Be Bigger than Them

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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106 Responses

  1. Kazzy says:

    Obama’s comments seem to be specifically aimed at the GOP candidates… not ordinary Americans. And while that doesn’t necessarily detract from your point, if Obama is discussing policy regarding Syrian refugees — which is a separate issue from the Paris attacks — countering the arguments given in opposition to his preferred policy seems reasonable. He isn’t arguing that the GOP candidates or their supporters are the real enemies or are somehow responsible for what happened in Paris. He is putting forth his preferred policy with regard to the refugee crisis and is pushing back against a counter-argument to that.Report

  2. Doctor Jay says:

    Like @kazzy, I kind of thought Obama was talking about the candidates specifically, not the general fears of the public. But that kind of message often gets blurred. Which is why I don’t really believe in shame as a vehicle for persuasion.

    Shame and mockery rarely, if ever, change someone’s mind. They have no place in persuasion. What they accomplish is:

    1) They garner a lot of approval and energy from people who already agree with you.
    2) They make the people who don’t agree with you block and ignore you. That’s the social media solution, but as a metaphor, that’s how it has always worked. Interestingly, to the in-group, it can look like you’ve made them shut up. But they haven’t stopped talking, they just have stopped talking to you.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    On a purely pragmatic level, how does The American People feel about the refugee thing?

    Are we in a situation where we’ve got 50/50 “for/against” numbers? Are we in a situation where we have 33/33/33 allow refugees/allow refugees but not in my state/refuse refugees numbers?

    These numbers are important insofar as they help us figure out how we need to be arguing and what is likely (and what is unlikely) to work (as we can watch the numbers over time).

    We’ve already hammered out what the moral, good, right, true, and therefore American thing to do would be. All of us here know that.

    What’s the best way to convince those undecided other people in other places? What’s the best way to get the opposition to feel enough shame to mumble their opposition rather than shout it the way they’re doing?

    I posit that the answer to the last question is something other than what Obama is doing.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      And to riff off of what you’ve argued some more, the people opposed to the refugee thing have some legitimate, insofar as emotions can be legitimate, feelings about why they’re apprehensive.

      Just because you feel something very strongly doesn’t necessarily mean that your feelings are representative of the state of affairs in the world.

      But as we’re seeing everywhere, arguing about numbers when someone else is arguing about their feelings is a recipe for drama.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

        @jaybird I don’t mean this to be snark; I genuinely wish I knew the answer to this question, but how does a politician tell voters that their understandable, emotional reaction to an event is wrong without being patronizing or dismissive of those concerns? I don’t think Obama or the left in general are doing a very good job of this, but I think it’s a pretty sticky wicket where failure is not terribly surprising.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Don Zeko says:

          I have no idea.

          Snark, however, won’t work. But saying “I know what won’t work” isn’t helpful.Report

          • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

            Perhaps if we explained the refugee vetting and selection process, detailing the multiple security checks it involves, talked about who the refugees are (mostly women and children), discussed the fact that, to date, all the identified Paris attackers were French or Belgian, not Syrian, and the Syrian passport found at one of the attack sites was likely stolen or fake (current info seems to be suggesting the former, with its true holder long dead), and so on? Honest question: do you think we could get people to listen long enough, and openly enough, to hear all that? I honestly have my doubts, because once the emotions are activated, it becomes very difficult for people to think about it rationally (that is, using the “cold” system rather than the “hot” one).Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

              I think that talking about the refugee vetting and selection process would be *HUGE*. Talking about how they’re mostly women and children would be *HUGE*.

              do you think we could get people to listen long enough, and openly enough, to hear all that?

              I honestly think so, but there isn’t a whole lot of trust here but there is enough trust for an explanation of why this will work a particular way.

              Now, of course, if the refugees show up and they have a similar gender skew to the skew seen in Europe, this will do (further) damage to refugee efforts in the future… but that bridge can be crossed later.

              Focus, dispassionately, on how we have a process, how the process works, and how we will be able to measure the process working.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                Sure, you’re a very moral person.

                We’re not arguing against moral people like you and me.

                As such, we’d need to translate those numbers into “and here’s what we’re going to do about it” numbers and the argument of “we’re going to accept some-number-smaller-than-4-million” will probably get a question like “why will our helping Syrian refugees look different from Europe’s helping Syrian refugees?”

