Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck
"Let heaven and men and devils, let them all, All, all, cry shame against me, yet I'll speak"

--Othello, Vii

It's not the current fashion to acknowledge that the post-1965 wave of immigration has had lasting and deleterious effects on Black Americans, but John Wood, Jr. of Braver Angels goes there on The Darkhorse Podcast from July 13, 2020.

I live in Los Angeles, Southern California. Blacks used to dominate the agricultural sector, the service sectors in California, and I suspect in other parts of the country. With the great society program and the opening up of immigration policy, what they call 'chain migration,' right, you had many immigrants coming from Latin America in particular who came in and dominated the agricultural and the service sectors, thus pushing African Americans out. At the same period of time, you had manufacturing opportunities beginning to go overseas to places like China and elsewhere in the late 60's, going into the 70's. You had many working-class opportunities for African Americans beginning to contract. That's point number one.

Wood describes several other phenomena that, combined with "the absence of economic opportunity," created a "cluster of systemic forces" that he views as essential to understanding the current moment of unrest, protest, and reckoning in the American streets.

(Starts at 32:37)

Although wildly different in tone, Wood's immigration analysis echoes that of the late radio personality Terry Anderson (also from Los Angeles), whose blistering critique of how immigration policies have been used to systematically deny economic opportunity to Black Americans blasted through the airwaves from the late 90s through the 00s. "If you ain't mad, you ain't paying attention!" he would howl into the microphone.

Like Barbara Jordan, Terry Anderson's untimely death silenced an important Black voice in the national immigration debate.

If Anderson's approach was to pump people up, John Wood, Jr. asks us to dial things down a notch.

"If we could analyze this in a way that can allow for a conversation for clarity to take place around these issues," he says, "and disenthrall ourselves from simplistic cultural explanations on the one hand or wildly alarmist and radical imputations of racism to the nation broadly speaking on the other, I think we could actually get somewhere."

This kind of commentary takes courage, particularly in a media environment where Twitter determines what is and isn't acceptable thought within our sense-making institutions. But as Bari Weiss wrote in her resignation letter to The New York Times last month, "Americans still hunger for news that is accurate, opinions that are vital, and debate that is sincere."

In a subsequent DarkHorse episode, "Ponzi Memes: Tyranny of the Minority," Bret Weinstein lays out lays out the moral case for borders as well as the inherent risk in defending them:

Now I want you to ask yourself a question. Do you know why it is that we mustn't open the borders? Can you explain it? You probably can't. You know we shouldn't. You know it would be a terrible idea. But the problem is, unless you have the language of game theory, unless you have at the tip of your tongue the phenomenon of the tragedy of the commons, it's very hard to explain why that would be a bad idea, and who will be harmed by it.

"It happens that, if you open the borders, you can predict the following thing: people who flood over the borders because there is opportunity here, they are not going to take corporate jobs. Whose jobs are they going to take? They're going to take the lower wage jobs, the lower skilled jobs, right? So who's gonna get hurt by what floods over the border? Right, it's going to be people who are most disadvantaged, not the people who are at the top of this ladder.

"So, it's a very regressive move to expose the lowest rung of the ladder to intense competition to people flooding over the borders. However, it is very hard to explain why you mustn't open the borders without then opening yourself up to the accusation that you are anti-immigrant."

(Starts at 11:04)

This isn't a new phenomenon. We in the immigration-moderation movement have faced these tactics for years, especially after The New York Times credited NumbersUSA for blocking the McCain-Kennedy expansion bill in 2007. Since then, nearly every argument for a more economically-just and environmentally-sustainable immigration policy has been ignored or twisted to imply that it's all just a smokescreen for anti-immigrant sentiment. Immigration policy impacts multiple facets of the American project, but our institutions have reduced it down to a false, binary choice. These illiberal tactics work to exclude not only the John Woods and Bret Weinsteins from the national conversation, but all Americans who are disadvantaged by our modern "great wave" of immigration. It's all very convenient, however, for those who profit from the current system and have reason to worry about the consequences of a more honest and robust debate.

In this clip from episode 39 of Verdict with Ted Cruz, "A Portal Into the Progressive Mind," Eric Weinstein (Bret's brother) discusses part of the history of immigration policy that has been swept under the rug, specifically how the university system teamed up with the U.S. government to ensure a cheap, compliant "student" workforce:

So, what we came up with was a brilliant idea - we would lie about American scientists and engineers. We would say that they are lousy and that they weren't interested in contributing to this very demanding profession, and by the way, we have a universe filled with the best and brightest in four countries in Asia, and we should just bring them over in large numbers because what we'd always done is, we've had a labor force that was based on apprentice labor.

