Friday, June 02, 2006

The end of America

One of the remarkable aspects of the increasing interaction between mainstream conservatives and the extremist right on the immigration issue is the way the way they wind up feeding each other: the far right gives them talking points, the mainstream regurgitates them for mass consumption, which gives the far right the justification and affirmation it craves -- and fuels them to even greater rhetorical heights ... which then are eventually picked up and transmitted into the mainstream.

And what they primarily trade in is fear -- pure, unadulterated fear. That's why they're so big on conspiracy theories like Reconquista!

The core message is "Fear of a Brown Planet": "Look out, white people! The brown people are coming to take away your way of life! Aiiieee!!! Run for the hills!"

If you turn to the current front page at American Patrol (only click if you really have to) -- the white-supremacist border-control outfit run by Glenn Spencer of Reconquista! fame -- you'll see the following headline:
Senate Voted to End U. S. as a Nation
Surrender to Latin Invasion Now Clear

Follwed by links to a video from Lou Dobbs' CNN program of yesterday, plus a snippet from the transcript:
Lou Dobbs Tonight - CNN - June 1

Dobbs: The issue, as you said, that the nation would cease to exist, what do you mean by that?

West: Well, the kind of provisions that are in the Senate... and it will be mainly Hispanic. It will be mainly Mexican. -- And so, what the question becomes is, do we want to become a northern section of Latin America? Do we cease to become literally an English- speaking people, become bilingual, and / or Spanish- speaking? And with these questions, you really begin to get at the heart of the matter, a demographic, a newer demographic.

West is a columnist for the Washington Times whose recent piece on immigration was the center of discussion.

You have to see the whole interview for yourself to believe it, as Dobbs simply lets West broadcast her nativist nonsense unchallenged. West is promoting the crazed notion, as she put it in the column, that in its compromise immigration legislation -- which she dubs "the Dissolve America Now bill" -- the Senate voted to completely open its borders, that is, "to relocate the Statue of Liberty to the U.S.-Mexico border." In reality, the American Patrol headline isn't far removed from what West actually wrote.

Here's the transcript:
DOBBS: "Washington Times" columnist Diana West has written a provocative, disturbing look at the future of this nation and what would happen were President Bush to successfully push his amnesty program through. West writes that if amnesty were to become law, the United States would cease to be a nation altogether. She says it would become a honey trap, drawing millions of more illegal aliens into the country. Diana West joins us tonight from Washington, D.C. Diana, good to have you here.


DOBBS: I want to begin with something that you wrote, "a nation has borders and defends them." If we could put that up, "a nation has broken borders and defends them. 'We' do not. Otherwise, building a fence against an unprecedented invasion by Mexico wouldn't be considered a harsh and radical position in the mainstream otherwise."

Well, when the Senate passed that amendment on the immigration bill, sponsored by Christopher Dodd, put into the manager's amendments by Senator Arlen Specter. What was your reaction?

WEST: Disgust.

DOBBS: It's just amazing.

WEST: Amazement, yes. Yes. It's a situation where the United States Senate, in insisting on this ridiculous two-track bill, to have supposed security along with this incredible amnesty program, is signaling to the world that we really don't believe in the concept of borders, and that's actually what I really draw from this bill, which is extremely disturbing, because if we signal that to the world, they will come, and we really will be the world.

DOBBS: That is, the world, we're certainly going to be Mexico at this rate. Because...

WEST: That's the first part of the world.

DOBBS: ... the Mexican population, a country of about 100 million people, with an estimated 20 million of their citizens already living in this country -- many of them legally of course -- but 3 million illegal aliens crossing our borders, most of whom are Mexican citizens. The idea that this administration will not enforce the border, for national security reasons, leaving immigration aside, is to most of us, to most Americans, absolutely unbelievable.


DOBBS: The issue, as you said, that the nation would cease to exist, what do you mean by that?

WEST: Well, the kind of provisions that are in the Senate bill, for both legal immigration that we can try to project, and then illegal immigration that we can only imagine, has the effect of a demographic tsunami, and it will be mainly Hispanic. It will be mainly Mexican.

And so, what the question becomes is, do we want to become a northern section of Latin America? Do we cease to become literally an English-speaking people, become bilingual, and/or Spanish-speaking? And with these questions, you really begin to get at the heart of the matter, a demographic, a newer demographic.

DOBBS: The idea of a new demographic is to me, frankly, my reaction is, in terms of Hispanic, sort of what's the difference? Because we as a nation -- this is a melting pot. The issue of multiculturalism, however, and the issue of multi-language. That becomes a very serious issue, doesn't it?

