the record” about whatever new person or event is driving the 24-hour news cycle, of committing a hot take to public record while it is still relevant, to assimilate the latest information and latest developments, and then inevitable feelings of inadequacy when this high bar – impossible to achieve while working a full time job – is not met.

I have also been dwelling on the fact that the words published on any political blog do not hold their value for long. Sure, some articles will be blessed by the SEO gods and provide a constant stream of traffic, but generally speaking a reaction piece I write in response to a Guardian headline today will be lining the digital waste paper bin by tomorrow. I increasingly want to write words that hold their value for longer, and to some extent this means stepping back from the fray and going more in depth, which in turn requires more expertise (and a rebalancing away from writing toward reading and research).

The upshot of all this introspection is that the thought of returning to the fray – spending the bulk of my free time hunched over the laptop, only to be studiously ignored by those who drive the national conversation – has been less than appealing, especially while I am still enjoying the company of my American family and have easy access to some of the best tacos and Tex-Mex food that money can buy.

Fear not, though. Or don’t start celebrating, if you are a fire-breathing SJW who hates my guts. I’m not going away. This blog will continue. But I have taken a long, hard look at my priorities and there will be some changes afoot.

I am not yet at liberty to discuss the most significant change that I will be making from a personal perspective. Suffice it to say that I have decided that being taken seriously without some serious form of credential is almost impossible, and that it is time to bow to this inevitable fact. At present, I am neither a politician nor a lawyer, nor an accredited expert on the constitution, the European Union, healthcare reform or any of the other subjects on which this blog touches. Over time, this will now change. The focus of this blog may therefore shift and be refined slightly over time, though there will be no immediate change.

The fruits of this work may not be visible for some time, but I hope to be able to provide more detail in due course. In the meantime, here’s what you can expect:

  1. Slightly less frequent updates (I religiously posted nearly every day in 2016; this tempo is now likely to decrease)
  2. More short reaction pieces or flags (bringing other worthy articles or videos to your attention with only limited commentary from myself)
  3. Fewer “fisking” pieces (taking apart and critiquing articles and speeches line-by-line)
  4. Hopefully a few more longer-form, ruminative pieces on certain subjects close to this blog’s heart (Brexit, free speech, identity politics, healthcare reform and the NHS)

And one thing will not change. This blog will continue to be stridently independent, and I will at no time “sell out” to raise my profile through artificial means. If I happen to be published, linked or quoted elsewhere in the coming year, it will not be the result of modifying my positions or moderating my tone. Likewise if by some chance I end up back on the BBC as the token “anti-social justice” guy.

I will still be in Texas for the next couple of weeks, but activity on the blog will now slowly start to ramp up again. Please accept my apologies if I am slow to approve or respond to comments, emails or tweets – the backlog is long, and I am still very much in holiday mode.

I wish all my readers a very happy and prosperous 2017.

Sam Hooper.

 

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No, Donald Trump Was Not Swept To Victory By Resurgent White Nationalism

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No, “nationalism” is not the same as “white nationalism” – and the American Left urgently needs to find a way of opposing populist, protectionist ideas without resorting to the nuclear option of accusing their adherents of being secretly racist

A lot is being written at the moment about the future presence of Steve Bannon as a key adviser in Donald Trump’s administration, and whether this represents a calamity on the scale of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake or more closely resembles the Chicxulub Asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

We are constantly being told by hysterical news outlets and media commentators that Steve Bannon is a “white nationalist“, which would obviously be utterly appalling and terrible if it were true. But considering that many of the news outlets making the allegation are the same ones screeching loudest about the impact of “fake news” on the election, they seem remarkably unwilling to come forth with evidence of racist, white nationalist sentiments previously expressed by Bannon, and equally unwilling to report the many times when Bannon has disavowed such ideas.

At this point, I have to make the customary disclaimer before those who do not frequently read this blog rip me to shreds. No, I did not and do not support Donald Trump. I dislike Trump’s character as well as many (though not all) of his policies, and believe that he is temperamentally unsuited to lead America, to say nothing of setting an appalling example for younger Americans. Just so that’s clear.

But outlets like the Guardian have accused Bannon outright of being a white nationalist, while prestige outlets like CNN have sought to tar him with association, going up to the line of suggesting that Bannon will advocate for white nationalists.

