Choice of Words

As far as I can tell, the conventional political wisdom on immigration right now is that countries should for their own benefit prioritize those persons who have marketable skills or qualifications.  Allowing entrance of the less fortunate is not generally defended in policy terms but in humanitarian terms.

In fact this plausibly pragmatic position is a betrayal both of the concept of human rights – why should a free person not travel where they want, short of a criminal status whose proper punishment would preclude traveling at all? – and of the American ideal of providing such a free society to all interested parties – especially “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses”.  But it is not an invention of President Trump’s, nor is it any surprise that he would be in agreement with anything that tends to favor the elite of the world.

When it was alleged that Trump, in what he probably thought was a private consultation, used a mildly vulgar epithet to describe some of the less fortunate nations in the world today, I was surprised that anyone could muster even a pretense of shock.  President Trump is not a civil man.  I would point out that very few people know whether the apparently horrifying word “shithole” was actually used – but the charge was absolutely plausible.  As for the reaction – that is in some ways mildly baffling.

First, of course, we have Senator Durbin’s spreading the story: an unremarked feature of the whole charade is that scoring partisan political points is apparently more important than saving national face.  Then we have the reaction from the allegedly insulted countries, which has consisted of angry speeches and demanded apologies, appropriately enough – though since Trump denies the incident, and the Republicans present back up his story, an actual apology is unlikely.

Finally we have a bunch of liberal outrage – in which the anger is not mainly directed at the position taken (which, as I noted, is conventional enough, though bad), but at the insult.  From liberals, though, this is ridiculous.  In my experience they specialize in vulgarity and vitriol.  Public comments – in TV satire, the less well-mannered partisan journals, and from individuals on facebook – are absolutely chock full of insults, innuendo, and the sort of thing a college sophomore might think is “edgy” but adults ought to have moved beyond.  In fact President Trump talks like an Internet Liberal about his opponents, and I have a half-baked theory that liberals are extra-mad about his taking Republican positions because they know he really “ought to” be one of them.

(The stereotypical conservative fault, in my experience, lies in a different direction, one we call “slander”.  Any half-believable ridiculous story about a Democrat gets play.  In one light it reflects a slightly better understanding of the morality of public judgments: we should judge by actions, not honest opinions.  But you can’t claim a moral anything when you go making up the bad actions, and spreading false stories, so that the judgments made are flawed.  Viewed in another light, it’s not hard to prefer the open diatribe of the liberal mind.)

My point I can sum up very simply.  If you wish to criticize the vulgarity and ostentatious boorishness of the current President, without making yourself look ridiculous, be careful how you do it.  No one can take liberal criticism of Trump’s manner seriously when any disagreement with progressive orthodoxy results in a flood of vulgar invective directed at the dissenter – and, in my experience, almost always leaving the dissenter’s arguments un-addressed.