Trump, MS-13, and Fake News

The Trumpian case against supporters of a liberal immigration policy is that we are indifferent to law, blasé about crime and blind to the social costs illegal immigrants impose on American communities. How better to feed that case than to misrepresent, and then take umbrage at, the president’s tough talk on a psychotic Latin American gang?

.. The blunt truth is that immigrants have brought crime to our shores for a very long time: Decades before MS-13, there were the Dead Rabbits(Irish), Flying Dragons (Chinese), Undzer Shtik (Jewish) and, of course, the Cosa Nostra. And for just as long politicians have tried to portray immigrants as criminals, from the Know Nothings of the 1850s to the authors of the Immigration Act of 1924. Now the nativist-in-chief is also the commander-in-chief.

The intelligent answer to Trump can’t be that we have nothing to fear when it comes to immigrants, or that every attempt to enforce immigration laws or discuss immigration ills is just a thinly veiled form of xenophobia. The right answer is that, on net and over time, we have far more to gain from immigrants than we have to lose from them.

.. Which leaves it to sensible Democrats and sane Republicans to repel and defeat the president’s demagoguery. That takes a cool-headed command of immigration facts and historical experiences. Baldly misrepresenting what the president says is the opposite of that. It’s a gift to Trump.
I know it’s infuriating that the president habitually conflates illegal immigrants with violent criminals, and that he buries the signal of his bigotries in the noise of his syntax. I also suspect that the president would be just as eager to deport Latin American immigrants and build a wall with Mexico if groups like MS-13 didn’t exist.
.. We have a president adept at goading his opponents into unwittingly doing his bidding.

Lessons From the Rise of America’s Irish

They arrived dirt poor and uneducated in the 1840s. After decades of struggle, they achieved prosperity.

The peasants fleeing Ireland had a shorter life expectancy than slaves in the U.S., many of whom enjoyed healthier diets and better living quarters. Most slaves slept on mattresses, while most poor Irish peasants slept on piles of straw. The black scholar W.E.B. Du Bois wrote that freed slaves were poor by American standards, “but not as poor as the Irish peasants.”

The Irish who left for America were packed into the unused cargo space of wind-driven ships returning to the U.S., and the voyage could take up to three months, depending on weather. These cargo holds weren’t intended to carry passengers, and the lack of proper ventilation and sanitation meant that outbreaks of typhus, cholera and other fatal diseases were common. Emigrants slept on 3-by-6-foot shelves, which one observer described as “still reeking from the ineradicable stench left by the emigrants of the last voyage.”

In 1847, 19% of the Irish emigrants died on their way to the U.S. or shortly after arriving. By comparison, the average mortality rate on British slave ships of the period was 9%. Slave-owners had an economic incentive to keep slaves alive. No one had such an interest in the Irish.

The 19th-century immigrants from Europe usually started at the bottom, both socially and economically, and the Irish epitomized this trend. Irish men worked as manual laborers, while Irish women were domestic servants. But not all ethnic groups rose to prosperity at the same rate, and the rise of the Irish was especially slow. They had arrived from a country that was mostly rural, yet they settled in cities like Boston and New York, working “wherever brawn and not skill was the chief requirement,” as one historian put it. In the antebellum South, the Irish took jobs—mining coal, building canals and railroads—considered too hazardous even for slaves.

In the 1840s, New York City’s population grew 65%. By midcentury, more than half of the city’s residents were immigrants, and more than a quarter of those newcomers had come from Ireland. At the time, half of New York’s Irish workforce and nearly two-thirds of Boston’s were either unskilled laborers or domestic servants. “No other contemporary immigrant group was so concentrated at the bottom of the economic ladder,” writes Thomas Sowell in his classic work, “Ethnic America.”

It wasn’t just a lack of education and urban job skills that slowed the progress of the Irish in America. So did social pathology and discrimination. The Irish were known for drinking and brawling. Irish gangs were common. When an Irish family moved into a neighborhood, property values fell and other residents fled. Political cartoonists gave Irishmen dark skin and simian features. Anti-Catholic employers requested “Protestant” applicants. Want ads read: “Any color or country except Irish.”

Why I could no longer serve this president

I resigned because the traditional core values of the United States, as manifested in the president’s National Security Strategy and his foreign policies, have been warped and betrayed. I could no longer represent him personally and remain faithful to my beliefs about what makes America truly great.

.. These policies are purportedly being pursued to make good on nativist campaign rhetoric that resonated with many legitimately aggrieved Americans. But I know many of these voters. They are not “deplorables.” They deserve better. They deserve enlightened and informed debate about the true nature of the globalized economy, automation, and the need for education and reimagined job-skills programs to keep us competitive.

