Medical Expert Who Corrects Trump Is Now a Target of the Far Right

Sigh but predictable. A few but appear to be exceptional worrying signs in Canada in questioning expertise (e.g., Conrad Black on COVID-19: The world succumbed to a pandemic of hysteria, more than a virus, MALCOLM: It’s time to double check the experts’ COVID-19 work):

At a White House briefing on the coronavirus on March 20, President Trump called the State Department the “Deep State Department.” Behind him, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, dropped his head and rubbed his forehead.

Some thought Dr. Fauci was slighting the president, leading to a vitriolic online reaction. On Twitter and Facebook, a post that falsely claimed he was part of a secret cabal who opposed Mr. Trump was soon shared thousands of times, reaching roughly 1.5 million people.

A week later, Dr. Fauci — the administration’s most outspoken advocate of emergency measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak — has become the target of an online conspiracy theory that he is mobilizing to undermine the president.

That fanciful claim has spread across social media, fanned by a right-wing chorus of Mr. Trump’s supporters, even as Dr. Fauci has won a public following for his willingness to contradict the president and correct falsehoods and overly rosy pronouncements about containing the virus.

An analysis by The New York Times found over 70 accounts on Twitter that have promoted the hashtag #FauciFraud, with some tweeting as frequently as 795 times a day. The anti-Fauci sentiment is being reinforced by posts from Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, a conservative group; Bill Mitchell, host of the far-right online talk show “YourVoice America”; and other outspoken Trump supporters such as Shiva Ayyadurai, who has falsely claimed to be the inventor of email.

Many of the anti-Fauci posts, some of which pointed to a seven-year-old email that Dr. Fauci had sent praising Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of State, have been retweeted thousands of times. On YouTube, conspiracy-theory videos about Dr. Fauci have racked up hundreds of thousands of views in the past week. In private Facebook groups, posts disparaging him have also been shared hundreds of times and liked by thousands of people, according to the Times analysis.

One anti-Fauci tweet on Tuesday said, “Sorry liberals but we don’t trust Dr. Anthony Fauci.”

The torrent of falsehoods aimed at discrediting Dr. Fauci is another example of the hyperpartisan information flow that has driven a wedge into the way Americans think. For the past few years, far-right supporters of President Trump have regularly vilified those whom they see as opposing him. Even so, the campaign against Dr. Fauci stands out because he is one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts and a member of Mr. Trump’s virus task force, and it is unfolding as the government battles a pathogen that is rapidly spreading in the United States.

It is the latest twist in the ebb and flow of right-wing punditry that for weeks echoed Mr. Trump in minimizing the threat posed by the coronavirus and arguably undercut efforts to alert the public of its dangers. When the president took a more assertive posture against the outbreak, conservative outlets shifted, too — but now accuse Democrats and journalists of trying to use the pandemic to damage Mr. Trump politically.

“There seems to be a concerted effort on the part of Trump supporters to spread misinformation about the virus aggressively,” said Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Washington who has studied misinformation.

Adding that Dr. Fauci is bearing the brunt of the attacks, Mr. Bergstrom said: “There is this sense that experts are untrustworthy, and have agendas that aren’t aligned with the people. It’s very concerning because the experts in this are being discounted out of hand.”

The Trump administration has previously shown a distaste for relying on scientific expertise, such as when dealing with climate change. But misinformation campaigns during a pandemic carry a unique danger because they may sow distrust in public health officials when accurate information and advice are crucial, said Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor at Syracuse University who teaches digital ethics.

“What this case will show is that conspiracy theories can kill,” she said.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases did not respond to a request for comment on the misinformation being directed at Dr. Fauci, who has said he plans to keep working to contain the coronavirus.

“When you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times, and then it happens,” Dr. Fauci said in an interview with Science magazine this past week. “So, I’m going to keep pushing.”

The online campaign is an abrupt shift for Dr. Fauci, an immunologist who has led the institute since 1984. He has long been seen as credible by a large section of the public and journalists, advising every president since Ronald Reagan and encouraging action against the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

In recent weeks, much of the online discussion of Dr. Fauci was benign or positive. Zignal Labs, a media analysis company, studied 1.7 million mentions of Dr. Fauci across the web and TV broadcasts from Feb. 27 to Friday and found that through mid-March, he was mainly praised and his comments were straightforwardly reported. Right-wing figures quoted Dr. Fauci approvingly or lauded him for his comments on shutting down travel to and from China, Zignal Labs said.

In the White House briefings on the coronavirus, he often spoke plainly of the severity of the situation, becoming something of a folk hero to some on the left. Then Dr. Fauci, who had been a steady presence at Mr. Trump’s side during the briefings, did not appear at the one on March 18.

