Should we ban the phrases “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” from comments?

A rule of this blog is that undocumented immigrants are not to be referred to as “illegals” or “illegal.”

But I do allow “illegal alien,” even though it’s not a phrase I’d use myself. Back when I made the rule, my thought was that it was a phrase used both by legal agencies and by mainstream news sources, so it seemed a bit weird to ban it here.

But that was over a decade ago. Things have changed since then.

NYC is banning the term “illegal alien” when used to demean someone. And neither the phrase “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” are used by mainstream news sources much (although they’re both common in right-wing news) – in fact, those terms are banned in many news outlets.

On the other hand, it’s still a common phrase in laws and in the courts.

Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor said in an interview:

To dub every immigrant a criminal because they’re undocumented, to call them “illegal aliens,” seemed, and has seemed, insulting to me. Many of these people are people I know, and they’re no different than the people I grew up with or who share my life. And they’re human beings with a serious legal problem, but the word “illegal” alien made them sound like those other kinds of criminals. And I think people then paint those individuals as something less than worthy human beings. And it changes the conversation when you recognize that this is a different—it’s a regulatory problem. We’ve criminalized a lot of it, but it started as, and fundamentally remains, a regulatory problem, not a criminal one.

On the whole, I’m leaning towards banning “illegal alien” and perhaps “illegal immigrant” from Alas going forward. Jeffrey Toobin speaks for me when he says:

There does seem to be a consensus against the use of the term by the people most affected by it, who happen to be a vulnerable minority seeking a better life, and that’s good enough for me.

I’m going to leave a few days for comments before enacting a new rule. But I think I’m unlikely to change my mind on this one.

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81 Responses to Should we ban the phrases “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” from comments?

  1. 1
    Kat says:

    That’s some interesting timing. Not only have I finally updated my WP profile (and thereby my subscriptions) to get back into blogs I’ve been following, but today I started Aviva Chomsky’s book ‘”They Take Our Jobs!”: and 20 Other Myths about Immigration’. It was originally published back in 2007, but was updated in 2018 to reflect changes in our current socio-political climate.

    While not uninformed on the topic, I definitely am learning more about terms like “illegal alien” or “undocumented worker,” and the racial implications of the origins and current usage of the terms. And based on that awareness, I am even more fervently in agreement with eliminating the usage of the terms “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” from any new source, community or forum that cares about showing basic respect and human dignity.

    The default criminalization of anyone who comes here in possession of desperation and poverty, vs. in possession of a employer sponsorship document, is obscene. And yes, I know that the law doesn’t make any form of immigration without that document illegal, but one could easily argue that the president (at the least) believes we should, and people without that document aren’t treated as criminal-by-default by many in our society. If that weren’t true, you wouldn’t have administration members and citizens claiming, “I don’t have a problem with immigration, just as long as they follow the law,” while denouncing those fleeing Central America as mostly gang members and criminals, and calling their migration illegal, despite the fact that they are within their legal right to request asylum.

    Even the term “undocumented” has its issues and ties to a racially inhumane past – though it does provide a relatively neutral way to refer to people from a census, research, legislative position – but it has far less of a stigma or an indictment that the word “illegal.” I haven’t used the latter term in many years, and if I get the impression someone has the education/awareness of why it’s disrespectful or prejudice to call someone an “illegal alien,” and they’re still using it, I generally disassociate with that person.

    I haven’t maintained a traditional blog with comments in a some time – though I am considering a new one at the moment. But regardless of the timing, I would certainly feel justified in expecting any commentators on my own blog (or my Medium for that matter) to refrain from using the word “illegal” to refer to immigrants in any way, much how I would expect them to refrain from using terms like “they jewed me down,” “I was gypped,” or “indian giver.” It doesn’t matter if there was a time when few people realized the connotations and biases in those terms, and used them freely, without any deliberate malice. We know better now, and we have a responsibility to demand better behavior from our communities – particularly ones we manage ourselves.

  2. 2
    J. Squid says:

    My failing brain really got that one mixed up, huh?

  3. 3
    Jeremy Redlien says:

    Just my two cents here but I’ve kind of wondered why the phrase “illegal x” is only used in this particular set of circumstances. Do we call we jaywalkers illegal pedestrians? People speeding illegal drivers? Has anyone engaged in shoplifting ever been called an illegal shopper?

    It does feel, if not racist, then at least a bit nationalistic.

    (I was going to also ask if we would call an arsonist an illegal pyromaniac or illegal firestarter but those sound like way too cool band names to get my point across)

  4. 4
    J. Squid says:

    Otoh, “illegal aliens”, when used, seems to group ALL immigrants (refugees, asylum seekers, permanent residents, guest workers, etc.) into one giant group of illegal people. It makes clear the speakers feelings that all immigrants are undesirable by the assumption that they’re ALL illegal.

  5. 5
    Gracchus says:

    J Squid, maybe I am just not familiar with the US terminology, but doesn’t the phrase “illegal alien” as it is normally used usually exclude permanent residents?

  6. 6
    J. Squid says:

    …doesn’t the phrase “illegal alien” as it is normally used usually exclude permanent residents?

    It used to, but it sure doesn’t seem like that’s the popular use these days.

  7. 7
    Petar says:

    …doesn’t the phrase “illegal alien” as it is normally used usually exclude permanent residents?

    It used to, but it sure doesn’t seem like that’s the popular use these days.

    Do you have a quote for that? I’ve never heard it applied to international students, green card holders, work visa holders, etc. as long as they remain in status.

    I do not like the word ‘illegal’ applied to people, but I have no problem with it being applied to actions. Saying that someone has “illegally entered the country”, or has “illegally immigrated to the United States” is A-OK with me.

    Note that the above does not describe people who have applied for asylum within the legally allotted time. But I will gladly use it to describe people who have entered the country while avoiding checkpoints, and have been living here for years without seeking asylum… as long as I do not like them, and do not want to be liked by them.

    Words are tools, and many tools make good weapons. Nothing wrong with using words to hurt people if that’s your intention. Hurting people without meaning to do so is the mark of the clumsy and/or the stupid.

  8. 8
    J. Squid says:

    You don’t have to look much farther afield than this blog to find people calling asylum seekers “illegal aliens” or “illegals”. fb is full of that shit, as are the comments sections of almost any US newspaper. I find myself shouting at people online, “They are legal asylum seekers. None of these people have committed any crime.” That’s what I’m basing my opinion of the new common definition on. People specifically calling legal asylum seekers “illegal” or “illegals” or “illegal aliens.” Puts the lie to the claim that they’re “only against illegal immigration” when they call legal asylum seekers “illegal.”

    But maybe I’m the only one who’s experienced that over the last few years. Wouldn’t be the first time something like that happened.

  9. 9
    Petar says:

    People who presents themselves at a port of entry, and seek asylum are asylum seekers.

    People who enter the country away from a point of entry, make their way to an immigration office and seek asylum are asylum seekers.

    People who enter the country away from a port of entry and fail to seek asylum in the allotted period are nor asylum seekers. I’ve met plenty of these people, and the vast majority of them have been economic migrants seeking a better life for themselves. My gut feeling is that they are mostly good for California, as a whole. But I also think that it is fair to say that they have “illegally immigrated” here.

    And finally, there are people who come here away from ports of entry, and get intercepted by Border Patrol or ICE personnel before they have any chance to seek asylum. They can claim that they were on their way to do so, even if there is no evidence to support their claim, nor any evidence that they meet any criteria for asylum.

    When others calls such people “illegal aliens”, I may not approve of the language, but I do not immediately assume that the same term would be extended to a foreign student, a permanent resident, etc.

    I also do not assume that the people using the term are aware that the ICE detains asylum seekers even if they follow all proper procedures. They may think that this fate is reserved only for those detained while crossing the border secretly. I certainly once thought this used to be the case… and despite being an immigrant myself, I never bothered to learn what was actually the case.

  10. 10
    Kate says:

    When others calls such people “illegal aliens”, I may not approve of the language, but I do not immediately assume that the same term would be extended to a foreign student, a permanent resident, etc.

    I’ve seen it applied to U.S. citizens just for speaking Spanish, or being Asian.

  11. 11
    Gracchus says:

    It is interesting that the assumption is that when we describe something as “illegal” we disapprove of it. This is probably true for a lot of people, but for me personally it doesn’t make sense.

    I personally (recognising my privilege here) am OK with describing somebody who is undocumented as having done something illegal, but that is less a judgement of the people, more a judgement of the law that makes it illegal.

    Like, I don’t have a problem with saying a woman who gets an abortion in Poland is doing something illegal, but that is a judgement of the law, not the woman. Ditto, if I say political protest is illegal in Saudi Arabia, I am not judging the protesters.

    Note – as I said, this reasoning comes from a place of privilege, so I realise it is secondary to what the people affected by these descriptions mean.

  12. 12
    Mandolin says:

    Personally, I would probably ditch alien and keep immigrant, which is probably also what I thought 10 years ago so YMMV.

  13. 13
    hf says:

    The established term in US English is Sooner.

    I would also accept “moonshiner,” but that seems needlessly confusing.

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    Sorry I’ve been away for a bit; work pressures.

    The word “alien” has been used in the laws of English-speaking peoples since at least the 16th century and probably before. It was certainly used at the beginning of the 17th century, as anyone of you who owns a copy of the King James Authorized Version of the Bible (first published 1611) can read for yourselves. I speculate that people think it’s use is dehumanizing because 300+ years later science fiction writers, looking for a term to describe people from another planet, selected the term “alien” because someone from another planet is by default not a citizen of ANY country they enter. Which seems to me to be evidence of its common use based on its primary definition at that time. But outside of that literary niche it’s main use is to define non-citizens present in a country. It has been used in English-based law on this continent since colonial days, and current U.S. law (both Federal and the various States) have consistently used it for that purpose. I personally remember seeing public service announcements in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s on TV reminding aliens to report to their closest Post Office during January to re-register their place of residence (along with a cartoon of a line of aliens waiting to enter the Post Office to do so; the women in hats and dresses and the men in hats, suits and ties, all quite middle class respectable). The term “illegal alien” is used in Federal law to describe aliens who are illegally in the United States; this search of the U.S. Code turned up 18 instances of the use of the term “illegal aliens” in Federal law and a similar search turned up 5 more instances of the term “illegal alien”. A search of the term “alien” alone turned up well over 800 instances. The use of the terms “alien” to describe a non-citizen present in the U.S. and “illegal alien” to describe an alien who entered the U.S. illegally is thus not something recently cooked up by conservatives to slander or dehumanize non-citizens who have entered the U.S. illegally. They are long-established terms both at law and in common discourse.

