IN THESE (THERAPEUTIC) TIMES: Better than Alabamans!


Part 3—Unworthy groups left behind: The therapeutic service continues in today’s New York Times. We enjoyed the dual messaging as we were told about how lofty we are:

In Gail Collins’ latest pitiful column, we learn that we are better than Mitt because he didn’t get rid of his illegal workers.

But how weird! In today’s featured editorial, we learn that we’re better than people in Alabama because that state did move to rid itself of such folk!

Let’s examine the therapy offered by that thundering editorial. First, let’s see how we are helped to feel better about our own empty souls and lives. Then, let’s spend a moment thinking about the types of people liberals like us don’t even stop to consider.

The editors thunder loudly in today’s editorial. They have nothing to add to their last editorial on the subject of Alabama’s new immigration law. But good lord! How good it felt when the editors dropped their latest X-bomb:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (10/20/11): Alabama’s reputation has also taken a huge hit just when it is trying to lure international businesses. No matter how officials may try to tempt foreign automakers, say, with low taxes and wages, the state is already infamous as a regional capital of xenophobia.

If Alabama succeeds in driving out all of its estimated 120,000 unauthorized immigrants, restrictionists will surely cheer. They will have only 49 states and 11 million more people to go.
“Restrictionists!” Even we had to cheer! According to Nexis, it’s just the second time the word has appeared in the Times in the past year. (The term has appeared in the Washington Post eleven times in the past five years.) For the most part, the term has been invented for use in discussions of immigration.

“At least we’re not restrictionists,” we liberals get to tell ourselves as we apply cucumber to our eyes and receive our moral therapy.

Romney didn’t restrict illegals enough; Alabama is restricting them too much! Oh lord, how good it all feels! In the new editorial, we also get pleased by a thundering reference to the way Alabama has avoided the necessity of “a police-state roundup.” Possibly showing their age, the editors open with the claim that Alabama “is already reaping a bitter harvest of dislocation and fear.” To those who aren’t as old as these moral ciphers, that phraseology rings of “Harvest of Shame,” a famous TV documentary of the 1960s, the last decade in which the editors seem to have paid any real attention to the issues involved in this matter.

In this therapeutic editorial, we are told that we aren’t bad people, like those people in Alabama. We’re also told that no one is hurt by the presence of undocumented workers. For ourselves, we have no earthly idea if that’s true, largely because we read the Times. But in this passage, the editors let us know that we can fully enjoy our moral superiorism:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: The problems do not stop there. Farmers are already worrying that with the exodus, crops will go unpicked. Like much of the rest of the country, Alabama needs immigrant labor, because too many native-born citizens lack the skill, the stamina and the willingness to work in the fields—even in a time of steep unemployment.
Here again, readers are told that farm work is at issue here—and that native-born Alabamans are simply too lazy, too unskilled, to do the work that is currently done by the illegal residents.

(For the most part, you’re supposed to picture southern whites when you read those words.)

Just a guess: Andrew Rosenthal spends his happiest hours on the weekends, laboring in the potato fields of the Hamptons, working himself into a good hot lather. What a shame that native-born Alabamans lack his skill and stamina! That said, today’s editorial assures us, several times, that absolutely no one stands to gain from Alabama’s new law. “Nobody is winning there,” the editors say as they finish their piece. This answers the question posed by the paper’s last editorial:

“Whom could [the new law] possibly benefit?” Last week, the editors asked this question. This week, they give us the answer: No one! This lets us liberals fully enjoy the therapy offered today.

Might someone benefit from this new law? We don’t know; we read the Times. But let’s examine this newspaper’s brief bit of reporting on this seminal topic.

