Thursday, September 24, 2009

Victor Davis Hanson: 'How many people in America want to be called a racist?'

Professor Hanson posed that rhetorical question to me during an August 2003 interview (full text of the 1,200-word feature below) after he published Mexifornia, a book for which he was, naturally, condemned as a "racist."

Racism has replaced blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as the unforgiveable sin in 21st-century America, and Hanson's good-faith effort to discuss the real problems of his native California were, naturally, greeted with accusations of mala fides from defenders of the indefensible status quo which was even then threatening California with bankruptcy.

Given this background, then, I was perplexed by Professor Hanson's reaction to LGF's war against Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, their European friends and American supporters:
Some bloggers sent me postings the other day about Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs website, and suggested that the site has changed -- as in flipped sides. I have not followed the controversy, but I once rode a bike down in LA for an afternoon with Johnson and found him both a serious and bright guy with all sorts of original ideas about radical Islam and the anti-Enlightenment dangers it posed.
Out of curiosity I went to the site today. All I discovered different was a change in emphasis, but not necessarily attitude. He still is strongly anti-jihad; the difference is that he now worries just as much about creationism, paleo-right tribalism, and the white supremacists' piggy-banking onto efforts to stop radical Islam. Those are legitimate worries for any liberal (as in 19th-century liberal) minded. (Emphasis added.)
What interests me here is Professor Hanson's apparent assumption that Johnson (or anyone else, for that matter) is so solidy positioned in a stable center of 19th-century liberalism as to function as an infallible arbiter between the "anti-Enlightenment dangers" of radical Islam on the one hand and what Johnson would have us believe are the equally menacing forces of creationism, tribalism, etc., on the other.

Let us leave aside the question of whether The Flemish Menace or Beck's Legions are as dangerous as al-Qaeda. Nor should we be distracted, as I have tried to emphasize during this long engagement -- since I first came to Pamela Geller's defense in November 2008 -- by wondering if any particular figure involved in Vlaams Belang or Sweden Democrats is guilty of mala fides. Rather, the question is whether the judgment of Charles Johnson is sufficient to determine the motives of people he has never met.

Charles Johnson's assertion of his authority as a Platonic archon, deciding which "noble lies" are acceptable for consumption by the citizenry, has had several disastrous consquences, which Pamela Geller related to me in recent telephone conversation, impairing efforts to build a solid trans-Atlantic alliance to prevent the sort of cultural, social and political problems that Melanie Phillips summarizes under the title Londonistan.

This rather reminds me of an incident, recounted in David Horowitz's memoir, Radical Son, when he and Peter Collier finally parted ways with Robert Scheer at the radical journal Ramparts. The occasion was Scheer's dealings with Susan Sontag. The article in dispute was called "The Right Way to Love the Cuban Revolution."

What Johnson is asserting, it seems to me, is his supreme authority on "The Right Way to Love Western Civilization." Not only are creationists, paleo-right tribalists and white supremacist piggybackers disqualified from any role in this effort, but so also is anyone who questions Johnson's soundness of judgment in making these determinations.

Glenn Beck and Tea Party people are not loving Western Civilization in the "Right Way," according to Charles Johnson. Nor are Geller, Spencer, Diana West, Richard Miniter, Jim Hoft, Baldilocks, Pajamas Media, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, etc. As I said early on in this engagement, the extremist ideology which Johnson demands that all of us must accept is Charles Johnson supremacism.

Well, Professor Hanson, here I must draw the line. Nothing that might be gained by acceding to this insulting demand could compensate the dishonor involved in abandoning so many friends who have in the past two years suffered from the wickedness of Charles Johnson, whose superiority I refuse to acknowledge. Kejda Gjermani, while keenly intelligent, is yet only 26 and deficient in the hard experience of life and long decades of study that might qualify her to dictate what are the appropriate "components of Americanism."