WEST: Well, it does. I mean, I would say that we were a melting pot. I think that 30, 40 years of multiculturalism, however, have trashed that notion. We have been taught that that actually is not our design, and so we the people have become we the peoples. And when you import such a large demographic speaking one language, you have really altered the mix.

DOBBS: Diana West, I thank you for being here. We're out of time. I hope you'll come back soon. We're going to continue this discussion, obviously, on this broadcast in the weeks and months ahead. So please come back.

Part of what nativist hacks like West and Michelle Malkin do in their arguments is rely on a kind of Manichean rhetorical trick: assume, in the argument, that the only possible alternative to their proposal is one that is completely undesirable. Thus, they quickly label their opponents the "open borders crowd."

The fact is, however, that most of the people who are opposed to an immigration debate based on scapegoating, racism, or demonization of Latinos, or for punitive measures against those immigrants already here also happen to favor reasonable immigration reform -- nor do they argue for open borders, either. Read more here.

The Senate's immigration measure is, by any measure, ultimately only a band-aid for a systemic problem related to America's role in the global economy. But equating it with "the surrender of America" really suggests there's something in the Kool-aid they've been drinking.

But then, we kind of knew that already. We just didn't know how many mainstream media people were drinking it too.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Immigration haters

[From Sunday's Klan rally in Russellville, Alabama.]

Every time you hear folks on the anti-immigration right insist that it's just illegal immigration they're on about, and that there's nothing racist about their agenda, remember that they all say that, like they did in Columbus, Ohio, recently:
The organizer of a Statehouse rally to oppose illegal immigration has ties to what hate-group monitors say is a white-supremacist organization.

The organizers call themselves "Americans for America" and say Friday’s rally is "pro-American" and promises to be peaceful.

But the event is being promoted on what an Anti-Defamation League official said is the oldest and largest Web site for white supremacists. And its organizer belongs to a group run by David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader who served one term in the Louisiana legislature.

"Just the fact that they’ve advertised on, a neo-Nazi Web site, shows that they want white supremacists to show up," said Mark Pitcavage, a Columbus man who monitors hate groups for the Anti-Defamation League.

The rally organizer, Ed Bicker, said that's not true.

He acknowledged that he is involved with Duke's group, European American United and Rights Organization, and that some members of that group would probably attend the rally.

Bicker, a Cleveland resident, describes the organization as a "white civilrights" organization -- not a racist or white supremacist group -- and said Friday's rally isn't about race at all.

"We're not really concerned with where our members come from," he said. "We don't have anything against anyone."

Bicker said his group, which has a "couple dozen" members, has the same concerns as other people who oppose illegal immigration and amnesty programs. The borders should be secured and illegal residents who he said cost taxpayers millions of dollars should be sent home, he said.

"We're concerned with the excess burden illegal immigrants have on America," he said.

For the facts on that "burden," see more here. Not that facts are anything these folks respect.

Once again, we're seeing evidence that the immigration debate is becoming a major launching ground for far-right activism and recruitment. That's why, in locales around the country, they're finding that the debate is becoming truly hateful:
The Southern Poverty Law Center is reporting a rise in the past year in the number of groups it categorizes as hate groups. A Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard said a recent rally was the first he could remember that drew more supporters than protesters. And one candidate for Alabama attorney general is openly calling for martial law and the shooting of illegal immigrants who resist imprisonment and deportation.

Many of those who attend anti-immigration rallies say they aren't hateful or racist and don't have a problem with immigrants coming to the United States as long as they do it legally.

"I would guess that the more mainstream anti-immigration groups are trying to distance themselves from groups like the Klan because ... (such a group) de-legitimizes their message," said Allen Kohlhepp, a staff member with the Anti-Defamation League.

Especially disturbing was this story's description of a recent Klan rally in Alabama:
The KKK recently held an anti-immigration rally in Russellville during which it had 20 or so people apply for membership, said Ray Larsen, imperial wizard for the National Knights of the KKK from South Bend Ind. The rally drew a crowd of more than 300 that included a mix of supporters, on-lookers, and a few dozen counter protesters.

It was the first time Larsen could remember supporters outnumbering the people who came out to protest their presence. The Klan initiated several new members at a cross lighting ceremony later that night in Franklin County.

As the Montgomery Advertiser reported, the focus of the rally was immigration:
Marchers protesting proposals to give illegal immigrants amnesty and supporting calls to deport them yelled anti-immigration slogans such as "Send them back!" and "Let's get rid of the Mexicans!"

Ray Larsen, imperial wizard of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from South Bend, Ind., told the crowd on a megaphone that illegal immigrants are in America to take all the jobs and they want everyone out of America. "And I'm talking about blacks and whites," Larsen said. "They want you out of here because they want this as their land."

