Hyperbole 101

Published on March 4th, 2009

Amnesty’s advocates revel in hysteria
By Mark Cromer
March 4, 2009

Walking my dog across the lush campuses of the prestigious Claremont Colleges last week, I bumped into a friend of mine who is attending graduate school there. As we caught up for a few minutes, he explained that he was on his way to Arizona to join the ‘March to Stop the Hate.’

“A group of about 40 of us are volunteering,” he said earnestly. “We’re going to confront the fascist brigades that the sheriff out there has recruited to terrorize paperless people by raiding their communities.”

For a moment I thought I might hear the orchestral strains of The Internationale or witness a vanguard of red banners sweep around us amid shouts of “To the barricades!” He’s a friend and he’s honestly passionate about his street activism, a personal journey I can relate to as it takes me back to my anti-nuke, anti-imperialism and anti-anything-Reagan days of the early 1980s.

But I had to suppress a slight chuckle as we talked, figuring Mussolini and Franco must be indignantly rolling over in their tombs at the suggestion that the mantle of their dark political movement—which defined Europe’s march toward world war—had passed through historical probate and was inherited by a maverick sheriff riding range in the American southwest.

On the other hand, it’s no laughing matter.

Despite my neighbor’s romantic notion of his weekend plans, the language he used is not funny in the larger context of the nation’s debate on immigration. Rather, it exposes the extreme prism through which the enforcement of immigration law is viewed on many college campuses today; and it highlights the radical smears that are now casually indulged when defining those who oppose the open border agenda on any grounds.

The march in Phoenix this past weekend drew, by various accounts, several thousand people protesting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s ongoing efforts to combat illegal immigration by allowing deputies and official posses, working under the 287(g) provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, to enforce immigration law in conjunction with federal authorities.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have described the 287(g) partnerships as an integral element in the still meager efforts to stem illegal immigration.

But in the ideologically pure climate on cloistered university campuses today, virtually any attempt to end illegal immigration has become synonymous with “fascism,” at least judging by how frequently the term now gets tossed around.

And if apprehending and deporting people illegally in the country is now tantamount to the scourge of fascism, then Arpaio’s posses naturally morph rather seamlessly into a legion of thuggish Black Shirts; ICE agents become the more professionally efficient Gestapo (since fascists were allied with National Socialists) and I suppose Maricopa County’s “Sheriff Joe” becomes “Il Duce” in the desert.

While such efforts to define engaged opposition to illegal immigration in such sweeping, one-dimensional terms is patently anti-intellectual, historically distorted and transparent propaganda on the face of it—it increasingly manages to pass for informative discussion in academia and is creeping deeper into the mass media.

This is hardly an organic shift of generational politics at the younger end of America’s demographics, but rather a well-financed, highly-coordinated campaign that the proponents of mass amnesty have launched in front of their next drive for so-called ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’ They have correctly assessed that grassroots opposition was able to stop the last three attempts at amnesty in large measure because outrage among working class citizens, as conveyed by talk radio and cable television, frightened members of Congress and motivated enough of them to dig in and kill the bills.

Rather than offer a reasoned appeal of their agenda to the American electorate, they have decided to double-down on their efforts to silence vocal and high profile opponents by demonizing them with a toxic laundry list of smears, with “fascist” now running neck and neck with their reliable standby: “racist.”

While street activists and students like my friend indulge wildly inconsistent portrayals of anti-illegal immigration groups like the Minutemen—alternately describing them as armed bands of vigilante terrorists that “hunt immigrants” at one rally and then dismissing them as old, white retirees bumbling around the border with binoculars at the next—the more polished proponents of amnesty tamp down the high voltage rhetoric only slightly as they inject the same basic message into the mainstream.

The New York Times editorial board has described the 287(g) nexus between the feds and local enforcement agencies as a “repugnant…predatory enforcement scheme” and claimed that enforcing immigration law has forced Latinos to “endure” traffic stops and—gasp!—“flashing lights” and “requests for papers” (known better in English as a valid driver’s license).

Last month, the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA issued a preliminary report that targets what the researchers describe as “hate speech” on talk radio. The report focuses on two widely popular mainstream radio show hosts who have made opposition to illegal immigration one of their signature issues. Much of academia now classifies this as “hate speech” by definition.

There is plenty of rich, even comical irony to be found; not the least of which are well-heeled college students demonizing their many working class opponents as they portray themselves as the righteous defenders of “paperless peoples”—whom they probably first met when their parents hired them to clean their rooms. But funny turns to dangerous when they begin employing that tactics honed by the real fascists and Nazis on the streets of Europe more than a half-century ago.

These activists know that the constant targeting of virtually all who oppose them as evil racists also offers a practical effect that goes far beyond the attempt to muzzle the opposition in political debate; it psychologically prepares their own supporters for violence. It’s much easier to get people to launch violent assaults on “fascist thugs” and “racist goons” than it is to provoke them to attack working and middleclass citizens who want to protect their jobs and quality of life.

Perhaps that’s why these marches increasingly feature growing numbers of participants who wear the camouflaged garb and mask their faces in the style of violent guerilla groups that have waged bloody street battles throughout Central and South America.

Some of that is just immature aping for the cameras; weekend revolutionaries dressed up for a make-believe game of ‘Che and Fidel Enter Havana’ before the bell rings and they have to get back to the classrooms their parents pay $50,000 a year for them to attend. (No word yet on what happens to their parents and those financial umbilical cords in the post-Revolutionary utopia.)

The real danger can be found in university establishments that have lost nearly all connection with ensuring a robust vetting of competing arguments and instead have been complicit in not only silencing opinions that run counter to Leftist and ethnocentric orthodoxies that now prevail on campus, but demonizing those who hold them.

Very real danger exists when a media establishment looks mostly the other way as extremism spreads among those that march under the banners they support; carefully ignoring or quickly forgiving the very excesses among their ideological cohorts that they relentlessly insist make their opponents evil.

If the present climate prevails and tens of millions of good American citizens continue to be reviled as racist thugs promoting a fascist police state for demanding the border be secured and immigration laws be seriously enforced, then those who preach such nonsense may discover a bitter truth in the old axiom: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization.

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