I have to imagine most of you, except of course our right wing trolls, are as appalled and even depressed at the display of raw racist hatred that has been emanating from the right in recent weeks with regards to the exploding number of unaccompanied minors migrating to the U.S., usually to escape severe poverty or violent persecution in Mexico and Central and South America. To hear conservative pundits and politicians tell of it, migrant children are only here because they want to rape white women and give diseases to white men while cackling evilly at how they tricked us all by being, you know, children. I’ll leave it to the more academically minded to parse out all the various sociological research about the reactionary approach to youth, race and ethnicity, etc. that is feeding into this disgusting display of pure inhumanity towards these extremely vulnerable young people.
But what I do know and know well is how right wingers consider their own public image and how to manipulate it. And “manipulate” is the right word, as conservatives feel fully entitled to lie and bullshit to present a “compassionate” image to graft over their real motivations, from waxing poetic about “liberating” Iraq to pretending that they worry about women seeking abortion to claiming they want to end universal health care to protect people to claiming they want to end the social safety net to help poor people. They know that hate doesn’t sell well and so will generally, in the face of bad press, try to come up with some line of bullshit about how they’re trying to help the people that they’re actually out to hurt. And so it was just a matter of time before they realized that screaming about how 12-year-old migrants are disease-ridden rapists was a bad look and they needed to feign concern about their welfare, so as better to accomplish the real goal of sending them back home to be murdered by gangs.
Yes, this country is in a bad place. I usually am fairly inured to being deeply emotionally affected by how hateful the right is in this country, but the cruelty towards migrant children has gotten under my skin and depresses the shit out of me.
As you might expect, there’s been a major boneheaded failure already in these nascent attempts at pretending to have “compassion” for the migrant children and pretending that the desire to send them back is borne out of this “compassion”. Adam Kwasman is one of those frothing-at-the-mouth anti-immigrant state legislators in Arizona—naturally, he’s also running for Congress—and he was trying to strike the “I just care so much about these kids!” pose by describing what he said was a bus full of migrant children that he believed were afraid.
In pure politician bullshit mode, Kwasman said, “I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses. The fear on their faces…. This is not compassion.” He went on to imply that the Obama administration is somehow failing at “border security” and that being stricter about it in some abstract way would prevent the “sad” kids, presumably by allowing them to die quietly in the desert instead of make it across the border. Compassion!
The problem is that the bus he saw was not actually a bus full of migrant children. It was a school bus full of kids on their way to a YMCA camp. Upon having the reporter tell him this, Kwasman flailed, saying, “They were sad, too.” He added, “People were not happy down the line.” Yeah, I’m sure they were all crying their eyes out about the migrant kids, which is no doubt what they were all thinking about, as opposed to bullshitting with their friends and getting excited for summer camp.
While this is funny, it also points to a larger problem that tends to flourish in racist and reactionary circles: The role that urban legends and assumption-drawing on very thin and anecdotal evidence plays in all this. There’s a lot of right wingers hearing someone speaking casually in Spanish at the grocery store, and by the time they get home, it’s turned into some elaborate morality play about the evils of immigration. Or seeing a kid gazing out of a bus window and, before you know it, you have concocted his whole life story. Or seeing Latino men walking down the street and drawing elaborate and unfair conclusions about what they’re up to. Or sharing legends about how you heard from a friend of a friend that some immigrant did something awful and therefore all your paranoia and hatred is justified.
This guy got a little ahead of himself in the bullshit department, but I suspect we’ll be seeing a more polished version of the “send them back for their own good” argument in the coming weeks, once the professionals rework it and start disseminating it over right wing talk radio.