Afterward, Klansmen went to a field near Vina in western Franklin County and burned a kerosene-soaked 22-foot-high cross in a field. More than 30 people were in the field, with a few wearing hoods over their faces and others with their faces visible.

And it's worth noting that Don Black -- who operates Stormfront, the site where the Ohio nativists are advertising their rally -- is quoted in the Birmingham News story agreeing that the environment is much more receptive to the message he's been broadcasting for decades:
Don Black, a former KKK grand wizard who now runs the white nationalist Web site forum Stormfront, said the immigration issue has increased visits to his Web site to about 25,000 visitors a day, up by about 5,000 a day in the past couple of months.

"A lot of people are going to be attracted to our movement because of it and get a greater understanding of what we're all about because of that one issue," said Black, who runs the site from his West Palm Beach, Fla., home.

Unfortunately, the denials of racist intent are taken credulously by the majority of media folk, including the Lou Dobbses of the world -- who are equally adamant that there's nothing racist in their advocacy, either.

To some extent, this is probably because so much of the underlying fear that's driving the immigration debate revolves around the gradual crumbling of white privilege -- something that even supposedly enlightened and educated people, ensconced in their gated communities and neat suburbs, will quietly defend, while doing their best to put a nonracist face on it. The denials are reflexive -- but all too transparent.

And in case anyone thought they were stupid, the folks in pointy hoods have seen through it too.

UPDATE: Clif at American Street wonders why the reporter calls it a "cross lighting ceremony."

Malkinite fact-check

UPDATE: Argh! Significant correction: The post in question was not written by Malkin, but rather one "Bryan" -- that is, Bryan Preston, who posts regularly at Malkin's Hot Air blog and appears to be one of its chief partners. My apologies for the misattribution -- though, aside the suggestion that MEChA would like to kill all the non-Latinos in Aztlan, the rest of the rant in question actually just repeats things Malkin has already written.


UPDATE 2: I've edited the post to reflect the correct information.


The stream of misinformation from Michelle Malkin is so endless these days that you could make a full-time job of it just trying to keep up with her.

Fortunately, we have Malkin(s)Watch, which does all the heavy lifting (and a big welcome, BTW, to Ryan, the site's new contributor). But her output is so prodigious that sometimes the rest of us need to pitch in, too. And now her minions are busily spreading the same misinformation.

Take, for instance, one of the recent Hot Air ventilation by Bryan Preston, her cohort -- and linked to approvingly by Malkin at her own blog -- which attacks the student organization Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or MEChA:
"La Raza" means, literally, "the race." As in, the Latino race.

As I've explained previously, "la Raza" actually translates more closely as "the people," that is, the Latino people -- who are constituted of multiple races. That is, it is an ethnic identity -- one that specifically repudiates racial distinctions. Malkin, as I pointed out then, has also made this mischaracterization previously.

Preston goes on:
MeCHA is that band of radicals that thinks the US southwest is actually Mexican territory, though they don't necessarily want it returned to Mexico.

Oh, really? Last we heard from Malkin, the "Reconquistas" were asserting "that the American southwest rightly belongs to Mexico."
They would settle for splitting it off from the US, killing all non-Latinos that currently live there, and creating a new state called Aztlan.

This is perhaps the most outrageous claim anyone has yet made regarding MEChA, and the Malkin contingent has already come up with some doozies.

So let's be clear: Nowhere in any of MEChA's documents or rhetoric is there even a suggestion of a plan to "kill all non-Latinos that currently live there" or even the desire to do so.

Preston's accusation is nothing short of the most vicious smear possible. As I just explained, the MEChA version of "Aztlan," conceptually speaking, is of an explicitly spiritual homeland based on their heritage as native American peoples.

Preston just makes matters worse by repeating an analogy she's made previously:
And they're funding a charter school in LA. Nice. It's not too different from turning over the education of young skulls full of mush to, say, the Klan. Or the Black Panthers.

Preston thus places MEChA in the company of violent radicals whose entire histories were fraught with death and destruction. (Malkin has also compared MEChA to the Nazis.)

Well, as I explained awhile back:
Consider the record of racist organizations -- particularly those to which MEChA has been compared by conservatives in this current brouhaha. First, there is the Ku Klux Klan, which has endured even today through multiple incarnations in America. The first of these was, according to Robert Paxton, the first historical emanation of fascism, the Reconstruction Klan. Here is its record, according to Philip Dray in At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America:

Richard Maxwell Brown's comprehensive study of vigilante violence in America estimates that in the four years 1868-71 there were more than four hundred Klan lynchings in the South, Union general Phil Sheridan calculated that 3,500 whites and blacks were killed between 1865 and 1875, Ida Wells-Barnett, writing in the 1890s, put the number of Negroes killed by whites since 1865 at 10,000m with only three white men executed for crimes against blacks in that period. … Author Dorothy Sterling, who combed through man thousands of documents and oral histories in her preparation of a noted compendium on the Reconstruction era, cited 20,000 as the number killed by the Klan just in the four years 1868-71.

