Rothman: Where Did All the [fatwa] Apologists Go?

Legitimate call-out:

Salman Rushdie was stabbed ten times last Friday afternoon when a 24-year-old attacker rushed the stage of the Chautauqua Institution where the author was speaking. The attack was premeditated, and Rushdie’s injuries are severe. The interruption of this placid intellectual setting with an act of murderous violence—one that the Iranian regime has long encouraged—has shocked American consciences. At least, that’s what we can infer from the silence of those who attached themselves in recent years to the voguish notion that provocative speech is tantamount to violence.

It is reasonable to assume that Rushdie’s attacker was animated by the grievances that led Tehran to order devout Muslims to kill him on sight. That 1989 fatwa, issued shortly after the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses, is believed to have influenced his attacker. Indeed, this may have been a more “guided” attack than that, according to the NATO officials who spoke with Vice reporter Michael Prothero. “A Middle Eastern intelligence official said it was ‘clear’ that at some point prior to the attack,” Prothero wrote, the alleged assailant “had been in contact with ‘people either directly involved with or adjacent to the Quds Force.”

Perhaps the ambiguity over whether Rushdie’s attacker was acting on Iran’s orders, actively or tacitly, has led those who have argued for years that speech can produce trauma (and can, therefore, justify meting out trauma in equal measure) to hold their tongues. Maybe their silence is indicative of the fact that the target of this assassination attempt bears too much resemblance to themselves for comfort. If there was any intellectual consistency among those who subscribe to this proposition, though, they would be holding fast to their conviction that Rushdie had it coming.

“Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system,” Northwestern University psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett wrote in a 2017 New York Times op-ed. “Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain — even kill neurons — and shorten your life.” The professor attempted to distinguish “abusive” speech from the “merely offensive,” the former of which can, she asserted, produce negative physical consequences. “We must also halt speech that bullies and torments,” she concluded.

This is the rationale that led college newspaper editorials in the last decade to argue that offensive speech constitutes “an act of violence” and to endorse “appropriate measures” to ensure controversial speech does not fall on fragile ears. It’s this logic that led a majority of college students who responded to a 2015 survey to agree with the idea that “choosing to use or not use certain words can constitute an act of violence.” It is this framing that convinced nearly one-fifth of college students to endorse the proposition that violence may be an “acceptable” way to prevent challenging ideas from ever being expressed.

This infantilizing notion has been trotted out to justify the violence committed by Islamist fundamentalists. “Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting, and needling French Muslims,” wrote Tony Barber in the Financial Times, after the bloody massacre of that French publication’s cartoonists and writers. After all, that’s “what happens when you get a culture that, rather than asking to what end we defend free speech, valorizes free speech for its own sake and thus perversely values speech the more pointlessly offensive it is.” Even then-Secretary of State John Kerry lent credence to this notion when he said of the murderers that they at least had “a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, ‘Okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.’”

Four months after the bloodshed, American blogger Pamela Geller tried to repeat the behavior that supposedly led to this attack. Geller’s “cartoon drawing contest,” an act of solidarity with a famous stunt executed by the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten, had its intended effect. Two radicalized gunmen attacked the Dallas, Texas, venue hosting Geller, where they were killed by security. For successfully duplicating the conditions that inspire violence in the violent, Geller was pilloried. MSNBC host Chris Matthews accused her of “taunting,” “daring,” and “provoking” her would-be murderers. CNN’s Erin Burnett accused her of enjoying “being a target of these attacks,” and New York Daily News columnist Linda Stasi said that it was Geller’s “wish” that there be “more dead Americans at the hands of radical Muslims.”

In 2015, following the bloodshed in Paris, the annual PEN American Center Literary Gala sought to award that year’s Freedom of Expression Courage award to Charlie Hebdo. In response, six well-known authors disassociated themselves from the organization. One of the boycotters, the Booker Prize-winning novelist Peter Carey, complained of PEN’s “blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation.” The slaughter of innocents over little more than having the temerity to offend the easily offended was not, he said, something the West should be “self-righteous” about.

Rushdie disagreed. “If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” he wrote. “What I would say to both Peter [Carey] and Michael [Ondaatje] and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.” Of course, no one did. Why would they? Their actions were in line with the intellectual fad of the moment. Dissociating from an organization that celebrated speech for speech’s sake required no courage because it incurred no consequences. Rushdie, by marked contrast, has bled for his consistency.

Source: Where Did All the Apologists Go?

Noah Rothman: Where is comparing the violent white supremacy that inspired the New Zealand murderer to radical Islam valuable, and where is it not?