On October 4, Campbell Robertson wrote a highly novelized account of the alleged effects of the new state law. Tomorrow, we’ll look at some the novelization, which helped us appreciate our own compassion that much more profoundly. But uh-oh! In a few brief shining moments, Robertson actually engaged in a small bit of journalism! He (or she) interviewed an Alabama state legislator—and he spoke with an unemployed, native-born worker! When Robertson stooped to engage in these functions, these are the things he was told:
ROBERTSON (10/4/11): Backers of the law acknowledge that it might be disruptive in the short term, but say it will prove effective over time.

"It's going to take some time for the local labor pool to develop again," said State Senator Arthur Orr, Republican of Decatur, "but outside labor shouldn't come in and just beat them every time on cost and put them out of business."

Mr. Orr said there were already signs that the law was working, pointing out that the work-release center in Decatur, about 50 miles to the northwest, was not so long ago unable to find jobs for inmates with poultry processors or home manufacturers. Since the law was enacted in June, he said, the center has been placing more and more inmates in these jobs, now more than 150 a day.

On Monday morning, one of the poultry processing plants in Albertville had a job fair, attracting an enormous crowd, a mix of Hispanic, black and white job-seekers, lining up outside the plant and down the street.

"This needed to be done years ago," Shannon Lolling, 36, who has been unemployed for over a year, said of the law.

Mr. Lolling's problem seemed to be with the system that had brought the illegal-immigrant workers here, not with the workers themselves.

"That's why our jobs went south to Mexico," he said. "They pay them less wages and pocket the money, keep us from having jobs."
Huh! In this brief resort to journalism, Robertson wasn’t discussing work in the fields. He was discussing the placement of native-born folk “with poultry processors or home manufacturers.” He even discussed the placement of “inmates” in such jobs, although—in best New York Times fashion—he didn’t explain if these are former inmates, newly released, or inmates still serving their sentences. Robertson even stooped to the point where he spoke to a native-born worker—a man who has been unemployed for over a year, a man so lower-class, so inconsequential that it seems he’s even willing to work in a poultry plant! In Robertson’s assessment, this man doesn’t have a problem with the striving people who have come here as immigrant workers. His problem was with the state’s big business interests, who “pay them less wages and pocket the money, keep us from having jobs.”

The New York Times rarely wastes your time worrying about such matters.

Question: Should inmates be able to get jobs on the way out of prison? Many of these inmates may well be black. Though the editors may not know it, the south has changed since the days of Hud, when even its chain gangs were reserved for white people. Meanwhile, should people like Lolling matter to lofty white liberals like us? (He may be black, or he may be white. Nost readers saw him as white.) As we pseudo-liberals get our therapy from our New York Times editorials, are we supposed to ask ourselves if the current system is adding to unemployment among working-class, native-born Alabamans? Are we supposed to ask if such people are being hurt as undocumented workers enter the state, accepting lower wages from Alabama’s business moguls?

Trust us: People like these don’t count a whole lot in the world of these editorials.

It has long been part of our dogma—we white liberals are the very good people. “Those people”—the xenophobes in Alabama—are the very bad folk. (As Rachel Maddow explained it, they’re the people who killed the four children on Birmingham Sunday!) The New York Times would sell its soul to keep feeding us this therapy—has sold its soul a great many times to fulfill this function, in fact.

But how about it? Is there some chance that Senator Orr was right in what he was saying? Is it possible that native-born people—including blacks!—“might possibly gain” from this law?

The Times editorial board doesn’t care. Every part of their works makes it clear—they simply don’t care about those kinds of people. And they plainly assume that readers like us don’t about “those people” either.

Might people be gaining from this new law? We don’t have the slightest idea.

You see, we read the New York Times. And when it comes to “native-born” working-class folk in the south, the lofty souls at the New York Times transparently do not care.

Tomorrow: Even more front-page Times therapy

Does Judy Woodruff give a shit about such lower-class people: Last Thursday, Just Woodruff discussed this same matter on the NewsHour (click here). She tolerated a few remarks from Mike Ball, an Alabama state legislator:
WOODRUFF: We want to talk now a little bit more about the impact of the Alabama law. And we want to turn to Representative—state Representative Mike Ball of Huntsville, Alabama, who supports the law.


