Sunday, June 12, 2016

Trump, Hillary, the Orlando attack and anti-Latino bigotry

Electable Hillary has her first general election ad out now. (Igor Bobic, Hillary Clinton Launches First General Election Campaign Ad Huffington Post 06/12/2016)

It's on the Stronger Together theme with an At Least She's Not Donald Trump framing. "It's wrong to pit people against each other. We've had enough partisan division and gridlock already ..."

Here's the whole ad, Who We Are | Hillary Clinton:

Meanwhile, we have this incident (BREAKING NEWS Victims' names being released in Orlando nightclub shooting Orlando Sentinel 06/12/2016). And Republican Presidential candidate Trump is already demagoguing it.

And at this point, it looks like good grist for Trump's fear-and-bigotry mill: Rene Stutzman et al, Orlando nightclub shooting: Who is gunman Omar Mateen? Orlando Sentinel 06/12/2016.

Omar Mirseddique Mateen, the gunman accused of killing dozens of people in Orlando Sunday morning, was a security guard licensed by the state of Florida to carry a firearm, state records show.

Mateen, 29 of Port St. Lucie, died at the scene after a three-hour standoff with police that ended when a SWAT team mounted an assault on the building.

He was armed with two guns - a pistol and an assault rifle - according to Orlando Police Chief John Mina. ...

Mateen called 911 moments before the attack and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, according to a federal law enforcement official.

Mateen's name did not appear on a terrorist watchlist, according to the Massachusetts State Police, but he had come to the attention of the FBI earlier, said Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper.

In 2013, after he made inflammatory remarks to co-workers and claimed to have terrorist ties, agents interviewed him and other witnesses, then closed the file.

He came to the FBI's attention again the following year for making contact with a suicide bomber, but the agency considered that minimal and closed the investigation.
This new incident makes even more relevant this study that I first encountered this weekend: Regina Branton et al, All Along the Watchtower: Acculturation Fear, Anti-Latino Affect, and Immigration Journal of Politics 73:3 (2011). Branton et al look at the ways in which the particular reaction to the 9/11 attacks - orchestrated by the Cheney-Bush Administration, the Republican Party, the mainstream media, hate radio and the conservative media, all too often facilitated by the Democratic Party and its most prowar representatives like Hillary Clinton - built the current toxic anti-Latino racism and xenophobia which Trump and the Republicans are currently exploiting and encouraging. They write:

We contend attention paid to the border, its connection to terrorism and immigration in the post-9/11 era have had profound consequences on the lens through which Anglos view immigration. The attacks have implications for intergroup attitudes in the United States, extending beyond anti-Muslim sentiment ... Heightened sensitivity to group-based threats post-9/11, coupled with concerns over national identity promoted widespread antipathy towards Latinos based on perceptions the group violates traditional American values. This hostility towards Latinos has further promoted restrictionist positions on immigration and reflects the national emergence of a cultural dimension to the debate over immigration. Using survey data from 2000 and 2004, we show moral values and anti-Latino sentiment are strongly related to restrictionist immigration attitudes in the latter period. These factors have virtually no impact in the earlier period. [my emphasis]
Their study makes some more social and psychological sense out of the devolution of the Republican Party on immigration since 2000.

And, unfortunately, it's a reminder that an incident like this can be used by the Republicans to exploit fear and hatred of Latinos. The same fear and hatred they have been fomenting. Yes, it makes no real logical sense. But hatred and fear don't operate by formal logic.

Branton et al describe the historical process this way:

In the aftermath of 9/11, political and media attention shifted to the border. Politicians, pundits, activists, and some academics linked looming security threats to immigration, particularly undocumented migration ... In the months after the 9/11 attacks, widely publicized reports of apprehensions of individuals from "special interest" countries appeared in the media and some politicians went so far as to explicitly link migrants to terrorists ... Regen (2010) argues the attacks led the Border Patrol to see "every economic refugee, every campesino and shopkeeper, as a potential terrorist" ... Indeed, images of José Padilla, an American citizen of Puerto Rican origin arrested in 2002 and convicted of aiding terrorists in 2007, were pervasive and served as an explicit coupling between Hispanics and the terror threat ...