    When we talk about immigration these days in a political context it generally centers on what the law is, how it is being enforced and the legal status of the people under consideration, so it makes even more sense to use the proper legal terms when talking about illegal aliens vs. resident aliens (i.e., legal immigrants), asylum seekers, etc. That’s not disrespectful (although to apply the term incorrectly to people legally seeking asylum is, regardless of the circumstances under which they seek it); and frankly I don’t think that people who evade and break the law have any standing to demand they be referred to by any term they may prefer instead of the proper legal term. I am not concerned at all with offending them. But to use euphemisms such as “undocumented immigrants”, “immigrants”, “undocumented worker”, etc. is inaccurate; for example, not all people who enter the country intend to stay here permanently and thus are not immigrants, and not all of them are workers. But “alien” describes people whether nor not they are immigrants or workers or not, and if they are here illegally they are still illegal aliens even if they are not immigrants and whether or not they are employed. In fact, the term “immigrant” is doubly an incorrect euphemism because an immigrant is not necessarily an alien at all; someone who was born in a different country who came here and was naturalized is a citizen, but they are still an immigrant.

  15. 15
    RonF says:

    Kat:

    the racial implications of the origins and current usage of the terms.

    As I’ve pointed out, the origin of the term predates the establishment of the United States or any of the colonies that it was created from, so I’d be interested to see what the claim is of any racial components of its origin.

    to refrain from using the word “illegal” to refer to immigrants in any way, much how I would expect them to refrain from using terms like “they jewed me down,” “I was gypped,” or “indian giver.”

    This makes no sense to me. The last three terms specifically refer to a particular ethnic group, and in a negative way based on particular stereotypes. To refer to someone as an illegal immigrant (or illegal alien) has nothing to do with any given ethnic group and provides a means to differentiate immigrants who are here legally from those who are here illegally – an important distinction.

    Gracchus:

    J Squid, maybe I am just not familiar with the US terminology, but doesn’t the phrase “illegal alien” as it is normally used usually exclude permanent residents?

    Yes, it does, and quite specifically. J Squid’s protestations to the contrary make no sense to me. “Illegal alien” does not and has never referred to resident aliens and is not commonly conflated with them. I do not see any basis to claim conflating the two is a common usage. I imagine that you mean by permanent residents are resident aliens. I’m a native born citizen and I’m a permanent resident, and so are naturalized citizens who are thus legal immigrants and no longer aliens.

    It is my impression that the resistance to using the term comes from people who think that people should be able to freely cross national borders – especially ours – for whatever reason they determine serves them best and that enforcing our current immigration laws is thus immoral or unjust. Since they support people being able to do so regardless of our law, they want to inhibit the ability to distinguish between the status of those who have done so legally vs. illegally. Control the words people use to express a concept and you control whether or not they can express the concept itself. 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual.

  16. 16
    Mandolin says:

    I don’t have an objection to “illegal alien” as a legal term, really. I just think that in one of those quirks of language evolution, aliens took over the word alien, and in a non-legalistic context, it mostly just sounds weird.

    There’s nothing wrong with the word niggardly, and part of me wants to place my flag on that hill and die on it, but also– eh. If I need it, I’ll use it; if not, I’ll probably try to find something else.

    Broadly, changing terminology in order to avoid nasty connotations is a loser’s game. There is no way for it to work. If you introduce a term to describe a group that is badly regarded, then it may start out without nasty connotations, but it will accumulate them. The problem isn’t the term — it’s the regard. I guess you can change every time it gets untenable in the same way you change perfectly good diapers when they become shitty diapers. Grumpily, I don’t want to, but I see the point. But I don’t think there’s a particular point in trying to figure out “why doesn’t this word work anymore, oh it’s because X can’t be an adjective, people can’t be illegal” — the reason is “a lot of bigoted people say and think shitty things about undocumented immigrants (folks with mental disabilities, black people, and so on).”

  17. 17
    Jeremy Redlien says:

    Ron, if you are going to bring up 1984, you should at least be aware that Orwell opposed using racist language, which is what most people extolling the elimination of illegal alien are trying to point out is the whole point of the term as it is used today.

    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/dec/30/georgeorwell.society

    Also, saying that the government has an absolute right to determine how people are referred to and that said people (or anyone else) get no say in the matter, while citing 1984 to back up your points, probably flies past the actual lessons of 1984 (which was about the government controlling people’s language in order to control people’s perception of reality).

    That is, the purpose of using dehumanizing language is to dehumanize those people the language is applied to. Or to put it another way, to create the perception that they are less then human.

    So if one were to seriously treat 1984 as a warning, not as an instruction manual, one would have no choice but to vigorously oppose the government use of the term illegal alien being actually applied to people. Just saying.

  18. 18
    Appro says:

    J. Squid,

    I kind of live in my own bubble, but I have never heard of legal US residents being called illegal aliens. Or even legal asylum seekers who went through the legal paths.

    As to “illegal” versus “undocumented”, there still has to be a way to make a distinction between illegal and legal aliens. Everyone knows what “undocumented” means, so that’s fine too. It just seems like unnecessary virtue-signaling and show-empathy for the currently designed victim group, but I’ll use “undocumented” if that’s the way it’s going. At some point in the future, “undocumented” is going to take on the same connotations as “illegal”, because that’s what it means. Meaning people are going to be sitting around in bars complaining about those “damn undocumented” or the like.

  19. 19
    Appro says:

    Just to expand a bit on my previous comment, I think the euphemism incubators (whereever they may be) are going to have to churn out a different term for “undocumented” so they are ready in the future.

    I’ve seen this constant turnover with regard to blacks.

    A long time ago, they were Negroes. My grandmother called them colored people. Then black. Then Afro-American for a short period, but that sounded too much like the hair style. Then African American. Then people of color (my grandmother is coming back into style, apparently). People of color will eventually be on its way out: I head two high-school students mockingly say that there were too many “people of color” (with kind of sneering emphasis) at some place.

  20. 20
    Ampersand says:

    I’ve seen this constant turnover with regard to blacks.

    And yet the term “Blacks,” which hasn’t always been the term, has remained acceptable literally for generations.”African American” is a more formal/academic term that has remained acceptable for how long now? Decades at least. “People of color” dates back to the 1800s, but has been in popular usage since the 80s.

    I mean, sure, if you search, you can find people objecting to these terms (there are millions of people, after all). But all three terms have been generally acceptable for decades. So what’s the problem, exactly?

    It just seems like unnecessary virtue-signaling and show-empathy for the currently designed victim group,

    I can live with the horrible sin of “show-empathy,” Is that new conservative-speak? I’ve heard of “virtue-signaling” and “designated victim group” before, but I haven’t heard “show-empathy” or “designed victim group.”

  21. 21
    Appro says:

    I can live with the horrible sin of “show-empathy,” Is that new conservative-speak? I’ve heard of “virtue-signaling” and “designated victim group” before, but I haven’t heard “show-empathy” or “designed victim group.”

    Believe it or not, I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. Sometimes I think the left has some good ideas, probably mostly I’m libertarian, I absolutely don’t like “bible-thumpers” or other sorts of conservatives. I agree with a lot of things that the comedian Bill Maher says.

    “Designed victim group” is the quickly and sloppily typed version of “designated victim group”. I didn’t know it was a conservative thing; it just popped into my head.

    Show-empathy is what I observe going on sometimes. People who aren’t really racist or sexist are sometimes eviscerated if they make a “mistake”. Sometimes just because they are socially awkward. I remember, for instance, some guy led a team that landed a spacecraft on an asteroid, and all that the press could do was tear him apart because he happened to have a doofy shirt on (a present from his girlfriend) with scantily clad women and some kind of Hawaii theme. He probably just picked up the first shirt on the floor because he was thinking about other things. The show-empathy is superficially for women, but the real deal may be that they love to eviscerate anyone in general (hence no real empathy) or white males, for instance, which would be the opposite of empathy for everyone else.

    Worse, the people doing the eviscerating if someone makes a mistake are sometimes internally worse racists and sexists themselves. I think it’s called “projection”, it definitely occurs, and I really find it to be a strange thing.

  22. 22
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Words come in an out of polite usage over time. They always have, and they always will (I have colleagues who have worked on Euphamisms coming in and out of fashion in Old English, and it’s the same pattern as Appro has described). Saying “but this was totally acceptable in the past” or “but this will all change again in the future” is, in the context of discussing what is best done now, is a facile argument.

    It seems to me that “virtue signalling” and “show empathy” are also meaningless criticisms unless you can show actual hypocricy. I can’t tell by just reading someone else’s words, especially not people who I only know via online writing, whether they emapthy they express is real or not. I can only judge that in the context of their other words and actions on the topic.

    Now, I personally don’t actually like the term “undocumented immigrant”, because it is not clear to me who exactly is supposed to have documentation. Does it mean that the immigrant doesn’t have a document to prove their legal right of entry? That would include asylum seekers, who often don’t have documents, but generally are allowed to enter based on international treaties. It also would have included me for the short time back in 2006 when I lost my I-94 form before it was replaced. Does it mean that the government does not have a record of the immigrant? That doesn’t make much sense, given that many immigrants appear on census records even if they did not have right of entry.

    I don’t like the term “alien” because in today’s parlance it clearly refers to a non-human lifeform, and that makes it odd to be referred to as one (as I know from experience).

    If I were constructing the conversation from scratch, my personal preference would be “illegal entrant” to refer to people who entered in contravention of immigration law, and “illegal resident” to refer to people who remain in the country without legal justification. But what matters is not my personal tastes, but rather the prejudices connoted by the terms. And because of the history of usage and the current discourse, I believe “undocumented immigrant” is the best choice.

  23. 23
    Gracchus says:

    “I have never heard of legal US residents being called illegal aliens. Or even legal asylum seekers who went through the legal paths.”

    I have definitely heard asylum seekers being described as illegal aliens. I think this is because a lot of people view the laws that permit asylum seeking as illegitimate, and/or assume that most of the people using these laws are not “real” asylum seekers, so they view the whole process as a violation of (to be charitable) the spirit of the law. Less charitably, some people seem to feel that international agreements, even when integrated into national law, are not lawful. (This is a condition that a small number of extremist constitutionalists might explicitly say, but a much larger of people seem to implicitly hold).

