Those Replacements

Californians are too close to the problem. Everything has already been mixed together anyway. These people are part of our lives. Let other people argue. Down in Orange County, which used to be John Birch Society and Klan White for countless years, and has turned a bit Blue now – prosperous Little Saigon isn’t that far from the John Wayne Airport – Keven Drum sees this:

Over the past few years, immigration has become much like abortion: there’s almost no middle ground. On one side you have the Trumpies and their wall, settling for nothing less than bringing illegal immigration down to zero. On the progressive side, the 2020 primary debates made it clear that most of the candidates favored policies so loose that they were effectively advocating open borders.

But it’s worth noting that Biden was very explicitly opposed to the loose border policies that most Democratic candidates favored. He made that very clear. His immigration policies are far more humane than Trump’s, but he’s still committed to protecting the border.

And he’s making a mess of things because no one sees a middle ground, except for most Californians. Trumpies and the rest of the Republicans are outnumbered two-to-one out here. They had told us to hate those people. That was when Pete Wilson was governor. And they still tell us to hate those people. And now no Republican has held any state-wide office for decades. They all read Atlas Shrugged. No, California shrugged, at them, and Kevin Drum sees this:

There’s no great solution to our current border problem, which has been caused by immigrants seeking asylum. Conservatives are unhappy about large numbers of immigrants being allowed to stay, but the law provides little choice about that. Liberals, by contrast, are unhappy that asylum seekers are being held at all. The only real answer is to speed up the asylum process, and that requires a huge increase in the judicial infrastructure that governs the border. That’s the work of years, not months.

I don’t have any brilliant solutions to offer. I don’t think anyone does. Until and unless Congress and the president do something about the entire asylum process, this is going to remain a mess.

But one man’s mess is another man’s opportunity. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump frames the issue this way:

It’s hard to imagine the sort of desperation and fear that would prompt people to abandon their homes and neighborhoods, to travel thousands of miles carrying young children and all of the personal belongings they could gather, to cross a river to enter a country they’d probably never even visited and where they don’t speak the language in the hopes that they can make a new home.

Americans often consider the migrants who cross our southern border only from that point forward, thinking of them as people who suddenly appeared in Texas or Arizona demanding our attention. We tend to think only about the last few miles of the journey because it makes it easier not to think about what pushes people to get to that point and it makes it easier to disregard any twinges of conscience about what responsibility we are expected by our culture or our faith to hold for one another.

In short, the long view is the uncomfortable view. Most people to have at least a rudimentary conscience, but smug is easier. Anger is easier:

That’s an ungenerous assessment of America’s response to surges in migrants seeking the promise that, in other contexts, the United States celebrates. But it also describes something close to a median response, not the most damaging and dishonest extreme of responses to increases in migration.

For that, we turn to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who’s intertwined immigration and politics to foment the idea that America faces an intentional racial apocalypse at the hands of those families.

That’s become his thing now:

He did that again on Wednesday night, arguing, once again, that Democrats (particularly President Biden) are hoping to bring more immigrants into the country to outnumber real Americans, by which he unsubtly means White Americans. The case he made on Wednesday is thoroughly dishonest, unfailingly bad faith and extreme – but it’s also familiar, which is the more worrisome point.

And the man is clever:

“You’ve got to ask yourself, as you watch the historic tragedy that is Joe Biden’s immigration policy, what’s the point of this?” Carlson asked at the beginning of the segment. “Nothing about it is an accident obviously, it’s intentional. Joe Biden did it on purpose.”

Just consider how bizarre that sentence alone is. Did what? Unleashed an earthquake on Haiti? Spurred violence in Central America? Or does he mean the undefined “policy” itself? Which is, what? To continue to quickly send most migrants back out of the country, maintaining a policy started by President Donald Trump and opposed by Biden’s party?

But of course Carlson had something else in mind:

Carlson needed to imply that Biden wants the surge in migration to happen so that he could introduce remarks made by Biden during a 2015 summit on terrorism: “Here’s Biden explaining the entire point of mass immigration.”

“An unrelenting stream of immigration. Nonstop. Nonstop,” Biden says. “Folks like me who were Caucasian of European descent for the first time in 2017 will be in an absolute minority in the United States of America, absolute minority. Fewer than 50 percent of the people in America from then and on will be White European stock. That’s not a bad thing. That’s a source of our strength.”

