Is “PIIGS” an anti-European term?

(Correction: the “P” in Michael Novak’s “PIGS” stands for Poles, not Portuguese. Also, here is the passage in Novak’s The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics where he introduces the term PIGS.)

(Another correction: My below description of Novak’s thesis is too broad; he did not say that the “PIGS” had not assimilated in the sense of not becoming Americans, but that they had not assimilated into the elite, university-based, and corporate culture of abstract universalism and technocracy. He said that Anglo-Saxon Protestants and Jews were fully a part of that culture and were its leaders. In short, what the “unmeltable ethnics” had not melted into was liberalism. Whether Novak would say that his thesis has held true in the ’80s, ’90s, ’00s and ’10s is another question.)

Max P. writes:

I have a complaint with the use of the term PIIGS, which is short for Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain. Namely, does anyone believe we would use such an acronym for a group of dysfunctional, non-European nations? Yet people routinely use this acronym to describe these European nations which, despite their financial issues, are still destinations sought by millions of non-Europeans wishing to escape their own nations, which we are now only allowed to describe as “developing” nations.

Even the term we used to use, Third World, has increasingly become politically incorrect, despite the fact that it originally did not mean anything other than a nation which was not aligned with the USA or USSR during the Cold War.

I know my complaint will fall upon deaf ears, but I rank the use of PIIGS right up there with every other liberal double standard such as the failure to report on black dysfunction and the negative portrayal of whites in the media. If they are going to come up with a term like PIIGS, there is a whole alphabet soup of African and Latin American nations just waiting for a similar term.

LA replies:

PIIGS is not entirely a new term. Way back in the 1970s, Michael Novak in his noteworthy book The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics used the term PIGS (I don’t remember if he coined it) for Americans of Polish, Italian, Greek, and Slavic background. These were the white ethnics who, he argued, were not assimilating into the Anglo-form mainstream culture to the same degree or at the same rate as other white immigrant groups had done. I don’t think Novak intended PIGS as a put-down exactly, but more humorously, since as a Slav he was of PIGS background himself. But perhaps your criticism of PIIGS could be applied to PIGS as well.

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Mark Jaws sent the below comment before the second correction was added at the beginning of the entry which addresses his point:

While I have admired Michael Novak in the past, I must disagree with his assessment that Americans of Slavic and Italian ancestry have not assimilated as readily as other white ethnics. While I often describe myself as a semi-Semite, I am also a semi-Slav who grew up adjacent to New York’s Little Italy. Perhaps this is anecdotal but my Polish relatives and Italian friends are among the most assimilated Americans I know. In fact, my years of experience as a conservative community organizer has taught me that more than any other white ethnic group, Italian-Americans have the fighting spirit and willing hearts to take to the street to fight the Left. Chris Christie, Ken Cuccinelli (VA Attorney General), and Jason Mattera are among the proud “Roman legions” fighting for freedom. I would even bet that today’s American military officer corps is disproportionately Slavic and Italian.

May 9

Vincent Chiarello writes:

Mark Jaws is spot on regarding Michael Novak’s inaccurate description of the assimilation of Italian-Americans into US society. I cannot statistically prove Jaws’ point regarding the high percentage of Italian-Americans in the US military, but one good example is Gen. Ray Odierno, a West Point graduate, who is the 38th Chief of Staff of the US Army.

What may not be known is that Odierno’s son, “Tony,” lost an arm in an ambush in Iraq in 2004. His tour was not outside the combat zone.

Perhaps also unknown is that Justice Antonin Scalia’s son, Matthew, a West Point graduate, served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite his father’s position and influence, the Justice’s son chose not be serve as a rear echelon officer. He, too, had that “fighting spirit.”

Stuart L. writes:

Novak’s use of the term “PIGS” is redundant, because Poles are Slavs.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 08, 2012 12:27 PM | Send

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