A hashtag asking “Where is Dr. Fauci?” began trending on Twitter. Several Facebook fan groups dedicated to praising his medical record called for his return. The first accounts tweeting #FauciFraud also appeared, though their volume of posts was small, according to the Times analysis.

Two days later, Dr. Fauci put his head in his hand at the White House briefing after Mr. Trump’s remark on the “Deep State Department.” His gesture — some called it a face palm — caught the attention of Mr. Trump’s supporters online, who saw it as an insult to the president.

Anti-Fauci posts spiked, according to Zignal Labs. Much of the increase was prompted by a March 21 article in The American Thinker, a conservative blog, which published the seven-year-old email that Dr. Fauci had written to an aide of Mrs. Clinton.

In the email, Dr. Fauci praised Mrs. Clinton for her stamina during the 2013 Benghazi hearings. The American Thinker falsely claimed that the email was evidence that he was part of a secret group who opposed Mr. Trump.

That same day, Mr. Fitton of Judicial Watch posted a tweet linking to a different blog post that showed Dr. Fauci’s email on Mrs. Clinton. In the tweet, Mr. Fitton included a video of himself crossing his arms and saying, “Isn’t that interesting.” It was retweeted more than 1,500 times.

In an interview, Mr. Fitton said, “Dr. Fauci is doing a great job.” He added that Dr. Fauci “wrote very political statements to Hillary Clinton that were odd for an appointee of his nature to send.”

The conspiracy theory was soon shared thousands of times across Facebook and Twitter. It was also taken up by messaging groups on WhatsApp and Facebook run by QAnon, the anonymous group that claims to be privy to government secrets. On YouTube, far-right personalities began spouting that Dr. Fauci was a fraud.

By Tuesday, the online and television mentions of Dr. Fauci had declined but had become consistently negative, Zignal Labs said.

One anti-Fauci tweet last Sunday read: “Dr. Fauci is in love w/ crooked @HillaryClinton. More reasons not to trust him.”

Facebook said it proactively removed misinformation related to the coronavirus. YouTube said that it did not recommend the conspiracy-theory videos on Dr. Fauci to viewers and that it promotes credible virus information. Twitter said it remained “focused on taking down content that can lead to harm.”

Ms. Phillips, the Syracuse assistant professor, said the campaign was part of a long-term conspiracy theory propagated by Mr. Trump’s followers.

“Fauci has just been particularly prominent,” she said. “But any public health official who gets cast in a conspiratorial narrative is going to be subject to those same kinds of suspicions, the same kinds of doubt.”

That has not stopped Dr. Fauci from appearing on the internet. On Thursday, he joined a 30-minute Instagram Live discussion about the coronavirus hosted by the National Basketball Association star Stephen Curry.

In the session, Dr. Fauci, with a miniature basketball hoop behind him, conveyed the same message that he had said for weeks about the outbreak.

“This is serious business,” he said. “We are not overreacting.”

Coyne: The virus of Trumpism and his infectious moral failings

Possibly more dangerous than the coronavirus:

Over the past four years, it has been hard to escape the feeling that much of America – and even some Canadians – had fallen under the spell of a cult.

That it is also a political movement does not diminish its cult-like tendencies: the imperviousness to fact, the repetition of certain prescribed slogans, the suppression of the critical faculties, the blind devotion to the leader. And while some of this is present in all political movements, the particular zealotry of Donald Trump’s followers – the willingness to believe what isn’t so, and to disbelieve what is – is something else again.

Indeed, it is not only their thinking that appears to have been taken over; it’s behavioural. What we are witnessing is not so much the expression of a particular theory of government as of a personality type; the replication, on a mass scale, of the leader’s own temperament and bearing, if not the underlying psychological disorders, as if the virus of Trumpism had infected, not just people’s minds, but their souls – their character.

Or, perhaps, revealed it. The funny thing is, you’re almost never surprised to find who turns out to be a Trump supporter and who is not. Though they may never before have uttered the sentiments you hear coming out of their mouths now, there was always, you find yourself reflecting, a certain predilection.

This has nothing to do with how conservative they are. Some of the most committed conservatives I know are revolted by the U.S. President and want only to see the end of him. It has to do with character. It has become, frankly, something of a litmus test.

I hesitate to say this. I’m a strong believer in the proposition that “reasonable people can differ,” that there are two sides to every story, that one’s opponents are at worst mistaken. But Mr. Trump, and Trumpism, represents the triumph of unreason and the suppression of differences. To pay the usual respects to such an unworthy opponent is to do dishonour to one’s worthy opponents..

