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Conservative Word Games Manipulate Immigration Debate

Gabriel Thompson’s “How the Right Made Racism Sound Fair–and Changed Immigration Politics” at Colorlines.com goes long and deep into the psychology of conservative lingo and terminology used by the MSM in the immigration debate. A teaser:

…Colorlines.com reviewed the archives of the nation’s largest-circulation newspapers to compare how often their articles describe people as “illegal” or “alien” versus describing them as “undocumented” or “unauthorized.” We found a striking and growing imbalance, particularly at key moments in the immigration reform debate. In 2006 and 2007, for example, years in which Congress engaged a pitched battle over immigration reform, the New York Times published 1,483 articles in which people were labeled as “illegal” or “alien;” just 171 articles used the adjectives “undocumented” or “unauthorized.”That imbalance isn’t coincidental. In the wake of 9/11, as immigration politics have grown more heated and media organizations have worked to codify language they deem neutral, pollsters in both parties have pushed their leaders toward a punitive framework for discussing immigration. Conservatives have done this unabashedly to rally their base; Democrats have shifted rhetoric with the hopes that it will make their reform proposals more palatable to centrists. But to date, the result has only been to move the political center ever rightward–and to turn the conversation about immigrants violently ugly.

Thompson, author of “Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do,” has written an excellent analysis which merits a close read — especially by Dem candidates and staffers who are involved in immigration politics.

 

By: The Democratic Strategist Staff, September 21, 2011

September 24, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Hundred Years Of Multitude And The New American Immigration Conniption

One hundred years ago, during the last great American conniption over immigration, the United States government went to unheard-of effort and expense to peer deep into the bubbling melting pot to find out, as this paper put it, “just what is being melted.”

A commission led by Senator William Dillingham, a Republican of Vermont, spent four years and $1 million on the project. Hundreds of researchers crisscrossed the country bearing notebooks and the latest scientific doctrines about race, psychology and anatomy.

They studied immigrants in mining and manufacturing, in prisons and on farms, in charity wards, hospitals and brothels. They drew maps and compared skulls. By 1911, they published the findings in 41 volumes, including a “Dictionary of Races or Peoples,” cataloging the world not by country but by racial pedigree, Abyssinians to Zyrians.

Forty-one volumes, all of it garbage.

The Dillingham Commission is remembered today, if it is remembered at all, as a relic of the age of eugenics, the idea that humanity can be improved through careful breeding, that inferior races muddy the gene pool. In this case, it was the swelling multitudes from southern and eastern Europe — Italians, Russians, Jews, others — who kept America’s Anglo-Saxons up at night.

I pored over the brittle pages of the report recently at the New York Public Library (they are available online). It was a cold plunge back to a time before white people existed — as a generic category, that is. Europeans were a motley lot then. Caucasians could be Aryan, Semitic or Euskaric; Aryans could be Teutonic, Celtic, Slavonic, Iranic or something else. And that was before you got down to Ruthenians and Russians, Dalmatians and Greeks, French and Italians. Subdivisions had subdivisions. And race and physiognomy controlled intelligence and character.

“Ruthenians are still more broadheaded than the Great Russians,” we learn. “This is taken to indicate a greater Tartar (Mongolian) admixture than is found among the latter, probably as does also the smaller nose, more scanty beard, and somewhat darker complexion.” Bohemians “are the most nearly like Western Europeans of all the Slavs.” “Their weight of brain is said to be greater than that of any other people in Europe.”

See if you can identify these types:

A) “cool, deliberate, patient, practical,” “capable of great progress in the political and social organization of modern civilization.”

B) “excitable, impulsive, highly imaginative,” but “having little adaptability to highly organized society.”

C) possessing a “sound, reliable temperament, rugged build and a dense, weather-resistant wiry coat.”

A) is a northern Italian. B) is a southern Italian. C) is a giant schnauzer, according to the American Kennel Club. I threw that in, just for comparison.

The commission had many recommendations: bar the Japanese; set country quotas; enact literacy tests; impose stiff fees to keep out the poor.

These poison seeds bore fruit by the early 1920s, with literacy tests, new restrictions on Asians and permanent quotas by country, all to preserve the Anglo-Saxon national identity that was thought to have existed before 1910.

It’s hard not to feel some gratitude when reading the Dillingham reports. Whatever else our government does wrong, at least it no longer says of Africans: “They are alike in inhabiting hot countries and in belonging to the lowest division of mankind from an evolutionary standpoint.”

But other passages prompt the chill of recognition. Dillingham’s spirit lives on today in Congress and the states, in lawmakers who rail against immigrants as a class of criminals, an invading army spreading disease and social ruin.

Who brandish unlawful status as proof of immigrants’ moral deficiency rather than the bankruptcy of our laws. Who condemn “illegals” but refuse to let anyone become legal. And who forget what generations of assimilation and intermarriage have shown: that today’s scary aliens invariably have American grandchildren who know little and care less about the old country.

It’s no longer acceptable to mention race, but fretting about newcomers’ education, poverty and assimilability is an effective substitute. After 100 years, we’re a better country, but still frightened by old shadows.

By: Lawrence Downs, Editorial Observer, The New York Times, March 25, 2011

March 26, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Immigrants, Immigration, Liberty, Politics, Republicans, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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