As a result, the hostility toward immigration, especially undocumented migration readily seen in the border states in the 1990s, has percolated throughout the country in the post-9/11 era. Indicative of this nationalization, media coverage of immigration and the border jumped to a new "equilibrium." [my emphasis]
José Padilla was the guy that Attorney General John Ashcroft claimed had been part of a "dirty bomb" plot. But he was never prosecuted on those charges. Though after years of extreme sensory deprivation, he was charged and convicted on a much less serious charge. (Kirk Sempljan, Padilla Gets 17 Years in Conspiracy Case New York Times 01/23/2008; Paula McMahon, Jose Padilla sentenced to 21 years in terrorism case Sun Sentinel 09/09/2014)

So, besides being toxic warmongering propaganda, that particular stunt of the Cheney-Bush Administration also promoted the toxic anti-Latino extremism we see from today's Republican Party. Trump and his White Power campaign didn't spring from nowhere.

In their survey of the media coverage of 2001-2005, they found that in coverage of Latinos:

... not only did the volume of coverage increase, but the content became predominantly negative. In the post-9/11 era, this coverage has implicitly and explicitly associated Latino immigration with national security, crime, and cultural change. Indeed, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) "Network Brownout 2003" report5 states that in the year following 9/11, sixty six peRcent of network coverage of Latinos involved crime, terrorism, and illegal immigration. Network news generally portrays Latinos as "a dysfunctional underclass that exists on the fringes of mainstream U.S. society" ... Further, in the coverage of illegal immigration, Latinos are portrayed as a "threat to the country." Even more critical, a report by Media Matters Action Network (MMAN) finds that "cable news overflows not just with vitriol, but also with a series of myths that feed viewers' resentment and fears, seemingly geared toward creating anti-immigrant hysteria"...
All this unfortunately suggests that Trump's broader White Power message, including the anti-Latino piece of it, could actually gain potency for his demagoguery on Muslim terrorism. The latest round of which he unleashed today after the Orlando massacre.

Branton et al write in their conclusion:

This new threat context, coupled with the framing of the immigration debate and prevalence of "national identity communication strategies," has amplified hostilities towards the Latino community and preferences for stringent immigration policy following 9/11. ...

From the perspective of social identity theory, Latinos, invariant to legal status, have become a threatening outgroup and the object of derision among many Anglos. Public policies on the issue only seek to reify this. As [Kevin] Johnson ... argues, "immigration enforcement ... has had a negative impact on Mexican-American citizens, who are often presumed to be foreigners because of their physical appearance, surnames, and ancestry" (... emphasis added [by Branton et al]). Perceptions of immigration have become inexorably linked to the Latino community, a community implicitly connected to a symbolic threat, this despite the evidence proffered by [Jack] Citrin et al. ..., who show these kinds of acculturation fears are unfounded.
And since Latino citizens know this, we can ask once again what the Democratic President thinks he's doing with staging a new round of deportations of Latino women and children in the weeks leading up to the Democratic and Republican conventions: David Dayen, Will Democrats Pay a Price for Obama’s Deportation Raids? New Republic 06/01/2016. David writes:

Latinos certainly don’t consider Trump a better option. But the horror stories might discourage many in the Latino community from believing that there’s any hope of receiving respect and dignity from either party. They may tune out of politics, considering both sides equally belligerent. And that matters way beyond one election.

All of which begs the question of why the White House is embarking on this — and why now? After all, Obama rolled out in late 2014 a series of policies aimed at deporting "felons, not families," touting the fact that they would protect millions of law-abiding immigrants. Those policies have been held up in lawsuits that have reached the Supreme Court; a decision is expected this month. There’s a theory that the administration can only win in court by proving that it is using its prosecutorial authority in other cases—so it shows a strong hand with some immigrants to allow for a lighter touch with others. In addition, the migrant crisis hurt the administration’s popularity in 2014, and there might be a political calculation here—an idea that parrying Republican critiques on immigration will somehow help Democrats, especially Clinton, with swing voters.

But if that’s the political rationale, it’s far-fetched to say the least. Meanwhile, the women and children being deported are pretty clearly refugees, and returning them to horrific violence could permanently scar Democratic support from Latinos. The reticence over accepting migrants further shows America’s cruel streak to the world, too, but that’s also of far less importance than the lives that will be wrecked or lost. It may have made internal sense for Obama and the Democrats to be "tough on the border" when trying to negotiate comprehensive immigration reform; it makes no sense now. Donald Trump may have called Mexicans names, but he didn’t do this. [my emphasis in bold]

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