    It’s not an American example, but Matteo Salvini has described asylum seekers arriving from Africa as “illegal immigration” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/16/italy-bars-two-more-refugee-ships-from-ports). This is not really that much of an outlier.

    So while I’m not aware of widespread use of “illegal aliens” to refer to people with residence permits, it is often used to describe asylum seekers, which is inaccurate. Even if an asylum claim is 100% spurious (which I am pretty sure is extremely rare, but I guess it has probably happened somewhere, at some time), the spurious asylum seeker is still going through the legal process. Having an asylum claim rejected doesn’t retroactively render the attempt to make the claim illegal.

    So, while I am personally not 100% uncomfortable with describing people as “illegal immigrants” (although see my qualifiers above re: privilege), because to my admittedly rather clueless ear it does at least accurately describe the relationship of their actions to the law, there is no doubt that the term is often used in relation to asylum seekers.

  24. 24
    RonF says:

    Jeremey Redlein @ 17:

    … which is what most people extolling the elimination of illegal alien are trying to point out is the whole point of the term as it is used today.

    I don’t see any validity to your claim that the whole point of using the term “illegal alien” is to promote racism .

    That is, the purpose of using dehumanizing language is to dehumanize those people the language is applied to.

    Describing non-citizens who have entered the U.S. illegally as “illegal aliens” is not dehumanizing.

    Also, saying that the government has an absolute right to determine how people are referred to and that said people (or anyone else) get no say in the matter ….

    I didn’t say that. People do have a right to determine what kind of language that the government uses. That’s one reason why we elect representatives to make our laws. But people who break the law don’t have the right to demand that we use terms to describe them that ignore or obscure that they are law-breakers, especially when they are not citizens. What we have here is not the government forcing people to use particular language. It is a group of people (independent of the government) who support breaking a particular set of laws who are trying to force all of us (not the government and outside of the use of the force of government) to use language that does not clearly label those people breaking those laws as law breakers. It is my opinion that this is being done in order to obscure the fact that they are law breakers and make it difficult during debate on the matter to clearly distinguish those who act within the law and those who do not. Think of all the times you see people or laws described as “anti-immigrant” and groups of people described as “immigrants” in the media with no distinguishing between people who are here legally and those who are not and people’s different attitudes and political positions with regards to the two groups. Unlike 1984 the people trying to do this are not part of the government. But they are trying to exercise power of the rest of the country.

    Appro, @ 18:

    I kind of live in my own bubble, but I have never heard of legal US residents being called illegal aliens.

    No, you’re not living in a bubble. You’re living in normal American society.

    Amp, @ 20:

    but I haven’t heard “show-empathy” or “designed victim group.”

    Nor have I.

    Eytan, @ 22:

    I don’t like the term “alien” because in today’s parlance it clearly refers to a non-human lifeform,

    If you’re talking about a science-fiction book, TV show or film, yes. But that does not define all of common discourse. If you’re talking about immigration or citizenship status it clearly does NOT refer to a non-human lifeform, it refers to a very human non-citizen present in the country. People understand the distinction.

    Gracchus, @ 23:

    I have definitely heard asylum seekers being described as illegal aliens.

    As have I. In fact, I even believed it myself with regards to people who cross the border illegally and then claim asylum status until I learned more about the law. But the fact that some people use a term incorrectly doesn’t mean that the term itself becomes invalid to use overall.

  25. 25
    Mandolin says:

    I still think virtue signaling is positive. As positive as virtue? No, probably not. But it signifies the degree to which prevailing social values are considered important. I don’t care if people are signaling their virtue by refraining from using slurs, or actually upset by it; if they don’t call people “w———-,” it’s a win.

    I think my problem with the term is that we already had analogs for it (shouting your faith in the public square instead of going to church for instance) and it was introduced as a slur against a form of it people wanted to suggest was a new innovation which it wasn’t. It has since been generalized beyond usefulness so that it no longer applies solely to dysfunctional virtue signaling.

    Virtue signaling is fine. Bad virtue signaling – used to conceal hypocrisy, sow pain in some way, etc – is bad. Silly virtue signaling – because someone is over enthusiastic and starry-eyed — is silly. Communicating to each other pack members that we share important values — completely unchangeable social behavior.

  26. 26
    J. Squid says:

    You’re all invited to my fb feed to see the endless naming of legal asylum seekers as “illegal aliens.” And I don’t hang with the most conservative set of fb users. Not by a long shot. I spent 3 months straight, earlier this year, repeating over and over that legal asylum seekers are in no way illegal. Not illegal aliens, not illegal immigrants, not criminals. Both Trump, in particular, and the right wing, in general, encourage that belief with near daily exhortations of invasions and illegal aliens and caravans of war approaching from Central America. If you are living in a world in which that doesn’t happen you are living in a world in which GOP propaganda and the endless sewage flow of words from Trump’s mouth doesn’t exist.

    How I wish that world was the real world.

  27. 27
    Ampersand says:

    Think of all the times you see people or laws described as “anti-immigrant” and groups of people described as “immigrants” in the media with no distinguishing between people who are here legally and those who are not and people’s different attitudes and political positions with regards to the two groups.

    The idea that conservatives aren’t interested in targeting legal immigrants is nonsense. Republicans are spending $200 million dollars looking for excuses to revoke the citizenships of naturalized American citizens. From that article:

    Take, for example, Baljinder Singh, an immigrant from India who is also among the first targets of Operation Janus. Singh has lived in the United States for 26 years, 12 of those as a U.S. citizen. Like Khan, he married an American, has no criminal record, and followed all the required legal steps to gain his citizenship. But after the government scoured its newly digitized fingerprint records, it discovered that a few months after Singh arrived in the United States as a teenager he was ordered deported under the name Davinder Singh—a misspelling of his first name that was more likely a typo or an interpreter’s error than an effort to commit fraud. As with Khan, the government’s own records suggest Singh never knew about the proceedings against him under a different name, and so never had a chance to clear up what may have been nothing more than a clerical error. Nonetheless, Singh was denaturalized last year.

    Back to Ron:

    …they want to inhibit the ability to distinguish between the status of those who have done so legally vs. illegally. Control the words people use to express a concept and you control whether or not they can express the concept itself.

    Virtually no one is actually confused about what “undocumented immigrant” means. When I say “I’m worried about the free speech of undocumented immigrants,” you, Ron, don’t for a second think I’m talking about the free speech of naturalized Americans like Ivana Trump or Eddie Van Halen or Madeleine Albright. You might as well claim that by calling my books “graphic novels,” I’m trying to cover up that I draw comic books.

    Your comment here is making some very nasty accusations about people who prefer the term “undocumented immigrant” having hidden, nefarious motives. Are you saying I have those motives?

    But they are trying to exercise power of the rest of the country.

    Ron, you favor a political system in which the minority – white conservatives like yourself – gets a big thumb on the scales in elections so that you can win without having to moderate your views to make them acceptable to a majority of voters. So when you talk about “trying to exercise power over the rest of the country,” you have zero credibility.

    ETA: If people who say “we should say ‘undocumented immigrant,’ not ‘illegal alien'” are “trying to exercise power over the rest of the country,” then aren’t you doing the exact same thing when you say that other people should be saying “anti-illegal-immigrant,” rather than “anti-immigrant,” when describing Republican views?

  28. 28
    Kate says:

    Gracchus, @ 23:

    I have definitely heard asylum seekers being described as illegal aliens.

    Ron @24

    As have I. In fact, I even believed it myself with regards to people who cross the border illegally and then claim asylum status until I learned more about the law. But the fact that some people use a term incorrectly doesn’t mean that the term itself becomes invalid to use overall.

    You, like millions of other ordinary Americans, did that out of ignorance. Republican politicians do not do it out of ignorance. They know what they are doing.

    The idea that conservatives aren’t interested in targeting legal immigrants is nonsense. Republicans are spending $200 million dollars looking for excuses to revoke the citizenships of naturalized American citizens.

    Or how about the children in the country legally receiving lifesaving medical care under the medical deferred action program?
    https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/ill-immigrant-kids-still-in-limbo-despite-trump-admin-promises-70962245527

  29. 29
    Gracchus says:

    @J.Squid: I think when people like your FB feed compatriots call asylum seekers “illegal immigrants” they are saying that because they think they are breaking what the law -should- be, and that what it is is not really relevant. E.g. they see the laws on asylum as illegitimate, and thus they don’t defend somebody from the charge of illegal behaviour.

  30. 30
    J. Squid says:

    Sure, Gracchus. It’s conceivable that your imagination about folks on my fb feed is accurate and my experience communicating directly with them has left me really fuzzy on what they actually mean.

  31. 31
    Gracchus says:

    Well, I am open to alternative theories – why do you think they would call asylum seekers “illegal immigrants”? Do they just have a factual disagreement with you on what the law actually is?

  32. 32
    J. Squid says:

    It’s not a trick question and there’s a simple answer. It’s because they’ve never actually looked at the law to learn what it says and they take right wing propaganda as truth. Ignorance + propaganda works pretty well for the propagandists.

  33. 33
    Gracchus says:

    So the ongoing disagreement is because even when shown what the law says, they assume that the right wing propaganda is correct?

    I can believe all this, but I think there is nonetheless something more than just a factual disagreement. I think people believe that asylum seeking is such a morally wrong act that no government would pass a law permitting it. So they can dismiss any evidence that hey, actually this is legal as just propaganda.

  34. 34
    J. Squid says:

    I can believe all this, but I think there is nonetheless something more than just a factual disagreement.

    Well, sure! Confirmation bias plays a big part. I think you may be underestimating the impact of confirmation bias and just how cognitively dissonant people will get to avoid having to confront their confirmation bias.

    I see just that happening this week with the Trump/G7/phony emoluments clause claim that there is nothing illegal in Trump directing foreign payments to himself. You can drop the link to the emoluments clause right there and they’ll tell you that that’s not the real meaning or can’t possibly be true and then go happily along defending Trump’s corruption.

    This is precisely what right wing propaganda has done to asylum seekers. It’s turned them into illegals in the minds of their marks. It’s turned ALL immigrants into illegals in the minds of their marks. That’s why I’ve come to object to the word “illegal” attached to anything about immigration.

  35. 35
    Gracchus says:

    Honestly, I thought what I said earlier, that you didnt much like, about people feeling that laws allowing asylum seekers broke some kind of fundamental legality above actual written laws was also an example of confirmation bias.