The Klan revived in 1916 after years of dormancy and was responsible for a broad range of lynchings, "race riots" and anti-black purges in the South over the ensuing 15 years or so. And it has continued to be associated even today with an array of hate crimes and heinous acts of terrorism against various minorities.

Overseas, the most notorious racist organizations were the European fascist governments, particularly Nazi Germany. I trust I don't even have to go there.

For those who would argue that a group like MEChA is only nascent in its racism, and could eventually wreak such horrors if its agenda flamed out of control, it is worth remembering that racist organizations nearly always display their true colors almost immediately. The Klan, as just seen, was violent and terroristic from the start; so, too, were the European fascists, particularly during the fascista and SA years.

And what has MEChA done? Advocate for increasing the numbers of Latinos in higher education. Organize student rallies. Emphasize self-determination.

It would be fun to say that the Malkin anti-MEChA contingent has finally "jumped the shark" with this pile of disinformation, but the truth is that Malkin herself triple-axeled over that baby a long time and has been playing in Fonzie's band with Pinky Tuscadero ever since.

"Unhinged" doesn't even begin to cover it.

Elimination Gaming

My last serious gaming addiction was Doom, which pretty much dates me as far as these things go. At some point, I had to choose between being a gamer or being a writer, and I obviously picked the latter.

My experience with video games has always made me skeptical of the charges that these games lead to mass murders and mental health issues, which often seem like the latest version of the comic-book and rock-and-roll they're-polluting-our-youth hysterias.

Still, there was something about the role-playing and first-person games that deeply hooked me. Maybe it was finally getting to play out my youthful comic-book fantasies in real time, to see how I responded under pressure. Maybe it was dwelling in a fantasy world. Whatever it was, once I got into the games, they invaded my thoughts away from them, even in dreams.

Nonetheless, the end feeling, even when I won, was kind of hollow -- more emotionally draining than fulfilling. And when I sat back, I realized that I wasn't getting much out of it, other than the satisfaction of figuring out an extremely ornate puzzle. So I moved on. But that was just me, and understand well why people are drawn to them.

Now, when I read about video games like the one that lets you shoot border crossers that was created by white supremacists, I tend not to worry much: it's simply a cartoonish Flash-based game with little depth or resonance. It's a novelty that won't be getting anyone hooked.

Much more troubling, in my view, are games like the one described recently by Jonathon Hutson at Talk2Action (via Crooks and Liars):
Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission -- both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state -- especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.

... This game immerses children in present-day New York City -- 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

Paul the Spud at Shakespeare's Sister notes just how bizarre the worldview of the game really is:
This is really incredible... a "Christian" video game, the purpose of which is to kill as many people as possible. And not only non-believers... no no no. Other Christians (not true Christians like you, the player, of course) are also fair game! It's all done in the name of Jesus.

As Hutson's piece goes on to explain, Warren -- described by Time Magazine as one of the most influential evangelicals in America -- is the front man for a large Dominionist organization whose purpose is nothing short of fundamentalist theocracy in America:
Could such a violent, dominionist Christian video game really break through to the popular culture? Well, it is based on a series of books that have already set sales records -- the blockbuster Left Behind series of 14 novels by writer Jerry B. Jenkins and his visionary collaborator, retired Southern Baptist minister Tim LaHaye. "We hope teenagers like the game," Mr. LaHaye told the Los Angeles Times. "Our real goal is to have no one left behind."

The Dominionist -- or, if you like, Christian nationalist -- faction at work here is deliberately targeting young people, as in the recent Battle Cry rallies attracting young audiences in the thousands to their particularly martial brand of Christianity.

And gaming offers a particularly vulnerable recruitment window, because of the immersive qualities of richer, well-designed games like this. The strangely Manichean worldview -- you are either with the theocrats or against them -- combined with the overt eliminationism of the actual play involved seems to suggest the authors are intent on inculcating a deeply totalist mindset.

My friend Mrs. Robinson, a Silicon Valley refugee who comments frequently here, sent me a note along with the link to this piece:
I spent eleven years in the games business. I left in large part because I realized that most of what was being turned out by the mid-'90s were games designed to desensitize kids to killing, either covertly or very overtly. I felt like I was helping the right-wing train its next generation of soldiers. It wasn't a good feeling. I needed to do something else.