Thoughtful and nuanced distinctions by Rothman:

The racist terrorist who took the lives of at least 49 Muslims in the attack on two New Zealand mosques last week wanted to start “a civil war that will eventually balkanize the US along political, cultural and, most importantly, racial lines.” The attacker wrote those words in a deranged white-nationalist manifesto, and he will surely be delighted by the exposure his ramblings are receiving.

For days, the press has pored over this despicable document. Experts have analyzed it, and influential figures have been questioned about it. Though it risks publicizing the semi-literate thoughts of a deluded racist with a messiah complex, some of this was done for good reasons. Most of it, however, was an effort to affix blame to people and institutions closer to us than the monster who executed them—in particular, one Donald Trump, whom the terrorist named as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but a terrible executor of white nationalist policy. White House advisor Kellyanne Conway recommended that “people should read” the manifesto “in its entirety” because, in her view, it exonerates the president. This is, to put it mildly, bad advice. An artificial exegesis of a blinkered mass murderer’s incoherent meanderings will not clarify the nature of the threat he and his ideological allies pose. But nor should observers ignore the ideology that compelled this attacker to massacre Muslims in their houses of worship. To do so would contribute to the appearance, perhaps even the reality, that there is a double standard for combating terrorism.

Source: Where is comparing the violent white supremacy that inspired the New Zealand murderer to radical Islam valuable, and where is it not?

Trump is Acting Desperate: Rothman

Noah Rothman on Trump’s anti-immigration campaign strategy. But as Trump might himself see, “we shall see”:

There is no doubt that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings electrified Republican voters. Democrats spent two weeks demonstrating how they would govern in the majority, illustrating clearly for Republicans who might have been lukewarm on the GOP in the Trump era that the alternative was deeply problematic. But if the Kavanaugh effect was real, it had a short half-life. And Donald Trump seems to know it.

The president was never comfortable with the notion that GOP voters might be motivated to vote because of their enthusiasm for Republicans other than himself. Within days of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Trump insisted that his first midterm election should be a “referendum about me.” The terrible massacre of observant Jews in Pittsburgh and a disturbed Trump fan’s campaign of terror directed at Democratic officials (an act Trump inexplicably attributed to political media’s critical coverage of his administration) has all but reset the nation’s political consciousness. Trump senses that, and he resents it. “The Republicans had tremendous momentum, and then, of course, this happened, where all that you people talked about was that,” Trump said last week to the cameras that followed him into a North Carolina campaign rally.

Source: Trump is Acting Desperate

The Right’s Reckless Racial Agitators: Noah Rothman

Good commentary by Rothman. Largely a “plague on both houses” on liberal and conservative hypocrisy regarding their respective extremists, he is particularly pointed in his critique on conservatives:

Like so many terrible things, it all began with a broken window.

Stewards of the historic Metropolitan Republican Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side awoke on the morning of October 12 to see their institution vandalized. A brick had shattered two windows. The front locks were caulked shut. The entryway keypad was smashed. And the building’s two oversize wooden doors had been marred by graffiti—the anarchist’s wreathed “A.”

Source: The Right’s Reckless Racial Agitators

They Think They’re Winning

Good analysis. With the announcement of a Trump Executive Order no longer separating out children, appears all the pressure had an impact but we will need to see how the EO is implemented to know for sure (count me as sceptical):

In the last 48 hours, the portrait of a White House in crisis has been unmistakably clear.

Whether or not the Trump administration has a policy of separating the children of illegal border crossers from their parents to deter prospective migrants in the future depends on whom you ask. Over the last 18 months, administration officials have flitted back and forth from contemplating a policy of separation to openly pursuing it, to denying they’ve pursued it, to blaming Democrats for pursuing it, to claiming that the Bible demands they pursue it, to saying Congress can make them stoppursuing it, and finally to opposing Congressional efforts to make them stop pursuing it. Today, the White House’s immigration hardliners proudly tout their uncompromising new policy while its more conventional Republicans feign great effrontery over the mere suggestion that it exists.

The embarrassment in the West Wing is palpable, but the insecurity displayed by people like Homeland Security Sec. Kristjen Nielsen is prudent. They’re right to be concerned that their position is crumbling. The dam broke on Monday as Congressional Republicans parted en masse from the White House and condemned the new means of deterrence while offering short-term fixes for the problem. As of this writing, the White House’s new and surely untenable position is to oppose a narrow solution to the issue of family separation authored by Senator Ted Cruz—no immigration squish. Another reversal is forthcoming.

The West Wing’s simultaneously tone-deaf and flat-footed attempt to mitigate the damage from the crisis it created is not without basis in some kind of political logic: Trump’s immigration hardliners think they’re winning.