    I still feel that this is an important factor. Maybe not specifically to the people you talk to on FB, but to the larger group who describe people who followed US law in emigrating as “illegal aliens”. Its the same sense in which many nationalists talk about “corruption” in the sense of changing cultural values away from what they consider the “true values”.

  36. 36
    J. Squid says:

    Honestly, I thought what I said earlier, that you didnt much like, about people feeling that laws allowing asylum seekers broke some kind of fundamental legality above actual written laws was also an example of confirmation bias.

    But that’s not what they think. They think that asylum seekers have broken laws and are illegal immigrants. Confirmation bias and cognitive bias allow them to believe that one can seek asylum legally while believing that every asylum seeker is an illegal immigrant. Confirmation bias can also allow them to believe that all asylum seekers are illegal immigrants.

    They don’t think that they broke “some kind of fundamental legality above actual written law.” They think they have broken the actual written law.

    I’m not sure how I can possibly make this more clear but I’ll make one last attempt…

    These people who believe asylum seekers are illegal immigrants also believe that every one of these asylum seekers has broken the actual, written law.

    While it’s certainly anecdotal data, I don’t have the money or means to do a large scale study and I have not seen a large scale study on this issue. As a result, my anecdotal data is the best I have to go on and it does seem consonant with the greater mass of MAGA loving bigots who I’ve had the displeasure to come across IRL, online and in print.

    So I’m going to stick with what I have personally witnessed as the reason these people call legal asylum seekers “illegals” until better evidence is provided that supports a different conclusion.

    (Somehow – and I’m not sure why – this dispute with you reminds me of all the years I spent responding to blog comments with, “Women are people. Treat women like people because, weirdly, they are people. Just like you.” Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m stating the obvious over and over again?)

  37. 37
    Kat says:

    Ron, the bulk of your argument is predicated on one huge presumption and some lack of historical context. The political attitudes in this country that surround “illegal immigration” didn’t remotely originate in this country. They are entirely centered around that fact that our central body of citizens, particularly those who formed our earliest governments and legal documents, were European immigrants who were inclined to deny basic citizenship rights to people of color, including people originally living in Mexican territories that were conquered or purchased by the U.S. interests, black people, members of the First Nation tribes and immigrants from Asia, the Philippines, etc.

    I highly recommend Avivia Chomsky’s ‘”They Take Our Jobs!”: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration’ to get a better overview of the very long history of European settlers in the Americas and their colonization and alienation of people of color, specifically by the criminalizing of unauthorized immigration and the notion that only a privileged few should be given citizenship, while certain basic rights should only ever be afforded to citizens.

    Also, the King James bible is notoriously criticized for inherently sexist and racist language choices, reflecting the systemic racism and sexism of the time. It turned slaves in to servants and women of childbearing age into virgins. The fact that “inalienable rights” was an early political phrase in this country, and a large portion of the Europeans settling here were of a Protestant leaning, is also no coincidence – nor is the popularity of the KJV with Protestants in the “New World.”

    Also, “(or illegal alien) has nothing to do with any given ethnic group.” I refer you to Chomsky’s book again. Yes, it absolutely does have to do with ethnic groups, it’s just that the groups targeted by such language and attitudes have shifted many times in the history of this country. But the pattern of its application is pretty close to universal, in that it was applied to ethnic groups of a non-European variety, non-white variety.

    ““Illegal alien” does not and has never referred to resident aliens and is not commonly conflated with them.”

    And yet, right now there are people across the country who want to use the term to refer to people coming to our borders requesting asylum, which they are entirely within their legal rights to do. Even when it’s pointed out to them, on national television, that many of those being detained at the border, or in I.C.E. facilities, are following U.S. and international law, they say things like, “I’m all for immigration, but only if it’s legal, and these people need to go home and apply for it properly.” As if that’s generally how asylum requests work, or that it was as easy as filling out a few forms and waiting your turn.

    For that matter, whenever you hear about a person from the U.S. telling an immigrant to “go back where they came from,” without them having the first clue whether that person is an illegal resident, a legal resident or a naturalized citizen, or them simply ignoring that the person is demonstrably a legal citizen, you’re looking at a “alienating” example. And yes, that includes when our president publicly tells multiple current members of congress to “go back to where they came from,” one of whom was born here.

    “It is my impression that the resistance to using the term comes from people who think that people should be able to freely cross national borders – especially ours.”

    Your impression is wrong. Open borders is something espoused by a small fraction of those who criticize the use of the words “alien” and “illegal” being applied to immigration. The point is that the words are used to criminalize entering the country by the “wrong kind” of immigrants, to make anyone who is here without authorization a defacto dangerous criminal. The term is rarely, if ever, applied to immigrants who came from predominantly “white” cultures. And it’s usage is largely tied to our history of turning legal immigration into illegal immigration to serve racist and corporate agendas. There are historical cases of First Nation members being called immigrants, who could not legally be granted the rights of citizenry. Our Declaration of Independence may not have phrased it as such, but our laws of the era clearly defined all white men as being created equal, and the rest of us should’ve genuinely feel lucky their superior intellect and moral compass is in charge. Our immigration laws once tried to stem interracial marriage by making legal residency status for those marrying U.S. citizens (i.e. marry an American get a green card) not apply when the citizen was a woman and the man was an immigrant. Cubans and Haitians have been variously legally and illegally capable of entering the country without prior authorization, depending on our current political relationship with their leaders and/or dictators, our need to exploit them as cheap labor, of if they managed to get a foot onto our soil before announcing their request for asylum. People have died, in quite horrible and inhumane ways, because they exercised their legal right to seek asylum in our country at a time when the political climate was inclined to lock them up as criminals just for being here. We create global instability and then refuse to help those caught in our line of fire; even when they risked their lives on our behalf. And that is both a historical reality, and a present day one.

    The rhetoric behind a lot of your points is coming directly from the color-blind camps of U.S. ultra-conservatism, who ignore the historical context of European’s “inalienable right” to migrate and displace whomever is in our way, while using quotas and country limits to make immigration as difficult as possible from various countries of “brown people.” In other words, it’s all basic Fox News talking points. And it’s all about calling them criminals by default, so someone like Trump can equate them with violent criminals.

    The history of immigration law in this country is built almost entirely on racial biases, on colonization not just of the United States territories but of groups littered around the Americas and the world, and on the natural progression of taking land and resources from other ethnic groups and then saying, when they complain, “Well why don’t they just go somewhere else?” A phrase I borrowed from Chomsky’s very thorough detailing of the Cerrejón mine and the devastation it brought to the land, the health and the culture of the Wayuu people – who were themselves descended from a group of Africans who took over a Spanish slaver ship and freed themselves, then settling in Central America. And who were the original owners of that mine? Exxon. American interests built it, and they continue expanding it.

    And let me preemptively point out, that Chomsky is not the limit of of my knowledge, it just so happens that I finished it only yesterday and found it fascinating – and stomach-turning. While I largely knew about the myths presented in her book long before reading it, what her book did was fill in some key historical gaps in my awareness of just how long this history of using immigration and the promise of citizenship to control indigenous and colonized populations actually is. Similarly to how W. Kamau Bell’s “United Shades of America,” isn’t the totality of what I know, but it filled in gaps in my knowledge of our government’s behavior during the Korean War, with its episode on the Hmong Americans – who are another prime example of that “promise.” I’m not an expert (though Chomsky literally is), but none of this is some new revelation for me.

    Because, like Squid, I also live here. I see and hear how this language is used, on a regular basis – and there are family members I do not associate with any more, because of conflicts that arose from my views on the criminality of immigration. I am not sure yet if I do think an open border is the right solution, though I’ve heard sound arguments for it, some which are good not just for those fleeing violence and poverty at home but for the global economy and workers rights. But I definitely know that you can have rationally policed borders without making it a criminal act to seek asylum, overstay your visa or even to wade across a river. It’s been proven in countries around the world. Just like it’s been proven that you can fight drug abuse and addiction without criminalizing drug possession or use. Just like it’s been proven that you can reduce human trafficking and make sex work safer by applying employment protections to it – like any other job – without criminalizing consenting adult behavior.

    It’s all just slippery slope fallacies, bolstered by the bizarre (and largely Western) notion that what constitutes a criminal act should ever be based on a subjective morality rather than actual objective harm. And most of the harms attributed to migration are bollocks.

  38. 38
    Kat says:

    Oh, and incidentally, I can think of exactly zero instances where I’ve used the word “blacks” to describe a group of people, and I can’t recall anyone using that term in the media for decades, unless they were black or an unveiled racist. As to it being “fine for generations,” may I remind everyone that segregation barely qualifies as generations ago. The last living slave died a few years before I was born (in 1971), my mother is only 2 years younger than Ruby Bridges, and one of our Democratic Primary candidates was also bused to white schools. Not to mention that we have more segregated schools today than we did in the 1960s.

    Interracial marriage, homosexuality and sexual harassment were still taboos to poke fun at on TV in the 1980s. That we remember a time when the word “blacks” was fully acceptable demonstrates that this is not ancient history. Though…

    We also don’t generally say Whites, Browns or Yellows. For that matter, we don’t say Females and Males if we’re discussing matters like culture, civil rights, etc. Not unless you’re doing clinical research. We say Women and Men. It sure as hell wasn’t called “Female Suffrage.” We don’t say Gays, we say gay people. We don’t say Disableds, we say people with disabilities or disabled people. We don’t say Transgenders, Blinds, or Indigents, without expecting a snuffy reply.

    While there are a few exceptions, based on where and when the terms originated, we don’t refer to most people as a single-issue group by adding an S to one of their adjectives and forming a plural noun. Even addressing nationality by saying just Japanese or Dutch, without a The in front of it, isn’t in any most style guides today. Even when there’s an acceptable plural noun of that sort, like Veterans or Latinos, we’ve still been eschewing referring to a group as a monolith for most of my lifetime.

    Social inclusion in language is an evolution that’s been going on for centuries. It’s only appears to be a newer phenomenon because globalization sped up its progression. But rarely does it serve a discussion about its evolution to suggest that biased language having survived until a few decades ago means it’s still acceptable today.

    Also, People of Color is not dying out, it’s just not a term that only refers to black people, and it’s usage is showing an awareness of that. Again, it’s about using language that attributes actions, beliefs or viewpoints to a large group based on a narrow commonality. In the same way that people in the rest of the Americas get sick of people from U.S. taking possession of the term American to define themselves and their actions.

