You may have gotten the impression that the immigrant children recently torn from their parents at the Mexican border deserve your sympathy and concern. After all, you can’t help but be moved by the heartrending sounds of the terrified, snatched children, and the horrible stories of their distant removal from their families to be incarcerated or farmed out to Christian adoption agencies, at least if you’re a human being.
If you’re a conservative, though, you know these kids were either faking it or better off without their criminal, probably MS13 parents, and that your real sympathy should go instead to truly persecuted folks like White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen, to whom some liberals were impolite.
Tough guy Trump’s notorious treatment of these children led to some negative poll results and some static in the courts, and in response Trump, in his traditional manner, implied immigrants were vermin — then announced he was ending the family separation policy, while still leaving the families he’d torn apart scattered across the landscape.
After the reversal, Trump tried to shore up his racist support by hauling out, as he did during the 2016 GOP Convention, “Angel Families” whose loved ones had been killed by undocumented immigrants to suggest that the children he’d immiserated were potential murderers of white Americans. (“They look so innocent,” Trump had previously said of these kids. “They’re not innocent.”)
Lower-order Trump functionaries in the press, however, had their own weird tactics.
Ann Coulter, for example, declared the crying, traumatized kids to be “child actors” — a reference to a favored trope of the Alex Jones wing of the Republican Party. Tucker Carlson did his blood-and-soil thing: “A lot of people yelling at you on TV don’t even have kids, so don’t for a second let them take moral high ground. Their goal is to change your country forever.”
Others seized on a famous image of a crying immigrant kid that was used in a photo montage on the cover of Time magazine to illustrate a story about immigration; the kid in the picture turned out to have been merely terrified, rather than stolen away, by the feds, and conservatives, pretending (or in some cases just revealing) an infantile literalism, acted as if this debunked the whole issue.
“BOMBSHELL: Girl Never Separated At Border,” hollered Ryan Saavedra at the Daily Wire. “TIME Magazine’s Shocking Cover Is A Total Lie,” cried his editor, Ben Shapiro. “No Wonder Americans Don’t Trust The Media.” Shapiro also reported that the photo had been “used by various human rights groups to raise cash for their anti-Trump efforts.” Guess they’ll have to give the money back!
Time later acknowledged the child in the montage had not been stolen, but that wasn’t enough for Rick Moran of American Thinker. When John Moore, the photographer who took the kid’s picture and later alerted Time to its provenance, explained that he’d been horrified by the scene he’d recorded — “I had to stop and take deep breaths” — but didn’t know for sure whether the child had been taken, Moran scoffed: “Heart rending, isn’t it? It would seem that Moore was forced to change his story once his fakery was discovered.” Apparently Moran can’t believe anyone would react that way to a child in distress; knowing Moran’s work, I’m not shocked.
Moran also thought “most people” who saw the photo montage would think “she had been ripped from her mothers arms — maybe even by Trump himself who towered over the child with a stern look on his face.” If you had Moran’s readers, you might think that, too.
Some conservatives took this weirdly further and acted as if crying children, if they were of the wrong color and immigration status, were simply hilarious. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski reacted to news of a disabled child’s separation with a comedy sound effect. Others put up pictures of children crying in less dire circumstances and made snotty remarks. “Here are pictures of the government ripping apart mothers and children on the first day of school,” quipped Seth Barron of City Journal. “The psychological trauma could last forever.” Ben Shapiro posted a picture of a crying kid at a baseball game and added, “I can’t believe this crying child was separated from his parents by President Trump.” These are the jokes, kid!
Other Trumpkins tried their own comedy stylings. At the Stream, John Zmirak suggested authorities “Seize Ivy League Dorms and Give Them to Immigrant Families” — liberals are immigrant-lovers, see, so here’s the gag: Imagine refugees seated for dinner in a “glorious Gothic dining hall, with sixty-foot carved ceilings and iron candelabras” while being served by SJW students. Ha! It’s like the impudence of the newly liberated slaves in Birth of a Nation, only it’s OK to laugh because this time the white people win!
Alas, among them only David Brooks managed to actually be funny: “The Trump administration immigration officials,” he wrote, “have become exactly the kind of monsters that conservatism has always warned against.” That’s comedy gold, Davey!
Andrew Sullivan sought at New York magazine to snatch racist victory from the jaws of defeat. Sullivan cautioned the liberals who for some reason still read him not to “think of the last week as a solid victory for the Democrats and for basic human decency,” because Trump’s just going to switch back anyway — and besides, lots of foreign darkskins are waiting to occupy America and who knows how they’d score on Charles Murray’s IQ tests — so Democrats should just “give him his fucking wall. He won the election. He is owed this. It may never be completed; it may not work, as hoped. But it is now the only way to reassure a critical mass of Americans that mass immigration is under control…”
If you wonder what Sullivan meant by “critical mass,” he added, “until the white working and middle classes are reassured, we will get nowhere.” True, nonwhite working and middle classes may not be on board; but really, who cares what they think? [Makes, like Uma Thurman tracing a square in the air in Pulp Fiction, a bell-curve shape with his fingers.]
