Sunday, May 07, 2006

Xenophobes, arise!

Last Tuesday, Nick Gillespie, the editor-in-chief of Reason magazine went on the O'Reilly Factor "with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to debate the legislator's recent Senate resolution that the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem 'should be recited or sung in English.'"

I want to congratulate the senator because who knew that war in Iraq was over? Who knew that the out of control spending the Republicans have brought to Washington 11 years of budget control and that the saber-rattling by North Korea and Iran and other countries, it's over. And we can spend time on a completely inane and asinine issue. To be talking about passing resolutions in a way even, especially if they're nonbinding about what language people should be able to sing the national anthem or say the pledge after allegiance is ludicrous beyond belief. One of the great things about America is our First Amendment which guarantees political expression. Certainly the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem are political speech. And now you're trying to say that only way can you be truly American is to say it in English, which the last time I checked was the language of our colonial overlord from a couple hundred years ago.
I completely agree with Gillespsie, but the discussion on the show is not the interesting part. The interesting part is the hordes of xenophobic hate mail that Reason received after Gillespsie's appearance. Its always a shock to be reminded of America's nativist traditions.

Notice how many of the letter writers refer to Gillespsie as a lefty or liberal (or Communist), and to Reason as a left-wing magazine, despite Gillespsie being libertarian and Reason being a libertarian free-market publication. Also note that the bulk of respondents criticize Gillespsie for being pro-illegal immigration, despite Gillespsie not putting forth in any way his position on immigration during the course of his appearance.

This goes back to what I was saying about "liberal" being turned into an epithet for propaganda purposes. Gillespsie was not a person putting forth an argument to these letter writers, he was a symbol - a "liberal' - which means they don't need to know what his views on immigration are, they know what the symbol means (to them.) And its probably not a coincidence that the people you see using language in such a way in the letters are probably the same sort of people you would find in the white nationalist Stormfront forums. Scratch the surface of the current anti-immigrant debate, and this is what you find. As Dave Neiwert astutely points out, what we're seeing is the mainstreaming of hate.

7 comments:

Branedy said...

I'm glad to see someone else notice the subtle twisting of words which has been the hallmark of Republican propaganda. Unfortunately I think it's too late to reeducate the general public, as education has also been the victim of the republicans. I always thought a Liberal was an open-minded person, and I still feel that way. I am honored to be called one. When next you are call one, thank the person, turn it around and embarrass them with it's meaning.

Alan said...

I agree with Gillespie that passing a law to that extent is a silly waste of time as well as dangerously un-American.

But, I don't agree that it necessarily takes 3 generations to learn English. My mother immigrated from Cuba in 1961 and learned English in a few years time.

I am also quite sure she never had a need to sing the National Anthem in Spanish (though if she wanted to that would be fine).

If I moved to Italy or France with the intention of making that my home, I would endeavor to learn their anthems in their language. I would work hard to speak their language because a) it's practical and maximizes my chances for success and b) its respectful to my new countries traditions.

However, there is a difference between encouraging language assimilation and passing a draconian (and unenforceable law) requiring it.

With respect to the comments: If you take away the obvious xenophophic ones -- I think most people are trying to express what I said above, but sadly most are just too ignorant and some too damaged by repeated listening to the Limbaugh, Hannity, ilk. The net result is that the comments are scary.

Hume's Ghost said...

I don't believe Gillespie was arguing that it necessarily takes 3 generations to learn English, but that within 3 generations English is learned. If I understand his argument correctly, he's saying the process by which Spanish immigrants learn English is the same process by which other immigrants have historically come to learn English.

I have no idea whether that is a sociologically correct assesment, but I don't believe Gillespie would deny that there are certainly immigrants who learn English upon coming to America.

Alan said...

I agree... I didn't quite express my thoughts properly. That's what I get for hurriedly writing comments between meetings at work.

Plus I used the dreaded argument from personal experience and sample size of one fallacy. :)

However, in reading the comments on Hit and Run concerning the O'Reilley appearance there was a small minority of commenters that criticized Gillespie's style and tactic as obnoxious and sarcastic. Going back to knowing your audience, it was probably a foregone conclusion that this wouldn't play well -- worse it merely convinces the opposition that they are right.

One H&R commenter suggested the following:

But if the intent was to influence the debate (and what other purpose could there have been?), then Gillespie should have tried some maturity and reason (no pun intended). It doesn't take more than 30 seconds to say:

"This is part of a bigger issue regarding our national identity...... A non-binding resolution regarding what language a song will be sung in fails to address those issues. It is simply a politically expedient ride on a wave of public opinion without the burden of actually doing anything."

Hume's Ghost said...

Criticizing Gillespie on his style of presentation is fair criticism, although I'm less interested with that than I am with the hateful xenophobia and the phenomena of perjoratively labeling Gillespie as left-wing.

I thought this reply at H & R quite amusing:

wow. What kind of mail do *actual* liberals get?

adspar said...

This goes back to what I was saying about "liberal" being turned into an epithet for propaganda purposes. Gillespsie was not a person putting forth an argument to these letter writers, he was a symbol - a "liberal' - which means they don't need to know what his views on immigration are, they know what the symbol means (to them.)


You make a good point here and in your Feb 13 post that you linked to. I generally like O'Reilly's show, but I've always criticized that he is too quick to group all of his political opposition together, which often leads to his dismissing their arguments without adequate response.

I do want to point out that I've often noticed the same kind of thing happening from the other side: "conservative" being turned into an epithet for propaganda purposes. Or more generally, all "non-liberal" views being somehow lumped together and dismissed.

On either side, it is a cheap but effective political propaganda tool, rallying the team against the common enemy. And it ovbviously goes against the spirit of honest debate; it is basically the straw man fallacy (http://skepdic.com/refuge/ctlessons/lesson9.html).

Hume's Ghost said...

I do want to point out that I've often noticed the same kind of thing happening from the other side: "conservative" being turned into an epithet for propaganda purposes. Or more generally, all "non-liberal" views being somehow lumped together and dismissed.

I agree, although sometimes I forget.