Pushback On The Infernal “Huddled Masses” Trope By Bloomberg Readers And Mark Steyn
Megan McArdle, who now writes for Bloomberg View (online), has long struck me as a very savvy observer and commentator. For example, a paragraph she wrote approximately a year ago is—regarding public policy—one for the ages:
[C]elebrities are stupid about policy, often breathtakingly so. On the other hand, so is everyone else. You want to hear some really stupid ideas about policy? Grab a group of whip-smart financial wizards, or neurosurgeons, or nuclear physicists, and sit them down for a nice dinner to debate some policy outside their profession. You will find that they are pretty much just as stupid as anyone else, because policy is not about smart. I mean, smart helps. But policy is fundamentally about domain knowledge, and that knowledge is acquired only by spending a great deal of time thinking about a pretty small set of problems. Funnily enough, this is also how one gets good at finance, or neurosurgery, or nuclear physics.
[Hey Hollywood, Smugness Isn’t a Political Strategy, Bloomberg View, January 11, 2017]
Well, commentator: Observe thyself! McCardle starts off her latest Bloomberg piece, We Need Everyone at the Immigration Table (February 9, 2018) smugly, with a solid exhibition of domain ignorance:
Ten years ago, I would have cited immigration as a triumph of good policy over the popular will. A good chunk of the population opposed the levels of both legal and illegal immigration. They were strong enough to scuttle bipartisan deals that would regularize illegal immigrants, or increase the numbers of legal ones. But they couldn’t alter the status quo. The result might not represent good democracy, but it was good policy on both economic and humanitarian grounds.
Ten years on, this seems rather embarrassing. The dam broke, and the floodwaters that surged through propelled Donald Trump to the presidency. Yet the logic behind the old immigration consensus is as popular as ever.
“Good policy.” “Logic.” “The old immigration consensus.” Yeah, right.
One person who actually did have it right—and early—was the late Lawrence Auster. In Larry’s classic, booklet-length essay Huddled Cliches: Exposing the Fraudulent Arguments That Have Opened America’s Borders to the World (1997; PDF here, HTML here), he wrote:
[T]he post-1965 de-Europeanization of America is happening against the will of the American people. It is happening as a result of immigration laws which were passed through deceit and on which serious national debate has been systematically and ruthlessly suppressed.
[page number 39 in the PDF version; emphasis added]
And regarding “popular” … well, presumably because of the ruthless and systematic suppression that Larry called out, McArdle clearly lacks the domain knowledge that immigration is overwhelmingly unpopular with American citizens, as I wrote here last summer: Americans Don’t Know Much About Immigration, But Know What They Want: The ZERO OPTION! (Or…Less?).
Indeed, some of the commenters at McArdle’s article clearly are savvier and more knowledgeable than she is in this domain. A couple of comments in particular are of interest because they invoke the “huddled masses” sonnet by Emma Lazarus that defaces the Statue of Liberty, but they don’t do it in the usual, childishly-sentimental way.
Responding to a preceding comment by “Sigvald,” commenter “waterfowl” wrote:
I find it fascinating that no one citing Emma Lazarus ever gets around to “the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Because that would be, um, let’s just say, uncomplimentary to the people admitted.
That’s a good point to have in mind should someone bring up”the huddled masses” in conversation with you—be prepared to ask what they think of the “wretched refuse.”
And commenter “Bullitt315,” responding to the same comment by Sigvald, has an actual program:
My number one dream in the next 7 years of Trump presidency is [for] him to melt that stupid plaque down while saying “This is who we are.”
While we’re on the subject, there’s a passage about the statue and the accursed poem in Mark Steyn’s closing statement at the April 2016 Munk Debate in Toronto, wherein Steyn and Nigel Farage took the “Con” side against Louise Arbour and Simon Schama (“Pro”) on the motion “Be it resolved, give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
Here’s my transcription of the passage, which you’ll find in the video here:
I confess that I’ve never liked the Emma Lazarus poem that is stapled to the bottom of the Statue of Liberty. The French gave the Americans a fabulous statue of liberty, and the Americans nailed a third-rate poem to it and turned it into a celebration of mass migration. Liberty and mass migration have nothing to do with each other, and often, in fact, the latter can imperil the former.
[Emphasis as spoken]
It’s dismaying, though Steyn doesn’t mention it, that the infamous, third-rate poem apparently holds significant sway in Canada, too.