The Trump whisperers in the president’s orbit seem to have fully internalized the origin myth of this administration: that it is the manifestation of the populist backlash against a permissive, liberal immigration regime, and there is no policy they can adopt that will be too aggressive for their voters. “[I]f we’re having an argument on immigration,” an unnamed administration official boasted to the Washington Post, “we always win because that’s our ground, no matter what the nuances of the argument are.” Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was only slightly more explicitly cynical. “If you want to get people motivated, you’ve got to give them a reason to vote,” he told the New York Times. “Saying ‘build the wall and stop illegals from coming in and killing American citizens’ gives them an important issue.” Another Trump aide added that mobilizing Republicans by agitating on immigration issues “upsets some people in the donor class, but it’s the reality of where the party is.” This is a flawed assumption and, if it is the course on which the Trump administration is determined to embark, the journey will be perilously fraught.

That this “is where the party is” is debatable. Three polls on the administration’s efforts to deter migrants with a policy of family separation were released yesterday, and all showed that the vast majority of voters disapprove. But since the White House only seems to care about voters who identify as Republicans, let’s focus on them. Quinnipiac found that 55 percent of Republicans favor separation for “families seeking asylum” while a CNN survey found 58 percent approve of the Trump administration’s policy. But a CBS News poll showed that a slight plurality of Republicans, 39 percent, said a policy of “separating parents from children at the border” was “unacceptable.”

The number of Republicans who support this policy varies, but whether it is 36 or 58 percent doesn’t really matter. The headline from these polls is that the Republican president is losing anywhere between 4 and 6 in 10 of his own party’s voters. Those are disastrous numbers no matter how you slice it, and that explains the cascade of Republicans racing to distance themselves from the president on this issue in the last few hours.

The more revealing thread that deserves tugging here is the animosity toward the GOP that the Trump administration’s hardliners are stoking. The fact that the president has not secured his signature campaign-trail promise despite having multiple opportunities to take “yes” for an answer suggests the immigration fanatics in Trump’s orbit still believe they win by running against their own party. But it’s not the 2016 primaries anymore; it’s the president’s first midterm. With the GOP’s majorities on the ballot and Democrats more energized to vote than Republicans, Trump needs to unify his party, not tear it apart. Stoking a sense of betrayal over immigration rather than a desire to preserve achievements like the GOP’s tax code reform law is a recipe for disaster in November.

That is the conventional view, at least. After all, staving off a GOP wipeout in November would preserve the ideologically and geographically diverse coalition of Republicans in Congress. A sweeping defeat would purge the House of its immigration dovesfirst, leaving an ideologically purer minority in its wake. And with the House gone, so, too, would the legislative phase of the Trump presidency end and take with it the responsibilities associated with governance. Thus, the party’s border hawks get the best of both worlds. They can stoke a galvanizing grievance and a persecution complex among their base supporters, and they can occupy the White House at the same time. The martyring of the wall, the outcry over family separation, and a blue wave in November can seem like a rare species of victory.

That’s a cynical way to look at things, but the alternative—the idea that the GOP base is united rather than torn asunder by the administration’s policies—is simply deluded. So which is it?

Source: They Think They’re Winning

Taking Back the Language | Noah Rothman

Nice reminder that language can but both ways by Rothman:

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stumbled into controversy this week, although it was perhaps unwarranted. Trudeau became the subject of derision and mockery when he interrupted a woman at a town hall to correct her use of the term “mankind,” suggesting that she replace this dated designation with the more inclusive “peoplekind.” He only offered his proposal after enduring several minutes of a rambling new-age monologueregarding the chemical composition of “maternal love.” Trudeau’s interjection was probably flippant, but neither his interlocutor nor his critics seemed to notice. It’s hard to blame them.

When it comes to subservience to the many demands that identity politics makes on language and behavior, Canada’s prime minister takes a back seat to no one. It’s only prudent to assume Trudeau’s mawkishness is earnest. What’s more, the fact that “gendered” nouns and pronouns, including “mankind,” find themselves in the censors’ crosshairs isn’t exactly news. The popular grammar-checking program Grammarly flags “mankind” for “possible gender-biased language” and suggests more neutral substitutes like “humankind” or “humanity.” Learning to love unidiomatic expressions and consigning gender-specific language to history is a fixation of political activists posing as academicians, even if legitimate etymological scholars cannot support these arguments by citing linguistic corpora. Those who resent an increasingly overbroad definition of what constitutes offensive language are primed for a fight.