But wait:

You’ll be unsurprised to learn that this quote reads differently in the broader context of his comments… Biden was celebrating the “unrelenting stream of immigration” over the course of the country’s history that “started all the way back in the late 1700s.” He was describing it as a defining characteristic of American greatness, explaining to a Chinese official that it was central to American success.

Carlson got it wrong but the line was useful:

“‘An unrelenting stream of immigration’: but why?” he said. “Well, Joe Biden just said it: to change the racial mix of the country. That’s the reason. To reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly arrived from the Third World. And then Biden went further. He said that non-White DNA is the, quote, source of our strength. Imagine saying that this is the language of eugenics. It’s horrifying.”

This is not what Biden said, at all. He said that diversity is a source of our strength. He said nothing about intentionally changing the “racial mix” much less anything about DNA. That’s Carlson projecting, manifesting his own worries about how White America will be polluted by outsiders. It’s Carlson articulating his own insecurities out loud.

“This policy is called the great replacement,” Carlson said – which it is, by white nationalists.

Yes, he’s one of those now. It came naturally to him:

Carlson first started overtly embracing the idea that White America was being intentionally replaced on his show back in April. Then, it was framed more explicitly in terms of politics; that Democrats, worried about losing elections, were bringing in new voters. Now, he’s mostly sidestepping that, instead amplifying it through the lens of his long-standing disgust about how “dirty” immigrants are hurting the country.

And now that’s becoming the Republican Party’s view:

Since April, this idea that Democrats are intentionally encouraging new migration to win elections has become part of the fabric of Republican rhetoric. There was Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) citing it during a hearing on immigration in the House. House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) used it to fundraise last week. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) spoke of a “silent revolution by the Democrat Party and Joe Biden to take over this country.” Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) have in recent days both suggested that the administration was intentionally allowing thousands of people to cross the border into the United States, prying open the door for the sorts of “but why” progressions that Carlson is happy to supply.

That’s a classic self-reinforcing endless feedback loop:

Far from being treated as anathema, Carlson’s theory about immigration is being woven into mainstream Republican rhetoric. Stefanik is a member of the House Republican leadership team and weighs the balance of raising money versus demonizing immigrants as dangerous in favor of the former. Nor is there any indication that Fox News is concerned about what Carlson is espousing. When he first made the comments back in April – again, centered not on “non-White DNA” but on immigrant voters – leadership at the network defended him.

“A full review of the guest interview indicates that Mr. Carlson decried and rejected replacement theory,” Lachlan Murdoch (Rupert’s son) wrote to the head of the Anti-Defamation League. “As Mr. Carlson himself stated during the guest interview: ‘White replacement theory? No, no, this is a voting rights question.’“

Bump is not impressed:

So what is it now? Now Fox News promotes Carlson’s argument on the homepage of its website.

And all of this is occurring in the context of months of feeding false information to the political right about a stolen election and framing of efforts to contain the coronavirus as fascistic and a threat to basic American freedoms. Fox News has played a central role in amplifying disinformation and skepticism about coronavirus vaccines, helping to make vaccination into an issue that fundamentally overlaps with political views. The network has proved its willingness, if not its ability, to get viewers to put politics over their own well-being.

Now, Fox News is leaning into the idea that Democrats and the president want to submerge White America with new immigrants. Now Republicans are amplifying the idea. What comes next is not increased empathy for those trying to improve their lives. What comes next is, at best, increased demonization.

And at worst?

That would be talk of the Master Race and firing up the ovens.

Aaron Blake, however, prefers a different metaphor:

The story of the Republican Party in the Trump era is, by and large, the story of a boiled frog.

President Donald Trump constantly pushed the envelope in ways that made his allies uncomfortable. They sometimes spoke out, especially early on, only to have the base stand by the president and rebuke them. That meant that when Trump pushed even further, his duly chastened allies increasingly responded accordingly: with silence. It’s how we got from a guy carping about supposed voter fraud in an election he won, in 2016, to a guy spurring a harebrained effort to overturn the 2020 election, which he lost.

The boiled frog (the proverbial tale of a frog that is boiled too slowly to realize what’s happening to it) is now returning, in the form of “replacement theory.” The GOP seems either unconscious of what’s happening – or doesn’t care.

Or maybe it does care:

The Republican Party’s increasing embrace of replacement theory – the idea popular in white supremacist circles that immigrants are being brought in to replace native-born (read: White) Americans – has been a slow build. For years, it was an idea relegated to infrequent mentions by fringe Republicans who operated outside the political mainstream and weren’t generally welcomed in politer circles of the GOP. When it was mentioned, it was dressed up as something besides replacement theory, per se.

