Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Nativism as a Gateway Drug to the Verboten

The gateway hypothesis holds that abusable drugs occupy distinct ranks in a hierarchy as well as definite positions in a temporal sequence. Accordingly, substance use is theorized to progress through a sequence of stages, beginning with legal, socially acceptable compounds that are low in the hierarchy, followed by use of illegal 'soft' and later 'hard' drugs ranked higher and illegal, socially unacceptable hard drugs. In the same manner that certain drugs are deemed acceptable, but viewed as gateways to other drugs, such as the use of prescription pain-killers, benzodiazepines, marijuana and alcohol, for example, lead the user to experiment with harder and less socially acceptable drugs such as heroin, methoamphetamines, crack cocaine etc. so certain socio-political positions, that are deemed socially acceptable, open up the user, and ultimately the political debate to positions previously deemed socially unacceptable and verboten. Examples of socially acceptable positions are: abolish welfare, treat criminals harshly, execute criminals who commit certain offenses and deport all aliens. Examples of verboten subjects include racially-based eugenics, genocide, racism, extermination of large groups of domestic citizens, deportation of masses of U.S. citizens or the institution of concentration camps for a particular race or ethnic group. The reader can easily add other socially unacceptable subjects to this list.

Nativists have used the socially acceptable anti-immigrant paradigm to push the envelope of extremism. Nativism has always been a part of American political discourse. The earl part of the Nineteenth Century brought a wave of bigoted attitudes enacted into laws which brought about the forced sterilization of tens of thousands and laws restricting the immigration of “inferior” groups. “The [Immigration and Restriction Act of] 1924 act, following a barrage of eugenicist propaganda, reset the quotas at 2 percent of people from each nation recorded in the 1890 census (Southern and eastern Europeans arrived in relatively small numbers before then)… Cynical, but effective. “America must be kept American,” proclaimed Calvin Coolidge as he signed the bill.” ( (“The Mismeasure of Man,”Stephen Jay Gould, p. 262). So today, nativists are using the social acceptability of anti-immigrant sentiment to push for more, previously unacceptable, extreme positions. The process utilized by nativists is similar to the stages leading to genocide.

What makes subjects such as genocide verboten is the morally repugnant nature of such extreme positions. As we have seen, genocide occurs in countries such as Nazi Germany, Kampuchea, Burundi, Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Genocide does not arrive full blown out of group differences. Rarely is genocide set forth explicitly as a political platform. Genocide is a process. According to the International Commission to End Genocide there is an eightfold process to genocide.

1. CLASSIFICATION: All cultures have categories to distinguish people into “us and them” by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality: German and Jew, Hutu and Tutsi. Bipolar societies that lack mixed categories, such as Rwanda and Burundi, are the most likely to have genocide.

2. SYMBOLIZATION: We give names or other symbols to the classifications. We name people “Jews” or “Gypsies”, or distinguish them by colors or dress; and apply them to members of groups. Classification and symbolization are universally human and do not necessarily result in genocide unless they lead to the next stage, dehumanization. When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups: the yellow star for Jews under Nazi rule, the blue scarf for people from the Eastern Zone in Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

3. DEHUMANIZATION: One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to vilify the victim group.

4. ORGANIZATION: Genocide is always organized, usually by the state, though sometimes informally (Hindu mobs led by local RSS militants) or by terrorist groups. Special army units or militias are often trained and armed. Plans are made for genocidal killings

5. POLARIZATION: Extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction. Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating and silencing the center.

6. IDENTIFICATION: Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. Members of victim groups are forced to wear identifying symbols. They are often segregated into ghettoes, forced into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved.

7. EXTERMINATION begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing legally called “genocide.” It is “extermination” to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human. When it is sponsored by the state, the armed forces often work with militias to do the killing. Sometimes the genocide results in revenge killings by groups against each other, creating the downward whirlpool-like cycle of bilateral genocide (as in Burundi).

8. DENIAL is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile.

Genocide Watch is the Coordinator of the International Campaign to End Genocide

1804 “S” St. N.W. Washington, D.C. 20009 USA. Phone:703-448-0222 Fax:703-448-6665

One may see elements of this process in the current nativist wave. The classification that nativists need exists in the readily cognizable categories of immigrants. Most nativists confound the difference between immigrants who are here legally and those that are undocumented, thus broadening the spectrum of those labeled immigrants. The immigrant classification existed before the current organization of nativist elements such as FAIR, NumbersUSA, VDare and the Minutemen.