Perhaps it was possible, very early on, if you had not been paying much attention, to see him as a sort of necessary evil, a shock to the system – uncouth, sure, a bit rough around the edges, but a rock through the window, as it has been put, of official Washington, a signal that people were fed up with politics as usual.

But it is not possible now. It is not possible to look at all that Mr. Trump is and all that he represents – the pathological lying, the habitual corruption, the serial groping, the casual racism, the glorification of violence, the winking to Nazis, the laziness, the impulsiveness, the childish tantrums, the bottomless ignorance, the vanity, the insecurity, the vulnerability (so skilfully exploited by America’s adversaries) to flattery, the bullying, the crudity, the indifference to suffering, the incompetence, the chaos in the White House, the attacks on America’s allies and support for its foes, the contempt for experts and for expertise, for norms and conventions, for checks and balances, for limited government, for the very rule of law – it is not possible to be exposed to all this on a daily basis for four years and shrug it off or explain it away or accept it as part of the deal without there being something wrong with you.

Because it is the deal – that’s all there is – and it was obvious it was the deal, long before it was revealed that Mr. Trump’s victory in the last election was achieved with the aid of Russian intelligence – with or without the connivance of the multiple members of Mr. Trump’s circle who were in contact with Russian officials at the time – and quite apart from the explicit and documented solicitation of interference by another foreign power in the coming election that was the subject of his recent impeachment and trial.

The Republican senators who nevertheless voted to acquit may genuinely be Trump loyalists, or they may merely be fearful of retribution from the President and his cult followers. But either way, it would be hard to ascribe their decision to a judicious weighing of the facts before them. Not when so many had announced their intent to acquit before the trial, not when the evidence of guilt was so overwhelming, not when the justification on which they eventually settled – “he did it but should not be punished for it” – amounts not merely to a benediction on the President’s past abuses of power but an invitation to future ones as well. “Acquitted for life!” Rudy Giuliani tweeted afterward, not without cause.

To reach such a verdict, in such circumstances, is beyond a mere error of reasoning. It is moral error, and of a particularly egregious kind. These are not, after all, bar-stool yahoos or internet trolls, but senators who are supposed to know better. To say that one disagrees with it, then, is insufficient. It must be condemned, as surely history will condemn it. To be sure, there is danger in the other direction; people are all too ready nowadays to convert any disagreement into a contest of absolutes. So be it. We have to be able to see every shade of grey, including black and white.

We needn’t make too much of this. The people who have fallen under Mr. Trump’s spell, or at any rate bend themselves to his will, may have other compensating virtues; it may be a blight upon their character without being the whole of their character. But neither should we avoid it. It is not just a mistake to make excuses for Donald Trump. It is a moral failing. It may only be blindness – while some might actively applaud him for his depravities, most just minimize them – but it is, at this stage, culpable blindness, if not willful blindness.

To say that Trumpism is a moral failing is not to place his followers, or his enablers, beyond the pale. I have my own moral failings, and so do you. But it is worth identifying it in such terms; it is clarifying. Sometimes you have to, as it is sometimes said of Mr. Trump, tell it like it is.

Source: The virus of Trumpism and his infectious moral failings

Bard’s Kenneth Stern: “I drafted the definition of anti-Semitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it.”

More good commentary from someone involved in the drafting:

Fifteen years ago, as the American Jewish Committee’s antisemitism expert, I was the lead drafter of what was then called the “working definition of antisemitism”. It was created primarily so that European data collectors could know what to include and exclude. That way antisemitism could be monitored better over time and across borders.

It was never intended to be a campus hate speech code, but that’s what Donald Trump’s executive order accomplished this week. This order is an attack on academic freedom and free speech, and will harm not only pro-Palestinian advocates, but also Jewish students and faculty, and the academy itself.

The problem isn’t that the executive order affords protection to Jewish students under title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The Department of Education made clear in 2010 that Jews, Sikhs and Muslims (as ethnicities) could complain about intimidation, harassment and discrimination under this provision. I supported this clarification and filed a successful complaint for Jewish high school students when they were bullied, even kicked (there was a “Kick a Jew Day”).

Source: Bard’s Kenneth Stern: “I drafted the definition of anti-Semitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it.”

ICYMI: Trump’s Racist Ban on Anti-Semitism | by Ian Buruma

Good commentary:

US President Donald Trump thinks that anti-Semitism is a serious problem in America. But Trump is not so much concerned about neo-Nazis who scream that Jews and other minorities “will not replace us,” for he thinks that many white supremacists are “very fine people.” No, Trump is more worried about US college campuses, where students call for boycotts of Israel in support of the Palestinians.