Language policing has been the stock-in-trade of a particular type of activist for decades, much to the consternation of both conservatives and liberals interested more in clarity than conformity. Recently, though, the intramural debate on the left over the limited utility of scrutinizing potentially objectionable speech rather than the ideas conveyed by that speech has been relegated to the back burner. That’s for a good reason.

Donald Trump’s presidency, much like his candidacy, is a brusque counterattack against “PC culture.” Often, what Trump and his supporters call “politically incorrect” language is just plain rudeness. The value of the kind of speech they find delightfully provocative isn’t its concision but its capacity to offend the right people. Thus, some self-styled arbiters of linguistic enlightenment might be tempted to dismiss Trump’s campaign against ambiguous semantics as nothing more than a brutish primal scream. If so, they would have failed to properly appreciate the threat Trump and the presidential pulpit he commands represent to their capacity to shape the terms of the debate through language. Trump isn’t limited to displays of rhetorical brute force. Sometimes, he and his speechwriters are capable of compelling eloquence.

Amid a blizzard of FBI texts, dueling intelligence committee memos, and legalisms regarding the oversight of America’s necessarily secretive espionage courts, the State of the Union address has all but been forgotten in Washington. It’s less likely, though, that a well-received speech watched by at least 46 million Americans will be so quickly forgotten across the country. And that should concern liberals because if there was any single line in that speech that won’t be overlooked, it was one that cuts at the heart of the Democratic Party’s ability to lay claim to the moral high ground. “My duty and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities and their right to the American dream,” Trump said. “Because Americans are dreamers, too.” This was a masterful line. Its potency has been underestimated, and not just by those who resent the restrictive immigration policies it was designed to advance.

The name of the bipartisan 2001 “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act” transgressed a little in order to achieve a lot for the children of illegal immigrants brought into the U.S. as minors. Referring to this demographic as “alien” is taboo, and an offense against modern sensibilities. But to describe them as “DREAMers” yields a windfall of sympathy for this already deserving group of largely naturalized non-citizens. Trump’s turn of phrase spreads the dreaming around, thus diluting the designation DREAMer of much of its unique sympathy.

Democrats might have missed the significance of this expression amid their irritation over another set phrase in that speech: “chain migration.” Trump’s use of this term during the State of the Union Address to describe the process by which legal immigrants sponsor members of their extended family to become American citizens elicited boos from Democrats. Many implied the phrase is a new invention with racist connotations, but the term has been used by policymakers (including some of these same Democrats) for decades. Maybe it was the self-evident hypocrisy, or maybe it was the contrived effort to move the goalposts. For whatever reason, the Democrats’ campaign to label “chain migration” a racist term landed with a thud. Time was that the left could dictate the terms of a debate by controlling the language of its participants, but their grip on the national dialogue may be slipping. The power of the presidency—you’ll forgive the expression—trumps the braying of the pedantic opposition.

The energy expended by political activists on policing speech is not wasted; dictating the boundaries of what constitutes acceptable discourse is a profitable and productive enterprise. If the right is getting into the game, they’re only following a course forged by their political adversaries.

via Taking Back the Language | commentary

The Trump Standard Won’t Outlast His Presidency: Noah Rothman on Evangelical Support

Interesting commentary by Rothman on evangelical support for Trump, and the compromise this has entailed:

…In an interview with Politico, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins confessed that the community of moral leaders on the right gave Trump a “mulligan” for the debauchery in which he engaged before he became a political figure. He said that the religious right is “tired of being kicked around” by the left and are “glad” there’s “somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.” What about turning the other cheek, Perkins’s interlocutor asked. “You know, you only have two cheeks,” he replied.

Perkins is getting a lot of grief for that, but his honest assessment of the transactional nature of the evangelical community’s moral compromise is illuminating. “That support is not unconditional,” he said. “If the president for some reason stopped keeping campaign promises and then engaged in that behavior now, the support’s gone.” In other words, if Trump stops delivering for them in office, this community of formerly self-righteous moral scolds reserves the right to rediscover their principles.

Many have offered theories as to why these and many other evangelical leaders compromised themselves for Trump. Less attention has been paid to whether the moral majority’s acceptance of Trumpian turpitude represents a depressing new normal. Is this the standard of ethical degradation to which all will be held in the future? If Perkins’ admission is reflective of unspoken sentiments broadly shared on the right, the answer is no. Trump’s is a standard to which only the politically valuable are held.

There was some justified fear that the Trump standard was being broadly applied in November when the right’s moral gymnasts engaged in a collective defense of Alabama justice Roy Moore. They joined with the institutional GOP to ratify Donald Trump’s support for the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate despite his contempt for the law, the Constitution, and the credible allegations that he had abused underage girls. But once Moore lost, his utility was spent. As Breitbart’s Alex Marlow confessed, the accusations against Moore were credible, but the impulse to protect Trump—not Moore, per se—from his detractors was more important than moral rectitude. This, too, was transactional.