Not 10 feet from where I sit typing these words, in a frame on the wall of my home office, are the medals my father won while fighting for the liberty of Europe, including the Purple Heart from the German shrapnel that nearly ended his life in 1944. Yet God evidently desired that my father's life should be spared, and therefore it seems to me that a debt is owed, which honor forbids me to evade. Some things a man writes with tears in his eyes.
Immigration limitation
Californian examines issue politicians shun
Aug. 19, 2003
California is being transformed by "massive illegal immigration," says one fifth-generation resident. In neighboring Arizona, residents have formed armed militias to patrol the Mexican border.
From Maine to Iowa to North Carolina, small-town residents are protesting what many call an "invasion" of immigrants. And some warn that terrorists are taking advantage of U.S. immigration policy.
One recent poll showed that 85 percent of Americans consider illegal immigration a "serious problem." That poll, conducted in March by Roper ASW, found that two-thirds of Americans would support reducing legal immigration to fewer than 300,000 newcomers a year, less than a third of the 1 million who came to the United States in 2002.
Immigration seems to be a concern everywhere except Washington, where -- except for the 66 members of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus -- neither Republicans nor Democrats appear interested in tackling the issue.
"How many people in America want to be called a racist?" Victor Davis Hanson says, when asked why politicians avoid the immigration issue. He answers his own question: "Not very many."
Being called a racist has been a new experience for Mr. Hanson in the two months since he published "Mexifornia: A State of Becoming."
A professor of classics at California State University at Fresno, Mr. Hanson is a military historian who says he reluctantly agreed to write a book about illegal immigration at the urging of his publisher.
He credits a "strange alliance" of special interests with stifling popular unrest about immigration. "You have the power of the employers that have a lot of money - meat-packing, restaurant business, agribusiness, hotels, construction. They like to have a perennial supply of cheap labor, all the better if it's illegal and it won't be able to organize or advocate for higher wages," Mr. Hanson says in a telephone interview.
"They're in alliance with the race industry on the left, [who] want a nonassimilated constituency. You put the two together and the people in the middle get drowned out."
Mr. Hanson, who will be the featured speaker at a forum on immigration today at the National Press Club, says defenders of the status quo distort the issue.
"The way the political climate is, the issue is never illegal immigration. It's always portrayed as one is against immigration per se, or is against a particular ethnic group," he says. "So when you try to talk about the need for legal, measured immigration, it's easy to caricature you as a nativist, a protectionist or whatever."
A decade ago, U.S. immigration policy was debated widely - 59 percent of California voters approved Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot initiative that limited public benefits for illegal aliens. But both President Clinton and Congress ignored the immigration reforms proposed in 1994 by a commission.
Since then the only significant attempt to change U.S. immigration policy was a 2001 Bush administration proposal to extend amnesty to some illegal aliens from Mexico. That plan was dropped after the September 11 terrorist attacks made immigration a national-security issue.
The immigration debate often pits conservatives against conservatives. When syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin pointed out that seven of the September 11 hijackers obtained fraudulent identification with the help of illegal immigrants in Virginia, she was criticized by the Wall Street Journal, which expressed concern that new restrictions might "upend the lives of Mexican nannies in San Diego."
Such internecine politics dismay Mr. Hanson, who notes that he's a registered Democrat.
"I love California, and I think it's going to implode if somebody doesn't talk about this issue," he says.
The immigration debate has spread nationwide in the past decade:

  • In Iowa, many residents were outraged in 2001 after Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack proposed making the state an "immigration enterprise zone" to attract foreign workers. Fort Dodge City Council member Greg Nolting was among those signing a petition of protest, saying the governor's plan would take the "bread off our table."

  • In North Carolina, protesters have staged rallies chanting "Illegals go home" and holding signs proclaiming "Now swim back." In Chatham County, the Hispanic population increased by more than 700 percent in 10 years.