Trump just signed an executive order requiring that federal money be withheld from educational institutions that fail to combat anti-Semitism. Since Jews are identified in this order as a discriminated group on the grounds of ethnic, racial, or national characteristics, an attack on Israel would be anti-Semitic by definition. This is indeed the position of Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, who believes that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”

There are, of course, as many forms of anti-Semitism as there are interpretations of what it means to be Jewish. When Trump and his supporters rant in campaign rallies about shadowy cabals of international financiers who undermine the interests of “ordinary, decent people,” some might interpret that as a common anti-Semitic trope, especially when an image of George Soros is brandished to underline this message. Trump even hinted at the possibility that the liberal Jewish human rights promoter and philanthropist was deliberately funding “caravans” of refugees and illegal aliens so that they could spread mayhem in the US. In Soros’s native Hungary, attacks on him as a cosmopolitan enemy of the people are unmistakably anti-Semitic.

Conspiracy theories about sinister Jewish power have a long history. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery published in 1903, popularized the notion that Jewish bankers and financiers were secretly pulling the strings to dominate the world. Henry Ford was one of the more prominent people who believed this nonsense.

The history of extreme anti-Zionism is not so long. In the first years of the Jewish state, Israel was popular among many leftists, because it was built on socialist ideas. Left-wing opinion in Europe and the United States began to turn against Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Arab territories were occupied by Israeli troops. More and more, Israel came to be seen as a colonial power, or an apartheid state.

One may or may not agree with that view of Israel. But few would deny that occupation, as is usually the case when civilians are under the thumb of a foreign military power, has led to oppression. So, to be a strong advocate for Palestinian rights and a critic of Israeli policies, on college campuses or anywhere else, does not automatically make one an anti-Semite. But there are extreme forms of anti-Zionism that do. The question is when that line is crossed.

Some would claim that it is anti-Semitic to deny Jews the right to have their own homeland. This is indeed one of the premises of Trump’s presidential order. There are also elements on the radical left, certainly represented in educational institutions, who are so obsessed by the oppression of Palestinians that they see Israel as the world’s greatest evil. Just as anti-Semites in the past often linked Jews with the US, as the twin sources of rootless capitalist malevolence, some modern anti-Zionists combine their anti-Americanism with a loathing for Israel.

In the minds of certain leftists, Israel and its American big brother are not just the last bastions of racist Western imperialism. The idea of a hidden Jewish capitalist cabal can also enter left-wing demonology as readily as it infects the far right. This noxious prejudice has haunted the British Labour Party, something its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has consistently failed to recognize.1

In short, anti-Zionism can veer into anti-Semitism, but not all critics of Israel are anti-Zionist, and not all anti-Zionists are prejudiced against Jews.

Quite where people stand on this issue depends heavily on how they define a Jew – a source of endless vagueness and confusion. According to Halakha, or Jewish law, anyone with a Jewish mother, or who has converted to Judaism, is Jewish. That is the general Orthodox view. But more liberal Reform Jews allow Jewish identity to pass through the father as well.

On the other hand, while most Orthodox Jews consider a person to be Jewish even if they convert to another religion, Reform Jews do not. Israel’s Law of Return grants “every Jew” the right to immigrate, but refrains from defining Jewishness. Since 1970, even people with one Jewish grandparent have been eligible to become Israeli citizens. In the infamous Nuremberg laws, promulgated by the Nazis in 1935, people with only one Jewish parent could retain German citizenship, while “full” Jews could not.

The whole thing is so complicated that Amos Oz, the Israeli novelist, once sought to simplify the matter as follows: “Who is a Jew? Everyone who is mad enough to call himself or herself a Jew, is a Jew.”

There is, in any case, something ill-conceived about the stress on race and nationhood in Trump’s order on combating anti-Semitism. Israel is the only state claiming to represent all Jews, but not all Jews necessarily identify with Israel. Some even actively dislike it. Trump’s order might suggest that such people are renegades, or even traitors. This idea might please Israel’s current government, but it is far from the spirit of the Halakha, or even from the liberal idea of citizenship.

Defining Jews as a “race” is just as much of a problem. Jews come from many ethnic backgrounds: Yemenite, Ethiopian, Russian, Moroccan, and Swedish Jews are hard to pin down as a distinctive ethnic group. Hitler saw Jews as a race, but that is no reason to follow his example.

To combat racism, wherever it occurs, is a laudable aim. But singling out anti-Semitism in an executive order, especially when the concept is so intimately linked to views on the state of Israel, is a mistake. Extreme anti-Zionists may be a menace; all extremists are. But they should be tolerated, as long as their views are peacefully expressed. To stifle opinions on campuses by threatening to withhold funds runs counter to the freedom of speech guaranteed by the US Constitution. This is, alas, not the only sign that upholding the constitution is not the main basis of the current US administration’s claim to legitimacy.

