The entitled whiteness of conservative immigration hawks

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Benjamin Harnwell, a Steve Bannon acolyte who heads the, ahem, “Institute for Human Dignity”, tells PRI why immigration is problematic:


But I’d like to point this observation out to you: Had it not been for the Hispanic vote, Mitt Romney would have won. And that’s an illustration. Whether you think immigration is fine in the States, whether it could be tinkered with, bandaged or whatever you think it is, you cannot deny that it is having a political consequence on the country. And I think given that reality, it is reasonable for people to say, “Is this the direction that we want to go in?”


* Assumes the white voter in the United States is the default voter, and that votes counter to the will of white voters are somehow problematic.


* Ignores the fact that Hispanics who vote are in fact American citizens.

The conservative position is this: Brown people probably vote Democratic, so brown people shouldn’t get to be citizens. That’s white supremacy, pure and simple, even if it doesn’t come wearing a Klan hood. You don’t even have to think white people are better than brown people to think that white people should have all the power. That’s evidently the case here.

Dinesh D’Souza and how Trumpists try to have their White Nationalist cake and eat it too

This article by Dinesh D’Souza is a fun bit of work. It tries to suggest that Richard Spencer — white nationalist, best-known for being Nazi-punched — really has a lot in common with those racist Democrats, except Democrats suck, so naturally he’s going to make common cause with Trumpists.

It’s a not-so-nifty bit of “having your cake and eating it too” footwork that depends greatly on people not believing what they see with their own eyes.

Take this D’Souza paragraph on Spencer:

Thus Spencer, a man without a party, turns to Donald Trump. Now, there is very little on which Spencer and Trump actually agree. Trump is a flag-waving patriot who cherishes the American Founders; Spencer isn’t and doesn’t. Trump believes our rights come from God; Spencer is an atheist. Trump wants to keep illegals out so legal immigrants and other American citizens—whether white, black or brown—can thrive. Spencer wants more white immigrants, fewer if any black and brown ones. In sum, Trump is generally “conservative” in his ideology and Spencer is clearly not.

Let’s examine that paragraph point by point.

Trump is a flag-waving patriot who cherishes the American Founders; Spencer isn’t and doesn’t.

It may be that Trump is a flag-waving patriot, but I’m not sure what evidence exists that he reveres — or even understands the concepts — behind the founding. The evidence is that Trump isn’t all that familiar with the Constitution nor the rights therein. He might be good at giving lip-service to a crowd that lionizes the Founders, but what Trump most clearly cherishes is Trump.

Trump believes our rights come from God; Spencer is an atheist.

Does anybody really believe Trump thinks this? Not to get tired with this phrase, but I think it’s also clear that what Trump worships is Trump. I’m sure a few Trump supporters might believe in his faithfulness. They’re, to put it kindly, suckers.

Trump wants to keep illegals out so legal immigrants and other American citizens—whether white, black or brown—can thrive. Spencer wants more white immigrants, fewer if any black and brown ones.

Ahem. I refer you to this.

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.

Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.

So D’Souza’s three big differences between Trump and Spencer rely on two examples where he has to basically  invent Trump’s views to create a distinction, and a third example — the most important, in terms of concrete US policy — in which public evidence is that there’s no real distinction at all!

What about this, then, from D’Souza?

As I interviewed Spencer, I kept saying to myself, obviously this guy is not a conservative, but what is he? He’s not a progressive in the contemporary sense, either. And yet his ideas are so familiar. Only toward the end of the interview did it hit me. Spencer’s views are virtually identical to those of the progressive racists of the Woodrow Wilson era

D’Souza’s whole project is to prove that Democrats are, historically, the party of racism. He’s not entirely wrong: Dems really do have Woodrow Wilson and a ton of Dixiecrats in their history. But D’Souza has to contort himself to translate that racism to the modern age, in large part precisely because of folks like Spencer. (For a thorough debunking of D’Souza, check out Princeton’s Kevin Kruse on the topic.)

How do you make this calculation work?

Democrats are the real racists + Richard Spencer is a racist in the Democratic mode = Richard Spencer is a Trump supporter?

Well, you do it by starting to change the terms of the debate.

Spencer should be a progressive Democrat. Progressive Democrats invented the ideology he espouses, and even today the Democratic Party is the party of ethnic identity politics. Spencer’s problem, however, is that the Democrats mobilize black, Latino and Asian identity politics against that of whites. Since whites are now the all-round bad guy, Spencer’s brand of progressivism is no longer welcome at the multicultural picnic.

