“So what?” is a two word retort that, deployed properly in the correct instance, I’ve long considered to be perhaps the best rhetorical disarming maneuver available in the English language. Two words, two syllables, paired with the exact right combination of inquisitive cadence and matter-of-fact inflection, capable of sweeping an opponent’s most powerful thrust – even the killing blow! – aside with such casual confidence so as to leave them stumbling, stunned, bewildered at their inability to land the blow and (ideally) at a loss for what (if anything) they should do next.
The key, as with any good parry, is to wait them out and let them make what they are sure is their masterstroke – to “hit their finisher” in the parlance of combat sport: Give them the room to make their case, tell their story, argue their point and paint what they fundamentally believe is a vivid picture of not simply their own righteousness but your wrongness. Let them indict you. Let them brand you a villain and your goals malevolent. Let them construct the reality whereby you win the argument and all the world is ash as a result. Let them feel the presumptive stirrings of triumph in having so thoroughly proven you wanting. And then… “So what?”
In other words: “I’ve chosen to reject what you took as a given was the damning end of the argument, so elaborate on why what you just described is supposed to be bad – or bother me? Or bother someone else?” Used properly, there is terrifying power in the rejection of presumed standards, and though seemingly simple; the proper use of “So what?” requires two substantial strengths to execute: The ability to commit absolutely to the projection of certainty that you have no idea why what’s been suggested would be “all that bad” and a willingness to “own” at least the theoretical result you’re performing the possibility of comfort with.
It can, of course, be used for evil as well as good.
As you may have guessed (one of the) points of this would end up being, President (lord, but that hasn’t gotten any easier) Trump is a particular master – or maybe “savant” is the more appropriate term – of “So what?,” which is the broader sense can be described as the power of shamelessness. As is the case with most neglected, unloved children who grow into sadistic bullies, Trump has always been an almost cartoonishly thin-skinned thug of a “man;” hyper-sensitive to the point of violent outburst with insecurities as to his intelligence, wealth, weight and especially his appearance (an infamous excerpt from his first wife’s autobiography alleged he brutally attacked and sexually assaulted her in a fit of pique over the recovery pain associated with scalp-replacement surgery.) But as public figure and now politician, he long excelled at performing a glib, smug detachment from the very idea that whatever behavioral taboo or societal norm he was in the midst of violating – leaving those not equipped for such tactics flustered and frustrated.
To be fair, he’s hardly the first political figure (or B-list 90s pseudo-celebrity, or combination of the two) for whom this was the key to success: Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern were to socially-conservative and secular-snarker pioneers of the form on the radio. Al Sharpton essentially made his name with the “I don’t care if how I do things bothers White people” variation prior to his reinvention from organizer to politician to pundit. And, like it or, Trump can’t lay claim to being America’s first “So what?” President – Bill Clinton beat him to it by two whole administrations. To paraphrase George Carlin, Clinton’s “Slick Willy” was rooted in leaning into the sense that where other politicians proclaimed “I’m an honest man!” even as everyone scoffed “Nah, you’re full of shit;” he declared with a wink and smile “I’m full of shit!” …at which everyone marveled “At least he’s honest!”
And, of course, it was Clinton who laid out the blueprint for what you’d have to imagine The Founders might’ve considered the “nightmare scenario” of a Presidential impeachment showdown; choosing not to resign when impeached in the name of preserving the honor of the office (and his own) but rather to dare Congressional Republicans to try and push him out with a stare-down where his case amounted to: “Yeah I did it, but so what? it’s not like I killed somebody and plus the economy is kickin’ ass, global order is pretty stable and voters like me better than Gingrich.” Donald Trump, of course, is not Bill Clinton and “obstruction of justice and potential high-treason” are not “intern adultery,” but such things are worth considering in a sweep-of-history sense.
Given all this, and the general dark pall that’s been cast over my country and these times were live in by our second “So What President” (and, by the same token, the similarly irony-encrusted nesting doll of “why so serious??” 4chan/gamergate smugness that informs the global White Nationalist “populist” sludge-wave rising in parts of Europe to compliment him), one might think I’d be inclined to dial back on “So what?” in general; or rethink it’s value in my own lexicon. But if I’m already resolved to not let Republicans, submental Trump Cultists tiki-torch Nazis “claim” general symbols of Americana I figure it’s not a bridge too far to also resolve that they can’t have “So what?” either.
