Friday, August 29, 2014

If you have an argument, you can pretend it isn't just hate

     You know what I admire about bigots? And I’m not referring to the merely-prejudiced, mutter-out-of-the-corner- of-their-mouth bigots, but the real wackos, the warped, scary, neo-Nazi, open Klansman, proudly-sign-their-name haters.
     You know what’s kinda great about them?
     At least they’re candid. No pussyfooting around for them. They state their hate boldly, cast their slurs loudly and only then try to back it up with whatever false theories they believe support their irrational hatreds.
     For everyone else, it’s the other way around. They timidly roll out their specious argument first, as if that were the important part, the crucial logic that made up their impartial minds, and led to their subsequent negative opinion, an unfortunate by-product.
     “Gosh, I’d love to end the permanent legal limbo and semi-serfdom that millions of Hispanics living in the United States endure, but gosh-darn it, their entry was ILLEGAL, so I find myself forced to insist they all be loaded onto cattle cars and sent back to what will always be their true home.”
     And when you try to call them out, and ask, for instance, what other misdemeanors this laudable passion for the law forces them to view as eternally unforgivable — Speeding? Tax evasion? —they just stare at you blankly. Because they are unable to look up at the puppeteer pulling their strings. It’s easy to view hatred as evil, but it’s really a kind of willed ignorance. Since a measure of cowardice is also involved, being bigoted requires you to advocate dumb arguments, in an attempt to hide your loathsome beliefs.
     We saw this on full display this week in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, as attorneys from Wisconsin and Indiana tried to justify their bans on gay marriage.
     The facts are simple: Gays make no worse spouses or parents than anyone else. But an argument must be made, and since the "We hate them," and "They wreck straight marriage" tacks have finally been hooted down as too embarrassing, the states claim that 1) it's better for children to be raised by two parents, and those parents generally are straight so 2) gay marriage should be illegal.
    The first is true, sort of, though a gross simplification. But aren't gay parents also two people? In a not-so-deft sleight of hand, the focus is put on the number, since the true concern — the sexuality of the couple — is a nonstarter. So the talk was of vague cultural norms, though Judge Richard Posner saw through that smokescreen.
     When Wisconsin's assistant attorney general cited "tradition," Posner shot back: "It's based on hate" and the "history of rather savage discrimination against homosexuals."
     While die-hard bigots spout invective, those trying to be subtle attempt a kind of magic act. You distract the audience's attention fluttering one hand while the other lays the key card. Zealots say, "Oh no, it isn't about fearing gays at all. It's about respecting my religion, which orders me to oppress gays (even though I ignore lots of other stuff my religion orders me to do and could ignore this too if I didn't hate gays so much)".
     They leave off that last part.
     Similarly, anti-Semitism, which hardly needs a faux reason to stir, is having a field day with the Israeli crisis in Gaza. Their logic is: Israel does bad stuff, therefore Jews, who support Israel, are fair game. You see that, and almost expect it, say, in a French mob burning a Jewish store. But I noticed it this week in the letters section of The New York Times, from a surprising author.
     "The best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel's patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-state resolution to the Palestinian question," wrote ... no, wait for it. It's too ironic to reveal immediately.
     "Israel's patrons abroad." Hmm. He doesn't mean the fundamentalist Christians and far-right pundits who offer knee-jerk approval of whatever Israel does. Can't be them: what's their connection to anti-Semitism? Then who? Oh, right! "Patrons abroad" means Jews, as if many weren't deeply ambivalent about Israel and eager to remedy this situation (and notice how the mystery writer says nothing about the Palestinians, as if they have no say in their destiny at all, which gives you a hint that the passion people feel about this is not entirely fueled by actual Middle Eastern reality).
     The author is the Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, the Episcopal chaplain at Yale, which had trouble admitting Jews before Israel existed.
     Here's where hate-first bigots and their rationalizing cousins merge: Both groups love to pin blame for their hatred on their victims. Not my fault; if only you were different then I wouldn't be forced to feel this way. It's a dumb argument, but bigotry does that.


  1. I've been called a bigot for opposing the Gang of Eight immigration reform because of documented research on the impact of illegal immigration on African-American unemployment (and also on working class wages, but mostly for the former), and because the Gang of Eight bill will only reduce illegal immigration a small percent at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, and likely lead to more terror and death at the border for would-be crossers.