We talked today with a contractor in the state who is concerned about people leaving these jobs. Was that the consequence you expected when the law was passed?

BALL: Yes, I think so. I think that was the—that was the purpose of the law, was to discourage those who are here in Alabama illegally. We have a huge poverty problem in Alabama. We have a problem with unemployment. And many of the folks that come to Alabama illegally, they have a different set of rules that they’re hired by. They don’t have to have workman’s comp insurance. They don’t have to have employee tax.

A lot of them were paid 1099—or paid under the table. So it puts our working, undereducated, the very people that’s having a problem with unemployment, it puts them at a competitive disadvantage, and we need a level playing field.
Judy had already conducted a weirdly incoherent discussion with someone who “delivers locally grown produce in the state.” In this part of the segment, she made no attempt to pursue what Ball said—to determine whether “native born” working-class Alabamans might actually gain from this law.

Darlings! Those kinds of people simply don't count in the world of the press corps’ upper classes. Today, the editors assured us that such folk don’t exist.

This helps the therapy work.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Well played, sir! Major LOLz!

    In Gail Collins’ latest pitiful column, we learn that we are better than Mitt because he didn’t get rid of his illegal workers.

    But how weird! In today’s featured editorial, we learn that we’re better than people in Alabama because that state did move to rid itself of such folk!

  3. I think you mixed up Hud with Cool Hand Luke.

    Anyhow, the Times did do a report when Alabama brought back chain gangs for a short time in the late 1990s:

  4. 'Restrictionist' is the term preferred by some on the 'less' side of immigration issues. See, for example, the blogs VDare and Eunomia.

  5. 'Work release' implies that the convicts are serving sentences. If the program was for former inmates who had completed their sentences, it would be called 'job placement' or 'placement assistance' or the like, not 'work release'.

  6. Wow! What a thorough takedown of this NYT editorial.

  7. A bit OT. I was struck last night, or maybe the night before, (and not for the first time) by Margaret Carlson's good prep for an interview on the Lehrer Report. It can be done.

  8. I don't know much about it, nobody has told me what to think convincingly yet. But I do know that in 1986 I was hired as a carpenter for a big company with full benefits and defined benefit pension for $12 hour. That's about what people pay now.

    I was (am) good at it, very good, no doubt about it. Nevertheless.

    Back then I made as much as my college graduate buddies. A tradesman could hold his head up, believe me. That same money would be equal to, what, $35/hour now?

    What happened to the trades? I'm not positive, but it may have something to do with 12 million low wage competitors. Of course it's not their fault. I hope I would have the guts to do the same thing in their shoes.

    One more thing about it though. It's funny isn't it. They want to build a big fence to keep them out (or is it to keep us in. 8-). But believe me they wouldn't come if they made it so people stopped hiring them.

    It goes to show you that the only solution to problems tend to the the ones that are most oppressive.

  9. It's an ill wind that blows nobody good, and rare that a change in economic policy doesn't benefit some group of people.

    Here's a good textbook discussion. Scroll down to 'PART 3 - APPLICATIONS'.

    This analysis implies that an immigration crackdown would benefit only the least skilled of legal workers. Convicts in a work release program would be likely candidates.

    The author of this text is, as am I, a libertarian who generally favors open immigration.

  10. In Gail Collins’ latest pitiful column, we learn that we are better than Mitt because he didn’t get rid of his illegal workers. . . . In today’s featured editorial, we learn that we’re better than people in Alabama because that state did move to rid itself of such folk!

    Fortunately, editorial pages don't generally require consistency between signed columns and unsigned editorials.

    But there's no inconsistency here. Romney is being criticized for an alleged failure to comply with the law, in his capacity as a private citizen. There's no inconsistency in also criticizing the law itself, let alone a harsher version of it.

  11. Great rant. You're sounding like Joe Bageant.