                Because, for some reason, “we’re accepting women and children” will work as an argument and “we’re accepting everybody!” won’t. “We’re accepting a gender skew similar to Europe’s” *REALLY* won’t.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

                I was searching the ‘net to see who it was that came up with that line:
                Children are not our enemies, and should never be victims of war.

                What I have found is, well . . . it might have been me. If that is the case, it is likely that I threw two things together as one.

                Nonetheless, I think it’s a great line.
                Help me popularize it.Report

        • j r in reply to Don Zeko says:

          …how does a politician tell voters that their understandable, emotional reaction to an event is wrong without being patronizing or dismissive of those concerns?

          The say way that any good profession explains things to the lay people with whom they interact. We have these sorts of conversations all the time in areas outside of politics. The medical profession is one area that comes to mind as being highly technical and also highly emotional; yet good doctors know how to bridge the gaps in their patients’ understanding in a way that is helpful and not patronizing. The only reason that politicians don’t is that the profession is largely corrupt.Report

          • Don Zeko in reply to j r says:

            I imagine doctors and such would have a harder time of that if the patient just heard an excerpt of whatever it is the doctor said, and the excerpt was selected by somebody that wanted the doctor to look like an asshole.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Don Zeko says:

              “You are in good general health. No one would question that. But you do have a mass of fatty tissue on your liver we’d like to look at.”

              “Doc says, ‘You are…a…fatty’ ‘No one… like to look at.'”Report

        • Damon in reply to Don Zeko says:

          I can tell you what my reaction would be to MY employee telling me I was wrong. “You need to find another job. You’re job is to obey my directions in Congress. Do so or I’ll find someone to replace you.”.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

      Based on the Republican campaign thus far, we would seem to be in the range of 20-25% who are against refugees because they’re against all immigration. The “not in my state” thing is a red herring — they’ve got to know that once a refugee is in the US legally, there’s no real checks on where they can go. Colorado has a growing Somali refugee population. That’s not because the government has decided to settle them here initially, but because we have meat packing plants willing to hire them. This is a growing trend nationally. I wonder how many of these governors have considered that there’s a fair chance the meat they’re eating at supper tonight passed through a Muslim refugee’s hands?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Well, assuming that 25% of Republicans are reprobate, what about the rest of the people who could reasonably be counted upon to vote?

        My suspicion is that there is quite a bit (as in a supermajority) of opposition to the refugees coming here.

        Yes, it’s irrational. Yes, it’s immoral. Yes, we need to not do what they want to do and we should do what we want to do. Stipulated.

        So how to move forward when it comes to doing the right thing if we have this troublesome “democracy” to work with?Report

    • Michelle in reply to Jaybird says:

      One poll I saw on the news this morning said that 52% favored keeping Syrian refugees out; another 18% favored letting in only Christians, and 35% favored allowing the refugees in (these figures are approximate as I can’t remember the exact numbers but they’re close). Popular sentiment clearly favors the GOP. And is pretty similar to American wsentiment during previous refugee crises.Report

    • bookdragon in reply to Jaybird says:

      How about coming at it from the perspective not of moral right but of pragmatism?

      ISIS wants us to be afraid, so afraid we shut our doors to these refugees and perhaps even start persecuting Muslims (relocations, internment camps, ID cards – all of which some politicians have already proposed). That creates a pool from which ISIS can recruit. So by caving to fear we are essentially rewarding their actions – making it more, not less, likely that they will strike us.Report

  4. greginak says:

    Mmmm…R govs are refusing to take refugees and in Tenn one R wants to kick out refugees who are already there. The congress may push to keep all refugees out and the sanest of the R’s prez candidates suggested what he did. But that darn O was snarky. Does being snarky help, well some people actually claim to like straight talk and not well considered, thoughtful politician speak. Of course most of those people only like that when they agree with it, but leaving that aside, sometimes just straight forward simple framing works. It gets past some filters when you present things with a clear elevator pitch.Report

  5. Autolukos says:

    On a minor note, I’m pretty sure that picture doesn’t come from a World Cup game.