Conservatives might be tempted to retreat into a persecution complex. After all, defending Trump’s repeated indiscretions is a full-time job and one that the left seems conspicuously able to avoid. The Trump standard is the Bill Clinton standard, they might say, and it’s about time that Republicans held a mirror up to Democrats and their enablers in media. Stringent moral standards were shackles by which the right constrained itself, thus allowing the left to operate with impunity. Good riddance.

But the Trump standard and the Clinton standard seem reserved for presidents. Anthony Weiner, David Wu, and John Edwards did not benefit from the Clinton standard. Al Franken and John Conyers’ appeals to precedent didn’t salvage their political careers. Similarly, even in just the last 12 months, personal indiscretions were enough to cut short the political careers of Republicans like Blake Farenthold, Joe Barton, and Tim Murphy.

Some might push back against the notion that we can draw broader conclusions from these politicians’ experiences because Rep. Patrick Meehan and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens have managed to hold on despite the sex scandals engulfing their careers. Their careers might withstand calls for their resignations; time will tell. But their experiences reinforce the fact that there really are no universal moral standards. There are only individuals. And the actions of those individuals are condemned or condoned as a result of calculated cost/benefit analyses, not morality. It was always ever thus.

If this doesn’t sound like cause for optimism to you, buck up. Presidential politics is unique because the stakes at the presidential level are so high. Both parties tend to reflect their titular leaders, but presidents are transitory figures. The Republican Party’s status quo ante was Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and so on; men of moral fortitude who had no stomach for conspiratorial thinking, nativist acrimony, or degeneracy. A reversion to the mean is perfectly imaginable.

If such a reversion is in the cards, no one who compromised their stated values in the Trump era should be allowed to forget the bargain they made. Yet this presidency has exposed a valuable truth: too often, ethical considerations are situational and conditional—particularly in politics. If American moral decline is going to be arrested, the country’s self-styled moral leaders must confront that fact and realize the extent to which they’ve contributed to the plunge.

Source: The Trump Standard Won’t Outlast His Presidency

The Left’s Immigration Radicalism | commentary

While I disagree with some of Rothman’s assertions, I agree with his conclusion regarding the need to end the” insufferable generalities about immigrants bandied about by opinions makers on both the left and the right.” Canada also has its share of “insufferable generalities:”

Observers on the right must have been confused by the controversy that erupted following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recent appearance on Fox News. What he advocated sounds at first glance like common sense.

“When we admit people to our country, we should be like Canada,” Sessions said. “What good does it do to bring in somebody who’s illiterate in their own country, has no skills, and is going to struggle in our country and not be successful?” Based on these comments, you could be forgiven for thinking a plague of unskilled illegal immigrants had descended upon the United States. Rest easy; a combination of increased border enforcement and a tightening labor market—trends that predate the Trump administration—resulted in a decline in the low-skilled illegal immigrant population.

The statistics are beside the point. The attorney general is packaging unsavory preconceptions about immigrants in a marketable pitch to centrists based on meritocratic assumptions. The fact is that Jeff Sessions is not qualified to determine who will or will not be a “successful” immigrant to the United States.

Sessions’s vision of a meritocratic immigration regime assumes that success is beyond the reach of under-educated immigrants—a judgment based only on his own preconceptions. That’s not just immodest but antithetical to conservatism, a philosophy which, at root, recognizes that the billions of daily interactions and events that we call the economy routinely frustrate those bold enough to issue predictions about its trajectory. Sessions’s vision of a meritocratic immigration system really isn’t that meritocratic at all; not if it is based on his presumptions about who should and who should not have the chance to prove their worth.

There is truth in the notion that under-educated, low-skilled immigrants are no benefit to some Americans, but not because they are unlikely to be successful. Precisely the opposite; they are more likely to be successful, shutting low-skilled Americans out of the market. Those on the left who revel in the condition of the native-born Americans displaced by this phenomenon shouldn’t laugh too loudly. Whether they recognize it or not, they are the mirror image of the right’s hardliners. What’s more, they are helping fuel the polarization that led to the ascension of an administration that ran explicitly on a restrictive approach to immigration.

Outgoing Illinois congressman Luis Gutierrez, a man with ambitions for higher office, exemplifies the blinkered radicalism of the left when it comes to immigration. This week, Gutierrez announced his opposition to the Trump administration’s desire to end “chain migration,” the practice by which American green card holders and U.S. citizens transfer their family members into the United States. Gutierrez insisted that American residency should be transferable to an immigrant’s siblings, parents, spouses, and children, regardless of whether or not they’ve demonstrated the capacity or interest to assimilate into American society. That’s not meritocracy; it’s charity.