  • In Maine, concerns were raised last year after more than 1,000 Somali refugees moved to Lewiston [population 36,000]. Many went directly onto welfare rolls. Schools were swamped with Somali children who spoke English as a second language. "The city had to adjust quickly to this arrival of a group of people who are clearly identifiable by their race and their dress, language and religion. They arrived in a fairly large group," said Lewiston resident Douglas Hodgkin, a retired professor of political science at Bates College. Rumors swirled that more refugees were on their way. In October, the town's mayor wrote a letter to Somali leaders, complaining: "This large number of new arrivals cannot continue without negative results for all." The Somalis responded by branding the mayor a "racist."
That's a familiar story to Mr. Hanson, whose book on California's immigration problem has met similar responses.
"People who like me say, 'Why would you do this? You're not a racist,' " says Mr. Hanson, whose Swedish ancestors settled in California's Central Valley more than a century ago. He says that if the United States "had 18 million illegal Swedes who couldn't speak English, I would be picking on Swedes."
He initially resisted offers to write a book on immigration.
"Myron Magnet at City Journal had heard I lived in the Central Valley, so he asked me to write an article about immigration," recalls Mr. Hanson, who still farms his family's land near Selma, Calif. "Peter Collier at Encounter Press read the article and asked if I would expand it [into a book]. It took him a lot of persuading. It's a no-win situation."
He says U.S. policy amounts to "rolling amnesty" for illegal aliens. "They have amnesty about every five or six years, without any reform or concessions from the Mexican government," Mr. Hanson says. "That's terrible message to people waiting five years to come legally to America from other countries."
In the state's recall campaign against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, rival candidates are largely avoiding the immigration issue, although Mr. Hanson says most Californians know it is a major cause of the state's $38 billion deficit.
"You just can't pay any longer for people to just come across the border to use health care facilities, education facilities, law enforcement, social services. People understand it's just an outlay that's no longer sustainable."
After discussing his book on dozens of radio talk shows, where he says he has been criticized from both the right and the left, Mr. Hanson says he's tired of the issue.
"I'm not bashing immigrants, but the taxpayers of California cannot continue to fund entitlements at the present level, because the state's broke," he says, likening the issue to "the 800-pound gorilla in the living room that no one wants to talk about."
Remember: There are five A's in raaaaacism.


  1. It breaks my heart that Victor Davis Hanson is being used by LGF and CJ, but you are reading too much into his post. VDH says some readers told him CJ was going wobbly and he looked at the site and did not see it (just a greater empahasis on dealing with extremism on the conservative side).

    A cursory look at LGF would not appear to be that outrageous. It is only when you start dealing with CJ and his band of scyophants that you get a real taste of CJ's own personal madness.

    But VDH says perhaps birthers should focus on Obama's college records instead.
    I agree but how about this issue too? Proof from Michelle Obama that Bill Ayers really did ghost write Barack Obama's autobiography?

    Just imagine if it is true (and there is decent evidence to support that) how much leverage this gives Bill Ayers over Barack Obama. It is mindblowing.

    And why isn't CJ focusing on those records, instead of obsessing over Paulians, Texas school boards, R.S. McCain, and discrediting tea parties or engaging in weekly witch hunts to flush out the crypto Nazis, white supremacists and racists that are everywhere?

  2. My goodness Mr McCain. How well written and on point. My take is that Victor Davis Hanson commented on something in which he hadn't done much research. I have huge respect for this man, and if Mr Hanson were to look more into this, I'm sure he'd have more to say. Do you think Charles would allow that on LGF?

  3. Just to make my own biases clear, VDH is one of my heroes, and if I could find a magic way to replace one of my senators (Boxer & Feinstein. Pity me.) with him, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

    That said, as the commenter above suggests, I think Dr. Hanson's opinion of LGF is based on taking a single recent look. Given that, a reasonable viewer might conclude that Charles, while opinionated, is within reason. One has to survey weeks and months of his posts to grasp his decline into a Vyshinsky-like believer in guilt-by-association. Also, while I've never met Charles, I recall Steve Greene of PJM also writing that CJ can be quite reasonable and enjoyable in person. But I've seen other cases where the "nice guy" becomes a raging loon once he gets behind a keyboard. (Or a steering wheel, but that's another matter.)

