assimilation, civil religion, CNN, Donie O'Sullivan, illegal immigrants, Im-Politic, immigrants, Immigration, Irish-Americans, Mainstream Media, national identity, National Public Radio, Open Borders, Samuel P. Huningtom, Seymour Martin Lipset, The Washington Post, Tom Gjelten
The pro-Open Borders slant of the Mainstream Media has become so pervasive that the last few days alone have served up no less than two major instances by leading news organizations. One should be painfully obvious – at least to anyone familiar with the history of immigration in the United States and the nation’s (until unquestionably successful) approach towards assimilating newcomers. The other is more difficult to detect. Both also entail telling failures of professional judgment by writers and editors alike. You decide which (if either) is the most worrisome.
The obvious example of bias came from a Washington Post piece Sunday by National Public Radio correspondent Tom Gjelten. If you ignore the lessons Gjelten claims flow from that American immigration history, you can learn a lot from his article about (or be usefully reminded of) the various efforts made from the early 19th to the mid-20th century to address the various social and cultural issues large inflows from regions outside Britain (though still mainly from Europe) in particular posed. Of course, far too many were products of simple bigotry.
But Gjelten then ventures deeply into a dangerous fantasyland when he discusses those lessons and what they mean today. He all but explicitly states that, given the more recent waves of immigrants, now dominated by non-Europeans, Americans should not only reject race and ethnicity or religion the bases of their national identity. They should also reject using what’s long been called a “civil” or “political” religion – a group of political beliefs and values that can surely be argued over around the edges, but that surely closely approximates a formula developed by political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset. As Gjelten summarizes it: “liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and a laissez-faire approach to governance and daily life.”
Since I’d add separation of church and state, another common definition of Americanism – advanced by another political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington – is more problematic. “Anglo-Protestant culture and political values.” But if you think about it, it’s not that much more problematic, especially since the overlap between Lipset and Huntington is so substantial.
Moreover, look at the matter from the opposite perspective. How many other peoples and contemporary regions have created political values in particular (“cultural values” is a concept that’s much too sweeping and much too prone to intolerant abuse for me) that most Americans today would want to live under? Latin America? East Asia? The Middle East? Please. So if you employ a little common sense, and substitute something like “European Enlightenment” for “Anglo-Protestant,” you arrive at a basis for American identity that not only should offend no one, but that, more important, has underlain much of the nation’s extraordinary success.
But Gjelten seems not to agree. In response to Huntington’s (poorly formulated) contention that successful assimilation has entailed “people who were not white Anglo-Saxon Protestants [becoming] Americans by adopting America’s Anglo-Protestant culture and political values,” he maintains:
“Whether that had really happened or was even possible was debatable. ‘A nation of more than 130 cultural groups cannot hope to have all of them Anglo-Saxonized,’ argued Molefi Kete Asante in his book ‘The Painful Demise of Eurocentrism.’ Trying to do so, he argued, would only alienate minorities and deepen disunity.”
Yet having apparently dismissed civil religion as well as (rightly) race and ethnicity as the source of America’s national identity, does Gjelten come up with any viable alternatives? None that I can see. In fact, at this point, his article dissolves into an endorsement of concepts like “nondiscrimination,” “diversity,” and “multiculturalism” that are not only gauzy but lacking in any particular content.
The author maintains that what he terms “nondiscriminatory immigration” based on these empty principles has succeeded in America by making it “more resilient.” But his evidence can’t possibly impress: that “In comparison with Western European countries that have also received large numbers of immigrants, America has proved to be more capable of absorbing and successfully integrating a diverse population.” Of course, this observation practically defines “low bar.”
It’s Gjelten’s right to believe in a definition of national identity evidently distinguished only by what it isn’t – though he sure didn’t provide any examples of countries that have been held together adequately simply by ideals such as multiculturalism and diversity. It’s also his right to believe – as actually seems to be the case – that the idea of a national identity is either pointless or undesirable. But he should have the intellectual honesty to say so. Further, his editors should have had the competence to challenge his case more than they obviously did.
The other troubling instance of journalistic failure by a reporter and editors alike – this CNN post noting that a significant chunk of America’s illegal immigrant population is Irish. That’s unquestionably useful information. But neither author Donie O’Sullivan nor his editors had anything direct to say about the real significance of the article: It powerfully undercuts claims that President Trump’s immigration policies, and even his focus on illegal immigration, stem largely from racism.
Starting with its headline, the article does point out that the illegal Irish have a major advantage over much of the rest of the nation’s illegals – their ability to pass more easily for native-born since they’re white. So obviously, enforcement of immigration law nowadays will inevitably be affected to some extent by race and ethnicity. (At the same time, the article helpfully observes that there are many fewer Irish illegals than Mexican illegals in particular.)
O’Sullivan makes abundantly clear how much fear the administration’s policies have struck among the illegal Irish, and even presents some evidence that these fears have some basis in reality, their physical appearance edge notwithstanding. He quotes an official at an organization providing support services for all Irish newcomers as stating that “it seems that the ICE [immigration law enforcement] agents are using their discretion in a much greater capacity now than ever before.”
But it’s absolutely astonishing (or is it?) that the author says absolutely nothing about the screamingly obvious implication of this claim: It’s a sign that immigration law is being enforced in a race- and ethnicity-blind way. And even though the racism charge has deeply colored the national immigration debate especially since President Trump’s harsh description of some Mexican immigrants when he declared his candidacy for the White House, it’s equally astonishing (or is it?) that none of O’Sullivan’s editors at CNN apparently noted this fact’s omission or importance, either.
Bias-free journalism admittedly is difficult to produce, and the challenge is made all the more formidable by the numerous forms bias can take, and how difficult many can be to spot. All the same, these Washington Post and CNN offerings stand as vivid reminders of how far the Mainstream Media that still dominate news dissemination in our democracy remain from meeting it.