Source: Trump’s Racist Ban on Anti-Semitism | by Ian Buruma

Trump Goes Full Anti-Semite in Room Full of Jewish People

Sigh….

Back in February 2017, Donald Trump was asked what the government planned to do about an uptick in anti-Semitism, to which he characteristically responded, “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” That statement, like the ones he’s previously made about being “the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” was, and is, obviously not true at all. Prior to being elected, Trump seemed to suggest to a room full of Jews that they buy off politicians; tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton’s face atop a pile of cash next to the Star of David and the phrase, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”; and releasedan ad featuring the faces of powerful Jewish people with a voiceover about them being part of a “global power structure” that has “robbed our working class” and “stripped our country of its wealth.” After moving into the White House, and just a few short months following his assertion that he is the least anti-Semitic person to walk the earth, Trump refused to condemn neo-Nazis and, just last August, accusedAmerican Jews of being “disloyal” to Israel by voting for Democrats. And if you thought the coming holiday season would inspire the president to pump the brakes on blatant anti-Semitism, boy, do we have a surprise for you!

Speaking at the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday night, Trump hit all of his favorite anti-Semitic tropes before a room full of Jewish people. He started off by once again invoking the age-old cliché about “dual loyalty,” saying there are Jews who “don’t love Israel enough.” After that warm-up he dove right into the stereotype about Jews and money, telling the group: “A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all,” he said. “But you have to vote for me—you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100% of your wealth away!” (It feels beside the point that neither Elizabeth Warren nor any other Democratic candidate has proposed a 100% wealth tax.) He continued: “Some of you don’t like me. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about 15 minutes if they get it. So I don’t have to spend a lot of time on that.”

Source: Trump Goes Full Anti-Semite in Room Full of Jewish People

The “Debt” Immigrants Can Never Repay

Interesting read:

In July, Donald Trump told a story about how he coerced a wealthy businessman he didn’t like and who didn’t like him into praising him. The story focused on the pleasure Trump took in watching that man grovel and tell him he was “doing good.” In Trump’s hands, it was a parable about debt and gratitude. “You know,” Trump says he told this nameless enemy, “you don’t like me and I don’t like you. I never have liked you and you never have liked me—but you’re gonna support me because you’re a rich guy. And if you don’t support me, you’re going to be so goddamn poor you’re not going to believe it.” Trump describes the man as acquiescing and praising him, closing the story with: “And maybe we didn’t get along, but it’s not like he has a choice. He has no choice.”

To Trump, this is the story of an excellent “deal.” The best deal is one where the other party, who has something you want (like “a wealthy businessman’s grudging approval”), has no choice but to give it to you. It doesn’t matter if the praise is genuine as long as it costs the businessman something to give it. This calculus may seem pragmatic, but it ends up having a long-term price of its own: “You lose all your friends when you’re president,” Trump laments later in his monologue, one of his part-joke, part-confession asides. When the “deal” is your only framework, your universe shrinks and shuts out bonds over things like (for example) shared principles. It also makes nontransactional feedback—or any truly independent judgment untainted by bribes or threats—implausible. Some consequences of this approach are as old as they are obvious: Choosing to exert control through coercion, insincere praise, or veiled threats frays relations into the kind of exploitation on the one side and lying obsequiousness on the other that Shakespeare’s fools spent every play mocking. More worrying, for a democracy, is that there is no aspiration to anything resembling the ideal of equality here: Trump’s “deal” is about supremacy. He applies it to everything, and his most ardent support (and much of his administration) draws power by championing this worldview.

Trump’s story may have been apocryphal, but it’s also clarifying. Though no friend to the poor and marginalized, his priorities remain clear even with his ostensible equals; these priorities consist largely of making his deal partners lose. The story also offers one of the better examples of the gratitude tax he tries to exact from those with whom he interacts. This is a particular kind of American paternalism at its finest, a framework where the weaker party is not only forced into social or financial debt—they are humiliated and made to feel it. The paternalist values getting the better end of a deal over pretty much everything else. And that’s what a particular subset of Trump supporters—striving to “win” this way themselves—like about him.

Absent an arrangement where he profits financially, the paternalist deal-maker makes sure to profit socially. That’s crucial to understanding some of the less-obvious gears powering Trump’s worldview. Yes, he’s racist; yes, he’s classist. But he’ll make exceptions for poor people (or people from marginalized communities) if they’ll grovel and praise. Sen. Lindsey Graham argued that Trump’s dislike of Somali immigrants like Rep. Ilhan Omar is not based on race. The reason he’s demonizing her to his followers, Graham argued—as if this weren’t racist and above all slimy—was that she didn’t likehim. “I really do believe that if you’re a Somali refugee who likes Trump, he’s not going to say, ‘Go back to Somalia.’ ” You’ll recognize the currency Graham’s identifying here: The only nonwhite migrants worth tolerating, to this way of thinking, are those willing to pay—and they’d better give more than they got, whether in dollars or in gratitude.