When something like Abu Ghraib or Haditha happens, I feel the weight of that all over again. This game...well, I guess it speaks for itself.

Here it is: your at-home training camp for the next generation of eliminationists.

It will be revealing, I think, to see how many good "Christians" snap up copies of this game -- and how many actually endorse it or defend it.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The GOP vs. the American birthright

Washington state's Republican Party has been trying to wean itself from the influence of the far right for much of the past decade, particularly after the debacle of Ellen Craswell's run for governor in 1996. It hasn't done them a lot of good -- they manage to keep losing anyway, though the last gubernatorial race was a doozy.

So now, thanks to the immigration debate, they're back to embracing the far right. And tagging along for the ride is at least one of the party's U.S. House members.

At last weekend's state GOP Convention, the party adopted a platform including a resolution calling for a measure to deny citizenship to children born to illegal immigrants. It also endorsed a guest-worker program that would require all applicants to return to their home countries first.

Such obviously punitive measures against Latinos got a big thumbs up from Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican congressman from King County's 8th District, which is mostly the Eastside and parts of the south end:
Congressman Dave Reichert told me yesterday that he is willing to consider a proposal that would end automatic citizenship for babies born here. "It makes sense to me. This is people taking advantage of the system," he said. Reichert said that he has heard stories of pregnant Mexican women "just moments before the baby is born crossing the border and having the baby in a parking lot ... then claiming they can't leave because their baby is a citizen."

State Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, said denying citizenship to babies born in the United States would be unconstitutional. Reichert said that is something "for the lawyers" to hash out. "I think that has to be part of the entire discussion that has to take place," he said.

Hey, Congressman Dave! I've heard stories that Gary Ridgeway secretly performed a voodoo mind transplant back when you interviewed him and that, in reality, he now occupies your skull. Should I believe them? Should I report them to the press credulously?

Now, back to Planet Earth ... The reality is that yes, there are some women who cross the border to take advantage of American hospitals and American citizenship for her child. But the child's citizenship does nothing to grant her any rights to remain in this country, and she can be deported at any time.

Perhaps more to the point, their numbers are really quite tiny, especially compared to the large numbers of people who are crossing for the No. 1 reason we have illegal immigrants: jobs. I've discussed this issue before, and the abiding point remains: People aren't crossing our borders to have kids. They're crossing our borders to work.

So why, Congressman Dave, should we change the Constitution -- indeed, one of its most cherished tenets, among a nation of immigrants -- for something that isn't really a problem?

Washington's Republicans, I suppose, can take comfort in knowing that they are just living up to the legacy of their forebears -- namely, the nativists of yore who took up the cause of fighting off the "invasion" of America's shores by an "alien horde" ... from Asia.

After all, the first "illegal immigrants" were Asians. The nakedly racist Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first law to attempt to limit immigration to America; prior to that, immigration had been open to anyone, though citizenship was reserved to "free white persons" and then expanded in 1870 to include people of African descent.

So Asian immigrants, including those from Japan, were precluded from becoming American citizens by law. And it was in the context of racial agitation about those later Japanese immigrants that it was first suggested that the 14th Amendment be altered to exclude citizenship for the "undesirable" Japanese.

You see, the Japanese were deemed "unassimilable," people who could never be admitted in white society, and of course a great deal of sexual fetishism ("Would you want your daughter to marry an Oriental?") was thrown in for good rhetorical measure. Because of that, the prospect of little brown citizens with suspected loyalties to Japan was deemed a real threat -- mostly to the "purity" of white culture.

The original 1919 platform of the California Oriental Exclusion League -- headed by Republican State Senator J.M. Inman -- ran as follows:
1. Cancellation of the "Gentlemen's Agreement"
2. Exclusion of the "Picture Brides"
3. Rigorous exclusion of Japanese as immigrants
4. Confirmation of the policy that Asiatics shall be forever barred from American citizenship
5. Amendment of the Federal Constitution providing that no child born in the United States shall be given the rights of an American citizen unless both parents are of a race eligible to citizenship.

Likewise, the American Legion's national platform, adopted at its first convention in 1919, called for similar measures:
Abrogation of the so-called "gentlemen's agreemen" with Japan, and the exclusion of Japanese from the United States on the same basis as other Oriental races.

Amendment to Section one of the Fourteenth Amendment to the effect that no child born in the United States of foreign parentage shall be eligible to citizenship unless both parents are eligible.

