[Borat] illustrates the tremendous power of folk memory. Sacha Baron Cohen (who is an observant Jew) has said, in an interview, that he wanted to make some points about antisemitism.
Nothing wrong with that. I have expressed the opinion somewhere that we have entered an age in which antisemitism will again drive large world events. It is a great and terrible force.
But where is it located? According to SBC, it is located among East European villagers, super-genteel middle-class Americans, and redneck southern Christians. This is precisely the folk memory of the Ashkenazim. The enemies are mean, stupid, persecuting peasants of the Old Country, exclusive country-club patrons, and Klansmen.
Could anything be more wrongheaded? Jews are indeed in peril in the world today, but not from any of those sources. SBC is the Jewish equivalent of those Irish Americans I used to (and still occasionally do) get into arguments with, for whom nothing at all has happened since 1846.
He has not noticed the modern world, preferring instead to stay in the warm cocoon of his grandparents’ stories about brutish muzhiky, great-uncle Irv being kept out of Yale, and tobacco-spitting good ol’ boys sneering at pointy-head Jewish perfessors. I don’t think I have ever seen this odd phenomenon so clearly illustrated. I am sure SBC had no idea he was doing this.
Shallow Sentimentality on Immigration. One thing that you can’t help noticing about the immigration discussions is that pretty much all the real analysis — the spreadsheets, the projections, the number crunching — is on the restrictionist side.
The other side has... what? Well, it has the kind of silly feel-good twaddle illustrated to perfection by James Poniewozik’s essay in last week’s Time magazine. The piece is supposed to make some contribution to the immigration debate, but what does it actually tell us? “Here is a Hispanic person. Her father was an illegal immigrant! Yet she is really nice!” Well, that's great; but how does it help us in sorting out a sensible immigration policy? I don't doubt for a moment that America Ferrera is a wonderful person. Here is a different story, about an illegal immigrant from Ecuador who is not so wonderful. Here is a story about the fiscal problems here in my home county, twelve hundred miles from the Mexican border, caused by illegal-alien criminals. These are my property-tax dollars being spent, and I don’t have a lot of dollars.
Where does any of this get us? With big social-political issues like immigration, what is needed is for us to think things through, not to swoon over happy-face stories like Ms. Ferrara’s, nor for that matter to bristle at grim-face ones like Mr. Pillco’s. Yet practically everything published by the supporters of illegal immigration is just shallow sentimental swooning of the Time variety. Perhaps sentimentality is all these people have to offer. They sure don't seem to be long on real analysis.
Most insulting of all is the subhead on the Time piece: “On TV, the immigration wars aren’t as simple as politicians make them sound.” Let’s see: Who, exactly, is reducing this vast and momentous issue to simplicities: the author of the Time piece, with his cheery little anecdote about one immigrant, or serious analysts like our own Mark Krikorian, who has spent years patiently crunching the numbers to try to find out what will be the consequences for our nation of importing 100 or 200 million third-world immigrants? The argument is not about one immigrant, this Ms. Ferrera. It’s about tens or hundreds of millions, including some Ms. Ferreras, some Mr. Pillcos, and everything in between. Can we have that argument, please?
The great English immigration-restrictionist Enoch Powell had a slogan he tried to include in everything he said or wrote on the topic: NUMBERS ARE OF THE ESSENCE. Precisely. The Time essay has given us a number of one. Its information content, as regards what are and what are not sound immigration policies, is an even smaller number: zero. Immigration policy is a branch of mathematics, not weekend work for employees of the Hallmark Card Company. [More]