This bleak standard is symptomatic of a larger pattern of American paternalism that has always existed but is now flourishing under Trump as other national ideals wither. The American paternalist in the Trumpian mold thinks he’s generous and even-keeled. In practice, he tends to be paranoid, erratic, and consumed by the pursuit of “deals” that put him ahead of the other party in an imaginary ledger he curates with obsessive care. People with less material wealth than him are suspect; as he cannot imagine other motives for them, they must be out to take advantage. He is therefore on guard with them and keen to maintain his advantage by any means. This has obvious consequences for immigration policy: Such a person sees nothing meritorious in courageous dreamers filled with human potential traveling to a foreign country to make a better life. In his ledger, their arrival (and indeed, their existence) appears as a debit.

Source: The “Debt” Immigrants Can Never Repay

Trump Again Says He’d End Birthright Citizenship

More identity politics:

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he was looking “very seriously” at ending the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil.

Trump spoke to reporters as he departed the White House for a speech in Louisville, Kentucky. He said birthright citizenship was “frankly ridiculous.”

“We’re looking at it very, very seriously,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Trump has claimed he’d do away with it — he said something similar in October.

But the citizenship proposal would inevitably spark a long-shot legal battle over whether the president can alter the long accepted understanding that the 14th Amendment grants citizenship to any child born on U.S. soil, regardless of a parent’s immigration status.

Hurdles in President Trump's executive order to end birthright citizenship
Hurdles in President Trump’s executive order to end birthright citizenship

Executive order

James Ho, a conservative Trump-appointed federal appeals court judge, wrote in 2006, before his appointment, that birthright citizenship “is protected no less for children of undocumented persons than for descendants of Mayflower passengers.”

But Trump has said he was assured by his lawyers that the change could be made “just with an executive order” — an argument he has been making since his early days as a candidate, when he dubbed birthright citizenship a “magnet for illegal immigration” and pledged to end it.

There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012 about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the U.S., then left the country.

Places like Florida have seen in a boom in so-called “birth tourism.” Every year, hundreds of pregnant Russian women travel to the United States to give birth, paying from $20,000 to more than $50,000 to brokers who arrange their travel documents, accommodations and hospital stays. Sizable numbers of women from China and Nigeria also come to the U.S. for the same reason.

Immigrant detention

Trump’s comments Wednesday came as the administration continued to make immigration changes pushed by his hard-line advisers that have been in the works for months. On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced it had moved to end a longstanding federal agreement that limits how long immigrant children can be kept in detention. The decision will almost certainly lead to a legal battle over the government’s desire to hold migrant families until their cases are decided.

The rule also follows moves last week to broaden the definition of a “public charge” — a burden to the U.S. — to include immigrants on public assistance, potentially denying green cards to more immigrants. There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border.

Source: Trump Again Says He’d End Birthright Citizenship

Trump’s tweets about ‘disloyal’ Jews are laced with centuries of antisemitism

Situates the broader and historical contexts:

It was January in Paris – cold, gray – when a ceremony held on the Champ-de-Mars roiled the city’s elite. Military officials and civilians gathered to watch as a young Jewish artillery officer was punished for his alleged treason. Days earlier Alfred Dreyfus had been convicted of passing secrets to the Germans in a rushed court-martial. A French army officer stripped his insignia medals, took his sword and broke it over his knee. Dreyfus was marched around the courtyard of the École Militaire as crowds jeered and spat. Cries of “Jew!” and “Judas!” drowned out his muffled professions of loyalty to the French state.

The scene was striking – in the shadow of the newly built Eiffel Tower, a symbol of modernity, an almost primal witch-hunt unfolded. A once decorated army servant pleaded for pity as his neighbors called out “death to the Jew”. Dreyfus was exonerated two years later. The message of his trial was clear: even in a cosmopolitan city, in a country whose revolutionary myth called for liberty and equality, leaders could baselessly point their people’s animus toward the other in their midst.

There’s a sordid history to charges of Jewish dual loyalty in the US In the early years of the second world war, isolationists opposed to American involvement dismissed the war as little more than a “Jewish cause”. Charles Lindbergh berated Jewish leaders for “agitating for war”. Decades later, when the US senator Joe Lieberman ran on the Democratic ticket for vice-president, pundits questioned whether he was more loyal to Israel than to the US. During the democratic primaries in 2015, the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders was challenged on his “dual citizenship” with Israel.

