Frum gums up the immigration issue—again

I really have no desire to attack David Frum, and I wish this hadn’t happened, but it has. It started with David Frum writing a piece in the June 25 National Review, “How I Rethought Immigration,” a title that makes it sound as though the immigration issue had never been re-thought until Frum came along, about his evolving views on immigration over the decades, from complacent open-borders advocate in the late 1980s when he was in law school to the sage critic he is today. According to Frum, this change had largely been accomplished as early as 1990 (!!!!) when he worked at the Wall Street Journal under the fanatical open-borders ideologue Robert Bartley, and Frum gamely tried to introduce some sanity into that Kremlin of open-borderism. In addition to his weird attempt to portray himself as an advanced thinker on immigration restriction, Frum also returns to his familiar denunciations of the paleocon right for supposedly poisoning the immigration issue in the 1990s and so preventing the true immigration reformers, particularly Frum himself (!!!!), from making headway with it—surely one of the most self-serving motifs in the history of political journalism. (Frum’s fake take on the evolution of the issue has also served as a template for the far worse Jonah Goldberg to write the same kind of article himself in February 2002, “Ideologues Have Hijacked an Important Debate.”)

Here is Frum’s passage attacking everyone to the right of himself:

The just-hatched Internet then started to sprout websites devoted entirely to the immigration issue. All too often, the immigration reformers decided to perceive no-enemies-to-the-racialist-right. They might be exclusionist at the borders of the nation; at their own port of entry, however, they lifted their lamp to welcome people who wanted to argue the intellectual inferiority of African Americans, or compared federal law-enforcement agents to the Gestapo, or insisted the Jews had brought the Holocaust upon themselves, or despised America’s Spanish-speaking neighbors as inferiors and enemies, or dined with David Duke. Has ever a cause been worse served by its alleged advocates? The immigration debate all too often reminded me of the description of the English Civil War in 1066 and All That: a battle between the Wrong but Wromantic and the Right but Repulsive.

So, in the midst of a war against the immigration bill in which neocons and paleocons have for once been fighting on the same side, Frum gratuitously revived his old attempt to delegitimize everyone to his right on the immigration issue, even acting as if people who believe there are (gasp!) racial differences in IQ are beyond the pale.

Replying to Frum at VDare (“The Axis of Amnesty Is Back, But So Is David Frum,” June 17), Steve Sailer wrote:

Still, while this is all well and good, it does raise the question: If Frum was so expert over 15 years ago, why was he essentially a no-show in the immigration debates back when his influence was at its peak in the first half of this decade?

(Hint: It’s VDARE.COM’s fault!)

Sailer’s article has some good points early on, especially on Frum’s years-long AWOL status in the immigration debate, notwithstanding Frum’s bizarre insistence that he has been a leader in that debate. Unfortunately, as can be expected from Sailer, the piece turns into an unreadable rehearsal of all of his gripes against Frum, neoconservatives, Jews, Israel, and the war in Iraq. Sailer also goes back to Frum’s notorious 2003 National Review article, “Unpatriotic Conservatives,” his attack on the paleocons. There is no simple way to characterize that article. As I explained in a discussion at VFR at the time, there were two sides to the article that needed to be considered separately. On one hand, Frum viciously and falsely sought to delegitimize all immigration restrictionists as bigots. On the other hand, Frum definitively demonstrated, with lots of quotes (which I presented in the VFR discussion), the anti-Americanism of the anti-war right. Again, there’s no simple right and wrong in this argument. Frum is right on some points, and terribly wrong on others, and Sailer is right on some points, and terribly wrong on others.

Getting back to the present, Frum, in response to Sailer’s challenge concerning his immigration-control bona fides, replied at NRO by listing his various writings and other contributions to the cause over the years.

However, reading over Frum’s chronology of what he sees as his tremendous role in immigration reform, I realize that he has omitted from it an article he wrote in July 1991 in the American Spectator which blasted immigration restrictionists, particularly Patrick Buchanan, as ethnic and racial bigots. (Disclosure: I bear some measure of responsibility for Frum’s attack on Buchanan as a nativist, since the first time Buchanan criticized immigration for its ethnocultural impact on America was in his column about my booklet, The Path to National Suicide: An Essay on Immigration and Multiculturalism, which he wrote in spring 1991.) It is remarkable that Frum, in listing his contributions to the immigration control movement over the years, left out what was probably his first big article on the subject, in which he sought to ban any discussion about immigration that had to do with the ethnocultural effects of immigration on America.

I discussed that article in a letter I sent to Frum in November 1994 (the entire letter is posted at VFR). Here is the key section dealing with Frum’s 1991 American Spectator piece:

However, I am troubled by your tendency to denounce any serious concern with ethnocultural or national issues as either a distraction from the “real” issues or as demagoguery (which is a harsher way of saying the same thing). This problem goes back to your attack on Patrick Buchanan in the July 1991 American Spectator. In order to place your current writing in context, I must first talk about that article.

