Friday, May 1, 2009

Two Plus Two

Assuming that you haven't been living under a rock, you may want to put your sunglasses on for a while, because I'm about to fire off a couple of blindingly obvious statements, and I don't want to damage your vision.

  1. Putting an end to illegal immigration is an important issue for Republicans/Conservatives. This is despite the fact that their way of going about it, sealing the border, is patently unrealistic, mainly because they don't also want to crack down on businesses to dry up the supply of jobs.
  2. If you ever want to drive public support for an initiative in the United States, your best bet, far and away, is to create fear of the alternative(s), and then appeal to that fear.
So we shouldn't be shocked that conservative commentators are using the current Fear Flavor of the Day, swine flu, to try and drive support for crackdowns on illegal immigration. It should be no more surprising than having the sun rise in the East every morning. Treating the whole of Mexico as a nation of fence-jumping Typhoid Marys may be reprehensible, but it's nothing extraordinary. It's basic political mathematics. We should be more surprised when activists for a given cause willfully ignore the opportunity to do a little (or a lot of) fear mongering, given its general effectiveness.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
H. L. Mencken
To be sure, I'm not certain, even given the utter banality of this most recent tempest in a teapot, MSNBC's breathless story is as much of a waste of time and bandwidth as it first struck me. But I do think that in their rush to score Lefty Points against Michael Savage, Jay Severin and so on they concentrated too much on the menace of imaginary hobgoblins rather than a more import issue - namely how readily sectors of the American public can be roused to alarm.

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