  39. 39
    Gracchus says:

    ” And yes, that includes when our president publicly tells multiple current members of congress to “go back to where they came from,” one of whom was born here.”

    If you’re referring to Trump criticising the squad, only one of them was -not- born in the USA.

  40. 40
    lurker23 says:

    do you want to make it so you ban thinking or just a word?

    some people come into country with the country agreeing they can live here,
    or agreeing for a short visit but they do not leave,
    or never agreeing at all and they come in anyway,
    or maybe even getting sent out because they were bad, and they come back in. and when it is asylum, some people are just trying to get out of where they are,
    or maybe others are thinking more about going somewhere than leaving.

    i think those are not the same and you should have alot of terms to make them different, not use one term to make them confusing. if you want to ban thinking and not jut a word you can make it confusing though.

  41. 41
    Petar says:

    To Kate

    So, if I understand correctly, it’s always all Europeans targeting exclusively people of color. Vikings and Ottomans never enslaved Slavs, Saudi Arabia treats foreign workers gently and fairly, North African Arabs are very respectful to Sub-Saharan Blacks, especially Kafir ones, and no countries ever turned Christians into second class citizens forbidden from public worship, prevented from building houses of worship taller that a Mumin, owing a tax payable in infants, etc. etc. etc.

    And in the United States, immigrants from Ireland, the Mediterranean countries, the Balkans never were the targets of legislation on public resentment…

    In one of my last consulting jobs, I had the unenviable opportunity to learn how Southern rural Whites and urban African-Americans feel about newcomers (Hispanics and Nigerian, respectively) endangering their benefits. This is people being people.

    Those in power foster divisions among those whom they subjugate and turn them against each other. Of course, it’s to the benefits of reactionaries to inflame their historical chattel against the newcomers, who are often fleeing the machinations of those same people in power, and who are bringing cheap labor to the people directly responsible for their plight.

    The mechanism changes, the victims change, the collaborators of variable complicity change, but what does not change is the arsenal of those in charge.

    The British farming tenants were left without mean of productions, and got shipped to the Collonies as indentured labor. The Irish flew famines engineered by the British. The Slavs were fleeing a murderous Empire propped by the British and French. The Blacks were enslaved in conflicts engineered by colonial powers, and later by corporations destroying their traditional livelihood in a quest for cheap resources. The Poles flew the Communists in whose sphere of influence they had been abandoned. The Hispanics flee the countries ravaged by the war on drugs.

    And the Anglos shat on the Irish, who shat on the Italians, who shat on the Slavs, who shat on the Blacks, etc.

    It’s not always racism.

    It used to be religion… ask the Pagan Lithuanians and Eastern Orthodox Poles, if you can find any.

    Then it was science, which came to be applied against small brained Mediterraneans, animalistic Russians (the grandfather of that theory got celebrated on Alas) emotion driven Blacks, tradition stifled Chinese, and what not…

    Now we have those crime prone Mexicans who rape and kill indiscriminately. “They are not like us, they do not care about their kids the way we do.”

    If you do not think that both Black and White poor fear and persecute Hispanics, or that the Hispanics overflow with love towards those different from them, you have not been on the production floor of a manufacturing plant. We had four shifts. Three were completely dominated by a single ethnicity. The exception was incidentally the most productive one and the best paid one. Not because diversity is beneficial by itself, of course. Because those who let things like race and religion interfere in one sphere, will find other distractions in other spheres.

    —————

    The term is rarely, if ever, applied to immigrants who came from predominantly “white” cultures.

    Nonsense. In any confrontation, any word will be thrown around if there’s a chance it will hurt. I do not carry my Green Card to show to people who insult me, and I’ve heard ‘Yeah, and how many of them are illegals?” applied to a party of thirty people with exactly two Black men, and no actual Hispanics in it.

    I’m White anywhere but in the States, where I’m ‘ethnic’, and I’ve been told to go back from where I come even in California (once) In South Carolina I’ve been refused service about a dozen times, due to accent, tan, and my favorite, by a gunstore for having a ‘Russian’ name on my driving license. Since my daughter was born, I have deliberately worn tropical gear and a large hat as much as possible, mostly because I am tired of some poor relatives of my wife talking behind my back at her family’s gatherings. And they are Jewish.

    Different people get shit everywhere. If you only see racism when it’s directed against Blacks, there are conclusions to be drawn about you. I am not disagreeing that the Blacks are the most vulnerable minority in the US, but by insisting that bigotry against anyone else is not worth noticing, you are not making things better for anyone but those who benefit from racial strife.

    ———–

    By the way, what is your alternative to ‘Blacks’ for people who are neither African-American or African?

    People of African descent? North Africa is not Black, despite what Americans think.

    People of Sub-Sahara African descent? That’s the closest I can think of, and even that will produce plenty of ethnically Semitic people.

  42. 42
    Ampersand says:

    do you want to make it so you ban thinking or just a word?

    Thinking!

    After years working in my secret underground lair, I have successfully created a device – you can call it AN OBLIVION RAY – that selectively bans thoughts.

    I have to do some final testing, and also do some mad cackling and laughing, and there’s this pesky British secret service agent that my minions will definitely succeed in executing in just a few minutes, I’ve got him tied down to a very slow-moving death trap involving a laser and piranha. No need for me to stay and watch him die, I’m that confident that it’ll work.

    And once that’s all done, PREPARE TO HAVE YOUR THOUGHTS OBVIATED!

  43. 43
    Appro says:

    I read this somewhere:

    Left-leaning people think in terms of oppressors vs. victims, conservatives think in terms of civilization vs. barbarism and libertarians think in terms of coercion vs. freedom.

    Maybe it’s kind of true, maybe it’s not. But there *is* an issue of whether a mass influx of people from a substantially different culture would change a country’s character. I don’t know if I would like the United States to turn into Central America or the Middle East. Some left-leaning people may want that – anything but European culture – but racism is not the issue they may think it is.

    I guess true racists – who are not about culture – would not want Thomas Sowell in their culture (just because he has black skin), but I would venture to guess that he would be welcome by most on the right, because he represents European culture in some sense.

    One question (sincerely meant): I am trying to see all sides here and participate in boards on the right and those on the left. Many boards on the right (like Instapundit) go out of their way not to ban anyone. Lefties just kind of get out-debated. Many boards on the left are really heavy into banning and also controlling anyone who doesn’t think within the narrow bounds (sometimes really narrow bounds). Why? It all just seems like strong self-righteousness and self-importance.

  44. 44
    hf says:

    @Petar

    Black people, presumably. I could see not understanding English usage here, but you seem to have read almost none of the comment explaining this.

  45. 45
    Mandolin says:

    “I am very objective. Also, here is a bunch of biased summaries along with an insulting conclusion.” That *definitely* smacks as self-importance.

    I look at the same facts and say the right wing blogs are so toxic no one who isn’t exactly like them leaves for better ground, and that the left wing blogs are trying to preserve an atmosphere a variety of sometimes clashing demographics can inhabit in relative peace.

    I could also say a lot of other things that I think affect the dynamics, but also– I think you’re likely to be in the land of confirmation bias. So, therefore anything I say will be equally airy bullshit.

    I would like to suggest that with the advent of “THOUGHT POLICE” and “WHY ARE LEFTIES MEAN” the thread has officially wandered off of anything resembling the actual topic. I suggest Ampersand employ some of his vicious moderation tools to guide it back to something more interesting than smack talk. For instance: we could smack talk in the open thread which is for that.

    Going back to doing the better things I have to do. And/or checking a message board.

  46. 46
    Appro says:

    Mandolin,
    I won’t write anymore on this topic.

    If it helps, I thought I was discussing things, and I don’t see what aggravated you so much. I’m not trying to belittle it; I’m trying to understand it. In any case, I’ll shut up and listen a bit more.

  47. 47
    Ampersand says:

    Appro,

    I agree with Mandolin – if you’d like to discuss that further, take it to the open thread. It’s off-topic on this thread. (Admittedly, other off-topic things have been said on this thread, but it’s hard to know when things have wandered enough so I should speak up – I don’t want to step on every little digression, but I also don’t want to let the original topic be totally ignored.)

    Many boards on the left are really heavy into banning and also controlling anyone who doesn’t think within the narrow bounds (sometimes really narrow bounds). Why? It all just seems like strong self-righteousness and self-importance.

    I think many people on the left would find this way of phrasing it insulting. If you do repost your question on the open thread (and feel free to do that), see if you can rephrase it to be less insulting. Admittedly, that would require you to try harder to see things from our perspective. But maybe that would be a worthwhile intellectual exercise, if your goal is to understand views other than your own.

  48. 48
    Gracchus says:

    @Amp: So, out of curiosity, are you still leaning towards banning the phrase?

  49. 49
    Ampersand says:

    More than leaning. The phrase is banned. I’ll get around to posting an announcement soon.

    I try to be gentle as a moderator, so I’m prepared for a few weeks of transition where I’ll occasionally have to nudge and remind people, and that’s fine. But I’m sure we’ll get the hang of it quickly, just as we did a decade ago when we banned “illegals.”

  50. 50
    Gracchus says:

    Well I’m glad I asked!

  51. 51
    lurker23 says:

    yes, thinking.

    i do not always explain it well, but if you make words go away you make it harder to think and talk about things that were what those words got talked about for? it makes the people who do the ban have alot of power because it is hard to talk and write because you have to spend alot of time thinking about how to say what you want but not use the bad words, and if you are not good at words you do not get to say it at all, maybe? that makes it harder to say whay you think, or to talk about what you think and so it trying to stop a way of thinking.

    that is why alot of people try to ban words or make people use words. nobody will try to ban something if they think it is okay to say it or think it, they ban because they want to make it harder to say it or think it or make other people agree.

    if you like jesus and god, maybe you ban talking about no-jesus or no-god so that it is harder for people to make argument against you and harder for people to make more people agree with no-jesus and no-god. if you are careful you can maybe pretend that you are “okay” with argument you just do not like some ones and maybe by accident the ones you do not like are very good for the other side.

    so yes all bans are about thinking of course. otherwise you do not need a ban. that is usually a bad thing i think and it is maybe a bit funny? like alot of the people who do bans do not always think that all bans are good, i do not know about you? some other bans i see the people think bans are usually not good but they all of course think they are doing a special ban, other bans are bad but not the one they like.

    you should try it! i do not know what you like to talk about but no matter what it is you can think of some of the words that you like to use and pretend they are banned. like maybe you have a conversation about something you think is socially bad or dangerous and you decide you will not use the ism or ist or phobia or bigoted words? all of those things have alot of other words you can use just like “illegal immigrant” but i think it makes it alot harder to talk and think if you do not use them.

    so yes, thinking.