The nativists have carried the immigrant classification into further processes of dehumantization. Nativists vigorously insist that undocumented immigrants be called, “aliens,” “illegals” or “criminals,” thus adding the element of symbolization to classification. Nativist spokesmen, websites and literature constantly insist on this symbolization of immigrants. When others use the term “undocumented workers” or simply “immigrants,” nativists mock them and insist that “these people” are “illegal” and that “illegals have no rights.” At the extreme, undocumented immigrants are referred to as insects, disease infested hordes and cockroaches. In this process, they move the debate to the level of dehumanization.

As articulated by the Society Against Genocide, dehumanization “denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases.” This is clearly evidenced in the literature put out by nativist groups and by prominent nativists such as Lou Dobbs. In the case of the most prominent nativist groups, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, (“FAIR”) all these methods of dehumanization are being utilized as revealed by an investigation by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.

ADL's new online report, Immigrants Targeted: Extremist Rhetoric Moves into the Mainstream documents the rhetoric employed by groups that routinely position themselves as legitimate, mainstream advocates against illegal immigration in America.

A closer look at the public record reveals that many ostensibly mainstream anti-illegal immigration organizations – including those who testified before Congress or frequently appeared on news programs – promote virulent anti-Hispanic and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Some groups have fostered links with extremist groups.

The real victims in this are Hispanic-Americans and other immigrants who are being unfairly targeted, demeaned and stereotyped."

The report cites several key tactics used by anti-immigrant groups, including:

· Describing immigrants as "third world invaders," who come to America to destroy our heritage, "colonize" the country and attack our "way of life." This charge is used against Hispanics, Asians and other people of color.

· Using terminology that describes immigrants as part of "hordes" that "swarm" over the border. This dehumanizing language has become common.

· Portraying immigrants as carriers of diseases like leprosy, tuberculosis, Chagas disease (a potentially fatal parasitic disease), dengue fever, polio, malaria.

· Depicting immigrants as criminals, murderers, rapists, terrorists, and a danger to children and families.

· Propagating conspiracy theories about an alleged secret "reconquista" plot by Mexican immigrants to create a "greater Mexico" by seizing seven states in the American Southwest that once belonged to Mexico.

These examples of dehumanizing language are derived from such “mainstream” sources such as FAIR, NumbersUSA and the cable news shows (Lou Dobbs,Bill O'Reilly).

[A] single -- but not seamless -- web connects ideological white supremacists, armed border vigilantes, nativist think tanks, political action committees, and Republican Party officeholders in an anti-immigrant movement of growing significance. Formal policy deliberations may include debates on the fiscal costs of providing social services to undocumented workers, the supposed downward pressure immigrant labor exerts on the marketplace, the net costs and benefits of immigration, and the national-security problems evinced by holes in our borders. But at gatherings like these, the raw issues are race and national identity.

Differences between legal and illegal immigrants fade into a generalized belief that a brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking tidal wave is about to swamp the white-skinned population of the United States. The attempt to stop undocumented workers at the borders morphs into a campaign to end immigration altogether, to save our supposedly white nation from demographic ruin. As Tancredo told interviewer John Hawkins, “[If] we don't control immigration, legal and illegal, we will eventually reach the point where it won't be what kind of a nation we are, balkanized or united; we will have to face the fact that we are no longer a nation at all … .

The New Nativism: The alarming overlap between white nationalists and mainstream anti-immigrant forces. Leonard Zeskind The American Prospect,| October 23, 2005.

The dehumanizing labels are not confined to extremist elements but spew out from mainstream nativist commentators.

The most media-visible figures in this camp, such as Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan, Tom Tancredo and Victor Davis Hanson may argue the case for restricting, deporting, rounding up and cutting off public services to those "illegals" stigmatized as culturally backward, unhealthy potential terrorists. But they protest that their motives for doing so are as pure as the driven snow.

In their writings and media appearances, the leaders of the anti-immigration movement claim their politics are based not on a hatred of the racial Other but on their commitment to the rule of law, the integrity of "our culture," the objective findings of social science, or better employment prospects for American workers.
On page after page of In Mortal Danger, Tom Tancredo's diatribe against non-European immigrants and multiculturalism, the presidential candidate and congressman repeatedly complains that he and his colleagues have been unfairly painted as racist or had their arguments misconstrued as racist.

