IN RELUCTANT DEFENCE OF DONALD TRUMP: A CONSIDERATION
"It says something of how badly Donald Trump, the US Republican hopeful, has erred that journalists initially treated his statement calling for Muslims to be barred from entering the US as a hoax. Even he would not go that far, they said. Alas, they were wrong. He has, and he will continue to do so. It has long been clear there are no limits to Mr Trump’s invective. The real-estate mogul has dealt in misogyny, racism, belittling of disabled people and schoolyard bully tactics. There is no reason to suppose his latest — and most egregious — outrage will be his worst. Although Mr Trump is exploiting the deep disaffection that many Americans feel towards Washington, his demagoguery has reached the point where it is safe to say that his politics are un-American. In the first instance, it will be up to his rivals within the Republican party to repudiate the warped message he is peddling. Their party’s future, and the character of US democracy, may depend on it. On many levels, Mr Trump’s proposal sets off alarm bells. On moral grounds, closing US borders to an entire category of people is repugnant. The implication that every Muslim is a potential Isis recruit is offensive and unconstitutional: America enshrines an individual’s primacy before the law and admits to no religious bar. During much of the 20th century, there was a de facto ban on Catholic immigration and in the late 19th century a bar on Chinese. Both episodes were aberrations from US moral and legal values. Mr Trump has already crossed the line by proposing a database for Muslim Americans. He declares they should also be required to carry separate identity cards. Each measure would be struck down by the courts. It is vital his latest broadside be defeated in the court of public opinion".Leader, "Donald Trump’s offensive assault on American values". The Financial Times. 8 December 2015, in www.ft.com.
“I am not often in agreement with Mr Zilliacus, and it is therefore all the more of a pleasure to record my agreement with him on this occasion. Granting him his own special terminology, I think his accusation is fully justified. One must remember, of course, that in the mouths of Mr Zilliacus and his associates, words like democracy, Fascism or totalitarianism do not bear quite their normal meanings. In general they tend to turn into their opposites, Fascism meaning unfaked elections, democracy meaning minority rule, and so on. But this does not alter the fact that he is dwelling on real issues—issues on which Tribune has consistently, over a period of years, failed to make its position clear. He knows that the only big political questions in the world today are: for Russia—against Russia, for America— against America, for democracy—against democracy. And though he may describe his own activities in different words from what most of us would use, at least we can see at a glance where he stands…. I do not claim for Mr Zilliacus that he is honest, but at least he is sincere. We know where he stands, and he prefers to hit his enemies rather than his friends. Of course it is true that he is saying what is safe and fashionable at this moment, but I imagine he would stick to his opinions if the tide turned”.George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair], “In Defence of Comrade Zilliacus”. In THE COLLECTED ESSAYS, JOURNALISM AND LETTERS OF GEORGE ORWELL. Volume IV: In Front of Your Nose. Edited Sonia Orwell & Ian Angus. pp. 395-400. Article first published in 1948. Before I begin this in part jeu d'espirit, I must first disclose that there are few individuals who I detest more than Mr. Donald John Trump. The man is the very epitome of poshlost. A man without the least sense of self-consciousness appears to be a contemporary version of one of the grotesques invented by the immortal 19th century Russian writer, N. V. Gogol 1. With a long-time history of almost clinical narcissism and hubris, it is not in the least surprising that he thinks himself 'qualified' to be the President of the United States. Indeed, as far back as thirty-years ago, he stated that he could become the "nation's negotiator on arms limitation with the Soviet Union". A subject Trump then claimed which could be easily learned: "'It would take an hour and a half to learn everything there is to learn about missiles '" 2. This individual who radiates such an odd mixture of boorishness and stupidity with almost every word that he utters, should in an ideal universe be sentenced to many, many years as a galley slave in one of his own 'reality television' series. Failing which, should undergo 'de-programming' in some appropriate institution of mental health. The fact that a significant portion of the American public supports his bid to become President of the United States, is merely another positive example of the verity of the dictum of