So the students are actually the workers, but by calling them students, you don't have to pay them, you don't allow them to unionize, and then by doing this on foreign visas, you talk about educating the world, but you don't actually admit that what's going on is that you're coming up on people who are willing to accept visas as payment because there are no professorships for most people to take over.

"Effectively," Weinstein concludes, "what you did is you got the National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences to stab American scientists in the back on behalf of scientific employers."

(Starts at 8:55)

Weinstein circles back to immigration later in the interview when discussing the "cannibalization" of the American family:

So if you think about the United States as a family business, the family business was sensational between 1945 and the early 70's - built up a tremendous amount of wealth. But then, you have a very rich family with a sputtering family business. The first wave of concern, probably through the middle of the Reagan administration, was how do we restart growth so that we can get back to being ourselves? All of these supply-side gimmicks and the offshoring and the downsizing and the financialization and all these things were not good enough to actually deal with the underlying problem because it didn't have a diagnosis as to what actually happened back then.

What it was good enough to do was to keep some slices of the pie growing at the expense of others. So the idea is that instead of seeing each other as a source of camaraderie or military support or innovation, we started viewing each other as a source of protein. And then, we started the process of American self-cannibalization.

"Ok, well that's part of what we did with NAFTA, that's part of what we did with our immigration policies, the whole globalization stuff really amounts to. So the idea is that right now what you have is that you have certain sectors that grow by cannibalizing other sectors, and, as a result, if we call that 'growth', we can fudge our national statistics.

And since this is a media update, here is Weinstein discussing how, instead of providing the critical facts to enable a robust debate about potential paths forward, the media taps into our cannibalistic instincts and - like Shakespeare's notorious villain Iago - traffics in "stories" that drive a wedge between us.

The problem is Iago. Now, Iago deranges the protagonist (I guess) Othello against his beloved, Desdemona. And the idea is that by putting certain ideas into the head of Othello, Othello will actually carry out the murder of Desdemona and figure out too late who has in fact caused him to destroy that which he loves. Now, right at the moment, we have a problem with the Iago media....The Iago media is found both on the Left and on the Right. Everybody's got a narrative. When the news is narrative-aligned, they report the news. When the news is counter-narrative, they either don't touch it at all, or the lie, or they spin....So the idea is that we are all against illegal aliens, and we are for undocumented workers....and so where we are right now is, we are in a situation in which our media derange us every day - and by the way, 'media' is going to include tech - to hate each other....and so the problem that we're having is that what works in both business and politics is to get Othello to murder Desdemona on a daily basis.

I don't think Weinstein is saying that everyone who works in the news business is a villain, or even acts with ill intent the way Shakespeare's character does. His point is about how the institution functions in our society.

The media's business model gets clicks and sells newspaper subscriptions, but the primary product is outrage. The "conversation for clarity" that John Wood, Jr. calls for doesn't fit the model, which helps explain why the displacement of American Blacks in Terry Anderson's Los Angeles, and of American tech workers in Eric Weinstein's Silicon Valley, is news that is largely considered unfit to print. These stories disrupt the pro-immigration-vs-anti-immigration narrative that the media relies on. To raise these complications at all is to risk one's reputation. The media misinterprets discussion about the trade-offs of mass immigration as tantamount to driving a wedge between Black and Hispanic Americans; between the native and the foreign born; between the "us" and the "them." Of course that's what the media assumes -- it's the view that fits their framework; it's the story that sells. It's the idea that deranges the mind.

But there is another character in Shakespeare's tragedy without whom justice could never be done: Emilia, Iago's wife and faithful friend to Desdemona, who upon realizing the full scope of her husband's treachery, determines that the truth will out.

IAGO: Zounds, hold your peace.

EMILIA: 'Twill out, 'twill out: I peace!No, I will speak as liberal as the north:Let heaven and men and devils, let them all,All, all, cry shame against me, yet I'll speak.

IAGO: Be wise, and get you home.

EMILIA: I will not.

If we are all trapped inside Othello, let us be Emilias.

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Sustainability Initiative for NumbersUSA

Updated: Fri, Oct 2nd 2020 @ 2:16pm EDT

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