So: Democrats are the real racists! Only that racism somehow no longer includes anti-black racism. If you’re Republican, the only real racism is racism against whites.

Here’s how D’Souza rationalizes it:

Look at it from Spencer’s point of view. If you’re a white nationalist who wants racial preferences for whites, would you rather go with the Democrats who want racial preferences against whites, or with the Republicans who want racial preferences for no one? Clearly the latter.

If you’re a white nationalist who wants to eliminate minority immigration altogether—legal and illegal—would you rather vote for the Democrats who encourage more illegals, with a view to gaining more future voters, or for the Republicans who generally support legal but not illegal immigration? Again, the answer is obvious.

It’s not that Spencer is really pro-Trump! It’s that he’s anti-Democrat!

Now: It’s not that D’Souza puts out a red carpet for Spencer, let’s be honest. But let’s be frank about what he’s just done there: He’s declared that in our two-party system, it’s completely rational for a big ol’ racist like Richard Spencer to join the Trumpist cause.

The real D’Souzian math:

Racists are bad + Democrats are worse = Racists love Trump.

And that’s it. That’s the conclusion. There’s no attempt to push Spencer out of the Trumpist coalition, a la Buckley reading the Birchers out of conservatism. Just a conclusion that  Democrats are worse. At best, this piece can be read as tacit acceptance of the situation.

The funny thing is, if you read D’Souza’s interview with Spencer, you come away with a realization of how much Spencer sounds like Michael Anton, the godfather of “intellectual” Trumpism, and the author of “The Flight 93 Election” that made the case for Trump.

I’ll give you two quotes. You tell me which one was said by the White Nationalist and which one by the Intellectual Trump Supporter.

 I’m against replacement immigration in the sense that I’m against immigration coming in from the Third World that is ultimately going to change the ethnic and cultural constitution of the United States.


The ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle.

Oooh. Let me throw in a bonus.

In some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people and they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country has changed. Now, much of this is related to both illegal and in some cases, legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.”

1. Spencer. 2. Anton. 3. Laura Ingraham.

I don’t think conservatism necessarily equals racism. Truly. But I don’t know how much clearer that Trumpism, at the very least, makes common cause with racism. And yes, Democrats and liberals have their own sins to repent of in this regard. But it’s Trumpists who are running the country, who are gladdening the hearts of Richard Spencer. At some point, there’s no amount rationalizing that’s plausible. It’s exactly what it looks like.

Caitlin Flanagan, Jordan Peterson and the false objectivity of rejecting ‘identity politics’

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I haven’t really paid attention to Jordan Peterson, which is perhaps a mistake. I know that tons of young white men are flocking to him and are finding meaning in what he purveys, so maybe I should sit down with his book sometime.

That said, it’s not difficult for me to find fault with this Atlantic essay about “why the left is so afraid of Jordan Peterson.” Why? Because there are plenty of reasoned critiques of Peterson out there. And the essay’s author doesn’t deal with any of them, instead filling this piece with tired, sneering contempt for left-of-center folks who think Peterson maybe isn’t all that.

The author, Caitlin Flanagan, depicts Jordan Peterson’s appeal through the eyes of her young adult son.

The young men voted for Hillary, they called home in shock when Trump won, they talked about flipping the House, and they followed Peterson to other podcasts—to Sam Harris and Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan. What they were getting from these lectures and discussions, often lengthy and often on arcane subjects, was perhaps the only sustained argument against identity politics they had heard in their lives.

That might seem like a small thing, but it’s not. With identity politics off the table, it was possible to talk about all kinds of things—religion, philosophy, history, myth—in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology. 

Emphasis added. Which I read to mean:

They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by … ideas.

They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by … how other people might be affected by them.

But let’s get down to brass tacks here: Deciding you don’t want to consider the racial implications of an idea is, itself, ideological. It presumes whiteness to be the default, to be objective and unbiased and the natural point of view. And that of course is nonsense.

An acquaintance objects that my objection to Flanagan is “very much like the followers of C.S. Lewis who have long assured me that by rejecting the teachings of their Church I was taking a stand just as religious as theirs.”