There was even some official support for these measures, as well as the ongoing fearmongering about little Nisei children. The most notable of these was an official report titled California and the Oriental, authored by the State Board of Control. As Roger Daniels describes in The Politics of Prejudice: The Anti-Japanese Movement in California and the Struggle for Japanese Exclusion:
According to Governor [William D.] Stephens [in the report's preface], the greatest danger to white California came from the high birth rate of these alien people: "the fecundity of the Japanese race far exceeds that of any other people." The report tried to prove that the Japanese birth rate was nearly three times that of the white. It showed the 15,211 Japanese women had given birth to 4,378 children in one year, while 313,281 married white women had given birth to 30,893 children in a similar period.

But, as Daniels goes on to explain, this was pure statistical manipulation:
The figures prove absolutely nothing, for they are in no wise comparable. Because of the special conditions of Japanese immigration, almost all Japanese wives were, for the period cited, in the first years of marriage and of prime childbearing age. To compare such a group to a different group of women ranging from 15 to 45 years of age and married for widely varying periods of time was patently absurd, except for purposes of propaganda. As a point of fact, perhaps in part as a result of the lack of any religious inhibitions about birth control, the long-range Issei birth rate was somewhat below that for contemporary immigrant groups from Europe, and only slightly above the rather low native-white birth rate in the twenties and thirties.

The anti-Japanese agitation of 1919-24 culminated in the passage of the Immigration_Act_of_1924, also known as the "Asian Exclusion Act." It was the first law to create a system of national quotas -- and all immigrants from Asia were specifically excluded.

But those old beliefs about Japanese citizens in their midst never went away, and resurfaced with a vengeance in 1942, after Pearl Harbor, and amid the discussion that resulted in the mass incarceration of all Japanese Americans.

In the U.S. Senate, Tom Stewart of Tennessee proposed stripping citizenship from anyone of Japanese descent: "A Jap's a Jap anywhere," he said.

This proposal had wide support on the Pacific Coast. Fairly typical was a letter to the Post-Intelligencer from a woman named Charlotte Drysdale of Seattle:
It has been interesting to note how many contributors have been afraid we would have no garden truck if the Japs are sent to concentration areas. We had gardens long before the Japs were imported about the turn of the century, to work for a very low wage (a move for which we are still paying dearly) and we can still have them after we have no Japs.

Isn't that discounting American ability just a little too low?

And by Americans I mean not the children of the races ineligible to naturalization. The mere fact that a child is born in this country should not give him the rights and privileges of citizenship.

The fourteenth amendment, granting automatic citizenship to American born, was placed there for the protection of the Negro and at that time the great infiltration of Japs was not even thought of. In recent years there has been so much fear of hurting the feelings of these people that no one has had the courage to try to rectify the situation. Now it would seem that the time is ripe to put things right, for once and for all time.

During the war, though restrictions against Asians began to lift; the Chinese exclusion was repealed in 1944 because of our alliance with her, and Filipinos likewise were granted similar naturalization rights. After the war, and the blood sacrifice of the 442nd established once and for all the loyalty of Japanese Americans, all racial restrictions against naturalization were removed (in 1952. And in 1965, we abolished the system of national-origin quotas.

It has to be understood that the entire immigration debate is ultimately founded on the continuing inadequacies of immigration law, especially for coping with the market realities of the American economy, where the demand for cheap labor is drawing so many immigrants they all cannot fit in under the law, and those of the Mexican economy, where the government is overwhelmed and failing.

Some people want to address this by changing the law to reflect realities, as well as to push for its full enforcement, which must include measures to stop the abuse of illegal immigrants simply by virtue of their "illegality", and to crack down on the large employers (who can shrug off current fines) whose cheap-labor push is diluting the living standard for all Americans.

And some people want to address this with ineffective measures that mostly victimize children.

Nice to know which side a good Republican like Dave Reichert is on.

Noemie Maxwell at Washblog has more.

[Note: Reichert, as Goldy notes, is very vulnerable this year. Be sure to check out the Web site of his opponent, Darcy Burner, who recently was named by Matt Stoller to the netroots list of congressional candidates.]

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Energizing the racist right

You know, it's possible to make a case that immigration is an important problem that needs addressing without resorting to racist rhetoric and scapegoating -- though, Lord knows the nativist right hasn't figured that out yet.

But I think you can also make the case that, in reality, it isn't that big a problem, especially placed in the perspective of the life-and-death issues at stake in the fight against terrorism, or the looming threat of global warming, which strikes at our very survival as a species.

What strikes me in any event as far more significant than immigration is the way the nativists piling onto the issue have resurrected the racist right in America.

It's now OK, apparently, to talk about preserving the white majority, as national media anchors have done recently, without having anyone point out that you're regurgitating David Duke's talking points.