  52. 52
    Harlequin says:

    Maybe it’s kind of true, maybe it’s not. But there *is* an issue of whether a mass influx of people from a substantially different culture would change a country’s character. I don’t know if I would like the United States to turn into Central America or the Middle East.

    Central America is not “a substantially different culture”. It was colonized by Europe, its official languages are largely European, its forms of government are mainly European-style democracies, its population is largely Christian. There are typically stronger influences of the original native cultures than the US has, since many more of the people from those cultures have survived. I find it interesting how often the similarity to the US is downplayed or ignored in these discussions, though.

    Immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa make up less than 0.5% of the US population. Immigrants from Central America make up a truly shocking more than one percent. I’m not sure what counts as a “mass influx” but I don’t think we’re gonna see widespread changes in American culture from that, even if the immigrants had a wildly different culture and refused to integrate in the slightest, neither of which is the case.

  53. 53
    Kate says:

    To Kate

    “So, if I understand correctly, it’s always all Europeans targeting exclusively people of color.” *begins rant about every injustice he can think of suffered by any white ethic group and/or committed by any non-white ethnic group*

    @37 Kat provided an excellent summary of how white supremacy has played out in the area of “illegal immigration” in the United States of America.
    Focusing on one form of oppression – crucially, the form of oppression which is the topic of this comment thread – does not mean denying the existence of other forms of oppression.

  54. 54
    Appro says:

    Harlequin,

    I forget that every statement I make on this board is going to be misinterpreted. I do understand, though, that I can’t make every post 70 pages long with 110 pages of dense, small-print footnotes.

    What conservatives fear, I think, is not controlled, regulated immigration (which we have now, and which you are citing statistics about), but instead “open borders” or the like that are being touted by the left. Many mainstream democrat candidates (Elizabeth Warren is just one) want to decriminalize any border crossing. All of the democratic candidates in one of the debates raised their hands as to whether undocumented immigrants should received free health care. Keep in mind that many US citizens still struggle to pay for their own health care.

    The United States would start looking different in a short period of time if there were quasi open borders. And if you think that the culture of El Salvador or Honduras is the same as the United States, you haven’t lived abroad all that much.

    Final note: If you just want to misinterpret, or willingly not understand, what I am trying to say, don’t bother. You aren’t going to convince me, you aren’t going to convince skeptical readers of your position here (if there are any), and you aren’t going to further any goals by preaching to the choir on your side.

  55. 55
    Ampersand says:

    What conservatives fear, I think, is not controlled, regulated immigration (which we have now, and which you are citing statistics about), but instead “open borders” or the like that are being touted by the left. Many mainstream democrat candidates (Elizabeth Warren is just one) want to decriminalize any border crossing. All of the democratic candidates in one of the debates raised their hands as to whether undocumented immigrants should received free health care. Keep in mind that many US citizens still struggle to pay for their own health care.

    “Decriminalize” and “open borders” aren’t the same thing. Did you watch the debate where Warren, Castro and others discussed this? Because Castro in particular went into this in detail.

    Speaking just for myself, I’ve come to the idea that I support a goal of open borders, just like I support a goal of no one in prison and a goal of no poverty. I realize that, pragmatically, we might not ever reach those goals. But the best policy approach would be to always be trying to get closer to that goal, insofar as pragmatism allows. Even if we never have totally open borders, we can get closer than we are now. Freedom of movement is not a trivial freedom that should be thrown away like it has no value.

    The better candidates want to provide health care for everyone, including immigrants. No one’s saying “free health care for immigrants, but nothing for Americans!,” so your argument here is unfair.

    And if you think that the culture of El Salvador or Honduras is the same as the United States, you haven’t lived abroad all that much.

    “We’ve got to protect our culture!” was once used to keep people like me (Jews) out of the US, too. It was nonsense then, and it was nonsense now.

    Final note: If you just want to misinterpret, or willingly not understand, what I am trying to say, don’t bother. You aren’t going to convince me, you aren’t going to convince skeptical readers of your position here (if there are any), and you aren’t going to further any goals by preaching to the choir on your side.

    No one’s forcing you to post comments here. If you find this place worthless, then please – leave. But if you want to be a part of conversations here, then please dial back the hostile, superior attitude many notches.

    Because I strongly suspect you’re an already-banned poster who’s just coming here under a new name, I’m putting you on auto-moderation. That means I or another moderator will have to individually approve each of your comments from now on. Comments that are mean or seem to add “I have contempt for you people” to the conversation, will not be approved. I hope you’re willing to continue posting under those restrictions, but it’s totally up to you.

  56. 56
    Ampersand says:

    Lurker:

    I don’t think that’s how language works. If it were possible to completely ban a word from the language, it doesn’t mean the concept would disappear from people’s thoughts – it means that some other word would arise in it’s place.

    Name a single thought that can’t be expressed at all without using the terms “illegals,” “illegal immigrants,” or “illegal aliens.”

  57. 57
    Kate says:

    What conservatives fear, I think, is not controlled, regulated immigration (which we have now, and which you are citing statistics about), but instead “open borders” or the like that are being touted by the left.

    You are wrong about that. The Trump administration moved to stop heavily vetted refugees from Syria, Iran and Afganisatan from entering the U.S., even in cases in which the individuals worked as interpreters for us and were in danger staying in their home countries because of this. This is not just about fear of open borders. This is about bigotry against people from the Middle East.
    They are also resisting people legally claiming asylum from northern triangle countries.
    I believe that many conservatives don’t know how stringently refugees are vetted. But, Republican representatives and members of the executive branch either do know, or should know.

  58. 58
    Petar says:

    Kat provided an excellent summary of how white supremacy has played out in the area of “illegal immigration” in the United States of America.
    Focusing on one form of oppression – crucially, the form of oppression which is the topic of this comment thread – does not mean denying the existence of other forms of oppression.

    How exactly is this paragraph not addressing the anti-immigration sentiment, specifically in the United States?

    The British farming tenants were left without mean of productions, and got shipped to the Collonies as indentured labor. The Irish flew famines engineered by the British. The Slavs were fleeing a murderous Empire propped by the British and French. The Blacks were enslaved in conflicts engineered by colonial powers, and later by corporations destroying their traditional livelihood in a quest for cheap resources. The Poles flew the Communists in whose sphere of influence they had been abandoned. The Hispanics flee the countries ravaged by the war on drugs.

    And the Anglos shat on the Irish, who shat on the Italians, who shat on the Slavs, who shat on the Blacks, etc.

    My first paragraph was to refute her indefensibly broad claims that kidnapping slaves and oppressing foreign born workers was an exclusively white-on-black phenomenon. And believe me, I could give you a lot more examples, even without going into WWII references.

    The paragraph I quoted above focused on the historical evolution of the ‘dirty foreigner’ target in the US. And afterward, I gave example of US minorities being not quite so welcoming to the newly arrived.

    I do not think that it is irrelevant to thread at all. Racism is a pretext to present the newcomers as ‘others’. The pretexts have shifted with the ages – from going ‘bar-bar’ instead of speaking proper Greek, to bringing a medieval mindset to our thriving democracies. If you were to read the drivel published by the likes of John Ringo, Tom Kratman, Larry Correia, etc.you would see that they are being very careful to avoid racism, and are coming up with varied reasons why the non-western-Europeans are different and destroying society, such as, for example, lack of both trust and any feeling of obligation beyond the immediate family.

    I can fish out articles in which pious Southern Baptists rail against both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, which for some reason the good African-American pastors think are Jewish, destroying traditional American values in New York in the 80s or South Carolina in the 00s.

    By denying that this is a human trait, exploited by those in power to divide those they need to keep powerless, and not something that the Whites do to the non-Whites, you are serving the interests of the people you claim to oppose.

  59. 59
    Kate says:

    Petar – You are fighting a straw man.
    No one is denying that people were/are/can be oppressed for reasons other than their race. No one is claiming that any type of cruelty one human can inflict on another is “an exclusively white-on-black phenomenon.” In fact, in my statement, which you block quoted, I specifically said:

    Focusing on one form of oppression – crucially, the form of oppression which is the topic of this comment thread – does not mean denying the existence of other forms of oppression.

  60. 60
    Charles S says:

    I think that Kat’s comment that seemed like it was what set off Petar’s rant:

    Also, “(or illegal alien) has nothing to do with any given ethnic group.” I refer you to Chomsky’s book again. Yes, it absolutely does have to do with ethnic groups, it’s just that the groups targeted by such language and attitudes have shifted many times in the history of this country. But the pattern of its application is pretty close to universal, in that it was applied to ethnic groups of a non-European variety, non-white variety.[ emphasis added]

    is a little too strong (although not so strong as to justify Petar’s misreading of “it’s always all Europeans targeting exclusively people of color”). As Petar pointed out in his rant, there are plenty of examples of anti-immigrant activity against and criminalization of immigration from Europe (although most of Petar’s examples that actually had to do with US immigration policy were more about anti-immigrant activity and less about the criminalization of immigration). The anti-immigrant laws of the 1920s, although they were most extreme in their criminalization of Asian immigrants and Mexican migrant laborers, did also specifically and intentionally target Eastern and Southern Europeans for exclusion and criminalization.

  61. 61
    Mandolin says:

    Noting that one of the ways in which they justified barring people from other pars of Europe, at least in the 30s, was by claiming they came from inferior genetic stock. Which does bring race into it or at least some semblance of assumptions about heritage.

  62. 62
    J. Squid says:

    Well, sure. Jews weren’t really white. Italians weren’t really white. Irish weren’t really white. Eastern Europeans weren’t really white. In their time of being the immigrants, none of those groups was considered white. They may not have been black, but they sure as hell weren’t white and were going to subsume pure, beautiful, perfect, American Culture with their filthy, subhuman ways. It’s weird how pretty much the same exact language is being used today wrt Hispanic immigrants.

    Just because Jews and Italians and Irish and Eastern Europeans are white at the moment doesn’t mean that they always were or that they always will be. Why! just look at the way Jews are now being accused of loyalty to another country or, at best, dual loyalty. That’s a step on the way to dewhitening Jews once again.