Well. No and yes, and the reasons for this deserve a little parsing. I’d agree that objecting to the Church is not (necessarily) an act of faith in the same way that, ahem, an act of faith is. But, like going to church, rejecting faith teachings *is* making a judgment on metaphysics.

Similarly, a snotty rejection of “identity politics” doesn’t actually place you outside the debates involving identity politics. You’ve made a judgment! It doesn’t make you more able to understand ideas, but thinking it does might make you actually blind to some of the implications of those ideas.

I’m not sure why so many legitimately smart people don’t understand this. I’m convinced, at this point, that the people who sneer most actively at “identity politics” are its greatest practitioners, operating under some bit of self-delusion.


That sexy scene on your favorite show? It might just be an actress working under coercion.


Escapism isn’t so escapist these days.

Let’s start with Evangeline Lilly:

It’s a well known fact at this point that Evangeline Lilly considered quitting acting after her tenure on the ABC scifi drama Lost, only deciding not to quit after her experience on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films.

“In Season 3, I’d had a bad experience on set with being basically cornered into doing a scene partially naked, and I felt had no choice in the matter,” she said, as transcribed by Variety. “And I was mortified and I was trembling when it finished. I was crying my eyes out, and I had to go and do a very formidable, very strong scene thereafter.”

The producers apologized after this story emerged, for what it’s worth.

Lilly’s story reminded me of what happened to Selma Hayek:

Halfway through shooting, Harvey turned up on set and complained about Frida’s “unibrow.” He insisted that I eliminate the limp and berated my performance. Then he asked everyone in the room to step out except for me. He told me that the only thing I had going for me was my sex appeal and that there was none of that in this movie. So he told me he was going to shut down the film because no one would want to see me in that role.

He offered me one option to continue. He would let me finish the film if I agreed to do a sex scene with another woman. And he demanded full-frontal nudity.

I arrived on the set the day we were to shoot the scene that I believed would save the movie. And for the first and last time in my career, I had a nervous breakdown: My body began to shake uncontrollably, my breath was short and I began to cry and cry, unable to stop, as if I were throwing up tears.

Since those around me had no knowledge of my history of Harvey, they were very surprised by my struggle that morning. It was not because I would be naked with another woman. It was because I would be naked with her for Harvey Weinstein. But I could not tell them then.

This kind of stuff has been going on forever.

They engage in some steamy clinches, the most famous involving Schneider face down on the apartment floor while Brando applies butter to her nether regions and performs a sex act on her.

“That scene wasn’t in the original script. The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea,” she says.

“They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry.

“I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can’t force someone to do something that isn’t in the script, but at the time, I didn’t know that.

“Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,’ but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears.

“I felt humiliated and to be honest that it’s hard to sit through any such scene, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologise. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

Now. I don’t think that every nude or partially nude scene with a beautiful actress is always the product of coercion. (And coercion in such matters is wrong, wrong, wrong.) But it happens often enough that when you see such a scene, tiny alarm bells should be going off in the back of your mind.

The actors unions have rules for how nudity and sex are to be depicted, but it’s easy to see that they’re maybe not strictly enforced. It’s possible that animals are better protected on movie and TV sets than women.

I’m not sure what advice to give viewers here, except maybe: Trust your gut. If it seems gratuitous and exploitative, it might be exactly that. You might want to adjust your viewing accordingly.

Unfuck civility


I took a little heat from friends a few weeks back when I suggested Maxine Waters’ call to “surround” Trump Administration officials might prove to cross a line.

I wrote:

If you’re intent on surrounding somebody with angry people, you’re going to make them fearful for their life. I’m not down with that. The congresswoman goes too far for my tastes.

Rebecca disagreed with me:

Black men and women, in particular, are frequently seen as angry, even when they’re not. When they are, they are seen as racist, no matter how justifiable their anger is.

Which is fair enough as far as it goes. But sometimes anger really is anger, and it really is threatening.

Which brings me to this story from my old stomping grounds in Philadelphia, where a pair of conservative activists were confronted over breakfast at Green Eggs Cafe this morning.

The pair being harassed was conservative commentators Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk, who were in Philadelphia for a board meeting of Turning Point USA, the pro-Trump youth organization they head.

In a video posted to Twitter by Owens, the protesters can be heard shouting: “They’re not Nazis, they’re soft fascists!,” “Fuck the bourgeoisie,” “Fuck white supremacy,” and “Cops and Klan, hand in hand.”