    Edit: and now I see that the frontpage and the heading have different images; my bad.Report

  6. Mike Dwyer says:

    I keep thinking it’s kind of interesting to compare this question to the gun debate.

    With guns, you have conservatives who say that you shouldn’t blame a huge group for a few bad apples. Libs seem to be okay with reducing liberties for all gun owners based on the crimes of a tiny minority. Reverse those positions for Syrian refugees and you pretty much have the same talking points.

    I hate politics.Report

    • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Guns – made for killing.

      Refugees – made for… no, made by us (ultimately), to to flee war?

      The analogy works perfectly.

      What’s more, most “anti-gun” folks want to put restrictions on gun ownership, making it a bit more difficult for law-abiding gun owners to purchase guns. The refugee process is already remarkably difficult and protracted. I say we run with the analogy and make getting a gun as difficult as it is for a refugee from Syria to get into the U.S., and make it take as many years as well.

      Wow, thanks. This analogy works perfectly now that I see that it actually suggests much, much stronger restrictions on gun ownership.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Chris says:

        It’s worth noting that @mike-dwyer doesn’t claim his analogy is perfect. He’s just pointing out something similar in two types of controversies. And for what it’s worth, the irony he’s pointing out reflects very poorly on conservatives.

        And yes, guns are inherently dangerous and refugees are not. Even that dis-analogy supports Mike’s takeaway. (As he’s said in other posts, he’s okay with some gun control and he’s offered some ideas about what that would look like. I read him as taking aim at the anti-refugee scaremongers.)Report

        • Chris in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

          I’m pretty sure I took his meaning. And as I pointed out, he’s mischaracterized the gun control position and actually built an analogy that supports a string gun control position in the process.

          Basically, his facile attempt at BSDI turns out to suggest only that conservatives are wrong in both domains.Report

        • @gabrielconroy

          I think you perfectly understand my position. On guns you have people who subscribe intent to them at the point of manufacture i.e. ‘made for killing”. Conservatives do the same thing on refugees, assuming their nationality or religion fills them with potential for death. In both cases it requires a willingness to engage in mass generalization.Report

          • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            subscribe intent to them at the point of manufacture

            This is word salad, but I assume you’re saying that people believe the purpose of guns, the reason they are built and built the way they are, is for killing. Is this in doubt? Even the pro-gun people admit this both in defense of things like hunting and claims that guns are necessary for things like self-defense.

            If anyone believes that Syrian refugees exist for killing, those people are not only complete and utter idiots, but horrible human beings.

            It doesn’t matter how many times you say it, your analogy doesn’t work because it either mischaracterizes the pro-gun control position or actually bolsters it.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      The issue isn’t a few bad apples. The issue is all guns are dangerous, any gun can slip into the wrong hands, guns can misfire, etc.

      How much of that is true for people, specifically Syrian refugees?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      You say not all men are monsters? Imagine a bowl of m&ms. 10% of them are poisonous. Go ahead. Eat a handful. #yesallwomenReport

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        Because that is EXACTLY how accepting refugees work. We don’t use a system of tests to determine which M&Ms are poisonous… we simply stick our whole face in the bowl and start chewing.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

          But in the case of refugees, we do perform basic tests. That’s one of the reasons that the number of Syrians accepted can’t be ramped up quickly. They have to file with the UNHCR in the country to which they have fled. The UNHCR has to decide that they are at risk even in that country, and should be transferred to a third country (the vast majority are disqualified at this point). If referred to the US, the application has to be processed by an RSC that conducts interviews and such. Then the USCIS has to review the case and make a decision. From beginning to end, the process typically takes 18-24 months. The process is specified in international treaties and US statute — it would take action by Congress to change it.

          This is why the US has accepted only three million refugees over the last 40 years. The vast majority of refugees get stuck in the country to which they initially flee. Few of the Syrians can afford to “flee” directly to the US. Syrians are getting to France and Germany because the EU recently passed a “refugee sharing” law: legally, they have fled directly to France or wherever. Without that, they were almost all going to be stuck in Greece.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Michael Cain says:

            How does this refute my position? I’m not saying we drop 10,000 refugees on Main Streets across America. I’m saying we allow that system to play out for as many refugees as possible, increasing efficiency if and when possible. If it is allowable to offer them temporary residence while the process is undertaken, even better.Report

        • Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

          we simply stick our whole face in the bowl and start chewing.