To that end, this particularly nauseating clip of Fox News gremlin Tucker Carlson (whom I’m old enough to remember doing this schtick on actual networks in an unironic bowtie) attempting to hand his allegedly-human viewer base something resembling an official #MAGA-branded “yeah but” to continue justifying their tacit support for what the Trump Cult somehow thinks they can get thinking people to see as anything other than ethnic-cleansing child-prison concentration-camps is what actually got me to thinking on these lines:
With apologies for the violence done to your eyes and ears by that… thing; what Carlson is doing here is actually fairly enlightening in the “Wow, that’s terrifying – but at least now I can see it!” sense. This is, effectively, out-and-proud White Ethno-Nationalism stopping only a few steps short of Carlson simply reading “The Fourteen Words” (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” for those who’ve not had the displeasure) straight off the page; and as such it comes as close as you’re going to get on what’s (still) pretending to be a a “real” news channel to see the brain-diseased final devolution of American Conversatism give up “the game” as to what anti-immigration paranoia and the Trump Administration push (masterminded by Steven Bannon acolyte Stephen Miller and cheerfully enforced by Trump’s Chief of Staff and Kirstjen “Ilsa: She-Wolf of DHS” Nielsen) to build an U.S./Mexico border wall, ramp up deportations and switch to “merit based” immigration policies are really all about: Slowing, halting and possibly even reversing the demographic shifts currently on track to make the United States no longer a White-majority country within a generation or two.
If you’ve spent as much time as I have – both for work reasons and general “know thy enemy” masochism – over the last two decades watching the evolution of the Far Right, none of the dogwhistles and catchphrases in Carlson’s monologue are new. The “imported voters” conspiracy theory (summary: Democrats have purposefully weakened and/or slacked-off on enforcement of immigration laws in order to create a crisis-point that will have to be answered with amnesty that creates a huge “third world welfare-state underclass” that will likely vote overwhelmingly for Democrats in electorally-insurmountable numbers) has been a Republican-hardliner talking-point going all the way back to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (aka “The Hart-Celler Act), which dramatically altered the previous immigration quota-systems that had been designed in part with maintaining a White European national-identity majority. The only thing “new” about this is how much fairly recent cache it’s found on the darkest fringes of farther-than-Far Left; where immigrant-activism is sometimes framed alongside feminism and LGBTQ rights as another “identity politics” distraction propped-up by Neoliberal Corporatists to continue the marginalization of the so-called White working class.
What’s newer (and, if any of this is “new” to you, should be more troubling) in terms of coming from a pseudo-mainstream media personality is the outright conflation of that older “demographic math” paranoia with vague, ominus concerns about “changing out culture” and the disdain of “elites” for “the family.” It’s straight out of actual pre-WWII Nazi/Fascist agitprop (“rootless cosmopolitans” destabilizing traditional family/social structures and values to create a vacuum to be filled by communism and/or “Zionism”) of course; but also well known to the Men’s Rights/Dark Enlightenment/”Incel” internet petri-dish Bannon scraped the likes of Stephen Miller out of – a toxic feedback-loop of projection and self-pity that connects the “Socialist Conspiracy” to empower The State by deconstructing the (supposedly) “self-sufficient” father-dominated nuclear family through feminism and racial/cultural diversity to a belief that feminist-empowerment liberating women from having to settle for less than ideal men for security has deprive them of romantic partnership they’d have enjoyed in earlier eras.