    Charles is rapidly isolating himself in a corner where the Right has abandoned him and the Left will never quite trust him for the way he savaged them in the past. I hope he enjoys the growing LGF echo chamber.

  4. I think Dr. Hanson's look was far too quick. I doubt it would reveal that Chuckles has made accusations of racist based not only on thin reeds of guilt by association but on false information as well, with no later corrections.

  5. Two things:

    One, I agree with the others above who suggest that all VDH is really doing is exactly what you, Stacy, ask of others -- refusing to join a rush to condemn a man of whom he personally knows well, in a situation which he has not been following and knows little.

    Two, you can infallibly determine a person's priorities by what he considers worth compromising. If, purely hypothetically speaking, one refuses to make common cause or tactical alliance with Group X in the name of opposing Group Y, one is demonstrating (whether he subjectively realizes/acknowledges it or not) that he considers Group X to be worse than or a greater threat than Group Y.

    Pam Geller, Robert Spencer et al are objectively demonstrating that they consider Vlaams Belang et al a lesser evil or worthy tactical ally against the threat from Islam (not that VB etc., be good per se. Now ... they may indeed think that, but attending conferences and making political alliance is not evidence that they do. No more than joining Stalin in WW2 made communists of Roosevelt and Churchill).

    Charles Johnson, Medaura, and others are demonstrating that they consider the threat from Vlaams Belang, neo-Confederates and others to be objectively greater than that posed by Islamic terrorism and Western dhimmitude. How sane or defensible that view may be is another matter, but that is necessarily their view. Actually there is another possibility -- that they view political alliances as exercises in moral purity (in which case, they've simply got a lot of growing up to do -- nobody mature person living after the Stalin alliance in WW2 has any excuse for thinking that about political alliance).

  6. I think it was Ace of Ace’s of Spades fame that mentioned the irony of this. LGF claims to be against conspiracy theories. Yet they very heavily promote these conspiracies and others:

    Creationist conspiracy attempting to turn the US into a theocracy, based on the Wedge document conspiracy.

    Ron Paul and the extreme right-wing Nazi Tea Party conspiracy.

    John Birch society are really a bunch of crypto-Nazis conspiracy.

    Pam Geller & Robert Spencer are crypto-crypto-Nazis, based upon the Brussels Journal and Gates of Vienna are in your blog-roll conspiracy.

    The many Glen Beck conspiracies.

    The 9/12 DC march, not really that many people showed up, conspiracy.

    And the list goes on.

  7. Other commenters have it exactly right: how can Hanson, or anyone, decide one way or another based on a brief visit to the site? The charge is that he has unfairly attacked individuals such as Pamela Geller. Did Mr. Hanson's visit even bring him into contact with the entries in question, the ones attacking Pamela Geller as a "poster girl for eurofascists"?

    That having been accomplished, Mr. Hanson would then need to examine the evidence for himself, including, if necessary, the responses to the attack.

    It is not clear to me that Hanson has done even the first of these, let alone the second. In fact, judging by his description, I think that probably he has not. So then why is he opining?

    My guess is that he does not understand the nature of the complaints. It is as if someone had said, "did you know that John Edwards is an adulterer," and he replied, "I visited him the other day and he kept his pants on the whole time, so the accusations appear to be baseless."

  8. A cursory look at LGF would not appear to be that outrageous. It is only when you start dealing with CJ and his band of scyophants that you get a real taste of CJ's own personal madness.

    Some of us have had girlfriends like that. Life lessons.

    What does not kill you makes you stronger. Oh shit, I just quoted a racist! I denounce myself.

