Monday, April 20, 2009

Krikorian, Immigration and Racist Subtleties

Yesterday I talked about the subtle biases of each age and how we often can't identify them until we've evolved into a new paradigm. I mentioned the racism underlying Ellsworth Huntington's idea of environmental determinism early in the twentieth century and how glaringly obvious it is today.

My thought was to write a post that would compare the subtlety of Huntington's racism to the subtlety of Mark Krikorian's attitude toward immigrants. However, in looking back over Huntington's book I realize that most of his comments were anything but subtle. Sure, he didn't own his racism--he presented everything he said as the findings of scientific research by others (i.e., the "studies have shown" defense).

Krikorian's attitude toward immigrants is subtle, though, and harder to tease out. Like Huntington, he is trying to sound fair and unbiased. But what are we to make of a sentence like this one:

The possibility, then, is that immigrants will assimilate into this new people, forming, in the extreme case, not an ethnic subculture like so many others (which will fade in importance over time) but instead a separate national community, a Hispanic Volk, demanding recognition on par with Anglos.

(p. 19, The New Case Against Immigration)

A Hispanic Volk?? He's comparing the Hispanic community in the U.S. with Nazi Germany. Of all the analogies he could have made, why this one, you have to ask?

Which reminds me of something Srinivasan Pillay said in his post "Why Rational Thinking Is Not All It's Cracked Up To Be":

Another reason that I think that "surface rationality" is questionable is that we often make decisions based on how options are presented to us. This has been called the "framing effect".

Krikorian's use of the word Volk is a clever way to subtly frame the issue if you want to shape the perceptions of your readers. If Krikorian understands, like Srinivasan Pillay, that emotion underlies what seems to be rational thought, it would make sense that he would want to elicit a strong emotional reaction from his readers. If the readers fear that Hispanic immigrants are threatening to be the next Third Reich (however subconsciously that might register), that fear is going to make them more likely to take Krikorian's additional "rational" arguments as Truth.

In a future post I'll be looking more broadly at Krikorian's ideas about assimilation.

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