Tucker Carlson’s disgraceful monologue here, then, is an explicit and implicit signal to the the varied “clued-in” and clueless layers of the Trumper voting base that not only is what’s going on here “not all that bad” – it’s actually an unfortunate but vital necessity: If we don’t “do something – now!” about immigration rates from the southern border, the culture and “face” (literal and figurative) of the United States will change: We won’t be a fundamentally White culture, we won’t build our societal ideal around the model of the Nuclear Family, we may not be a “Christian nation,” we’ll look increasingly less like the homogeneous Small Town Americana ideal (that hasn’t really meaningfully existed in decades anyway) and more like the more diverse tech/culture/art/commerce centers thriving in and adjacent to the metropolitan coasts, where upwardly-mobile economic and career prospects increasingly favor intellectual, financial, tech/science and creative pursuits versus the traditional labor force. A fundamentally different sort of country, one where the kind of person who’d enthusiastically vote for a President Trump promising to hold all that back probably doesn’t have a place in (or much room for “social mobility”) without opting to – for lack of a better term – “evolve” into a much different sort of person.
To which I would only offer: “SO WHAT?”
I’ve been hearing about some version of an “immigration crisis” involving the U.S./Mexico border my entire life (I’m 37) from Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Socialists, Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Lyndon LaRouche, Pat Buchanan and now Donald Trump and his mugging acolytes of Faux News – but not once has anyone managed to articulate exactly what about any of this constitutes a “crisis” as opposed to the inevitable ongoing difficulties of two economically-disparate nations sharing an extensive land border. “Illegal immigration” is not a serious crime under United States Law. It’s a misdemeanor, not a felony, with broad enforcement protocols available at the discretion of law enforcement. It doesn’t become serious unless you’re committing an additional crime as part of the unauthorized crossing (trafficking, for example) and it’s not occurring now – nor was it occurring before Trump’s draconian make-America-White-again hardline policies – at a level or frequency anywhere near where it was in the 80s or 90s where calling it an “epidemic” would’ve still been a stretch.
There is no mad, crushing rush to the border, no unsustainable mass of people arriving at once and no specific more serious additional threat being cited… not even the onetime go-to boogeyman of slipped-in ISIS sleeper agents. Instead we hear endlessly about “The Cartels,” whose power and influence was already absurdly high in both countries (and the idea of them being curtailed by these immigration maneuvers reads like bad comedy) and MS-13, a violent predominantly El Salvadoran street gang that is indeed a serious law enforcement problem that nonetheless is only well known to most Americans as generic recurring villains on various Donald P. Bellisario and/or Dick Wolf network TV schlockfests …and who are also already well-established here in part because they originated in the U.S. prison system (oops.)
It’s a tough situation, yes, the kind of “open wound” geopolitical situation that does end up mostly being handled via selective enforcement (“catch and release”), occasional big moves (the Reagan Amnesty in the mid-80s) and other methods until there’s some kind of mutual tipping-point… but the idea that the U.S. has an immigration “crisis” apart from the one being currently created by the barbaric way the Trump Administration has elected to manage the border is a plainly-visible complete hyperbole. The only way the United States’ immigration situation – both current and projected – can conceivably qualify as being a serious crisis that needs to be contained, averted and thwarted by immediate harsh action is if you regard the prospect of the above-mentioned demographic evolution of the U.S. to a non-White-majority nation to be in and of itself something to be feared, resisted and fought against.
And if that is what keeps you up at night? There’s a word for what you are: You’re a racist. If you think an acceptable solution to this “problem” is to start loading separating people from their families into camps and processing centers to be “removed” in one way or another? The Germans had a word for what you are then.
So what… is supposed to be done, then?
I don’t know, and I don’t know that it’s my job to know – I’m a film critic, not an immigration policy expert. I feel I can speak to what I spoke to above because I don’t think one needs a particular level of expertise in anything other than being an emotionally-functional, intellectually-healthy human being to know that turning a converted Walmart into a child concentration camp as part of an ethnic-cleansing policy is a bad thing. If I did have to venture an opinion, it would be that the U.S./Mexico border situation isn’t going to be “solved” without some kind of fundamental change in the working relationship between the countries, likely in the direction of greater unity economic and otherwise; and that until then a return to the imperfect but manageable situation of accepting a certain level of (largely) harmless “illegal” migrant-labor coming and going in order to keep law enforcement focus where it belongs on serious trafficking and cartel activity without resorting to mass human-rights abuses like the Trump administration is now carrying out. Also, we should abolish ICE. It’s an unnecessary relic of post-9/11 overreach and (shocker!) “Hey, would you like to be a cop – but only for the racist stuff??” doesn’t generally result in a great crew.