Perhaps motivated by Trump’s pullback to find a new angle, the brethren redirected their energies from denouncing tormented immigrants to defending members of the Trump administration who’d been subjected to rude treatment for their part in tormenting them.
Take Kirstjen Nielsen, She-Wolf of the Department of Homeland Security. Her press conference on the controversy set new standards for official lying and number-fudging — no mean feat in this administration! — portraying the policy put in place by Trump’s own Justice Department as the fault of Congress.
On Wednesday, as Nielsen enjoyed a meal at a Mexican restaurant (chosen, I assume, as some sort of ghoulish victory ritual), she was harassed by a bunch of protestors and had to leave. Here, conservatives said, was a real outrage!
“Temporarily separating children at border: literally Auschwitz. Normalizing mob violence against political opponents, which is literally a fascist trait: totally awesome,” tweeted Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, whom I am told is some sort of intellectual, which may explain why he got this exactly backward.
“Maoist America: Screaming Leftists Force DHS Sec. Nielsen to Leave DC Restaurant,” wrote the Gateway Pundit. “PUNDITS, ACTIVISTS CELEBRATE HARASSMENT OF FEMALE DHS SECRETARY,” announced the Daily Caller. You liberals claim to support females!
Some of the brethren tried racism jujitsu. When CNN’s Ana Navarro joked, “Are there no Norwegian restaurants in Washington, DC?” the Washington Examiner’s Byron York gasped, “CNN’s @ananavarro suggests Nielsen, a Florida native, should stick to her own ethnicity in choosing restaurants.” “CNN Analyst Wants Her to Eat With Only Her Race,” said Ben Marquis at Conservative Tribune. White people can’t catch a break in this country!
Then on Friday night White House spokesliar Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who distinguished herself in this mess by doing the old What About Non-Immigrant Children Huh routine, got asked to leave Virginia restaurant the Red Hen where she’d planned to dine because the owner didn’t want to serve her, and the brethren really went crazy. True, Nielsen is a cabinet secretary and extremely white, but Sanders, as the daughter of a prominent, racist GOP ex-governor, is peckerwood royalty.
Using her official Twitter account, Sanders told the world, and the troops responded. Some obligingly offered to burn down the restaurant, but others merely adopted the hurt tone familiar to all of us who have over the years watched conservatives mood-swing back and forth between delusions of grandeur and persecution mania.
“I guess we’re heading into an America with Democrat-only restaurants, which will lead to Republican-only restaurants,” blubbered former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who did more than most to deceive America into the Iraq War.
“It is actually a sign of sickness in our country that political opposites cheer/jeer a business refusing service due to political beliefs.… It’s another step down a path towards real separation,” wept ex-CNN pundit Erick Erickson, who has called Supreme Court Justice David Souter a “goat fucking child molester,” among other such bons mots.
“Nastiness reflects desperation not strength. They can’t win the argument so they use nastiness,” said — get this! — Newt Gingrich.
“I wonder how things might have gone if [the Red Hen’s owner] had asked Sanders for a private word after dinner,” said Rod Dreher of the American Conservative, “or had sent over a round of dessert, and come by the table to talk.” What a great idea! As White House reporters can tell you, Sanders is known for her respectful exchange of views with those she considers her inferiors, e.g., everybody.
Dreher also seemed to think White House press secretaries are of a protected class under civil rights law like African Americans: “Masterpiece [Cakeshop] did not try to deny service across the board to gay customers.… Red Hen denied service across the board to Sanders and her party because they hate her politics.” Similar misapprehensions, real or pretended, were circulated by other conservatives like Byron York. “Should a Trump staffer have even a moment’s peace?” he asked wistfully. “Should a landlord rent to him? A restaurant serve him? A store sell to him?” Hath not a hack lies? If you bleed him, is he not a prick?
The civility brigade was joined, as you would expect, by the big mainstream media types. “Let the Trump team eat in peace,” virtue-signaled the Washington Post editorial board, which found it all very counterproductive, notwithstanding that protestors “will get no argument from us regarding Mr. Trump’s border policy, and when it comes to coarsening the debate, he is the prime offender.” But when they go low, we go high, right? That’s how we almost won in 2016!
And if that didn’t convince, the Post gently threatened: “Those who are insisting that we are in a special moment justifying incivility should think for a moment how many Americans might find their own special moment. How hard is it to imagine, for example, people who strongly believe that abortion is murder deciding that judges or other officials who protect abortion rights should not be able to live peaceably with their families?”
Sounds like the Post has never talked to a clinic escort, nor heard of George Tiller or Robert Lewis Dear Jr. But the Post needn’t worry: The chances that harassment of Trump officials will spread is slim, and in any case it will never match the harassment that people with far less privilege — like little girls selling water or grown people just doing their jobs — endure every day. So by all means, Trumpkins, enjoy your snotchos!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 25, 2018