But nationalism and white nationalism are not one and the same thing. People – including many in the media who should know better – seem more than happy to bolt the two words together, either to aid with the cadence of their sentences or as a deliberate way of smearing nationalism, but the two worldviews are quite different. Nationalism can be boiled down as a “country-first” mindset, prioritising the citizens of a country (no matter their race, gender or other characteristics) over those from outside the country. Such a worldview manifests itself through clear policies on immigration, illegal immigration and foreign policy. Meanwhile, white nationalism seeks to favour typically white protestant people in America over other races, and is manifested through discriminatory and divisive policies of racial segregation and persecution.

Clearly, the two are quite different, and hearing the media talk airily about “white nationalism” as a means of slandering the alt-right or nationalism in general is starting to become extremely tiresome. If people want to attack Steve Bannon’s actual ideas, they should feel free to do so. But lobbing baseless accusations of overt racism with the term “white nationalism” is cheating, a lazy attempt to excommunicate Bannon from respectable political debate without having to do the intellectual heavy-lifting of taking on his ideas. Which is reprehensible.

Gene Callahan puts it well in The American Conservative:

Perhaps, given my limited knowledge of him, Bannon really is, secretly, a “white nationalist,” despite his repeated public rejection of white nationalism. Perhaps he really is, secretly, a supporter of the racist elements of the alt-right, despite the fact that he has said he has “zero tolerance” for those elements. Perhaps he really is, secretly, anti-Semitic, despite his strong support for Israel (a support too strong, by my standards), and despite the character testimony provided for him by many Jews. But the evidence that Bannon holds these hidden views, as far as I have been able to examine it, is pathetic, and entirely inadequate to support such serious charges. No competent prosecutor would ever bring a case against a suspect based on such flimsy evidence.

So is there an alternative hypothesis as to why Bannon has been attacked in this fashion? Well, let us imagine that there is a globalist elite that doesn’t really care at all about the American people. When the housing crisis hit in 2007, instead of bailing out low-income homeowners (many of whom were African-American and Hispanic) who had been duped into taking on adjustable-rate mortgages that only someone with a degree in finance could understand, they instead bailed out the bankers who had made such loans. Instead of worrying about the impact of massive immigration on the lives our our own most vulnerable citizens (many of whom are African-American and Hispanic), they celebrated such immigration, since, after all, it provided them with cheap gardeners and nannies and maids, and their factories with cheap assembly-line workers. Now imagine that they are threatened by the possible ascendancy into power of people who do actually believe that the American government should put the interest of American citizens, be they black or Hispanic or white or Asian, first in our government’s policies? I would imagine that this (entirely imagined on my part!) elite would embark on a relentless smear campaign against anyone expressing such “ethno-nationalist” concern for our own citizens on the part of our own government, so that they could continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us.

Dear reader, please decide for yourself which hypothesis is most probable.

Read the whole thing if you have a few minutes to spare. This blog is certainly convinced that Callahan is right while the hysterical accusers are wrong. And note: one can still dislike Steve Bannon, his political views and what he stands for. There is just no plausible evidence that he is guilty of the accusations now being thrown his way, and therefore responsible media outlets should stop reproducing them without further evidence.

More importantly, we need to rescue the word “nationalism” from toxic association with white nationalism, which of course remains abhorrent. But nationalism itself is nothing more than a belief in the nation state. Nationalism (not white nationalism) helped to drive the vote for Brexit in the UK because people believed that the European Union is a poor guarantor of our rights and freedoms, more obsessed with building the secretive federal project than actually winning legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens or doing them any good. And so the British people decided that Britain should be run for the benefit of British citizens – all of us, no matter our colour or ethnicity – rather than as a colonial outpost of the Brussels project. And of course the leftist opposition to Brexit has been making shrill claims that the vote was motivated by racism ever since, even though no such evidence exists (and can only be hinted at if one makes the unsupportable claim that opposition to mass immigration is inherently racist).

We now see a similar tale unfold in America following Donald Trump’s election victory. Trump’s endlessly repeated intention to “Make America Great Again” and to put legal American citizens first may be simplistic and lacking in detail. It may even be counterproductive and morally wrong at times, especially if the threat to deport millions of otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants lured to America by a succession of permissive past regimes is actually carried out. But it is not inherently racist, unless one is willing to take the position that borders are inherently racist, and with them the very idea of the nation state. If this is actually the view of those who criticise Donald Trump and Steve Bannon the loudest, then they should have the courage to openly admit their intention to do away with borders and essentially abolish America. But of course they will not – their support would shrink rather dramatically were they to be so honest.

Steve Bannon call his worldview “economic nationalism”, as described by Peter Nicholas in the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Bannon, in the interview, said he is animated by an economic populism that has the potential to create an enduring political realignment in the U.S.