.. Instead, they are being offered the siren song of populist scapegoating of immigrants, jingoistic chest-beating and a schoolyard bully’s attitude that taunts: “I win, you lose.”
.. Moreover, policy options based on fear and hashtags will only offer us a false dichotomy.
.. immigration issue cannot be debated rationally when the president routinely encourages division and disparages today’s migrants with the same hateful language deployed a century ago to excoriate my Irish and Italian ancestors.
.. My goal is to create the conditions for respectful and nonconfrontational dialogue between supporters of the president’s immigration policy and the full panoply of migrants

Proud to Live in a Nation of Holers

Let’s not mince words: Moldova is a hole. Modify with any four letters you wish.

I mention Moldova because it’s where my paternal grandfather was born in 1901. An anti-Semitic rampage in his hometown, Kishinev, soon forced his family to leave for New York, where my great-grandfather labored as a carpenter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for eight dollars a week. Low skills, low wages, minimal English, lots of children and probably not the best hygiene — that’s half of my pedigree. The other half consisted of refugees.

I’m not alone. America is a nation of holers. It is an improbable yet wildly successful experiment in the transformation — by means of hope, opportunity and ambition — of holers into doers, makers, thinkers and givers. Are you of Irish descent? Italian? Polish? Scottish? Chinese? Chances are, your ancestors did not get on a boat because life in the old country was placid and prosperous and grandpa owned a bank. With few exceptions, Americans are the dregs of the wine, the chaff of the wheat. If you don’t know this by now, it makes you the wax in the ear.

.. Liberals can be squeamish about calling poor countries bad names, while conservatives such as Mark Steyn chortle that “nobody voluntarily moves to Haiti.” Which, let’s be real, is basically right.

Yet that’s beside the point. We are not talking about Haiti, El Salvador, Nigeria or any other country on the president’s insult list. What counts are the people from these countries

.. But immigrants are more likely to be fleeing those dysfunctions and prejudices than they are to be bringing them

  • .. Dorsa Derakhshani, the international chess master from Iran who came to the United States last year because, as she wrote in an op-ed for The Times, the mullahs “cared more about the scarf covering my hair than the brain under it.”
  • Vietnamese boat people did not bring fratricidal hatreds with them to America.
  • Soviet refuseniks did not bring a Soviet work ethic.

.. They don’t bring crime to cities. They drive out crime by starting businesses and families in shrinking cities or underserved neighborhoods.

.. sub-Saharan Africans have “among the highest college-completion rates of any immigrant group.”

.. As for Haitians, MPI found they had a higher labor participation rate than the overall work force, and had median household incomes of $47,200 — lower than the overall U.S. median, but robust by any developed nation standard.

.. How can this be? It shouldn’t be a mystery. Immigrants self-select.

.. To really see it clearly, you must first rise up from a hole.

Donald Trump has not, to say the least, risen from a hole. But he is sinking into one.

.. It may be that it won’t damage him politically — Republican Party leaders, increasingly unshameable, will mumble mild disapproval until the news cycle turns — but it does damage the country. We have a president even more ignorant of America than he is of the rest of the world.


Reading Bill O’Reilly’s Old Novel About a TV Newsman Who Murders Several People After Losing His Job

The main character is a violently bitter journalist named Shannon Michaels, who, after being pushed out of two high-profile positions, takes revenge on four of his former colleagues by murdering them one by one.

.. rants about ex-wives, newsroom politics, and the Long Island Expressway

.. a veteran newsman preys upon a younger female co-worker in the very first scene.

.. struggling with a “basic human need, the need for some kind of physical release.” Costello spots a pretty camerawoman at a party, happily notes that she’s had too much vodka, and approaches her with “intense sexual hunger.”

.. Then the vengeful Michaels kills Costello by shoving a silver spoon through the roof of his mouth and into his brain.

.. the feud between Michaels and Costello in “Those Who Trespass” is based on O’Reilly’s experience at CBS, in the eighties, during the Falkland Islands War. O’Reilly and his crew had captured exclusive footage of a riot in Buenos Aires, which CBS spliced into a report delivered by the veteran network correspondent Bob Schieffer, who never mentioned O’Reilly by name.

.. spends the next decade plotting his revenge.

.. O’Reilly’s first avatar within the novel: a horny, aggressive, ambitious Irish-American who delivers monologue after monologue about the “self-obsessed business” of television news. (“People who are greedy for power realize that television is the most influential tool ever created,” he says.

.. Tommy O’Malley, who is also horny, aggressive, ambitious, and Irish. O’Malley is an “intense man, sometimes quick to anger.” He arrests a drug dealer and breaks his thumb out of spite: “That must really hurt, he thought, giving in to a feel of sadistic pleasure.” He really hates inner-city teen-agers. (“These thugs killed with a casualness that O’Malley could not comprehend.”) For the duration of the story, as Michaels goes about murdering colleagues who have slighted him, O’Malley, the good guy, is hot on his trail.

.. Like both Michaels and O’Malley, Van Buren is horny, aggressive, and ambitious. Unlike them, she’s not an avatar for O’Reilly but an object onto which he projects a whole host of suspect qualities. “Ashley Van Buren knew her good looks were partially responsible for her rapid rise,” O’Reilly writes

.. In her first conversation with O’Malley, trying to get information about the murder on Martha’s Vineyard, the blond Van Buren deploys both a “deep, sexy tone” and a “teasing voice.”