And the effect that's having on the ground, besides getting a lot of mainstream folk nodding along, is that it is drawing the old racist right -- the National Alliance, the Klan, the Council of Conservative Citizens -- out into the open. They're emboldened now because they can hear things they've been saying in their meeting halls for years now being bandied about by Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly.

All the whining from the pro-Minuteman faction about "media bias" notwithstanding, most media coverage so far has just tiptoed around this reality.

So give some credit to Time Magazine for recognizing it, and reporting on it:
With immigration perhaps America's most volatile issue, a troubling backlash has erupted among its most fervent foes. There are, of course, the Minutemen, the self-appointed border vigilantes who operate in several states. And now groups of militiamen, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are using resentment over the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. as a potent rallying cry. "The immigration furor has been critical to the growth we've seen" in hate groups, says Mark Potok, head of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. The center counts some 800 racist groups operating in the U.S. today, a 5% spurt in the past year and a 33% jump from 2000. "They think they've found an issue with racial overtones and a real resonance with the American public," says Potok, "and they are exploiting it as effectively as they can."

Both Potok's group and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) are worried that extremists are burrowing their way into the anti-immigration mainstream. Mark Martin, 43, of Covington, Ohio, is a chef at a French restaurant and tends his backyard organic garden. But he also dons the black and brown uniform of western Ohio's National Socialist (read: Nazi) Movement. "There's nothing neo about us," he says. Martin admits he frequently harasses day laborers and threatens them with deportation. "As Americans, we have the right to make a citizen's arrest and detain them," he insists. "And if they try to get away, we have the right to get physical with them." Martin gleefully boasts about leading eight fellow storm troopers in disrupting a May 1 pro-immigrant rally in Dayton by taunting protesters. Although police ultimately restrained him, Martin believes his agitation was worthwhile because it attracted new recruits. "After the rally, the Klan called us," he says. "Now we've started working together more often."

In addition to white supremacists, the immigration debate seems to have reinvigorated members of the antigovernment militias of the 1990s. Those groups largely disbanded after the Oklahoma City bombing orchestrated by militia groupie Timothy McVeigh and, later, the failure of a Y2K bug to trigger the mass chaos some militia members expected. "We've seen people from Missouri and Kentucky militias involved in border-vigilante activity, especially with the gung-ho Arizona group Ranch Rescue that used face paint, military uniforms and weapons," says Mark Pitcavage, fact-finding director of the ADL. "It's a natural shift. Militias fell on hard times, and this anti-immigration movement is new and fresh."

No doubt, though, we'll hear more whining that this kind of reportage is just "playing the race card."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

It's the racism, stupid

News Flash: Reiterating white-supremacist talking points is OK if you're talking about immigration, because the immigration debate itself, you see, is innately non-racist.

That seems to be where we are at after Lou Dobbs issued his "regrets" that he used a graphic about "Aztlan" citing the Council of Conservative Citizens, his office telling Greg Sargent:
A freelance field producer in Los Angeles searched the web for Aztlan maps and grabbed the Council of Conservative Citizens map without knowing the nature of the organization. The graphic was a late inclusion in the script and, regrettably, was missed in the vetting process.

Er, OK.

Except, um, as Digby says:
The problem isn't that the map was from the CCC, it's that the CCC is making maps about this alleged issue and you are reporting it as if it's credible. Nobody's alarm bells went off today when they found out that a racist organization was pimping this ridiculous notion that there is a serious movement to take over several western states? No, nothing, just regret that they didn't pull the right map off the internet --- you know, the one that didn't have the words CCC on the bottom. The intention behind the story is just hunky dory.

Alex Koppelman drives the point home:
CNN is trying to play this off as an isolated mistake. Don't be fooled: it's not. The fact that Dobbs and reporter Casey Wian showed the CCC map only makes the subtle pattern of racist fantasies given voice on Dobbs' show more visible. (By the way, relatively unnoticed -- the same night Dobbs was citing the CCC, he was leaving unchallenged, even laughing along with, one guest's suggestion that in order to get rid of illegal Mexican immigrants New Yorkers should order pizza and then arrest the delivery person. Thanks, Lou. We'll get right on that.) For months now, Dobbs and Wian have been reporting on "reconquista" and "Aztlan" movements, movements that exist not in the minds of mainstream Mexicans but in the fever dreams of white supremacists. That Dobbs eventually aired material pulled directly from a white supremacist organization should surprise no one -- when you're subtly citing them on a regular basis, the unfiltered truth is bound to bubble up at some point.

Just for some clarification: There is in fact a Latino hate group called La Voz de Aztlan (discussed here some time back) which does propound a racist vision of a Latino "Aztlan" homeland encompassing the American Southwest. It is a tiny fringe group with no large following and no known influence among Hispanic activists or in the larger Latino community.