    While I understand Petar’s objection and agree w/ Charles about the strength of Kat’s comment, it seems to me that anti-immigrant rhetoric and sentiment always pits White Americans against non-White invaders.

  63. 63
    hf says:

    What puzzles me is his doubling-down on the claim that we only recognize racism against black people – is this just confusion about the phrase “people of color”? And yeah, J. Squid, the US-influenced Nazis (beloved of KKK members like David Duke) probably didn’t consider Slavic people “white”. (Though I would not have predicted a gun store in the US South refusing a sale.)

  64. 64
    Petar says:

    If you include Slavs, Romanians, Finns, Italians, Greeks, Irish, Jews and Arabs under people of color, then yes, racism in the US is predominantly against people of color. (There has been US anti-immigration legislation at least encompassing, if not explicitly targeting, all of these groups. Oh, those taciturn, drunken, murderous Finns!)

    But if you have expanded people of color so widely, that only Angles, Saxons and Norse are excluded, then racism in the US is also predominantly perpetuated by people of color.

    I have personally heard a Black South-Carolinian political activist say “We did not give BMW breaks to open that plant so they could fill it with wetbacks!” I have seen plenty of African-American vs Mexican-American trouble on the machine floor. My city’s library contains speeches by Hispanic religious leaders opposing the settlement of Persian immigrants in the 70s and 80s, and there were at least three fires which were set to the houses allocated to them. (I only know because I considered buying one of them – nowadays the city votes Republican, enjoys its Mediterranean restaurants, bans any parking on the streets after 1am and worries about the undesirables who’ll arrive with the planned LA Metro Rail station)

    And once you throw in the Slavs (7% of the US population), Italians (6% of the US population), Hispanics (18% of the US population is Hispanic and White, according to the US government) etc. the remaining ‘Whites’ are guilty of only a portion of the racism in the US.

    Or is it that people become White only once they get accepted among the ‘locals’ and take up arms against the ‘newcomers’?

  65. 65
    Harlequin says:

    Appro:

    I forget that every statement I make on this board is going to be misinterpreted. […] What conservatives fear, I think, is not controlled, regulated immigration (which we have now, and which you are citing statistics about), but instead “open borders” or the like that are being touted by the left.

    I appreciate not wanting to make comments 100 pages long, and that it can be frustrating to feel you are being misinterpreted. But if your comment was meant to address a hypothetical world where we have open borders… Well. As had already been mentioned in this thread, and was mentioned again in reply to you, open borders is a pretty fringe view on the left. And given that we wouldn’t even have illegal immigrants to talk about if there were open borders, my default assumption–and I would assume the default assumption of the other commenters–is that in this thread we are talking about the United States as it is, not the United States as the paranoid fears of conservatives think it will be soon. I know you don’t want to write really long comments, but if you’re switching topics, you gotta let us know.

    I don’t know if this type of problem is typical of the problems you have communicating on this and other liberal-leaning sites, but if you’re taking “what Fox-News-watching conservatives think liberals believe” (for example–I don’t know exactly what crowd you usually run with) and interacting with us as though those things are true, you’re going to have a lot of trouble communicating here. Not because we’re maliciously misinterpreting you, but because conservatives who watch Fox News (for example) believe a lot of untrue things about liberals.

    And all of that is aside from the problems with your comment even in the case of open borders–which I think other commenters have addressed well above.

  66. 66
    Gracchus says:

    @Petar: I don’t think anybody is denying that it is possible for people of colour to be prejudiced against other people of colour. Indeed I am pretty sure we can all think of examples.

    Even Kat did not claim that the direction of prejudice from white people to people of colour was -actually- universal, just that it was pretty close to universal. Examples don’t disprove that.

    But if we accept (as people disagreeing with you here have accepted) that Kat was overreaching when she said that white people’s monopoly on racial prejudice was close to universal, we can still believe that it is predominant without denying your examples.

    I know you are a Slav, and I see a pattern in your comments throughout this blog that you feel that prejudice against Slavs is something that the average liberal American is ignorant about and should know more about. Would you say that is true?

  67. 67
    hf says:

    @Petar:

    You’re now trying to ignore your past statements rather than admitting you got them wrong. This is you earlier in the thread:

    I am not disagreeing that the Blacks are the most vulnerable minority in the US, but by insisting that bigotry against anyone else is not worth noticing, you are not making things better for anyone but those who benefit from racial strife.

    Are you ready to admit you distorted other people’s positions there? The same goes for this:

    her indefensibly broad claims that kidnapping slaves and oppressing foreign born workers was an exclusively white-on-black phenomenon.

    Unless you can quote anyone here saying that.

  68. 68
    lurker23 says:

    The better candidates want to provide health care for everyone, including immigrants. No one’s saying “free health care for immigrants, but nothing for Americans!,”

    i do not think this is really what they are saying? “nothing” is not true, it is more or less.

    if you have alot of extra bottles of beer and everyone in the party has a bottle then you can invite more people to party and you can give them each a bottle of beer.

    but if you do not have enough bottles for everybody in the party then there are starting out with people who do not have beer, and have to share and those people do not get what they want. and if you invite more people to the party then there will be more people who do not have beer, and more people have to share and not get what they want. this is better for the people who get in because shared beer is better than no beer. but it is worse for the people in the party because they have to give up beer and if you let in more people then they have to give up more beer.

    health care is like beer, people say the us does not have enough now so the us does not have enough to give away, and if you give it away to alot of other people then the us people will get even less. i think this is true, maybe you think it is okay, but i do not think it makes alot of sense to talk like it is about “nothing”.

    Ampersand says:
    I don’t think that’s how language works. If it were possible to completely ban a word from the language, it doesn’t mean the concept would disappear from people’s thoughts – it means that some other word would arise in it’s place.

    Name a single thought that can’t be expressed at all without using the terms “illegals,” “illegal immigrants,” or “illegal aliens.”

    i did not say it was not possible! i said it was very hard. like it is hard to talk about racism and sexism and bigots without saying racist or sexist or bigots, of course you can probably do it but it is harder! ban of those words would be a way to make people harder to talk and think.

    and i do not know if it is possible for me! i am not too good with words.

    so i will ask you!! if i want to talk about someone that the government says is an illegal alien, how do i do it and not say illegal alien? if i want to talk about someone who is not an illegal immigrant, how do i do it and not say illegal immigrant? how do i say the same thing and not a different thing?

    it is hard because they need to mean the same thing, and words like undocumented are not the same thing, it is like telling someone to say “not liking because of race” instead of racism, that is not the same thing either.

  69. 69
    Kate says:

    health care is like beer

    This is a perfect summary of the conservative perspective on heath care. Health care is a luxury. As such, it is fine to provide only watered down swill for the working and middle classes, and to deny it to the poor entirely. The good stuff should be reserved only for the most wealthy.
    As a progressive, I think healthcare is like water – a necessity and a human right. Tens of thousands of people in the U.S. die each year due to lack of health care. No one dies from lack of beer. The U.S. is not a tiny little lifeboat with limited space and supplies of water. The U.S. is the most wealthy country in the world. The problem is not that we “do not have enough”. The problem is that we’re choosing to spend our money on luxuries for the wealthy to the exclusion of necessities like health care, and education.

  70. 70
    J. Squid says:

    The problem is not that we “do not have enough”. The problem is that we’re choosing to spend our money on luxuries for the wealthy to the exclusion of necessities like health care, and education.

    For lack of a better term… Amen.

  71. 71
    Petar says:

    The problem is that we’re choosing to spend our money on luxuries for the wealthy to the exclusion of necessities like health care, and education.

    Worse than that.

    In Europe, the health care goal seems to be to provide as much effective health care for as little cost as possible. As an example, if additional testing results in a much higher expense, but only very few positive results in the intermediate, let alone long run, it will not be done.

    In the US, health care’s main goal is to generate revenue for medical providers and to some extent lawyers. No ifs, not buts. Restricted educational opportunities, protections for drug manufacturers, medical advertisements, doctors bribed to prescribe costly medication, etc.

    Both my father and my mother travel to Europe for any major health procedures. They both have a dual plan – Medicare plus a supplemental insurance from AARP with a dozen extra options. Anything over about $5000 is still better performed in France or even Bulgaria for full cost.

    I am fortunately still holding up pretty good so far… but I hate the feeling of going to the doctor in the US. Being passed from underling to underling, the doctor swooping in to exchange a few sentences with you and then taking off… and that’s on a really good Californian Kaiser plan offered through my wife’s college – it was much better than anything my employer offered… let alone what I could get now that I am practically retired, and freelancing to feel useful.

    And another uncommon facet of the US health system is the legal battles over malpractice. In the US, they are generally over trying to get the provider to pay for treatment that the plaintiff feels was made necessary by a screw up.

    (In Bulgaria, it’s not a legal battle, it’s a nightmare, but whether for you or the practitioner depends on your relations with the local strongman. If he’s an Army buddy of yours, your parents will get the VIP treatment.)

    In France, it matters a lot less, because it’s covered and free anyway.

    Yeah, yeah, it’s not free, the taxes are higher. It’s free like the non-toll roads, law enforcement, military, etc. is free. I do not mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

    By the way, a simple example. Maternity mortality rate in the US makes it look like a third world country.

    Ask a conservative to explain it, and he will tell you that it’s because ‘some people’ do not have the self-discipline to properly take care of themselves and cannot follow simple instructions.

    Ask a conservative to explain how California managed to cut its maternity mortality rate by nearly two thirds, despite being a festering pit of subhuman immigrants, limp-wristed progressives and wishy-washy hippies, and he will tell you that the state is bankrupt, suffering a mass exodus and going to slide in the Atlantic (I mostly talk to SC conservatives)

    So even they do not deny that it is a matter of costs. You cannot make money out of poor people. So why bother keeping them healthy? It’s not the American Way.

    You can make plenty of money from middle class professionals. But you have to get them over a barrel first. And for that, a government that can be influenced helps a lot.

    By the way, I am mildly approving of Obamacare, because it made things less untenable or terrifying for many people I know. I also think that it was a way to move cash from the pockets of people like me to medical insurers. What I would have liked to see was medical insurers taken out of the loop between medical providers and patients.