    If Neal wants to call out the "ship them all back"/"what part of illegal don't you understand" crowd, go ahead, but that's by far the minority of those who oppose the type of immigration reform being pushed. Most of us just want a border fence and an E-Verify system with an independent enforcement agency and penalties with teeth in place first,after which we're fine with amnesty.

    (And yes, Neal, the IRS should be increasing enforcement of tax cheats, not decreasing it as they are doing. And using a radar detectors should be a felony.)

    1. "That's by far the minority" is a bright spin, based on no evidence but a desire to look good. "Most of us..." what makes you say that? And if you want to be chummy, Anon-not-Anon, spell it the fuck right.

    2. Not true - I actually do follow the polls, though they are prone to a great amount of spin (which clutters my twitter feed immensely). The corporate-financed polls are especially prone to bias, but spin-aside there is wide fluctuations in polling numbers even over short periods of time.

      That said, the "deport them" option doesn't poll well at all (most recently about 20% ), but at the same time when Gang of Eight (legal status now, enforcement deferred) is pitted against "enforcement first", as opposed to "do nothing," enforcement first is strongly prefered. A recent poll even showed HISPANIC voters favoring the enforcement first approach ( ) - are they racist? Possibly, like many immigrants in history, they're self-serving, willing to raise the drawbridge once they got here, but not self-hating racists. So again, while there is a lot of ambiguity in these polls, I think there are more people who don't want the Gang of Eight type bill but who would support an enforcement-first bill then there are those who say "ship them all back." If you have some poll numbers that conflict with that analysis, I'll surely consider it.

      Re: your name - I'm sorry - not sure if you're more upset though by the informality or the misspelling. People misspell my first name four different ways and I've never cussed them out about it (maybe my folks would...)

      (Side note: though I couldn't find a link online, I remember back when the DREAM Act was being debated there was a poll where the numbers shifted a great deal when the poll asked whether the person would support the DREAM Act if it allowed those convicted of violent crimes. I bet if that was changed to "misdemeanors" the numbers would have gone back up even though midemeanors include a lot of violent crimes.)

    3. @ Neil Steinberg

      Would the comment above by the anon guy count as a "specious argument as mentioned in the article?

    4. Well, certainly specious in his claiming I'm "upset" at his, despite all his posting for months and months, not getting the name right. It shows a lack of rigor -- a shortcut to point out, rather than wading in to find his point in all that. I shouldn't have sworn -- it gave him an easy way to dismiss it. Though easily dismissing stuff seems to be what he's striving for. Again, going back to the idea of hiding behind a code, claiming that we can't fix immigration until the border is magically sealed is another way of saying we can't fix immigration. I should probably leave these comments for you guys. I have my say at the top. Though I can't help but point out that bitching about cuss words on a blog called Every Goddamn Day has a certain unbecoming faux naivete.

  2. PS - that same first link CBS poll says 59% favor securing the border as first priority vs. 31% status of illegal immigrants. So taking the 59% crowd and comparing that to the 20% who said they favor deportations, that would make it 39% vs. 20% - a two to one margin. I don't know if that fits "by far the minority" but I think it supports my larger point.

  3. I didn't see that in Rev Shipman's comment Neil. It seems obvious that a solution to the Palestine problem would give Jew haters world wide one less club to beat them with. But maybe you know more about him than I do. And it did seem unfair to saddle him with the descrimination that all Ivy League (and most Big Ten) universities practiced up through WW II. However your, and Judge Posner's, point about "tradition" was well taken.

    Interesting that the pernicious effects of descrimination often redounds on the haters. During WW II a German pysician was severely rebuked by Himmler (somebody you really wouldn't want to be rebuked by) for suggesting that they might make use of the talents of homosexuals, as the British were allowed to. The Reichsfuhrer responded that there was no question of relaxing efforts to protect the volk from the influence of degenerates by prosecutions which earned them a pink triangle and a one way ticket to the camps, Meanwhile. Allen Turing was hard a work in Hut 4 at Bletchley Park breaking the German naval code, which won the battle of the Atlantic and shortened the war by several years. While deploring it, one shudders how things might have turned out had not the Germans murdered or driven away the Jews and homosexuals who made up a fair segment of the world's scientific talent.

  4. Here's a very (too?) detailed anaysis of the Shipman letter. In the end I agree with it: you can't claim anti-Zionism isn't anti-Semitism per se and then, rather than condemn anti-semites, say "you Jews need to do something about that Zionism."


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