To be perfectly frank about it, what’s been done here already represents such a despicable abdication of basic human decency on the part of the U.S. government that – assuming the United States survives whatever form the end of the Trump era takes relatively intact; it’s hard to imagine it not being suggested that America owes the people this was done to at least amnesty just as the beginning of making amends for what we’re going to have to grapple with as a historic wrong. This is bad. This is really bad. This is one of those things that even if you didn’t vote for it, resisted it, protested it, fought against it… we (meaning Americans) are going to own this and feel bad about it for a long time. There’s no reset button that let’s us go back to being the people who “could never let this happen.”
There are worse things in the world than having something to prove, and if the world thinks we deserve another chance after this horror-show of a Presidency, we should be grateful for that. I remain optimistic that we are capable of getting out from under this gruesome mess, and choose to believe even further that we are capable of not merely stopping our current decline but setting ourselves back on the course of forward evolution to a much better, freer, open, globally-minded, culturally-forward, intelligence-centric, superior America we were still on not even two years ago. Or we can go the other way… because the reality is that no matter how much the kind of backwards-looking person who supports a Trump-like presidency because of policies like these thinks getting rid of immigration can “bring back” he world where they felt like they mattered, all they really end up doing is making a country that no one wants to immigrate to – or stay in.
Up to this point there hasn’t been a lot of longform posting at this blog, mainly as a time issue and also because it can be difficult to monetize written pieces that don’t end up as spoken-word scripts (which this still may, time dependent) beyond the obligatory reminder to please consider a contribution to The MovieBob Patreon. Plus, there are projects I should be putting more immediate effort into when I have the time.
But, the particular swirl of current events of the last couple days kept me more glued to the news flow and posting to social media than usual, and happenings that are this infuriating have a way of getting my “dander up” in a way that I recognize is not always becoming in the “250 character fire-off brain-blast” format that is Twitter etc. I seldom end up saying anything I genuinely regret or feel I’m “wrong” about, and I’m certainly not losing any sleep over the myriad euphamisms I’ve managed to conjure from the bile when it comes to The GOP, the political wasteland of “Red State” America and the Trump Cult in particular. I’m well aware that not everyone likes the fact that I won’t pretend to have patience for “economic anxiety” or the supposed marginalization of “Rust Belt Whites” as excuses for plain-to-see bald-faced racism, and if nothing else “The Obsolescents,” “Mayonnaise Ghouls” and “Trashlings” are more fun to work with rhetorically than just constantly heaving an exasperated sigh followed by “Look at this fucking asshole!”
Have I stepped too far here and there? Sure, it happens. I’m passionate, I didn’t have a great filter when I did have a full-time contract job with certain expectations of behavior whereas I’m (currently) a freelancer and otherwise self-employed and sometimes when you’re waiting for a file to render, water to boil or multitasking between audio and typing a raw-shout hitback about something especially galling in the social feed can be cathartic. And if the big worry is the danger I might hurt the feelings of the kind of person who can rationalize child concentration camps but doesn’t want to earn a nasty nickname for it? “So what?”
On the other hand… for a variety of reasons, I don’t spend a lot of time lately in what you’d call a “default happy” mood in general. Therapy helps, trying (even when not 100% inclined) to be social and connected with people helps, exercise helps, learning that it’s “okay to not be okay” helps, but suffice it to say it’s a process and there are good days and not-so-good days. What becomes difficult is that a lot of the go-to “get happy” hobbies and distractions don’t have the effect they used to, and as an overall result I notice I don’t do nearly as much sharing and posting about things I’m enjoying (apart from direct connection to work-related productions) and I can tell that if you follow me mainly though Twitter etc you’re probably seeing more angry-at-the-state-of-the-world stuff than almost anything else.
And while I take the whole “use your platform to boost important things” aspect of social media seriously, there’s such a thing as negativity overkill especially when you find yourself being angry about the same bullshit over and over again; and there’s a point at which that becomes not only an unhealthy place for me to stay, it’s downright “opposite of helpful” for me to be blasting out raw anger that doesn’t necessarily have a depth to it beyond the anger itself to everyone else’s feed – what good does that do? So my thought was: Maybe try not to spit every rant right off the bat, think on things and get it down longform here and there.