.. Van Buren is the only major female character in the novel. (An “unattractive woman” named Hillary appears briefly, before Michaels knocks her out and throws her body out the window into an alley.) It’s almost funny how utterly the character of Van Buren unmasks her author: she is conveniently and perpetually sexually frustrated, and she is happy to be seen as an object of desire while she’s at work. She’s dying for a real man to make real advances upon her. In one entirely unnecessary flashback, she invites a date to her apartment, takes off her bra, licks her lips at the sight of her reflection—“her unrestrained breasts were full and firm . . . and her nipples were clearly outlined”—and then pouts when her date won’t take the hint. Over the course of the investigation, she becomes attracted to both O’Malley and Michaels; when she sleeps with Michaels, she silently marvels at “Shannon’s stamina.”

.. it’s full of recognizable pet ideas. Housing projects are “moral sinkholes”; inner-city children are “unfeeling predators.” A Latino detective succeeds in his department because “his strategy included overlooking petty crap like prejudice.”

.. It’s impossible to take in the steady stream of coldly rendered violence in O’Reilly’s novel without remembering his daughter’s court testimony that he choked his ex-wife and dragged her down the stairs by the neck.

.. Being on TV was like a drug to him and when it was taken away from him, he had to find a substitute drug

Donald Trump and the Politics of Fear

Trump’s candidacy relies on the power of fear. It could be the only way for him to win.

.. Overall crime rates may be down, but a sense of disorder is constant.

.. His acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention similarly made clear the extent to which his message revolves around fear. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life,” Trump thundered. “Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country. Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally; some have even been its victims.”

.. But he also, in a more unusual maneuver, summons fear in the abstract: There’s something going on, folks.

.. When back-to-back terror attacks hit Paris in November and San Bernardino in December, he pointed to them as proof that his warnings about Muslims were justified, and voters flocked to him ..

.. Trump’s standing in the polls rose about 7 percentage points in the aftermath of the attacks

.. Trump supporters, recent polling has shown, are disproportionately fearful. They fear crime and terror far more than other Americans; they are also disproportionately wary of foreign influence and social change. (They are not, however, any more likely than other Americans to express economic anxiety.)

.. It is a feedback loop: He stirs up people’s latent fears, then offers himself as the only solution.

.. fear is a handy tool. “Fear is easy,” Rick Wilson, a Florida-based Republican ad maker, told me recently. “Fear is the simplest emotion to tweak in a campaign ad. You associate your opponent with terror, with fear, with crime, with causing pain and uncertainty.”

.. A majority of Americans now worry that they or their families will be victims of terrorism, up from a third less than two years ago

.. Nearly two-thirds worry about being victims of violent crime. Another poll, by Gallup, found that concern about crime and violence is at its highest level in 15 years.

.. “the psychological management of uncertainty and fear” to be strongly and consistently correlated with politically conservative attitudes.

.. the characteristic most predictive of a person’s political leanings is his or her tolerance for ambiguity. “The more intolerant of ambiguity you are—the more you seek control over your surroundings, certainty, clear answers to things—the more you tend toward conservative preferences,” ..

.. he would bring order and control to a chaotic world.

 .. I really thought this was a rational policy disagreement that was headed toward a logical compromise,” Sharry told me recently. “Now, I see it as deeply cultural. It’s racially charged, it’s tribalism, it’s us-vs.-them. It’s a referendum on the face of globalization,
.. The fearful mind sees immigrants as an invasion force, refugees as terrorists, rising crime as a threat to one’s family, drugs as a threat to one’s children, and social change as a threat to one’s way of life.

.. “Trump speaks to our id, something latent in all of us to different degrees. This is not a political campaign. It’s an identity campaign.”

.. From colonial times to the early 19th century, the pervasive, virulent fear was of Catholics, who were seen as inferior, unassimilable, and in thrall to a foreign dictator (the Pope).

.. The mass immigration of Irish Catholics in the 1830s and 1840s ratcheted up the panic and convulsed American politics, with the Whig Party collapsing and the anti-Catholic nativist Know-Nothing Party briefly becoming America’s second-largest political party.

.. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, is now campaigning on a fear-based appeal of her own—the fear of Trump.

.. as President he would escalate the likelihood of catastrophic violent conflict from without and within, posing a serious threat to the future of the United States,” her team wrote in a memo outlining their findings. This message, they noted, was far more effective than emphasizing Trump’s “misogyny” or depicting his economic record as bad for working people.

.. “Every time Clinton says, ‘Trump is dangerous,’ what people are hearing is, ‘The world is dangerous, it’s dangerous, it’s dangerous,’” she told me. “It just plays into the message of chaos.” And the more chaotic the world feels, the more people may look to Trump for comfort.