the late, great, H. L. Mencken that: 'no one has ever lost any money underestimating the intelligence of the American people'. With all that being said and understood as a given, I would like to examine as a plausible proposition Trump's idea about banning Muslims from immigrating to the United States. The first thing to be noted is that the question of 'who gains from Muslim immigrating to the United States' is almost never asked. And the analogous question: do the benefits qua benefits outweigh the risks qua risks of said immigration? If one were to look at the matter in this fashion: as solely an utilitarian exercise and not a question of the morals or otherwise of the contemporary American Republic, then one has to thank Trump for at least raising this subject for serious consideration. Since from a historical perspective, the content of what is meant by that lovely (but in fact empty) phrase: 'American values', is extremely difficult to ascertain. If we were to go back in American history, we would see that among other things which were at one time or other constituted American values they have included: 'Slavery', 'White Supremacy', unmitigated, buccaneer 'Capitalism', 'Free Trade', various types of Evangelical Protestantism, et cetera, et cetera. Which is not to gainsay the fact that much if not all of the above no longer would be listed as constituting what we now refer to as 'American values'. Merely that said list has not ever been nor is it likely to be unchangeable and fixed in stone. I would wager than whatever to-day's list can be said to consist of, it is highly unlikely that the very same list will be on offer in fifty years time. I speak of course very much from a non-Whiggish perspective (in the Sir Herbert Butterfield sense of the mot. Accordingly, when the issue of Muslim immigration is looked at as an utilitarian exercise, I for one would say that: i) the society which has fewer (if ideally no) Muslim immigrants / population is a happier and more successful one; ii) that Muslim immigrants, coming as they do from in the vast majority of cases (not pace from Central Asia mind you, nor Morocco), from Muslim majority countries wherein the religious bigotry and oppression of non-Muslim groups is legally mandated (id est., non-Muslim men cannot marry Muslim woman, Muslims are not allowed to convert to other religions, et cetera), and in many cases said immigrants show no signs of disagreeing with said edicts and practices 3. Nor have they shown in the past historically speaking, an ability to accommodate themselves willingly to the morals and practices of non-Muslim societies; iii) and it is this issue of an inability accommodate themselves to residing peacefully in societies which are not Muslim majority ones, which I contend explains more than anything else the so-called 'alienation' of segments of Muslim communities which reside in predominately non-Muslim countries. It is this type of 'alienation', not that connected with such historically illiterate sociological claptrap, as 'social exclusion', et cetera, which explains why said Muslim communities produce the number of terrorists that they do. In the case of Western and Central Europe, neither of which has much success in assimilating non-European, non-Christian & non-Jewish immigrants, Muslim immigration is a disaster, san phrase. And one can only applaud as the highest reason and statesmanship that countries like Poland and Hungary are not accepting such immigrants. Refugees or no. The real question that needs to be asked in the case of the United States is: whether given the many checks which the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Homeland Security provide in cases of legal, Muslim immigration, is there sufficient safeguards in place to reasonably prevent terrorist cells and outrages from occurring. Au fond of course, there is something whimsical if not in fact Swiftian in this entire discussion. Why so? Given the large numbers (admittedly not as large as say ten years ago) of illegal immigrants who come to the United States, it would appear to be self-evident that a terrorist group like ISIS would make use of such means to plant potential terrorists into the USA. Especially, if legal Muslim immigration were no longer possible. Regardless of this very last caveat, Donald Trump deserves thanks (if not much else) for bringing this issue before the American, nay world public. Albeit the mere fact that it was his 'idea' makes it ever unlikely to be looked at in the serious fashion that it deserves. 1. For the exact meaning of this splendid Russian word, see: V. V. Nabokov. Nikolai Gogol. (1944), pp. 63-74. 2. Sydney Schanberg, "NEW YORK; DOER AND SLUMLORD BOTH". The New York Times. 9 March 1985. IN www.nytimes.com. 3. Gideon Rachman, "Why the west’s view of the Saudis is shifting". The Financial Times. 7 December 2015, in www.ft.com