Source: Trump’s tweets about ‘disloyal’ Jews are laced with centuries of antisemitism

Canada’s Populist Party Introduces Trumpian Immigration Plan

Strong endorsement by the American right. Not sure how this will help the Bernier in Canada:

Donald Trump’s influence has crossed the border into Canada. Last week, the populist People’s Party of Canada unveiled its immigration plan. The plan echoes the America First agenda and would provide a solid immigration model for American patriots to imitate.

The PPC’s plan would reduce immigration, combat multiculturalism, focus on high-skilled immigrants, and emphasize assimilation.

Maxime Bernier, a member of Parliament from Quebec and PPC’s leader, delivered the plan along with “Muslim dissident” and long-time critic of multiculturalism, Salim Mansur. Bernier is a former state minister who nearly became the leader of Canada’s more establishment right-wing party, the Conservative Party of Canada, two years ago. He left the Conservatives last year over their cowardice in addressing vital policies, such as immigration. Word is, he was pushed out by way of a rigged vote. He labelled the Conservatives “intellectually and morally corrupt” before leaving.

“For decades now, there has only been one acceptable position among our political and intellectual elites: more, and more, and more immigration,” Bernier said in a speech last week. “There is a taboo around this topic. As soon as you raise a concern about the level of immigration, someone will accuse you of harboring anti-immigrant views and being racist or xenophobic.”

Bernier singled out Conservatives for their weakness on immigration: “[Conservative Party leader] Andrew Scheer gave a speech on immigration a few weeks ago. He did not say anything relevant or significant. He did not mention any number. Instead, he spent half an hour pleading that he is not racist.”

Bernier said he needed only 30 seconds to dispel media smears his party is racist. He pointed to minority candidates in PPC and the party’s emphasis on “shared values, culture and identity,” not skin color. He told any journalist who may call them racists to “take a hike!”

The PPC’s plan to reduce immigration puts them on the side of most Canadians. Nearly 50 percent of Canadians want immigration reduced, while only 6 percent want it increased. “The Liberals are the extremists! We are the mainstream!” Bernier declared.

At the heart of the PPC’s plan is the extraordinary idea that “Canada’s immigration policy should be to economically benefit Canadians and Canada as a whole.”

Bernier says that “mass immigration, open borders, unvetted immigration, [and] extreme multiculturalism” fails to fulfill this obligation. “On the contrary, it’s a very dangerous type of social engineering. It amounts to large-scale government intervention in society and culture,” he said of Canada’s current policies. “It will bring increasing cultural balkanisation, distrust, social conflict, and potentially violence, as we are seeing in other countries where division has reached a critical level.”

Bernier also noted the economic costs of unrestricted mass immigration. He claims that nearly 74 percent of immigrants are subsidized by the government, which costs Canadian taxpayers between $16 billion and $24 billion every year. He also argues that immigrants, given their congestion in Canada’s major urban areas, cause housing prices and rents to skyrocket; a huge problem, especially in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto.

With these facts in mind, Bernier argues Canada should “stop being politically correct. We must recognize that not all values, not all social customs, not all cultures are equally valuable. Our distinct values are those of contemporary Western civilization.”

He accuses Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being the “biggest peddler” of the lie “that all cultures are equal.” “[Trudeau] simply doesn’t care about Canada’s culture and identity, heritage and traditions. He sees himself as a citizen of the world.”

Trudeau drew outrage in 2017 when he told one interview he believed Canada had “no core identity” and was, he thought, the first “postnational state.”

Bernier says this “globalist” vision denies Canada’s identity and threatens to destroy it. The PPC plan aims to counter that threat.

The plan would address five key problems. The first is immigration levels: “A People’s Party government will substantially lower the total number of immigrants and refugees we accept every year, from 350,000 to between 100,000 and 150,000, depending on economic and other circumstances.”

The second is multiculturalism: “A People’s Party government will repeal the Multiculturalism Act and eliminate all funding to promote multiculturalism. We will instead emphasize the integration of immigrants into Canadian society.”

The third is economic immigration. The PPC wants to reform the country’s point system to favor skilled immigrants, limit the number of migrants accepted under family reunification, and eliminate birth tourism

The fourth area is assimilation. Bernier’s plan calls for a tougher screening process to ensure migrants “share mainstream Canadian values.” Those who are found to not have Western values will be rejected.

The final area is refugees. The PPC will put more barriers on the border, accept fewer refugees from the United States and abroad, reduce the government subsidization, and end Canada’s reliance on the United Nations for refugee selection.

Bernier promised that his party “will unite Canadians with an immigration policy designed to benefit all of us.”