So the above is, I guess, a stab at that. We’ll see how it goes. Again – I’m not going to stop “Tweeting angry,” there’s value in “This is enraging and you need to know about it!” But maybe paragraph-sized thoughts belong in essays. Or not, we’ll see. Like I said, there’s a time-is-money issue – so if you’d like to see more journal-style blogging like this, tell me – and please feel encouraged to spread The Patreon around.
31 thoughts on ““SO WHAT?””
So I’m 99% in agreement with you. However, as the descendant of people who didn’t make it out of Europe and whose mother-in-law literally fled France ahead of the advancing Nazi occupation (and then got turned away from Ellis Island because that’s who we were) I’d ask that you be gentle in using the phrase “concentration camp”. The parallels are not (yet) exact and American Jewry is certainly divided in response but there are allies for whom that phrase is disturbing. I think we can express our outrage at the practice of caging children in bare prisons and converted warehouses without it.
I agree. As a german, I perceive the events from another point, half the world away. Still, same here.
I find the narrative presented by the white house disturbing.
As someone who actually likes when people with a lot of words to say say them I’d really appreciate more stuff like this, though not if it stresses your workload too much. Can’t enjoy your content if you can’t make it.
Thank you for posting this, Moviebob. Normalizing Trumpism and treating it as business-as-usual allows it to keep happening. It’s vital that people — especially those with platforms and visibility — keep repeating “This is not normal; this is not okay.” We should say it loud and say it often, because God knows most of the allegedly-liberal media ain’t. So once again, my thanks.
Reblogged this on aiedave.
Insightful and well said.
In an age where emotions Trump facts, I think we need; more thoughtful takes on things; and less rapid fire brain droppings from the Id.
The thing I find most troubling is the argument about ‘protecting our culture’. There is an interpretation that is not (at least consciously) racist, but is an honest acknowledgement that immigration policy does impact the character of a country. Now, I don’t think that’s actually what most of the anti-immigrant sentiment among Trump supporters stems from – I’m from the south, and I’m pretty sure ‘it’s the racism, stupid’. But even if you’re a thoughtful conservative and an immigration hardliner – like Rich Lowery, or David Frum – and you assume the least objectionable form of that argument about protecting our culture… you’re assuming that our culture can be kept in some sort of stasis. IT CAN’T. Our culture is constantly changing and evolving. Do these people believe that these barbaric acts attempting to control immigration with the threat of cruelty DOESN’T change our culture? Think of the circumstances it must take to drive these families away from their homes, on dangerous journeys across hundreds or thousands of miles, knowing that they might be robbed, raped, or murdered. Think of the violence they must have endured to risk all that to come here. The starvation. The fear. Now think about the level of cruelty it will take to deter those same people from coming here. You think THAT won’t change our culture? Or at least, that change won’t be worse what’s affected by being compassionate and understanding? I’m sorry, conservatives, but this is what happens when we fetishize ‘toughness’ over those qualities.
Do you think that non-white countries have a right to preserve their culture? Japan has an extremely strict immigration policy, and that hasn’t lead to any sort of ethnic cleansing. Why are only white countries shamed for taking such action, and why must they be the homes for everybody in the world when other peoples can have their own homelands where they have their ethnic majorities?
Because, for one thing, they aren’t putting people seeking asylum in internment camps.
Japan is routinely shamed and criticized throughout the Asia-Pacific region both for the strictness of its immigration policy toward the rest of the region and what are seen as unjustly race-based quotas and within its own country for the long-ongoing marginalization of non-Japanese-origin communities; in particular ethnically Korean and Chinese citizens. It’s a big debate there, particularly with an aging population, below-replacement birth rates and a refusal to reform the immigration laws in order to replenish the labor sector.