Of course, there are those on the intellectual left for whom meritocracy is an illusion indulged only by those who don’t know the extent to which their successes are not their own. That’s the view of Linfield College English Professor Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt, author of The Postcolonial Citizen: The Intellectual Migrant, who claimed the “logic of meritocracy that is built on this racist assumption that everyone has had the same access and opportunities.” It’s the view of columnist Jo Littler, who insists that “meritocracy is a myth.” Western democracies like the U.S. and the U.K. are closed systems in which wealth and opportunities are reserved for those with connections to people with an abundance of wealth and opportunity. Meritocracy “is a smokescreen for inequality.”

What these successful opinion-makers have marketed as wisdom is really just blinding resentment. In the United States, in particular, there are no rigid class strata, and there most certainly isn’t any closed loop that guarantees the wealthy that status in perpetuity. “Citing tax scholar Robert Carroll’s examination of IRS records,” National Review’s Kevin Williamson observed, “Professor [Mark] Rank notes that the turnover among the super-rich (the top 400 taxpayers in any given year) is 98 percent over a decade—that is, just 2 percent of that elusive group remain there for ten years in a row. Among those earning more than $1 million a year, most earned that much for only one year of the nine-year period studied, and only 6 percent earned that much for the entire period.” Among those who found their way onto Forbes Magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans in 2016, a record 42 of them were immigrants from 21 different countries. Together, they have a combined net worth of over $250 billion.

Among liberals, however, this kind of old-school class envy is practically passé. What’s really in vogue isn’t resentment toward American capitalism but American culture. For many on the post-Marxist left, race and identity have supplanted wealth and power as the traits by which structural haves and have-nots can be identified and pitted against one another. For nearly two decades, liberal ideologues have debated whether assimilation into American society was possible or even desirable. Not only does assimilation represent the tacit acceptance of and submission to American racism, but it is the surrender of cultural heritage and traits that are superior to America’s heterogeneous soup of appropriated customs. “Assimilation, instead of bringing upward mobility, brings downward mobility,” Aviva Chomsky wrote in 2007. “It’s not lack of assimilation that keeps them marginalized—it’s assimilation itself.”

As the decades have shown, and as the literate left would likely concede, assimilation continued apace, and it has not yielded a racial hierarchy. A 2015 study conducted by Harvard sociologist Mary Waters for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that immigrants, particularly second-generation immigrants, are integrating into society faster than migrants of earlier generations. This is not without its setbacks; the strain on U.S. English language programs in schools and the evidence suggesting low-skilled migrants “appear to be filling low-skilled jobs that native-born Americans are not available or willing to take” increase social tensions. But assimilation is occurring, and all parties are richer for it.

America in the 1990s and 2000s experienced an immigration boom and, as historian Arthur Schlesinger said, “Mass migrations produce mass antagonisms.” Even though the undocumented and legal permanent-resident populations have leveled off since the collapse of the economy in 2008, America’s politics haven’t caught up with the trends. As the light and heat around immigration fade, so, too, should the insufferable generalities about immigrants bandied about by opinions makers on both the left and the right. At least, that would be ideal.

via The Left’s Immigration Radicalism | commentary

The Nazi Next Door Is Real—and Unspectacular | Noah Rothman Commentary Magazine

I agree with Rothman here.

Understanding the banality and normality of someone with unacceptable views does not mean accepting the views but rather helps one avoid one-dimensional caricatures, a lesson that applies to both the ‘left’ and ‘right’:

Six million Jews. Nine million Soviet civilians. Nearly 2 million Poles. Over 500,000 Roma and Yugoslavs. Approximately a half million more religious minorities, homosexuals, political criminals. Up to 10 million Chinese, Indochinese, Indonesians, Koreans, and Filipinos. Millions of soldiers. All told, the conduct of fascist regimes in the mid-20th Century resulted in between 50 and 80 million deaths. These rather elementary historical facts are, apparently, necessary preamble. If you’re going to engage in any rumination on National Socialism, neo-Nazism, or a predisposition toward racial separatism, it’s apparently necessary to tell readers exactly how they should think about those anti-social traits.

That’s the only logical conclusion available to those who have perused the cascade of criticism heaped upon the New York Timesfor publishing a profile of a self-described white nationalist who might have otherwise been unidentifiable. Indeed, that was the entire point of the piece. “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland” explored the views and lives of Tony Hovater, the “Nazi sympathizer next door,” and the white supremacists with whom he was surrounded as they tried to integrate into an Ohio community.