"Tancredo's book drips with cultural condescension toward Mexican-Americans, Muslims and African-Americans."

But alongside these complaints Tancredo's book drips with cultural condescension toward Mexican-Americans, Muslims and African-Americans. While he claims that illegality is the problem, Tancredo soon moves past this and calls for revoking the legal citizenship of what he terms Mexican-American "anchor babies." Conjuring up racist and sexist imagery, he declares that "gravid wombs should not guarantee free medical care."

"The Racist Roots of the Anti-Immigration Movement," by Lee Cokorinos

As well, hate literature is disseminated that paints immigrants as invading hordes. The most prominent example of this is FAIR founder’s John Tanton, who had the Social Contract Press translate, publish and promote The Camp of the Saints, a starkly racist apocalyptic novel about a wave of Indian immigrants overrunning France. In 1996, Tanton coauthored The Immigration Invasion with Wayne Lutton, who sits on the advisory board of a publication put out by the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens. Editor of the Social Contract Press, Tanton also published the racist tracts of the avowedly racist VDare site.

More extreme language can be found on sites such as VDare.com, never mind the fringe groups such as the Minutemen. In any event, it is absolutely incontrovertible that all of these groups have used code language to dehumanize immigrants and set them apart from “normal” human beings. And, in so doing, they have advanced positions which advocate that Africans are less intelligent and morally degenerate, that Jews disproportionately control the economy and media and need to be reigned in, that darker races breed more prolifically and must be stopped and that third-world masses are undermining the country by race-mixing with the superior whites that have traditionally dominated this country.

The foregoing positions, once deemed verboten and confined to the most extreme elements of society, now find voice in nativist publications. The latest issue of The Social Contract, a publication closely affiliated with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), is devoted entirely to the writings from the racist website VDare which features such prominent racists and anti-Semites as Steve Sailer, Jared Taylor, Kevin MacDonald, Patrick Buchanan and, of course, its editor Peter Brimelow. These writers make no effort to hide their racist positions albeit using euphemisms such as referring to themselves as “white nationalists” instead of the more accurate, “white supremacists.”

What is most disturbing about these extremist publications is their interaction with front organizations that are viewed as legitimate by the mainstream media.

Founded by Tanton in 1979, FAIR has long been marked by anti-Latino and anti-Catholic attitudes. It has mixed this bigotry with a fondness for eugenics, the idea of breeding better humans discredited by its Nazi associations. It has accepted $1.2 million from an infamous, racist eugenics foundation. It has employed officials in key positions who are also members of white supremacist groups. Recently, it has promoted racist conspiracy theories about Mexico's secret designs on the American Southwest and an alternative theory alleging secret plans to merge the United States, Mexico and Canada. Just last February, FAIR President Dan Stein sought "advice" from the leaders of a racist Belgian political party.

None of this -- or any other material evidencing the bigotry and racism that courses through the group -- seems to have affected FAIR's media standing. In just the first 10 months of 2007, the group was quoted in mainstream media outlets nearly 500 times with virtually no mention of its more unsavory aspects. Stein was featured on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight" at least 12 times in the same period, along with countless appearances on other television news shows. And, perhaps most remarkably of all, FAIR has been taken seriously by Congress, which has called upon its officials to testify on immigration more than 30 times since 2000.

And in such manner civil discourse comes to accept and give legitimacy to extremist groups. The fact that the most extreme positions, advocated by such groups, are not ultimately quoted in the mainstream media does not diminish their power. To the contrary once such extremist groups are viewed as legitimate, so are the group’s extreme views. The fact that The Social Contract devotes an entire issue to racist and extremist authors goes unmentioned in the mainstream media. Anti-immigrant cant becomes a gateway to: eugenics based theories put into practice by Nazis, advocacy of positions that blacks and Latinos need to be controlled because they are degenerate and less intelligent and anti-miscegenation (race-mixing) arguments advocating the reinstitution of segregation and apartheid never mind the logical conclusion of forced sterilization and extermination.

There are those who argue that the current nativist climate has reached most of the elements of genocide. For now, I want to emphasize how, otherwise repugnant views, have entered into the mainstream lexicon and may soon find expression in government policies. As long as John Tanton's nework of hate feeds the likes of Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and the rest of the cable-news haters and AM radio screamers, so the process of radicalization of the political debate will continue to grow.

1 comment:

Symsess said...

Another amazing post. Keep up the good work.