  72. 72
    lurker23 says:

    Kate says:
    This is a perfect summary of the conservative perspective on heath care. Health care is a luxury.

    i do not think health care is a luxury, i think it is silly to pretend that health care does not matter how much you spend?

    unless you have all of money in the world then you have to make choices about doing things better or doing it for more people. i think you are saying that is not true?

    the more people you have the less you can give. if you have a billion dollars and a million people you spend 1000 each. if you say “that is not enough” then okay, you can have two billion, now it is 2000 each. but if you also say “let us give this to another million people” then you are back to 1000. anytime you make more people covered for any dollars you spend, then the dollars go down on what you can spend per person, that is just math.

    so you can say what we should spend on health and then you can divide it by the number of people, so more people is less per person. or you can say what we should spend on a person and multipley it by people, so more people is more spending. but you cannot spend everything.

    As a progressive, I think healthcare is like water – a necessity and a human right.

    i do not think health is really a human right because human rights are “not” things, like you can “not” do things to people, if we make human rights “have to” like you “have to” give things to people then you do not know who it is that has to do the giving part.

    health is more like police and having laws. it is something that people should do because it is good and it has alot of sense. but it is not a human right. like maybe you have a human right not to have other people beat you up and take your things but you do not have a human right to make other people act like police and save you. police are good and make sense, but they are not a right. and you have a right to buy health if you want it, but you do not have a right to make other people give you the health that you want, health and insurance and hospitals are good and make sense, but are not a right either.

    Tens of thousands of people in the U.S. die each year due to lack of health care. No one dies from lack of beer.

    yes i know. i do not think you really think i was talking about beer?

    but i will ask you this: if you think tens of thousands of people die for lack of health care and if you want to stop it then do you not need to stop it first before you make more people?

    if there is good health care for everyone that is like having beer for everyone! there is maybe extra for some new people, which is good! but if there is not health care for everyone then you need more health care for the people who do not have health, i think? if you do not have good health for everyone, it is like a party with not enough beer, you do not want to make more people or it will make the problem worse.

    what you call a conservative argument is not really conservative. alot of people think it is good to have more health for people, i think that too. but maybe we should make things better for the people we have before we try to help alot of other people, that is maybe not very progressive but is not conservative either.

    The U.S. is not a tiny little lifeboat with limited space and supplies of water. The U.S. is the most wealthy country in the world. The problem is not that we “do not have enough”. The problem is that we’re choosing to spend our money on luxuries for the wealthy to the exclusion of necessities like health care, and education.

    i would be okay with spending more on health and school, i like both of those things!

    the problem i think is that you want two things and they are on different sides, you want to make things more better for people and you also want to give things to more people. that is hard to do maybe impossible sometimes unless you do not think about any limit on money. and i think maybe you do not like having to talk about which one is more important? but you have to choose i think.

  73. 73
    Gracchus says:

    “i do not think health is really a human right because human rights are “not” things”

    Positive rights vs negative rights is an extremely old debate. However I don’t think you are really advocating that only negative rights are valid. Unless you don’t like the right to vote, of course.

  74. 74
    lurker23 says:

    Gracchus says:
    November 4, 2019 at 7:11 am
    Positive rights vs negative rights is an extremely old debate. However I don’t think you are really advocating that only negative rights are valid. Unless you don’t like the right to vote, of course.

    ii am not a philosophy person, but i do not think that choice is real?

    alot of things are good, it does not mean they are human rights. i like voting, it is good, and if you did not get to vote then other things might happen which would be bad and maybe also be not good for human rights. so it is maybe a human right to do fair voting if you have voting, or a human right to “not” keep you from voting? but i do not know if you need voting as a “have to” human right, i do not think it is.

    but anyway we are talking about health care not voting. (voting i think is more complicated because it is a thing you do and not a thing you have? i think the “not” instead of”have to” difference is bigger when it is a thing and not an idea and biggest i think when it is a thing that we do not have extra of and that only comes from other people, like health care)

  75. 75
    Gracchus says:

    You may not feel the right to vote is a human right, but almost every definition of human rights includes it. And many other positive rights, including the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of movement, etc etc.

  76. 76
    J. Squid says:

    If it comes down to it, in a certain way of looking at things, there is no such thing as “human rights”. Why, you can do anything to a human being – positive or negative. But that’s a sophomoric dead end better left unexplored.

  77. 77
    Petar says:

    Human rights are no more and no less than what the powerful within a society, at a specific moment, agree is necessary for the benefit of what they think is the part of society that matters.

    There is no higher power, there is no morality that can be derived from gazing at your navel, there is no self-evident, highly rational system of views.

    Also, there is no human right that at some point was not deemed bad for some society, and thus not upheld.

    Note that ‘the powerful in society’ can be as restrictive as ‘the high priest cabal who pens the Holy texts’, or as inclusive as ‘all citizens who can influence the vote’s outcome’.

    Most educated Westerners would not agree on most ‘human rights’. Throw in the rest of the world, and I doubt many rights will get 50% support.

    There are societies in which it is a privilege for an adolescent to be allowed to perform oral sex on a patriarch, so that he can mature. Should the practice be a human right? Because the Sambian youths who are denied the privilege cannot expect to have much of a normal life afterwards.

  78. 78
    Gracchus says:

    @Petar: You are confusing the attainment of human rights with their existence as a right. Nobody can deny that the powerful within a society have the ability, if they can impose their decision, to deprive people of anything they wish to, up to and including their life.

    But the fact that some random murderer kills someone – e.g. denying them their right to life – doesnt mean that they didnt have that right. Having a right doesnt mean enjoying it undisturbed. In fact probably the most useful way to think of human rights, and certainly the original context for both their implicit and explicit framing, is that somebody might take it away. There was no need to say “thou shalt not kill” if people werent sometimes killing. Similarly, the fact that people are denied the right to vote doesnt mean that the right is nonexistent – it means the right exists, and was taken away, and that matters.

    Since you enjoy discussing Balkan history, I will use an example you are familiar with. You frequently bring up the topic of Ottoman slavery of Slavs in order to illustrate racial issues in contemporary America. Presumably you feel that the Slavs had no right to not be slaves, and that talking about their rights being infringed isnt useful? Why does it bother you that this happened, if nobodys rights were infringed?

  79. 79
    Petar says:

    I do not accept the concept of rights, unless it is tied to a society that guarantees them. Without guarantee by force, there are no rights.

    When random murderers in the US kills someone, they are denying a right granted by society. When Aztec priests sacrificed a prisoner of war, or Ottoman officials levied a male toddler as tax, they were not infringing on any rights, as no right of life or freedom existed for their targets. My approval of those actions does not depend on the legality of the actions.

    Modern American society believes that its citizens can contribute more to society when they do not have to spend resources, training and awareness on their self-defense. Former American society believed that it was in its interests to legalize killing slaves in the process of punishing them. My sympathies do not affect the facts.

    There is no universal human right of bodily integrity, freedom of religion, freedom from slavery, or freedom to travel. None. Only when you live in a specific society, you have that right.

    I grew up in a society where you had the right to work. As in, the city of residency was required to find you work if you requested it. As someone who worked undercover about half the time, I went through the process multiple times, and I was quite amused and satisfied with the jobs assigned to me. One of them paid more than my actually salary with the military, and none of them paid less than one half of what my father was making as the Technical Director of a large manufacturing plant, which was about as high as non-apparatchik positions went. Makes you wonder what the Commies were thinking was going to motivate employees.

    But the right to employment does not exist everywhere. I do not expect you to agree that it is a right, even.

    > Why does it bother you that this happened, if nobodys rights were infringed?

    What kind of nonsense is this? Are you not bothered when you stub your toe? Are you thinking in terms of rights being infringed?

    Do you think in terms of rights being infringed when a work of art is being destroyed, when a animal species is being wiped out, or a child falls down a well? Why the fuck do I need to think about rights to feel that someone needs to have his throat crushed? I may think about whether I want to take the risk that society will punish me if I decide to violate such right.

    And finally, why should I care about violating the rights granted to people by a society of which I do not approve? I can still resent the height of new Dhimmi religious buildings being restricted to the eye level, without disagreeing with the fact that the Ottoman Empire has granted the right of unobstructed sight to its Mu’min citizens.

    Atrocities committed to protect rights are still atrocities. Atrocities committed against those without rights are still atrocities.

    But tell me, how do you, personally, decide that something is a human right or not? What do you do if your interlocutor disagrees? Worship? Abortion? Employment? Carrying arms? Travel? Free speech? What if someone’s rights interfere with someone else’s rights?

    At least, my position is easy to apply. Rights derive from a society, and when one violates them, one has to deal with that society. Feelings about the morality of such rights are a completely separate discussion.

    I do not like the results of codifying rights based on popularity contest winners interpreting documents written hundreds of years ago, but I definitely would not want to live with the alternative mechanisms.

  80. 80
    lurker23 says:

    Gracchus says:
    November 4, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    You may not feel the right to vote is a human right, but almost every definition of human rights includes it.

    i do not know about definitions they look like alot of the time they are alot about what people think should happen and not what people think is happening. like i read rachel mckinninon and she says things like sports is a human right but i do not think the definition is really true. or the un is saying alot of things about human rights and alot of them are saying it and not doing it so maybe their talk is not really good to look at.

    but to talk about voting are you not a happy human if you do not vote then? if i live somewhere that is happy and everyone is happy and maybe we do not vote and elect people i do not think that i do not have human rights, do you?

    because you do not have voting if there is no big government and human rights can be there even if there is no government! or also if there is maybe a tribe that does not have voting, or anarchy! so “has to” vote is not a human right unless you think every person who did not live in a place with voting-kind of government has not had their rights. voting is the kind of thing where it is maybe a human right if you make voting you have to let people do it, so a right “not” to have people “keep you from voting”, but it is not a thing where you cannot be human unless you vote so it is not a right.

    And many other positive rights, including the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of movement

    those are not “has to” rights they are “not” rights. you do not have a human right to make everyone agree to make and pay for police and judge and trials and that kind or to give you trials you want, if i want a trial for ampersand because his cartoon was funny i do not have a human right to make everyone give me a trial. if there are those things then you have a right “not” to have them be unfair, but that is a “not” right not a “have to” right. also you do not have the right to make people help you go where you want to go and give you a road and a plan and a car you only have the right “not” to keep you from going where you want to go.

    anyway can we talk about health care because i would like to know how health is a human right, when people say that i do not know what they think the right is, does it mean that anyone can make anyone else give them health care anytime? if not what does the right mean.

  81. 81
    Gracchus says:

    ” i do not have a human right to make everyone give me a trial. ”

    Is that really how you understand the concept of a right to a fair trial?

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