Midterms: Voters must reject toxic conspiracy, hysteria and racism

Midterms: US voters must reject toxic mix of conspiracy, hysteria and racism
7 min read
06 Nov, 2018
Comment: We need a progressive coalition to counter the injection of conspiracy, racism and warlike provocation into policy and media coverage, writes Azmi Haroun.
Record voter turnout for a Midterm election is expected [AFP]
There's a common refrain in American media and society that goes "imagine how we would cover Trump if he was president of another country!" 

In Hungary, the media ecosystem, almost completely owned by the government, continuously runs segments on migrant "invaders" en route to ruin the country. In Syria, media is largely tied to the state, broadcasting every speech that Bashar al-Assad gives. These problems are also American, and not just in the Fox News context.

Structural media problems have been exacerbated during the Age of Trump. One (mal)practice is a highly acrobatic form of linguistic gymnastics - one in which publications nimbly pirouette from accurately using the word 'racist', opting instead for flavours of racially-tinged, racially-charged or racially-coded. All racial stumbles of varying severity.

After a macabre week of violence, death and unending coverage of the caravan 'crisis', the nation is grappling with the full hazard of an administration embedded in white nationalism and fascism.

Within the span of two weeks, these grim events dominated a fast-moving news cycle: A mass mail-bomb assassination attempt against top US Democrats and funders, a deadly anti-Black hate crime in Kentucky, the largest massacre of Jews in modern US history in Pittsburgh, and a far-right misogynistic murder of women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee.

With the midterms upon us, Trump's administration predictably deflected from its responsibility in empowering many of these hatemongers.

Republicans are using immigration as their Midterm strategy, but the anxiety, suffering and limbo immigrants feel as a result are not easily dispelled

His speech transcripts and twitter feed are a running list of incitements, beginning (in the political context) in June 2015, when his bigotry towards Mexicans was made crystal clear and was well-received. This weekend, he revisited his Birtherism claims against Barack Obama - reminding broader audiences that his racism against Black Americans stems back to his days as a young real estate crook.

Why should it be radical to describe who is being radicalised, and ultimately who poses the greatest threat to the US? Watching a few minutes of Tucker Carlson can further illuminate how hateful ideas about immigration and civilizational doom are spread.

But in 2018 in the US, white supremacy affects all Americans, and is the most potent form of terrorism today. "Nazi Next Door" profiles from major publications haven't helped the notion that white nationalism, by nature, is a violent force.

It's imperative to humane policy-making and nuanced coverage that media pundits and politicians across the aisle refrain from framing the conversation around immigration as a "threat".

The caravan of central American migrants and asylum seekers is not a looming crisis. News outlets shouldn't have to produce saturated coverage of the administration's version of events in order to fact-check and ease fears.

Immigration and foreign policy orders represent an easy vehicle for the Trump administration's radicalisation rhetoric, and media outlets should cover his war on immigrants as such.

Democrats cannot afford to simply be on the defensive in terms of immigration policy - denying open borders claims, decrying family separations and then voting to
boost the military budget, is not good enough.

Immigration and foreign policy decisions are clearly tied. Look to Iran, Yemen, or Honduras. President Trump has implemented harsh sanctions against Iran, while simultaneously banning its people from entering the US via the 'Muslim Ban'.

In Yemen, massive US military aid and drone strike campaigns support Saudi carnage across the country, but Yemenis are banned from entering the US.

In Honduras, the US has supported administrations who have committed election fraud and plunged the country into
political and economic crisis since Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo Sosa's right-wing coup in 2009.

This framing is a murky lie and a slippery slope that allows for an evolving redefinition of who is, and who has the potential to be American

In the resulting power vacuums, migrants also flee because of the stranglehold that gangs or extremist groups can violently impose. The US has a historic commitment to resettling asylum seekers and refugees, and respecting international asylum law, which it is failing to uphold.

In this context, it is essential that liberal media and political counterparts dispel the notion that threats are coming from abroad. If "border security is national security," then what do we call the weaponised radicalisation of American citizens, willing to send bombs, or murder people on the basis of their race, gender or religion?

Read more: 
For a window on the future of America, look to Israel

This framing is a murky lie and a slippery slope that allows for an evolving redefinition of who is, and who has the potential to be American.

Domestic immigration policies such as stripping immigrants of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a denaturalisation task force, the proposed revocation of birthright citizenship and fast-tracking ICE's destruction of peaceful communities, are all racist inventions.

In the context of national security, much of this country knows the Unknown Middle Easterner better than it knows the foundational threat of White Supremacist violence.

This is a party and administration whose line of logic is increasingly based on conspiracy. In the last few weeks, Donald Trump has entertained multiple anti-Semitic conspiracies about George Soros paying protesters and paying for the migrant caravan. The GOP has done nothing to prevent a radicalisation which loudly took place before our eyes.

Trump is also proudly sending up to 15,000 troops to the border, following up an earlier deployment of in April which mirrored orders by the Obama and Bush administrations.

However, the continuous injection of conspiracy, racism and warlike provocation into these decisions is no stunt.

Similar to the Israeli army's playbook against Palestinian protesters, Trump is using genocidal language, and giving soldiers shoot to kill orders. Surely the outrage produced here should extend to the idea of carelessly sending US troops to the Middle East.

Republicans are using immigration as their Midterm strategy, but the anxiety, suffering and limbo immigrants feel as a result are not feelings that will soon dissipate.

Progressives must focus on policies that empower immigrants, facilitate legal processes to naturalisation, and reassess the need for ICE, with a focus on doing lasting outreach in immigrant and diverse communities. Lifting the embarrassingly low refugee admittance cap, when possible, is the least a progressive administration could do.

The US is on track to be a minority-majority country by 2050, a progressive force should recognise the need for a diverse political coalition with power in informing immigration and foreign policy issues.

Much of this country knows the Unknown Middle Easterner better than it knows the foundational threat of White Supremacist violence

Obama's administration specialised in the expansion of drone strikes, family detention at the border and deportations, yet what sets Trump's administration apart is the blend of nativist rhetoric accompanied by policies at a blistering speed and scale.

There is an active confounding of what is 'legal' and 'illegal', followed by justification to act based on the administration's newly defined terms of legality.

The resistance must learn from the horrors of the past while rejecting the status quo, and not just ignore the plight of immigrants when it's convenient. Media outlets - as the
AP did in 2013 - should lead the way with clear language that cuts through the noise and respects the plight of immigrants.

Immigration will continue regardless, but whether it forms the basis for creating and covering immigration policies that demonise and ignore those individuals caught in limbo - so often wronged by the US - is a critical decision which elected officials and mainstream media will need to make. And they must do so with a higher onus on truth-telling and compassion in a climate of derision.

In this urgent context, a Blue Wave is highly important because in the long run, we are experiencing the browning of America.

Azmi Haroun is a Syrian-American writer and activist studying at Columbia Journalism School.

Follow him on Twitter: @asmuchazmi

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.