          Thanks for the great idea!Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

          we simply stick our whole face in the bowl and start chewing.

          Whoa, whoa, whoa. You don’t chew M&Ms. They’re to be savored, slowly melting in your mouth. Not in your hands.Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        You eat them gradually over years and years. Mithridates, he died old.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I endorse this. There’s a sort of fallacy here, but I don’t have a name for it. It takes a variable with extremely weak predictive value and attaches powerful consequences to it.

      Some examples:

      1) Gun ownership predicts gun violence
      2) Adherence to Islam predicts terrorist acts
      3) Black skin on a male predicts criminal violence.
      4) Black skin predicts laziness
      5) Maleness predicts sexual predation

      In all of the cited cases, there is a predictive relationship – it’s just quite weak. That is, gun owners are somewhat more likely to commit violent crime than non-gun owners. And yet, the fraction of gun owners that commit violent crime is still really, really small. As a predictor of violence, gun ownership is terrible.

      As a predictor of criminal behavior, likewise is dark skin a terrible predictor, even though it is more likely for a dark skinned person to be arrested for a crime in the US than a white one. This is what makes a top-down “stop and frisk” policy such a problem – it doesn’t accomplish much, because it can’t.

      I need a name for this fallacy.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        Uh…can you explain yr thinking on #4? Or is this a typo?Report

      • Chris in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        Is the argument that gun ownership predicts violence, or that guns are extremely dangerous and are used, intentionally or unintentionally, to harm people too often? The latter is not a fallacy, it is an argument of fact (guns are dangerous) with an argument from values (the number of people harmed is too high).

        If we are to compare it to the Syrian refugee situation, we have issues in both the factual and value arguments. First, Syrian refugees are not inherently dangerous in the way that guns are, particularly not after the extensive vetting they would receive before arriving in the U.S. Second, so far, we have no evidence that Syrian refugees have harmed anyone, so the value argument must be different as well.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        A variant of affirming the consequent?

        Association fallacy (e.g., guilt by association)?Report

        • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

          I think it’s called “painting with a broad brush.”

          I think it’s more along the lines of an association fallacy.
          I used to be really up on those things, but then something else drew my attention.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        I tend to over-simplify it as ‘stereotyping’. In all of these instances, we’re taking a huge group of people and painting them with the worst behaviors of a small minority. It’s pretty gross.Report

        • kenB in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          The term I’ve seen for that is hasty generalization. I’m not sure that’s quite what Dr. J is getting at though — his is more about we generalize from relative probabilities to absolute risk. Sort of like the thing with the processed meats and cancer recently — the finding that eating processed meats makes you somewhat more likely to get cancer than otherwise doesn’t mean that eating processed meats makes you likely to get cancer.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to kenB says:

            Some of this is just the result of basic innumeracy.

            For instance, statistics can tell us that most instances of recent terrorism were committed by Muslims*. Simplify that to “Most terrorists are Muslim.” This is a demonstrably true statement**. The problem is that many people genuinely thing “Most terrorists are Muslim” and “Most Muslims are terrorists” are equivalent statements. They are not. It is POSSIBLE that the latter is true but we simply cannot know it using just the basic data we need to determine the former. And yet… that is what people do. “90% of terrorists were Muslim? Good god, that means 900 million terrorists out there!”

            Head slap.

            * Yes, yes, I know there are caveats galore with this but bear with me.
            ** I know, I KNOW! Just hear me out…Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          What stereotype is being applied to gun owners?

          Most of the serious arguments I’ve seen about gun control focuses on guns, not gun owners.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        I’ve noticed the exact same fallacy on both sides of many issues. If we take the correlation between race and violent crime, for example, the misinterpretation is that most or all black men are violent criminals. Racists will happily take that and run with it, but many anti-racists will misinterpret the correlation in exactly the same way, and on that basis deny the correlation altogether.