Another Latino group, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or MEChA, is often accused of promoting the same kind of vision of "Aztlan." I've discussed the MEChA claims numerous times, most notably here here and here. There is no evidence whatsoever that their talk of "Aztlan" reflects an intent to "invade" the United States and return it to Mexico; nor is there a scintilla of evidence that this is the intent of the Mexican government, as Casey Wians and others constantly imply. What it reflects is a belief that they have a historical right to be here as part of their homeland, and moreover, that they intend to fully enfranchise themselves politically -- as Americans. Their notion of "Aztlan," as numerous documents make clear, is more of a spiritual homeland.

However, what has happened since the late 1960s -- when MEChA leaders produced the "Aztlan" documents in question -- and the late 1980s was that, while MEChA itself evolved into a campus-service organization, white-supremacist organizations began culling these old documents and touting them as evidence of a Mexican plan to "invade" America. As I detailed recently, chief among these was a fellow named Glenn Spencer and his American Patrol organization, which has been clamoring about the "Reconquista" theory for well over a decade. His claims have simarly circulated throughout the white-supremacist right.

Thus, the obsession with "Aztlan" -- which, as far as Latinos are concerned, mostly appears in a few relatively obscure '60s-era documents and among a fringe hate group -- has for most of the past decade and longer been almost exclusively the purview of white supremacists: American Patrol, VDare, American Renaissance, the National Alliance, the CofCC, the Barnes Review, and the like.

So when you hear talk about "Reconquista" -- which has not appeared in any MEChA documents or speeches -- the chances are nearly certain that this is where the talk originates. That's who draws up these maps, and touts the claims of an "invasion" incessantly.

Nonetheless, pointing out that racists are the people promoting these hobgoblins just raises a predictable whine: "Can't we talk about immigration without being accused of racism?"

The comments to Alex Koppelman's post at Huffington were particularly ripe with this. Rather typical was this:
Here we go again. Lou Dobbs is a racist, anyone who is against illegal immigration is a racist and so on and so on. Just goes to show what I have always suspected, Liberals are just as narrow minded and just as big a liars as the Conservatives.

Moderates, Independents and all others who think other than the current Democratic lock-step rhetoric be prepared to be smeared. Some moral high ground you folks staked out.

Let's be clear: We don't know if Lou Dobbs is a racist. But he reported credulously a racist conspiracy theory, citing a racist organization -- which doesn't necessarily imply that he's a racist, but certainly raises questions about both his judgment and his credibility.

What I think critics of the extremist right's involvement in the immigration debate consistently have said is that talking about reforming immigration is legitimate, as is border security. Certainly, there's been a long-running discussion of immigration issues at this blog as well.

However, I haven't heard any of the nativist right's immigration reformers talking about measures that would actually slow the flow of immigrants beyond building fences and deporting Mexicans, none of which are either effective or humane. I haven't heard any of them talking about an effective economic program for Mexico, nor about taking away plausible deniability and light fines for the employers -- especially the big corporate ones -- who are taking advantage of illegal immigrants and the rest of us too, all in the name of cheap labor.

What, in turn, raises questions of racism is how readily the discussion turns to how Latinos are polluting or diluting white culture, how they're bringing crime and disease, turning America into "a third world cesspool," how they're "invading" the country. In other words, it isn't talking about immigration that makes people hear racism; it's talking racist shit that does.

And when you parrot and cite propaganda from white supremacists, well, that just kinda seals the deal.

It isn't just on the ground, talking around the water coolers and over beers, that this is happening. It's happening on a national basis with major media figures -- including not just Lou Dobbs but a whole host of others:

-- Mickey Kaus cites eugenicist Steve Sailer approvingly in comparing the U.S.-Mexican border to the Palestinian-Israeli border.

-- Fox's Bill O'Reilly starts dredging up notions about how a "white Christian culture" is being overthrown in America by a would-be multicultural "rainbow coalition."

-- Every right-winger on the planet (led by the Malkin Brigades) goes apeshit over the Spanish-language version of the national anthem, including President Bush. Er ... Oops!

-- Suddenly, declaring English the official language is an asset to our national security.

-- You can't watch a news broadcast on the immigration debate without hearing some right winger or another declaring, once again, that the current wave of immigration constitutes "an invasion." And what was that about Aztlan again?

The country could stand a good, honest debate about immigration policy. But we aren't going to have one if the whole purpose of the exercise is to scapegoat brown people.

And for those who think that is what the debate's about, well ... you better take a good hard look in the mirror when you whine about other people playing the "race card". Because we all can see who slapped that baby out on the table in the first damned place.