The rest of your question relies on ignoring the skewed data that, in large part because of the long-terms effects of (mostly) White European colonialism, there are very few large non-White nations of sufficient size, wealth and stability to attract or sustain migration in the first place – and those that are AND have taken similar draconian measures to the U.S. and some currently backward-looking EU nations have in fact been hit with similar (or in same cases harsher) criticism: The United Arab Emirates has come under fire for mistreatment up to and including slave labor conditions of undocumented immigrants even while enforcing strict border policy otherwise, for example. Saudi Arabia has been in the midst of a long-running debate about immigration policy owing to the enormously high volume of traffic from foreign Muslims making the Hajj and difficulty in tracking those who overstay Hajj Visas; with the current solution being timed residency caps that have come under steady criticism from neighboring states – and as you can imagine the issue of refugees from wars in and around Iraq and Syria is a flashpoint all over the Mideast with frequent protests against wealthy nations that turn away would-be arrivals.
In other words: You don’t know what you’re talking about.
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I miss the days when Bob would write extensively on his old blog, as he always had an interesting take on the topics he covered (be it movie-related or something more serious) and folks in the comments often had interesting takes of their own which would lead to fun discussions (except for the times when the crazies showed up).
It’d be great to see more posts like this, though I get that Bob’s situation has changed and writing frequently on the sorry state of the world can’t be healthy.
(Bob, I don’t know if you read the comments, but this was a very powerful piece. I think that posts like this could help shake a reader out of the “we go high/ we have to be better than them/ try to reach out” philosophy, which I admit I very much subscribed to until the Trump presidency).
Asian countries for Asians
African countries for Africans
Latin American countries for Latin Americans
But white countries for everybody!
(This is what Bob and people like him believe)
Also, read this article. It destroys your petty narrative that these are “concentration camps”:
I know that it’s unlikely that you will read this comment, and even less likely that you’ll be willing to consider what I say. But, in case someone else is scrolling through these comments and is intrigued by your opinion, allow me to offer a rebuttal:
The United States of America is not a “white country”. Everyone who lives there who is not ethnically Native American is descended from an immigrant.
A Caucasian person has no more or less right to live there than a Hispanic person, assuming both were born there or emigrated there legally.
English is just as much a foreign language in America as Spanish.
A better example of a “White Country” would be Norway. The White Caucasian population of Norway is about the same population percentage as the ethnic Japanese population of Japan. Both nations have immigrants of different ethnic groups living in them. Your assertion that only “White Countries” permit immigration for individuals of different ethnic groups is baseless.
I actually agree that the use of the term “concentration camp” to describe the conditions in which Mexican asylum seekers are being treated at the border is inflammatory language, since no institutional murders are taking place. However, the information that has already been willingly and happily admitted by the government about how they are treating these individuals is more than disturbing enough to warrant a change in policy.
“The United States of America is not a “white country”. Everyone who lives there who is not ethnically Native American is descended from an immigrant.
A Caucasian person has no more or less right to live there than a Hispanic person, assuming both were born there or emigrated there legally.
English is just as much a foreign language in America as Spanish.”
The United States as a country was founded by white people, set its official language to English, and only allowed white immigration until the 1965 immigration act (passed against the will of the American people if I might add).
“Your assertion that only “White Countries” permit immigration for individuals of different ethnic groups is baseless.”
I never said only white countries allow any immigration at all. My point was that only white countries receive major pressure to allow very large numbers of people from foreign countries at the risk of being called racist if they do not comply. Nobody complains about Japan, or that matter Mexico’s immigration policies, which are MUCH stricter than the U.S.’ (the latter country shoots on sight anyone who crosses their southern borders). Those countries are allowed to be as strict with their border control as they please, as well as maintain a distinct ethnic character.
Thank you for taking the time to read and reply to what I wrote. I’m unable to post a response to your reply, so I’ll add it here.
Whilst the United States of America was most certainly founded by White individuals, I would argue that since they were themselves immigrants to the continent, who brought with them their language and culture from (predominantly) England, Ireland and Holland, I maintain that defining America as an inherently “white” nation is erroneous. It would be one thing if Caucasians had lived there for centuries or millennia, and that there weren’t already pre-existing non-white populations living there. Those that saw America as white nation in 1776, 1965 or the present day ignore the fact that white people are just as much an “invasive” presence on the continent as Hispanic, Asian or African individuals, regardless or who founded what.
This is to say nothing of the fact that “white” is a very nebulous term, referring to a whole strata of humanity.
