Plain and Simple, The New Yorker Publishes Hate Speech

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.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    Masha Gessen, a staff writer, has written several books, including, most recently, “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” which won the National Book Award in 2017

    Masha Gessen began contributing to The New Yorker in 2014, and became a staff writer in 2017. Gessen is the author of nine books, including “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” which won the National Book Award in 2017; and “The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.” Gessen has written about Russia, autocracy, L.G.B.T. rights, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump, among others, for The New York Review of Books and the New York Times. On a parallel track, Gessen has been a science journalist, writing about aids, medical genetics, and mathematics; famously, Gessen was dismissed as editor of the Russian popular-science magazine Vokrug Sveta for refusing to send a reporter to observe Putin ****-gliding with the Siberian cranes. Gessen is a visiting professor at Amherst College and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, a Nieman Fellowship, and the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Commentary. After more than twenty years as a journalist and editor in Moscow, Gessen has been living in New York since 2013.

  2. avatar

    Ira it appears you have not applied your intellect on this lady’s paper…and that you have had an easye life without any threats in your life time…..

    It is concerning what is going on in Russia and do not take out of context the article…..use your brains and life experience to understand this lady;s message….

    Simply put:

    She has seen and suffered tyranny in Russia and Jeff S. does not represent the ideals of this land based on his
    mentality and phrase… can prosecute people for trespassing the border BUT YOU CANNOT take their children away from them….you send them back with them…….Sessions is crazy and so are you…… supporting and violating human rights….shame on you!!!

    • avatar

      Actually what they are saying is how do you know they are their children without going thru the proper legal channels. Human trafficking , slavery, and child prostitution is ver real and it is happening due to illegal immigration. ICE verifies they are the parents, they are released and if you have broken no law to have nothing to fear. Her frame of reference I understand however she is 100 percent wrong.

  3. avatar

    Maybe Gessen should go back to Russia, from where she emerged, if she cannot figure out the difference between Joseph Stalin and Jeff Sessions. Or, she can do something else: think before she speaks.

    • avatar
      Alexander Bimman on

      Mr. Serlin, perhaps you can quickly leaf through any of Ms. Gessen’s oeuvre to recognize she does have a strong sense of timing, including for switching from thinking to speaking. If you missed that, you may just have to get up earlier in the morning and work harder at thinking.

      • avatar

        Mr Bimman,

        I do have to agree with you. but unfortunately that will never happen…it comes from birth…….

        IT is interesting how it is just a small percent of The People that holds the land for the rest to be zombies……

  4. avatar

    I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Specifically, far too many of those who immigrated (legally or illegally) to the U.S., once secure in their citizenship, spend far too much time attempting to turn our country into a clone of the countries they opted to leave behind.

    • avatar

      Interestingly we find that people moving from places like the northeast moving because Liberals have destroyed there areas with there help having voted for them want to do the same here in the southeast! Stay home and leave us alone we don’t want your destructive ways down here.