The profile explored not just Hovater’s views but his tastes, which is what seems to have sent Times readers into a state of manic agitation. The piece and all who were involved in its publication were savaged for “humanizing” a neo-Nazi by noting that he, too, shops at the local supermarket and enjoys “Seinfeld” references.

“It is completely insane that big U.S. media keep printing the anti-Semitic garbage of *actual Nazis* without even bothering to correct them,” wrote Toronto Star correspondent Daniel Dale. He specifically cited Hovater’s Holocaust denialism and the Times’ dispassionate retort, which held that six million dead Jews is a “widely accepted” figure. “Why does the NY Times keep normalizing Nazis?” Arizona State University journalism professor Dan Gillmor asked. “This article does more to normalize neo-Nazism than anything I’ve read in a long time,” FiveThirtyEight analyst Nate Silver complained. He theorized that the Times’editors greenlighted this “deeply sympathetic portrait of a white supremacist” because of their collective sense of guilt over failing to appreciate the issues that animate Donald Trump’s America (a theory that both underestimates Trump’s America and likely overstates the collective self-consciousness at the Times).

The outcry grew so deafening that a Times editor felt compelled to apologize for publishing what the critics saw as a soft-focus human interest story about a man with monstrous views.  Among the criticisms of this piece offered by liberals like Quartz editor Indrani Sen and’s Ezra Klein was that a gauzy portrayal of a neo-Nazi seemed to be the profile’s only purpose. “[I]t doesn’t add anything to our understanding of modern Nazis,” Klein offered.

But it did.

The article did not begin and end with an exploration of the items on the Hovaters’ wedding registry. It delved into both Hovater and his network’s thinking regarding how they intend to integrate into acceptable society. It was a deeply disturbing portrayal of a racist movement that is beginning to eschew shock tactics in favor of infiltration and the persuasion of what the profile’s subject called “normal people.”

It described Hovater’s social media habits, which are shared by much of the alt-right—a useful detail for those who may be interested in preventing white nationalists from blending into society without a hitch. The profile explored Hovater’s reading, music tastes, and the evolution of his political thinking. It detailed his affinity for Vladimir Putin, his hatred for the press, and his disgust with United States as it is currently constituted.  If you’re interested in identifying neo-Nazis in the wild, this is all useful information. The piece also described Hovater’s life at home, where he minced garlic, cooed over his cats, and talked about having children with his future wife. For the Times’ critics, this was unacceptable. “That evil is also banal is not new,” Klein quipped. Not so. Apparently, for those who were scandalized by this profile, it is.

Undergirding the left’s revulsion over the “normalization” of an American Nazi is the idea that some—not them, of course, but the vulgar multitudes—will be tempted to embrace white supremacy because a welder in Ohio enjoys  “Twin Peaks.” This is not prudence but pretension. These liberal critics imagine themselves enlightened enough to know evil when they see it in print, but not you.

This is a censorious impulse. It represents the left’s troubling allergy to moral complexity. A man can have cats, buy barbecue sauce, love and be loved like the rest of us, and also be a beast of unspeakable prejudice and cruelty. Likewise, just because an organization calls itself “antifascist” doesn’t render it morally righteous when bands of “antifascists” form marauding bands with the intent of putting anyone who looks like a Trump supporter in the hospital. And so on.

Increasingly and to its detriment, the left in the age of Trump has convinced itself that its adversaries are, or ought to be, one-dimensional monstrosities with a monomaniacal devotion to undermining all that they hold dear. The New York Times should not be catering to children who lash out when their adversaries are depicted as fully formed human beings. The objection here is not to reportorial standards at the Times but to a set of facts the objectors cannot stand.

via The Nazi Next Door Is Real—and Unspectacular | commentary

The ‘Intersectionality’ Trap: Rothman | Commentary

While Noah Rothman mischaracterizes intersectionality – it can be used in an ideological or non-ideological manner – there is some merit is his critique of how the left, just as the right, overlooks the ‘sins’ of some of their supporters or advocates:

Republicans didn’t always scoff dismissively at the self-destructive, reactionary, fractious collection of malcontents who call themselves The Resistance. The hundreds of thousands who marched in the streets following Donald Trump’s election once honestly unnerved the GOP. This grassroots energy culminated in January’s Women’s March, a multi-day event in which nearly two million people mobilized peacefully and, most importantly, sympathetically in opposition to the president. It was the perfect antidote to the violent anti-Trump demonstrations that typified Inauguration Day, and it might have formed the nucleus of a politically potent movement. The fall of the Women’s March exposes the blight weakening the left and crippling the Democratic Party.