Secondly, I think you’ll find that nations around the world with very strict immigration laws ARE subject to intense criticism. A good example is Dubai’s treatment of Pakistani and Indian immigrants, which has led to poor relations with many of the country’s allies. The treatment of Turkish immigrants in Cyprus led to Turkish military intervention and a war that divided the country in two until this day. In these cases, the nations in question were extremely harshly criticized (without and within) for perceived racist immigration policies.
To clarify, that ‘So What?’ is directed at Lensher’s first comment.
Typos notwithstanding, this was a satisfying read. I enjoy your longform posts almost as much as your videos. You keep writing them and I’ll keep reading them.
Please take a writing course of some sort.
I don’t think getting rid of the enforcement component of border security is a great idea. You might not like the removal portion of the agency, but the other parts that aren’t part of schlock TV are valuable and important.
I think people who object to the term “concentration camp” should think about what they believe that phrase means. The Concentration Camps in the Holocaust were of two kinds – Concentration Camps and Death Camps. Some, like Treblinka, were just Death Camps, at which people were killed as soon as they arrived. Others, like Auschwitz, had both a “Concentration” part and a “Death” part, which is why people like Elie Wiesel was able to survive. Even having said that, the Nazi Concentration Camps were particularly bad because the Nazis were happy to let many prisoners die, hence the videos of bulldozers moving human corpses.
However, there were other, more “humane” Concentration Camps during World War II. The Japanese Internment Camps are one example. In those cases, we are really just talking about a large, open-air prison for a particular type of person created during wartime or “national emergency”.
This is one of those complicated moments where the lines can be blurry, but since all of the kids being held are from a specific group and they’re all being held in a big place together, “Concentration Camp” is an inflammatory, but in my view not inaccurate way of describing the situation.
Thanks Bob for posting this. I was thinking “I need to start giving this guy money” while I was reading it and then I remembered I’m a Patreon and felt good I finally started giving you money.
I totally agree with the “So what?” about the “immigrant crisis.” I’m 36 and I’ve been hearing about this “crisis” all my life and I’ve still not had anyone actually explain what the crisis is and how it’s impacting me and those around me. As a child it just mystified me, as an adult I just perceive it as a thin veil for outward racism.
The whole “change our culture” thing is rather ridiculous to me. I grew up in Missouri and all I heard growing up was how America was a “melting pot.” I heard this phrase again and again in my childhood from TV, PBS, School, Friends, Family, shows of patriotism (4th of July parades), etc. in what most people would consider the middle of the deep red states (MO isn’t deep red, it just has a large disenfranchised black community, but that’s another story). If that’s the case, we don’t have a “culture.” In fact, America’s “culture” is taking bits and pieces of everyone else’s culture to change it into something “American.” That’s why all our foods are just bastardizations of traditional foods from other countries like Italian, Mexican, Chinese, etc. I don’t understand how people can argue that we have a shared “culture” like other nations that have a much longer history like Japan or Norway.
Finally, to those debating whether to use the term “concentration camps” or not, might I suggest “internment camps.” That’s the phrase I prefer to use for several reasons:
1) The situations is much closer to how America treated the Japanese during WWII than how the Germans treated the Jewish population at the same time.
2) It’s a similar national tragedy that is not talked about enough and we are only now started to openly talk about and apologize for.
3) They are both mistakes of our government over-reacting and over-reaching in a similar fashion.
4) If we, as Americans, are going to say “Never Again” we need to keep ourselves from doing it again.
Thanks again for this great post Bob. Gave me some interesting stuff to think about.
My impression is this ugly episode is a death rattle. It’s a death cult, dying. The cult knows this. It can’t last… but it could leave a big hole in the ground if it’s not taken very seriously. My hope is enough generations are sufficiently emotionally scarred to leave a lasting cultural memory.
I’m sorry, Bob, but all I get from your epochal rants about these subjects is bile. Not because you oppose internment camps (as I do). But because we oppose them for vastly different reasons.
I oppose the internment policy because it is morally bankrupt. You oppose it because you think the wrong people are being incarcerated in it.