        The fact that correlations are real-valued, rather than integral, seems to be very difficult for some people to grasp.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        But the arguments for gun control or against allowing in too many refugees don’t assert that all or the majority of gun owners are likely to be violent, or that Syrian refugees are all uniformly more likely than other refugees to be violent radicals. They simply say that imposing the cost of restrictions (like strict screenin on the one hand or background checks on the other) on the whole group is worth it to the rest of us to lower the risks posed by what no one denies is only a tiny minority, at most, of the whole group.

        That doesn’t mean there’s as good a case that that imposition of cost is justifiable in each case. You might think that gun owners, while the huge majority are not violent, are still more likely to become violent than are Syrian refugees (especially under the system of screen we have in place). You could also note that when you acquire a gun you become inherently a more potentially destructive person than you were before, so it’s a choice that you might incur some costs from, whereas being granted asylum doesn’t make a refugee any more of a threat than they were before (except now they’re here). OTOH, American gun owners who are citizens are citizens, and thus might be owed a presumption against incurring unjustifiable costs that non-citizen refugees appealing to us to grant them asylum through an act of compassion are not owed in the same way (but their dire plight may/may not create a different kind of obligation on nations ti grant them aid).

        But the point is that no one is saying that every member of each group deserves the restrictions/costs that w might impose on them because we feel we need to take action to reduce the risk posed by a tiny minority of its members. Attempts to reduce that risk should be as targeted as possible, but they will always involve putting a larger group made up predominantly of non-risky members through some kind of more-restrictive-than-no-restrictions process to try to filter out the risky members. If no one shot anyone without justification ever; if terrorism never happened ever, then those groups might avoid those costs. But it just means we judge certain protocols that do impose costs on some large number of innocent people are nevertheless justifiable because of the need to address risks posed by a minority.

        But let’s not compare most gun control measures to not letting any refugees in. Uniform background checks are a good analogue for the screening process that refugees and immigrants from the Middle East go through. Whereas banning handguns would be roughly analogous to not allowing any Syrian refugees in. (Though obviously people might have different opinions about whether the harm to would-be handgun owners of a ban is as grave a moral harm to them as would be denying entry to any Syrian refugees, even under a strict screening protocol, given their plight.)Report

    • If “reducing liberties” means preventing straw man purchases used to funnel guns to criminals, then an analogous restriction on refugees would be making sure they’re who they say that are. We do that, and I don’t know anyone who suggests that’s a bad idea.Report

  7. aaron david says:

    This whole debate, both sides, is stultifying. It shows how both the left and the right in this country are complete idiots.

    So far, Kevin Drum is the only person who has said anything intellegent about this.

    Is the fear overblown? Yes and it shouldn’t be pandered to. Boo to the right.

    Is the fear real? Yes and it shouldn’t be mocked. Boo to the left.

    Idiots, the lot of them.Report

    • Don Zeko in reply to aaron david says:

      LGM’s response to Drum’s post has been a remarkable display of hostile misreading, and that’s without touching the comments or twitter. Ugh, the internet.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Don Zeko says:

        The difference between talking about this as if it were a moral issue and talking about this as if it were a political issue creates tension.

        It reminds me a lot of the sneering toward “situational ethics” from the church of my youth.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to aaron david says:


      Did you read Jason’s piece, published right here? Because I don’t think he mocked the fear. He offered arguments for why it shouldn’t be pandered to and why it was overblown, both of which seem like legitimate points to make.Report

    • Chris in reply to aaron david says:

      As a few of us were discussing on Twitter yesterday, the Drum piece kinda sucks, because of its focus on electoral consequences, but he’s right that mocking is the wrong way to approach this. As I said over there, I think shaming the politicians and putting out accurate information is the best way to deal with it short term, but the sort of xenophobia and generalization that is involved in reacting to the Paris attacks by punishing refugees is very dangerous, and I have very, very little tolerance for it. It is, in fact, precisely the sort of attitude that got us into Iraq after 9/11 and therefore ultimately caused this refugee crisis.Report

      • aaron david in reply to Chris says:

        Everything is a political calculation @chris . Sure it sucks but… /shrug

        America is pretty seriously divided these days and so any major decision will be made political.Report

        • Chris in reply to aaron david says:

          Oh, I agree that it is a political calculation, though I fail to see how mocking people on Twitter is likely to affect anyone’s electoral potential. The real issue is that the issue is too important to offend those who disagree to the point where convincing them to change their minds is impossible.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

            Well, see it more as a test bed that might accurately model the upcoming discussions on the large stage.