The fever sapping Trump’s opposition was evident in microcosm on Monday in the meltdown of the Women’s March’s social-media presence on Twitter. “Happy birthday to the revolutionary #AssataShakur,” the organization wrote, dedicating the day’s resistance-related activities in her “honor.” Shakur is perhaps better known as Joanne Chesimard, the name that appeared on the court documents in connection with her being tried and convicted of eight felonies, including the execution-style murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. She currently resides in communist Cuba, a fugitive from American justice.

The outrage that followed the Women’s March’s endorsement of a cop-killer, exile, and unrepentant black nationalist was such that the organization was compelled to explain itself. “[T]his is not to say that #AssataShakur has never committed a crime, and not to endorse all of her actions,” the group flailed. “We say this to demonstrate the ongoing history of government [and] right-wing attempts to criminalize and discredit political activists.” This fanatical display of befuddlement perfectly encapsulates the logic of “intersectionality.” It demonstrates why this vogue ideology shackles its devotees to doomed causes and sinking ships.

“Intersectionality,” the beast born in liberal hothouses on college campuses, slouches now toward the halls of power. It is a Marxist notion that all discrimination is linked because it is rooted in the unjust power structures that facilitate inequality. Therefore, there are no distinct struggles against prejudice. Class, race, gender, sexual identity; these and other signifiers are bound together by the fact that oppression is institutional and systemic. The problem with this ideology is it compels its adherents to abandon discretion. To sacrifice anyone with a claim to oppression is to forsake every victim of prejudice. So, sure, Assata Shakur robbed, assaulted, incited violence, and killed a cop. But she also hates capitalism and white supremacy. Therefore, she’s one of us.

It is this logic that has rendered the “Sister Souljah moment” a relic of the past, and The Resistance is drowning in Sister Souljahs.

One of the March organizers, Linda Sarsour, has enjoyed newfound popularity and legitimacy in the age of Trump. She is a self-styled organizer for civil rights and the Muslim-American community of which she is a part, and she’s been acclaimed by organizations like the ACLU and Demos. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand described Sarsour and her colleagues as “the suffragists of our time.” In return for this lavish praise, Sarsour has only forced her defenders into awkward positions.

Sarsour has praised Saudi Arabia’s social welfare state as appropriate compensation for stripping women of privileges such as driving a car. “I wish I could take their vaginas away,” she wroteof women like the Somali-born Dutch-American activist and genital-mutilation victim Ayaan Hirsi Ali. “You’ll know when you’re living under Sharia Law if suddenly all your loans [and] credit cards become interest-free. Sound nice, doesn’t it?” she asked. While delivering the keynote address to a Muslim-American conference, Sarsour advocated “jihad” against Donald Trump, defining the term to mean only speaking truth to power. Rather than admonish their political ally for this obvious indiscretion, the American left went to the mattresses to explain that only they understand the true meaning of the word “jihad.”

For some on the left, advocating violence is not only justified but fashionable. Misanthropic so-called “anti-Fascist” activists like Shanta Driver and Yvette Felarca have become a ubiquitous presence in pro-Resistance mythology. People like Driver advocate for “militant actions” while Felarca appears at the head of armed mobs “resisting” the white supremacist alt-right “by any means necessary” (which happens to be the name of the organization to which she belongs). For this “activism,” these and other “anti-fa” organizers are feted by left-wing magazines like Mother Jones and The Huffington Post.

Amid the celebration of left-wing political violence, a man who had been radicalized by liberal politics attempted the mass assassination of Republican members of Congress. Far from dwelling on this potentially generation-defining attack, the event passed through the national consciousness like an apparition. We don’t talk about that now. Perhaps we don’t want to think about what it might portend.

None of these individuals have roots in Democratic politics so deep that they cannot be deracinated relatively painlessly. Indeed, their counterproductive behavior would compel any competent political operation to make an example or two—particularly an operation struggling to demonstrate that it can be trusted again to govern seriously and effectively. Yet the Democratic Party and the liberals who animate it have come under the spell of a philosophy that explicitly forbids the exorcism of its demons.

Republicans have their devils, too. The excision of which may not seem a terribly urgent project today, given the GOP’s political dominance. They will confront that crisis soon enough. In the interim, Democrats should be remaking themselves to appeal to the existing electorate; the one that delivered to the GOP near total control of state and federal government over just six years. Instead, Democrats are voluntarily yoking themselves to their most radical elements even as the number of Americans who describe the party as “too extreme” continues to climb.

Republicans may have their troubles, but a competent opposition is not among them. 

Source: The ‘Intersectionality’ Trap | commentary