Sometimes you have to presume malice.
In item #1 of the March 11 Warm-Up, I wrote about Steve Bannon’s intentionally-misread statement to French nationalists, saying in part,
“…What Bannon was obviously saying —and I do mean obviously—is “Don’t let their reflex race-baiting and demonizing tactics discourage you or deter you. Calling sensible immigration laws “xenophobic” is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie. Recognize that their tactics mean you are winning the argument. Be proud, not intimidated.”
My friend, frequent critic and former Ethics Alarms blogger of the year Windypundit responded,
“It’s not a lie, it’s an opinion. An opinion that Bannon and his supporters and you are free to reject. But still an opinion.”
This gave me pause.
If it is an opinion, it is a really stupid opinion. If one wants to argue that immigration laws are xenophobic, racist or nativist, then fine: make the case. The case can’t be made, of course. Borderless nations are not nations. From the collapse of the Roman Empire, to the white European take-over of North America, to the cultural upheavals and violence facing Europe now, history’s lessons are not ambiguous. A nation that does not protect its sovereignty and manage its population and demographics is doomed. Not knowing this is ignorant. Not comprehending it is stupid. Publicly denying it for political gain is dishonest.
Hanlon’s Razor is typically quoted as, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Should the razor be applied to the Left’s increasingly shrill and repetitive catcalls that those wanting to enforce the laws against illegal immigration are doing so because they are xenophobic, racist, and nativist?
No, it shouldn’t, because those promoting the use of those terms are not stupid nor ignorant. They are cynical, and they are using the fallacy of the appeal to emotion while wielding the cognitive dissonance scale unethically. Set up the proponents of the rule of law as universal negatives like racists, xenophobes and nativists—bigots, in other words, and whatever they oppose rises on the scale, and whatever they embrace falls. The labeling, however, is false, and intentionally so. Immigration law, the rule of law, borders and sovereignty have nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, or nativism. They are all independent, well-established aspects of responsible governance. Absent more, accusing advocates of these basic tools of being motivated by bigotry is indefensible, and inexplicable absent stupidity, ignorance, or malice.
Now, individual advocates may have made statements or engaged in conduct that in fact will indicate that racism, xenophobia, or nativism are at least part of their motivations. Pat Buchanan, for example, has made it clear that he believes that the United States must take deliberate steps to remain a white, Christian, English-only culture. When Buchanan talks about enforcing the immigration laws, we know xenophobia is deeply embedded in his opinion. When the white nationalists, or the KKK advocate enforcing the immigration laws, there is tangible, concrete evidence to challenge their motives.
That is not what the open-border, “Think of the Children!”, “A nation of immigrants” advocates are doing, however, when they assert that the support for immigration laws by anyone is motivated by racism, xenophobia, and nativism. They are engaged in a tactic, not issuing an opinion. They are using demonizing, name-calling and ad hominem attacks to silence opposition….or they are stupid and ignorant.
There is overwhelming evidence that while the members of the public who the open-border activists are trying to recruit may be stupid and ignorant (as well as gullible, a frequent bi-product of stupidity and ignorance), the activists themselves are not. Their misrepresentation is deliberate. It is in pursuit of a political agenda, because there is no rational justification for it. It’s not a genuine opinion, because opinions are honest and sincere. It is a crafted opinion for political warfare: a weapon. A lie.
Thus I propose Nolnah’s Razor:
“Attribute to malice rather than stupidity the accusation by opponents of an objectively reasonable policy that support for such a policy derives from unethical motives.”*
My statement that “Calling sensible immigration laws xenophobic is a desperate lie. Calling it racist is a lie. Calling it nativist is a lie” is correct.
*UPDATE: Credit to reader JutGory for the final wording.