            What arguments work well in large groups? What arguments work well among partisans? What arguments work well among swing/undecideds?

            I’m guessing that Hillary will play the “states should decide for themselves” card, Bernie will play the “we need more refugees!” card, and the Republicans will take turns trying to out-do each other playing the “WE NEED MORE GOVERNORS TO REFUSE!” card.Report

  8. Burt Likko says:

    I like this post and the sentiment it expresses so much that I promoted it to be our feature post.Report

  9. SaulDegraw says:

    I would say that this is just an issue, like so many others, where lines are already drawn in the sand. I don’t think many of these anti-refugee governors were pro refugee in the first place.

    They just got an excuseReport

    • Kazzy in reply to SaulDegraw says:

      Good point, @sauldegraw . I’m curious… we sometimes (often?) see that a given person’s (politician or otherwise) position on a given matter depends on who is impacted by it. This is something Mr. Kelly speaks about quite regularly (and accurately). Do you think accepting refugees — in the abstract — is such a situation? Do you think there is a situation/region of the world that might create refugees that the right was eager and willing to accept but which the left was weary of?Report

      • SaulDegraw in reply to Kazzy says:

        The overthrow of a right-wing regime like the Russian Revolution but generally not.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to SaulDegraw says:

          I could see the right being sympathetic to large swaths of Christians escaping persecution. However, I wouldn’t anticipate the left resisting this except insofar as A) they were antagonizing the right or B) they did so to draw attention to apparent hypocrisy on the right… both of which would make me want to scream.Report

          • Joe Sal in reply to Kazzy says:

            @ Kazzy
            I’m not sure what position the Coptic peoples would play in your scenario.

            That’s been a slow burn of crisis without much coverage.Report

            • El Muneco in reply to Joe Sal says:

              That’s a good point – we tend to pooh pooh the “Christian persecution” narrative in this country because, well, because this country doesn’t really have any.

              That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist worldwide, and what is happening to the Copts is a tragedy, possibly in all senses of the word. And it’s going completely under the radar.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy says:

            I was thinking more like right-wing artistocrats, military oppressors, potential war criminals, etc.Report

      • aaron david in reply to Kazzy says:

        Israeli refugees.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to aaron david says:

          Currently? Yea, I could see that. Though my hunch is that any objections on the left would be more of the “They don’t really need refuge” variety than the “They’re coming to kill us all” variety. Which maybe doesn’t really matter.Report

  10. James K says:

    Well said Tod. Oddly enough, in a few weeks Babylonia! will be covering an episode of B5 that touches on this very subject.Report

  11. Roland Dodds says:

    This piece, as well as Jason’s from yesterday hit many of the correct points related to people linking the Paris attacks and the migrant crisis. Others have said it, but the fact that these refugees are fleeing the very people responsible for these attacks needs to be reiterated (I don’t know where I saw it, but there is a great political cartoon in french showing immigrants from Syria to France as working people just looking for safety and French people immigrating to Syria as crazed jihadists. Seems pretty apt).

    It likely warrants a whole post to really think this through, but I think one can clearly be against the rhetoric the right is using against migrants and supporting the acceptance of these people into our societies while also thinking there are better long term solutions for the refuges than becoming citizens of their host countries. The fact that many of the conversations I see around this issue seem to throw all these issues together seems limiting and inappropriate. Surely the West can help these refugees (which includes giving them aid and safety in our countries) and not implement long term settlement policies that are unpopular with the host citizens? Or is it all or nothing?Report

    • North in reply to Roland Dodds says:

      Accepting refugees into your country but then taking steps to prevent them from integrating and assimilating is a profoundly problematic policy stance to take. At its core it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy since unemployed impoverished people with little ability to move around and nothing to do will be highly susceptible to radicalization and recruitment by terrorist groups.

      Look at the sordid history of the Palestinian refugee camps, for instance.Report

      • Roland Dodds in reply to North says:

        @north That depends, especially considering how long the conflict rages (in the Palestinian case, it seems clear countries around Israel have a vested interest in keeping these people poor and segregated rather than integrated).