What has transpired over the past week, though, shows how quickly something can be injected into the bloodstream when that dressed-up version is initially given a pass. While some of the most prominent members of the conservative movement have increasingly espoused a version of replacement theory without calling it that – and sometimes seeking to differentiate it from the white supremacist version – they’re now just straight-up embracing the label.

Tucker Carlson did that:

Back in April, the Anti-Defamation League called for Carlson’s firing over a segment endorsing his version of replacement theory.

Carlson had said in a segment, “I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate – the voters now casting ballots – with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually. Let’s just say it. That’s true.”

The letter drew a response from Fox News head Lachlan Murdoch, who maintained Carlson hadn’t actually endorsed replacement theory.

This was the previously cited corporate tap-dancing:

“Concerning the segment of ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ on April 8th, however, we respectfully disagree,” Murdoch told the ADL. “A full review of the guest interview indicates that Mr. Carlson decried and rejected replacement theory. As Mr. Carlson himself stated during the guest interview: ‘White replacement theory? No, no, this is a voting rights question.’”

Blake is amazed:

So, Carlson rejected replacement theory. He was talking about something else, even if it sounded a lot like replacement theory.

Except not so much anymore. Carlson last week doubled down and used the actual label favored by racist groups – “great replacement” – and more recently got some backup from a member of Congress, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

As recently as July, Carlson was still suggesting that what he was talking about wasn’t replacement theory. While discussing President Biden’s supposed plan to “flood the United States with loyal new Democratic voters,” Carlson used his trademark scare-quote voice on replacement theory.

“‘The great replacement theory.’ ‘It’s a lie,’ they yelled,” Carlson said. “‘George Soros has nothing to do with that. Stop talking.’”

Even just last month, Carlson disputed the idea that what he was promoting was a “great replacement theory.”

“They tried to pull us off the air,” he said, “they said we were espousing something called the great replacement theory, a well-known racist fantasy. Right. In other words: Shut up.”

And then he went there:

Carlson explained that what Biden was doing was, in fact, not just replacement, but a great replacement.

“In political terms, this policy is called the great replacement, the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from faraway countries,” Carlson said Wednesday.

Gaetz then sought to defend Carlson this weekend, stating that the Fox host was “CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America.”

And then Gaetz ended his tweet with this:

The ADL is a racist organization.

Okay then, those Jews at the ADL hate White people. They hate the White Aryan Master Race! That’s racisim! What have they got against White people? They should be ashamed of themselves!

And there you have it:

So. that’s two prominent figures on the right describing this as, in fact, “the great replacement” and “replacement theory.” And the former did so after his boss said he had “decried and rejected replacement theory.” This comes on top of certain congressional Republicans, including one who spoke to a group of white nationalists, floating the idea forming a caucus for which a draft document said immigrants were undercutting the “unique identity” of the country. (The idea was later shelved after an outcry.)

So welcome to the new world:

What’s notable here is both that they use these terms and also how sparsely they were used before. A Nexis search on Fox News transcripts indicates no mentions of “replacement theory” or the “great replacement” in this context before this year. Fox host Laura Ingraham was an early proponent of a version of this theory, but she avoided those terms.

It would certainly be understandable to rebut the claims made against oneself using the terms used by critics. And that’s what initially happened.

But more and more, those espousing this theory have just gone on and embraced the shorthand. Gaetz defended his Carlson defense Monday by arguing that even his use of “replacement theory” didn’t mean that replacement theory.

“The Left/Media think of replacement solely on race/ethnicity terms. I don’t at all,” he said. “Democrats failed the voters who relied on them to run their states/cities. Now they are importing new voters. That is my argument. Those reading more into it are projecting their own bias.”

Really? Blake suggests something else:

Perhaps the left/media are just citing the established meaning of a theory that has long borne the name Gaetz and Carlson chose to use. Gaetz and Carlson might say they’re trying to redefine it so it’s not about race or ethnicity, but Carlson made clear he felt Biden’s “great replacement” indeed involved injecting “non-White DNA” into our country, even though that’s not what Biden actually said.

Perhaps the best course is to use a different name, so as to avoid confusion. Unless, of course, your main goal is to troll – or you actually kind of agree with that original theory.

And now it’s 1933 in Munich again. It did come down to that.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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