  9. Hanson is basing it on that visit (outside of comments) and on his personal acquaintance of Charles.

    I don't begrudge a man for standing up for someone he knows personally. He likely hasn't followed this deeply so all he has to base it on is e-mails and a quick look at the blog (he has a life you know)

    The Irony is Charles takes this endorsement but doesn't extend the same courtesy to Steven Green, Glenn Reynolds et/al.

    Exit question: will Charles now ban VDH based on them working at the same place and consenting to that 2003 interview with a raaaaacist?

  10. Victor Morton said...
    Two things: . . .

    Hey, I got two things, too:
    1. Victor's got a master's degree from Notre Dame and considers it a point of honor never be out-argued by a Protestant who went to Jacksonville (Ala.) State University.
    2. Does the copy desk know there are five A's in raaaaacism?

    Frankly, no one could blame Professor Hanson for keeping as far away from this as possible. If CJ wasn't going after two friends, who did nothing to deserve the attacks, I'd have stayed out of it, too.

    Strangely enough, there is actual news in this blog-war, and to learn that "Medaura" is working for Commentary . . . Well, one of these days, when people are sitting around re-telling their favorite JPod stories, this is gonna be a humdinger!

    "Yeah, and so then, he hired this Canadian Albanian Objectivist blog-troll and . . ."

  11. datechguy said... I don't begrudge a man for standing up for someone he knows personally.

    Of course, similar behavior will get you banned on LGF.

  12. I posted this over on the comments thread at VDH's PJM post:

    Charles Johnson’s obsession with and hatred and bigotry toward creationist is unhinged. Last time I looked, it wasn’t creationists that hijacked airplanes on 9/11 and crashed them into the WTC, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

    And I just don’t see any “white supremacists” involved anywhere in the anti-statist movement, and even if they were, would that be a good enough reason to embrace statism? My God, is racism and white supremacism worse that the collectivism, statism, socialism and fascism coming out of Washington these days?

    Seriously, if the Ku Klux Klan endorsed the tea party movement and came out against government-run health care, cap-and-tax, trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, state-run media, et al., and the rest of the Obama agenda, would that be sufficient reason to all of a sudden embrace that agenda? Can't a broken clock be right twice in one day?

  13. I'm pretty sure Victor Davis Hanson is secretly practicing what is known as taqiyya in his attempt to undermine all that is good about America: Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Robert Stacy McCain. Hanson is paving the road ahead for Jihad and must be stopped immediately.

  14. Hmmmm, a rather disturbing trend:

    Excited by stories of the Second World War during school classes, Steven Cheek did what generations of young boys have done before him.
    Making an imaginary gun with his fingers, the nine-year-old pointed it at a classmate and said: 'We've got to shoot the German army.'
    Moments later he found himself in front of the deputy head, who accused him of racism because his 'victim' had been a Polish boy.
    He was made to stand in front of the class and make an apology while his mother, Jane Hennessey, was called in by the head of Purford Green Junior School in Harlow, Essex.
    She was informed that a permanent record of her son's misconduct would be placed on file.

    The fact this madness is more widespread than Charles Johnson makes one feel less singled out, but makes one more fearful for the future.

  15. Peter:

    Of course no one should embrace the statist side just because the KKK joined the anti-statist cause. We should just continue to be anti-statist and oppose the Klan too. It's a false dichotomy to say it's either accept the Klan, or embrace the left.

  16. I just commented at length on this at Cynthia Yockey's site.

    If Victor Davis Handsome (very) has not been following the arguments, he should not be commenting at all. He steps in as some sort of a character witness for Johnson, but that's absolutely irrelevant.

  17. It's no small irony that VDH posted his defense of Charles Johnson at a website that Johnson won't link to because he "thinks" they're raaaaacist.

  18. Let Charles Johnson go back through history and remove all the Pattons who defended civilization but who do not pass his test, and indeed those who were Founders as well. It's a Wonderful Life.