        I don’t know UNHCR rules enough to say, but the responsibility to protect and house refugees in need does not necessitate they being made citizens of said country, does it?Report

        • North in reply to Roland Dodds says:

          The rules don’t require that refugees be made citizens. That said keeping them separate, idle and impoverished is a recipe for disaster.Report

          • Roland Dodds in reply to North says:

            I guess what I am getting at then, if we recognize that your point is true (and it is, one needs look no further than the northern suburbs of Paris that bred the islamist threat France faces to see what happens when people are asked to stay and then not integrated), does it mean refugee’s should be made citizens? If that is the logically position on accepting refugees into our states, then some of the right’s rhetoric seems to be affirmed.Report

            • North in reply to Roland Dodds says:

              I would say that if one elects to accept large numbers of refugees one should have a straight forward mechanism for them to be integrated into the populace over a period of time. Maybe their homeland will pacify, maybe it will not, maybe it’ll be soon and maybe it’ll be lengthy but regardless having that mechanism yields benefits and prevents many ills without really possessing a downside.Report

  12. trizzlor says:

    I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, I find it very very hard not to draw parallels between what’s happening now and the Voyage of the Damned; which is the like the canonical “never again” story that every Jewish kid learns. So if there’s ever a dispute to call someone a coward over, this is kind of it.

    On the other hand, as Jaybird points out, the goal should be to sway public opinion not get Facebook likes. Tod is arguing that the best response is rational discourse. Is it never rational to call someone a coward? Is it never the best response?Report

    • Joe Sal in reply to trizzlor says:

      Depends on the huckleberry.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to trizzlor says:

      If there was, oh, a 53-47 split on the issue, maybe shaming might work (especially if the good side was the 53). Definitely if you’re 60-40 (in your favor). Shut up, coward! People like you are what’s wrong with America!

      I don’t think it works that well when you’re 40-60 (and the 40 is the good side). You have to play up the importance of listening to minority views at that point.Report

      • Joe Sal in reply to Jaybird says:

        Once you get down to the 90-10 ratio the one side is basically playing the ‘tenth man’.

        You can call the tenth man a coward, but I don’t know if it gets you anywhere.Report

      • trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

        Where’s your intuition coming from? I’m not aware of too many short-term public opinion swings where this could be evaluated. Apartheid? Gay marriage? Bundy ranch? 9/11 trutherism? I can’t find reliable polling on these.

        In terms of long-term trends, one example is interracial marriage: Opinion was 60/40 against in the 80’s, where the national conversation had well shifted into shame mode – now it’s 10/90. Do you think that change would have happened faster if the national conversation continued to be about how miscegenationistas make some valid points and should considered reasonably?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to trizzlor says:

          I would rephrase it thus: “Opinion was 60/40 against in the 80’s, despite the national conversation having well shifted into shame mode”

          We needed the people who remembered pre-Loving to die.

          The fact that Loving was Final with a capital “F” and would never be overturned made the argument somewhat moot. People had opinions and that was that but the decision was no longer subject to the whims of democracy.

          The argument over refugees is not yet final.Report

    • kenB in reply to trizzlor says:

      Is it never rational to call someone a coward?

      I’m sure there are times when a cool rational analysis would point to that as a good strategy. However, it’s also rather enjoyable to call your opponents cowards, so you should be especially suspicious of your analysis when you come to that conclusion.Report

  13. Chip Daniels says:

    I for one don’t feel powerless, or numbed, or any of the other adjectives that I see thrown around in the aftermath of the Paris and Beirut attacks.

    Horrified certainly, but a lesser degree than by the Newtown massacre if only because of the natural revulsion to child killing.

    I am still more outraged by the Charleston massacre, if only because of the fertile bed of sympathizers that gave moral backing to the killer.

    I don’t feel fear, though. Not one bit in the slightest. Or panic or aniety or even a sense of SomethingMustBeDoneRightNow.

    I do feel annoyance and disgust at the preening cowardly hyenas trying to snarl and nip at the heels of the herd so as to stampede us all off some moral cliff.Report

    • Damon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I’m not even “horrified”. Sad, but not surprised. France has had it’s “problems” with this for a while now. 100 people dead? Boko Haram killed 2,000 earlier this year. Where’s the horror for that?

