The word “hate” gets tossed around with disturbing casualness when it comes to the immigration debate – mostly directed at people and groups that advocate for limits and enforcement. It is much easier to label expressions of ideas with which you disagree as being hateful than it is to offer thoughtful rebuttals.
But there is real hate speech being spewed, and it’s coming from people who enjoy the patina of respectability from the establishment – because they arethe establishment. I recently posted a blogabout an Atlantic piece written by Ronald Brownstein in which he impugns the motives of just about everyone who believes U.S. immigration laws should be enforced.
Brownstein’s May 9 essay was a cheap shot at a broad swath of the American electorate by an elitist journalist. But it was mild compared to another one that appeared the same day on the venerable New Yorker magazine’s website. The New Yorker piece, penned by staff writer Masha Gessen, was poisonous hate speech, beginning with its headline, “Taking Children from Their Parents Is a Form of State Terror.”
Ms. Gessen, a native of the former Soviet Union, equates Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ efforts to a) discourage people from using children as a means to perpetrate asylum fraud and b) prevent vile criminals from sex-trafficking minors whom they claim are their own kids, with the thuggery of current Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But Gessen was only getting started. She then goes on to draw comparisons that can only be characterized as hateful rhetoric intended to incite. “Hostage-taking is an instrument of terror. Capturing family members, especially children, is a tried-and-true instrument of totalitarian terror. Memoirs of Stalinist terror are full of stories of strong men and women disintegrating when their loved ones are threatened: this is the moment when a person will confess to anything,” she writes. Gessen continues, “The American government has unleashed terror on immigrants, and in doing so has naturally reached for the most effective tools.”
In the space of four sentences, Gessen reprehensibly asserts that the United States government is using children as hostages, is engaging in terrorism, and that Jeff Sessions is the modern day embodiment of Josef Stalin, the gold standard of genocidal tyrants. Every word of this New Yorker essay is not only false: It is hate speech – flagrant, dangerous, hate speech.
To begin with, separating alleged “parents” from children who they are illegally bringing into the United States is a necessary precaution to prevent human trafficking. When it can be determined that the children legitimately belong to the adults who claim them, they are reunited with their parents. If the parents have a plausible asylum claim to press, or some other legitimate claim to enter the country, that reunification takes place on U.S. soil. If the parents have no legitimate claims for asylum or entry, the children are reunited with the parents and removed from the country.
A reasonable person might disagree with this method of dealing with attempts to abuse our asylum policies or loopholes in other U.S. laws. But, by no stretch of logic can it be defined as hostage taking.
The equation of U.S. policies to terrorism, and the comparison of Sessions with Stalin is far worse. If anyone is to blame for families being separated at the border, it’s the fathers and mothers who attempt to gain admission to the U.S. without prior authorization. And even those families who are separated are humanely treated, afforded legal protections, care, and education they most likely would not receive in their home countries. Nobody would suggest that the circumstances are ideal, but neither is anybody being terrorized.
Finally, charging that the Attorney General of the United States shares any similarity to Josef Stalin, other than sharing the same initials, borders on sedition. Jeff Sessions is carrying out constitutionally enacted laws. There is not one shred of evidence that a single person has been killed as a result of Sessions’ actions. Stalin murdered millions of people – so many in fact that they stopped keeping score – based solely on his own delusional whims.
When The New Yorker magazine sanctions hate speech on its website, when it accuses the U.S. government of engaging in terrorism and equates the attorney general with a genocidal maniac, it is also providing a pretense for violence. Words have consequences, and those who have the privilege of having their words published on the pages of The New Yorker must be accountable for those consequences.