The plan is similar to immigration proposals President Trump has touted. Both the RAISE Act and the immigration plan Trump announced in May would make America’s immigration system more merit-based and cut down chain migration. Both plans would make it tougher to gain asylum and strengthen border security. Both American plans favor English-speaking immigrants who can easily integrate and contribute.

However, the PPC’s plan goes much further than the two plans Trump proposes. It calls for a reduction in immigration from close to 400,000 under Trudeau to between 100,000 and 150,000, depending on the economy. Trump’s new plan does not reduce immigration in contrast to the RAISE Act.

And neither American plan addresses multiculturalism or the cultural effects of immigration. Then again, America does not have a Multiculturalism Act. Thanks to the efforts of Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre, Canada made multiculturalism official federal policy, thus supplanting English and French bicultural nationalism.

Most American immigration hawks typically avoid the cultural effects of mass immigration in favor of focusing on its economic effects. There are notable exceptions, such as Tucker Carlson and U.S. Representative Steve King (R-Iowa). Bernier demonstrates a bolder path that attacks mass immigration on both cultural and economic grounds.

The PPC’s immigration plan is a brilliant set of policy proposals and would make Canada great again. Republicans should take notes.

Source: Canada’s Populist Party Introduces Trumpian Immigration Plan

Opinion: Report On Racism, But Ditch The Labels

Thoughtful commentary:

Editor’s note: NPR this week has described the language in President Trump’s tweets about a group of Democratic congresswomen as “racist.”

Keith Woods, NPR’s vice president for newsroom training and diversity, argues that journalists should not be using the term “racist” to describe the president’s tweets. He explains why below.


Once again, the president of the United States has used the sniper tower of Twitter to take aim at immigration, race relations and common decency. And once again, journalists are daring their profession to boldly call bigotry what it is: bigotry. Enough of the vacuous “racially charged,” “racially loaded,” “racially insensitive” evasions, they say. It’s racist, and we should just call it that.

I understand the moral outrage behind wanting to slap this particular label on this particular president and his many incendiary utterances, but I disagree. Journalism may not have come honorably to the conclusion that dispassionate distance is a virtue. But that’s the fragile line that separates the profession from the rancid, institution-debasing cesspool that is today’s politics.

It is precisely because journalism is given to warm-spit phrases like “racially insensitive” and “racially charged” that we should not be in the business of moral labeling in the first place. Who decides where the line is that the president crossed? The headline writer working today who thinks it’s “insensitive” or the one tomorrow who thinks it’s “racist?” Were we to use my moral standards, the line for calling people and words racist in this country would have been crossed decades ago. But that’s not what journalists do. We report and interview and attribute.

I am not a journalism purist. I came into the profession 40 years ago to tear down the spurious notion of objectivity used to protects a legacy of sexism, xenophobia and white supremacy. The better ideals of truth telling, accountability, fairness, etc., are what give journalism its power, while the notion of “objectivity” has been used to obscure and excuse the insidious biases we do battle with today.

I’ve been an informed consumer of the media since my days as a paperboy. I read the Times-Picayune as I delivered it, and the distorted view it offered of black and poor New Orleans told me all I needed to know about “objectivity.” We have come miles since then as a profession. But why should I trust that we’re all on the same page with our labels now? Weren’t last week’s tweets racist? Or last year’s? Weren’t some misogynistic? Vulgar? Homophobic? Sexist? The language of my judgment is generous, and they are my opinion, and they belong in the space reserved for opinions.

What’s at stake is journalism’s embattled claim to be the source of credible news grounded in the kind of deep, fair reporting that exposes injustice and holds powerful people to account. It may be satisfying to call the president’s words, or the president himself, racist, given the attacks tweeted from his bully app and so often aimed at our profession. But at what cost?

It’s already nearly impossible to separate actual journalism from the argumentative noise on the cable networks that dominate so much of public perception. There are already too many journalists dancing day and night on the line that once separated fact and judgment. When that line is finally obliterated and we sink into the cesspool beckoning us to its depths, this historically flawed, imperfect tool for revealing and routing racism will look and sound indistinguishable from the noise and become just as irrelevant.

On Sunday, the president wrote this:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

His words mirror those of avowed racists and xenophobes that date back to the birth of this country. Was that moral judgement, my last sentence? I would argue no. I’d call it context, and it doesn’t require my opinion, just a basic understanding of history. That’s an alternative to labels: Report. Quote people. Cite sources. Add context. Leave the moral labeling to the people affected; to the opinion writers, the editorial writers, the preachers and philosophers and to the public we serve.

We just have to do journalism.

Source: Opinion: Report On Racism, But Ditch The Labels