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I am still more outraged by the Charleston massacre, if only because of the fertile bed of sympathizers that gave moral backing to the killer.

      And Islamic terrorists don’t have a fertile bed of sympathizers? Not all Muslims, certainly, but almost certainly more than there are Americans who approve of shooting up black churches.

      It would be uncharitable of me to suggest that your evaluation of these two massacres is driven by your political alignments, so I’ll just observe that it coincides with them.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      The thing in Charleston was bad, but that guy was a loon.
      From that whole incident, the thing that sticks with me is the incredible understanding and restraint shown by the black community there. They could have easily gone overboard, something like you’re seeing with the Syrian refugee issue.

      As for the Paris attacks, I am more ambivalent. I recognize that this constitutes numerous personal tragedies, but I am so removed from them, it hardly makes sense for me to stick my nose in it, even long enough to say, “Terribly sorry about all your bad sh!t there.”:
      I am much more concerned with the response politically, both domestically and in France. That has the potential to really screw things up.

      What I am really concerned about is the Syrian refugees; more properly, my own countrymen’s response to them. Many of them will have a place to go that is safe, but it will be a very long time. As for the big to-do about having refugees in this state or that, this phenomenon is real and immediate.
      And I wish I could communicate with those on the opposite end of the issue, but I don’t seem to be able to right now. That disturbs me.
      There is something that I’m missing here. It is probably something so simple and so obvious that I would never think to consider it.
      The words that they are saying are inconsequential. It is the feelings underlying those words which are important. Because of this, simply reasoning with them is likely to be a very ineffective means of communicating. It’s more important to see where those feelings come from. Energy flows from Point A to Point B. I doubt seriously that the resistance to relocating the Syrian refugees has anything at all to do with the refugees.
      I need to think this through.Report

  14. greginak says:

    Tod, i read this on Kevin Drum’s site about the speech in question. Before the snide stuff you point he said lots of measured reasonable stuff. Of course nobody talks about that, which is Drum’s point, but i thought hearing other stuff he said was interesting.

  15. Michael Drew says:

    In a vacuum, I have no problem with politicians mocking each other, especially when those being mocked are engaging in dangerous scaremongering. And that is indeed what Obma is doing in that passage. Politicians have no legitimate expectation not to be mocked (by us, or b other pols) if they open themselves to it. And I don’t have a lot of sympathy for ordinary people who feel mocked because a politician they agree with is mocked. If that’s a problem

    But I agree with Kevin Drum and Jaybird, that at times it’s counterproductive, and this is one of them. There’s no point to Obama taking this tack here; it only alienates people he genuinely needs to persuade, or at least not further alienate on the point. Tod is right that emotions are raw and fears have been stoked directly by events, not just by fearmondgering politicians. Obama should restrict himself to simply dealing that reality head-on, and defend his policy strictly in earnest. There’s just no value added to accomplishing his task by including a side of snide jabs to his politician-adversaries along with his genuine advocacy of a moral policy that is facing a challenge in retaining public support right now.

    There is probably a way to extend that argument out to how politicians, or maybe the president, should act all the time. But I’ve no interest in that. That’s just a more stiff, boring, colorless world. That’s not necessary. But in this environment, the president mocking anyone for anything related to these events doesn’t help anything on any level. And a lot of important work needs to be done. It was a mistake to go down that road and, as Drum points out, obscure the bulk of his argument to the American public itself (not its politicians), which was an earnest and forthright defense of a policy a majority of them are wary of.Report

  16. Damon says:


    EVERYONE in this quote of yours, “The people who live next door to you? Your coworkers? The guy who listens to Rush Limbaugh on the radio while he pumps your gas, or the barista who drives to work to make your espresso drink in a car with a Black Lives Matter bumper sticker?” IS the Other to the opposite side. Again, to quote my very liberal friend, “I can’t believe you think that way.” They are just less Other than the other Others, but they ain’t in your tribe, so they are Other.Report

  17. Dan Scotto says:

    Well said.Report

  18. Jaybird says:

    Of interest:

    Some House Democrats now saying GOP refugee bill could pass with veto-proof majority, presentation by WH/DHS actually lost votes for Admin— Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrewalshcnn) November 19, 2015