First of all let me say that in criticizing what I see as your intemperateness, I don’t wish to white-wash Buchanan’s. He has often made sloppy, impulsive, wrong-headed statements that he deserves to be criticized for. But you went way beyond such justified criticism, and engaged in what I can only describe as an intellectually dishonest attack. For example, you quoted Nicholas Lemann quoting John Erlichman quoting President Nixon characterizing Buchanan’s “extreme view: segregation forever.” This paraphrase is several steps too far removed from the original to know that Buchanan actually said or believed it, yet you adduced it as proof of Buchanan’s extremism.

As your next piece of evidence, you mentioned Buchanan’s distaste for the absolute conformity of opinion that is now demanded concerning the Martin Luther King holiday. Oh, horrors. Anyone who opposes the current egalitarian tyranny—as symbolized by the notion that everyone must bow at the King shrine or be destroyed—must simply be beyond the pale. We must have nothing to do with such a person—in fact, he deserves to be destroyed. In saying this, you are not being dishonest but rather are showing yourself to be a knee-jerk liberal on racial matters. Furthermore, is it not just a tad contradictory for a man who says he’s against statism to denounce Buchanan for opposing the statist egalitarian extravaganza that the King holiday has become?

However, when you engaged in the following argument, I feel you passed from liberal piety to outright character assassination:

“Now, the preservation of the existing ethnocultural character of the United States is not in itself an illegitimate goal. Shorn of Buchanan’s more unhygienic rhetoric, and with the emphasis on culture rather than ethnicity, it’s a goal that many conservatives share. If anything, a concern that the ethnocultural character of the United State is being changed in unwholesome ways is the quality that distinguishes the conservatism of Commentary and The Public Interest from the more economically minded conservatism that pervades the Washington think tanks. But there does come a point—it’s not always precisely indicated, but most of us know where it is—where ethnocultural conservatism shades into Kook-land.”

The above paragraph is extraordinarily devious. First you claim to believe that preserving America’s ethnocultural character is a legitimate issue (something which would obviously require, among other things, a total reversal of existing immigration laws). But then you offer Commentary and The Public Interest as exemplars of this “respectable” position. Well, I don’t know what you’re talking about. The neocons have been adamantly unserious about addressing immigration or anything else having to do with the ethnocultural composition of this country. It thus turns out that what you really mean by “ethnocultural character” is more like “family values” or “moral values,” not America’s ethnocultural character (which by definition includes questions of demographic and racial composition). And it is this “family values” argument that you actually regard as respectable. Meanwhile, anyone who goes beyond that respectable topic and addresses the actual question of America’s ethnocultural character is, according to you, a resident of Kook-land. Thus you call Buchanan a kook on immigration, without giving any definition of kook or supplying any examples of Buchanan’s “kookery” on this particular issue. Apparently, it is the mere fact that Buchanan has talked in direct, uneuphemistic terms about the effect of Third-World immigration on American culture and about the desirability of preserving America’s ethnocultural character that makes him a kook.

In other words, you start by pretending that there is both a “respectable” and an “unrespectable” approach to ethnocultural issues, and that you, as a reasonable, civilized man, want to draw a line between them. But then it turns out that you think that any serious approach to ethnocultural issues is “unrespectable,” that any discussion of the link between immigration and the Third-Worlding of America is, ipso facto, “unreasonable” and should not be allowed.

Again, I have nothing personal against Frum and I had no desire to attack him, especially during this time when former adversaries are on the same side in trying to stop Bush’s Comprehensive Black Death Act. But it was Frum who chose this moment of all moments to write his self-serving National Review article, “How I re-thought immigration,” using it as an opportunity once again to attack and dismiss the people who actually built up the-immigration restrictionist argument over the years at great cost to themselves while Frum, ensconced in his various establishment perches, was alternately attacking them as anti-immigrant bigots and silently wringing his hands about the harm immigration was doing to America. As late as 2004, Frum’s comments at a Center for Immigration Studies panel on immigration were so ambivalent, tortured, and devoid of substance you wondered why he bothered showing up. Yet this is the guy who now situates himself as one of our age’s leading thinkers on immigration.

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Mark Jaws writes:

Poor David Frum. On the immigration issue he is all over the place, and I think I know why. First, he is Jewish. So am I. Hence we know that if America had been more open to European Jewry in the 1930s and 1940’s, then perhaps hundreds of thousands, or even millions could have been spared the gas chambers. As a result Jews tend to be more liberal on the immigration issue. Second, as a member of the nation’s most affluent demographic, Frum is probably not directly affected by third world immigration. Chances are he lives in a very white neighborhood and sends his Kinder to either very white public schools, Jewish schools, or private ones. Third, however, deep in his heart he knows that as America becomes to look more and more like Mexico, it will become more like Mexico. And that is not good. But if he were to speak his heart, he knows he would run up against the prevailing PC-Multiculture BS-Diversity-is-a-strength mumbo jumbo, and he cannot possibly buck that tyranny and allow himself to be lumped with the likes of Pat Buchanan and Lawrence Auster! Is it any wonder why he is so meshuga?!

Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 19, 2007 05:06 PM | Send

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