I oppose it because grouping people together into tribes and assigning them moral turpitudes because of said tribes is both racist and evil. You oppose it because it’s your tribe being so-grouped, and not mine.
I, in short, oppose it because it is the behavior of fascists and monsters. You oppose it because it lets you rain more scorn on people you already hate.
You see, Bob, you LOATHE the Mayonnaise ghouls you so smugly speak of. You waste no opportunity, even in unrelated commentary, to mock their aspirations and decry their existence. You pretend this is because they voted for Trump, but your contempt long-precedes him, and likely precedes any other convenient excuse. You claim to find the politics of division abhorrent when you are one of the most enthusiastic practitioners of them to the be found. And worst of all, you condescend to those who even suggest that this is counterproductive. You may hate and curse Donald Trump with every breath you draw, Bob, but as far as I see it you ARE Donald Trump, albeit without power and with a slightly less noxious set of intended policies. Only slightly.
You look on Red America with undisguised contempt, the same undisguised contempt that they foist on illegal immigrants. You, like them, are terrified of what your enemy group represents as a mass. Like them, you are afraid that their poisonous culture will infest you and yours. Like them, you are afraid of the perfidious plots that may be stirring in their alien minds, minds you do not understand, do not wish to understand, and openly despise anyone who suggests understanding them.
And you may of course retort that this doesn’t matter, for they are in power and you are not, but the truth is it does. Because Red America got the way it is in no small part because you and those like you were so naked, so unreserved in how much you hated them. You cheered their pain, you piled contempt on their worries and fears, you openly cheered for their extinction and hoped that the cares they evidenced would result in their demise. You and yours did this on every channel available to you, mocking them when their children died of drug overdoses or their jobs fled, calling them bigots and gun fanatics because that made you feel superior. So they turned to the one group that would not mock and spit on them, the charlatans that now run the White House, the ones you helped elect, and then you blamed others for the result because they did not accept your scorn as deserved punishment for the crime of existing. And when anyone, ANYONE, begged for a hearing or suggested that this was counterproductive was told they were tone policing, or apologists for Trump, or anything else that would enable you to continue to not listen to them. I expect to be told all of those things right now, despite the fact that I am nothing of the sort.
I, a Republican, spent every moment of the 2016 election trying to get people to vote for anyone besides Trump. Hillary, other Democrats, other Republicans, their mothers, whoever, anything but the sack of rancid political shit we now have in office. I have spent every moment of this election cycle trying to get the Democrats, a party I have little in common with and less that we agree upon, into office in the House and Senate. You, as far as anyone can tell, have done nothing but undo all of my efforts, by re-itterating over and over again that, wrong as the Red states were about Trump and his policies, they were ABSOLUTELY RIGHT when they decided that you and yours want nothing but ashes and sorrow for them and their families, that you despise their existence, and that you would rather they go extinct. You refused, on this very blog, to even countenance BASIC HUMAN SYMPATHY towards them (I have citations, Bob), and mocked those that did. And then you acted surprised that they turned elsewhere? Every step I took to try and get voters to vote a certain way was countered by you and others like you, re-enforcing the fact that whatever else Trump was, he was someone who at least pretended to give a shit about the people who voted for him. His concern for them was entirely fake, but he made the attempt, something you don’t have the courage to ever do.
So in conclusion, Bob, my response to your incensed anger at these policies is very simple: SO WHAT?
You’re not willing to empathize with people you disagree with. You’re not willing to listen to anyone who has had a different life than you. You’re not willing to do anything constructive about it except rage under the thin excuse that “people must know”. I know these things, Bob, because I’ve been watching you do it for more than five years. So why in the hell should I or anyone care that you’ve yet again found a way to make a disgusting political issue all about how superior you are to your political enemies, and how right you were all along in considering them sub-human.
You’re angry, Bob? So what? You’ve demonstrated dozens of times that you’re not angry enough to actually do something like talk to someone unsure of who to vote for, or whether to vote, to try and find common ground to advance your position, or even to do something as basic as stop calling people names to make yourself feel better. You’re unwilling to stop doing Trump’s work for him, and until you are, why in the hell should any of us care about the fact that you, once again, are angry about the very things you helped create?
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