“I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist,” he told Mr. Wolff. “I’m an economic nationalist.

“The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—— over.” In a shot at Democrats’ close ties to Silicon Valley, he continued: “They were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It’s not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about.”

Mr. Bannon offered a few hints about how Mr. Trump intends to govern. One focus will be a dramatic new public works building program that takes advantage of low interest rates – a project that Democrats have long favored.

“It’s everything related to jobs,” Mr. Bannon said. “The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

One can disagree with parts (or all) of this message. This blog certainly disagrees with throwing fiscal conservatism out the window, frittering away federal money on dubious infrastructure projects and trying to resurrect dead industries in America where global comparative advantage has seen those industries move to other parts of the world.

But millions of Americans – enough to put Donald Trump in the White House – apparently did agree with this message of populist economic nationalism. And you can fisk it all you want, but you simply won’t find a shred of racism in it. That doesn’t mean that Donald Trump does not appeal to racists, or that he has not sometimes courted people with xenophobic beliefs – he has, and it is reprehensible. But still, this is different from Donald Trump’s policy platform and key advisers being openly racist – it is not, and they are not, bad though they are in other ways.

And at some point, the anti-Trump Left is going to have to stop resorting to the nuclear option of declaring people “racist” or “white nationalist” whenever they depart from the centre-left political consensus in America. Not only is it slanderous, it is making some people more fearful than they should be about the incoming administration.

As Scott Alexander put it so well recently:

Stop fearmongering. Somewhere in America, there are still like three or four people who believe the media, and those people are cowering in their houses waiting for the death squads.

Stop crying wolf. God forbid, one day we might have somebody who doesn’t give speeches about how diversity makes this country great and how he wants to fight for minorities, who doesn’t pose holding a rainbow flag and state that he proudly supports transgender people, who doesn’t outperform his party among minority voters, who wasn’t the leader of the Salute to Israel Parade, and who doesn’t offer minorities major cabinet positions. And we won’t be able to call that guy an “openly white supremacist Nazi homophobe”, because we already wasted all those terms this year.

Stop talking about dog whistles. The kabbalistic similarities between “dog-whistling” and “wolf-crying” are too obvious to ignore.

Stop writing articles breathlessly following everything the KKK says. Stop writing several times more articles about the KKK than there are actual Klansmen. Remember that thing where Trump started out as a random joke, and then the media covered him way more than any other candidate because he was so outrageous, and gave him what was essentially free advertising, and then he became President-elect of the United States? Is the lesson you learned from this experience that you need 24-7 coverage of the Ku Klux Klan?

[..] Stop turning everything into identity politics. The only thing the media has been able to do for the last five years is shout “IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS IDENTITY POLITICS!” at everything, and then when the right wing finally says “Um, i…den-tity….poli-tics?” you freak out and figure that the only way they could have possibly learned that phrase is from the KKK.

[..] Stop centering criticism of Donald Trump around this sort of stuff, and switch to literally anything else. Here is an incompetent thin-skinned ignorant boorish fraudulent omnihypocritical demagogue with no idea how to run a country, whose philosophy of governance basically boils down to “I’m going to win and not lose, details to be filled in later”, and all you can do is repeat, again and again, how he seems popular among weird Internet teenagers who post frog memes.

In the middle of an emotionally incontinent reality TV show host getting his hand on the nuclear button, your chief complaint is that in the middle of a few dozen denunciations of the KKK, he once delayed denouncing the KKK for an entire 24 hours before going back to denouncing it again. When a guy who says outright that he won’t respect elections unless he wins them does, somehow, win an election, the headlines are how he once said he didn’t like globalists which means he must be anti-Semitic.

Stop making people suicidal. Stop telling people they’re going to be killed. Stop terrifying children. Stop giving racism free advertising. Stop trying to convince Americans that all the other Americans hate them. Stop. Stop. Stop.

And to that we can add: Stop this tacit, corrosive insinuation that nationalism, wanting to put America and American citizens first, is somehow a negative trait in an American president. Stop trying to insinuate that those who want the American government to prioritise American workers are motivated by racism. Stop trying to sneakily undermine the nation state at every turn, or at least have the courage to stand up and proudly declare that you want to bring the era of the nation state to an end and effectively abolish America.

Stop stop stop.

But they will not stop. Making blanket accusations of racism and a “white nationalist” resurgence just feels so good when one is smarting from an unexpected electoral defeat. And it is far easier to cow people into silence by accusing them of racism than it is to deconstruct and oppose the incoming Trump administration’s protectionist, mercantilist ideas – let alone offer a more appealing alternative.

 

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