Unpleasant, but you might argue still well within bounds. Here, I think, is where events definitively crossed a line:

Local activist groups Abolish ICE Philly and Antifa Philly have not responded to Billy Penn’srequest for comment, but both organizations also posted photos of the Monday morning meleeon their respective Twitter accounts, depicting a liquid being thrown on Kirk (presumedly water flung by a protester)

I can hear objections already: “It’s just water!” No. Having an unknown fluid flung at you counts as assault in my books — it’s a violation of the person. Yes, it’s relatively minor as far as these things go. That’s why now is the time to draw lines: Before things get worse.

Which, ahem, is where I was trying to draw the line with Waters’ comments.

I’m not an “ends justify the means” person. Mennonites are not “ends justify the means people.” If they were, so many people we know would be living in Russia or Germany. Or they would’ve gone off to fight in World War II. They didn’t. So that informs my perspective.

But what was accomplished today anyway. The protesters feel good about themselves. The protested feel good about themselves, too — they were made martyrs for the cause today. Was anybody persuaded of anything? Was anything like justice done?

No? Then the whole event was what old-timers call a “circle jerk.”

If you think I’m overreacting, think about how — if you saw it — you reacted when you saw this video tweet from CNN’s Jim Acosta last week.

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Screenshot from Jim Acosta’s video at a Donald Trump rally.

Did you think:

Those people are angry! Probably righteously so! I want to join their crusade and critique of US media!

Or did you think:

What assholes.

Me? I came down on the latter side. I’m guessing most of the people reading this did too. As I do with whomever threw water at Charlie Kirk this morning.

We have to live with the standards we apply to other people, or we’re just opportunists and hypocrites. That’s no less true no matter how convinced we are that we’re the good guys.

For now, at least, we still live in a country where you have to persuade people to go along with your ideas for them to have a chance to succeed. Mostly, we’re abandoning such quaint notions of democracy. We shouldn’t. Before we give ourselves license to keep going just a little bit further in the name of justice, we should pause and ask ourselves: Is this the right thing to do? And what supporters will I win to the cause. If the answers are “no” and “none,” it’s a bad idea.

The ‘religious liberties’ con, Jay Sekulow version

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A few weeks ago, I wrote for The Week that the GOP push for “religious liberties” is a con — because it doesn’t really apply to religious people so much as it does conservative Christians. It’s a “liberties for me, not for thee” approach that I find hypocritical and off-putting.

Turns out, the word “con” might be more appropriate than I realized. The Guardian on Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, also know for his work for the righty American Center for Law & Justice:

Documents obtained by the Guardian show Sekulow that month approved plans to push poor and jobless people to donate money to his Christian nonprofit, which since 2000 has steered more than $60m to Sekulow, his family and their businesses.

Telemarketers for the nonprofit, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (Case), were instructed in contracts signed by Sekulow to urge people who pleaded poverty or said they were out of work to dig deep for a “sacrificial gift”.

“I can certainly understand how that would make it difficult for you to share a gift like that right now,” they told retirees who said they were on fixed incomes and had “no extra money” – before asking if they could spare “even $20 within the next three weeks”.

In addition to using tens of millions of dollars in donations to pay Sekulow, his wife, his sons, his brother, his sister-in-law, his niece and nephew and their firms, Case has also been used to provide a series of unusual loans and property deals to the Sekulow family.

It’s a long story, but worth reading. It’s weird how often evangelical leaders turn out to be ripping off and abusing the people they’re supposed to lead and represent. It’s a tragedy.

Mennonites have fled war and persecution. Now they’re trying to get away from gentrification.

Interesting story from up north:

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Pushed out by large-scale farms, suburban encroachment and soaring land prices, Ontario’s Mennonite and Amish communities are making the migration from Canada’s largest province to its smallest. In PEI the land is cheap, and the province accepts their desire to live apart from mainstream Canadian society, rejecting things like government-run secular schools, voting, carrying drivers’ licences or paying insurance.

Small-scale farms in Ontario are increasingly out of reach. The province has lost 20% of its farmland in the past 40 years, much of it to a growing urban population, new residential developments, and industries such as aggregate extraction that have gobbled up huge swaths of farmland.

I don’t have anything smart to say about this, except to point out that gentrification always disrupts traditions. Sometimes, on balance, that’s actually a good thing. But oftentimes, it’s just richer people claiming what used to belong to poorer people. It can even happen to Mennonites.