Part 3—That bag of hammers is us: In her 2003 memoir, Living History, Hillary Clinton aimed an ugly slur at lawyer David Kendall.
Nothing was subtle in Clinton’s attack. Peter Baker recalled the episode in a front-page profile of Kendall in Monday’s New York Times:
BAKER (8/24/15): [T]he Clintons leaned on Mr. Kendall heavily. “He became an anchor in our lives,” Mrs. Clinton later wrote in a memoir.It’s just like the Clintons to do this!
Before this past weekend, we might have missed the import of Clinton’s remark, in which she suggested that Kendall is Hispanic (anchors are brown) and compared him to an inanimate object, thereby implying that he's dumb as a bag of hammers.
Before this past weekend, we might have missed that! Luckily, we read the comments to Kevin Drum’s recent post about the disturbing term “anchor baby.” As a result, we understood what Clinton actually meant by her ugly remark.
At this point, can we talk? Almost surely, Clinton wasn’t insulting Kendall when she described him as “an anchor in our lives.” Almost surely, she wasn’t saying that he is brown, or even inanimate.
When the Carter Family sang “Anchored in Love,” they weren’t deriding the love they felt they received from God. When Walter Cronkite was called an anchor, he wasn’t being compared to a bag of hammers.
None of those associations are obvious when we use the word “anchor.” But alas! Last Friday, Kevin Drum issued what has come to be known as “the ‘anchor baby’ challenge.”
Drum asked his readers to explain why the term “anchor baby” should be seen as “offensive.” Because taking offense is the only play we modern liberals seem to know, his readers leaped to comply.
Alas! We the modern pseudo-liberals live for such assignments! We’re extremely skilled at taking offense—at finding the slur in all manner of speech by The Others.
We’re deeply clueless—hapless; inept—at all other plays in the playbook.
We’ve been trained to take offense, and we’re eager to do it. Consider a pair of responses to Drum’s iconic challenge.
Bless our hearts! We rushed to explain why that term is offensive—even super-offensive, as the increasingly ludicrous Rachel Maddow super-phonily said. One reader explained it this way:
COMMENT TO DRUM: It’s kinda insulting to insinuate you’re so rapacious as to purposefully get pregnant and have a kid just so you can stay in the U.S. It suggests you see the child as a legal boon, not someone to love. In a more family-oriented culture that’s very hurtful.The reader said it would be “kinda insulting” to make a certain insinuation. That may or may not be true, but Drum had asked a different question.
Drum had asked what made a specific term offensive. It isn't entirely clear that he commenter spoke to that point.
Having said that, let’s note the general background to that reader’s comment. Over the past fifteen years, people who have discussed “anchor babies” have generally been criticizing the conduct of the parents of the babies in question.
As a general matter, they haven’t said that the parents in question “purposefully get pregnant” just so they can stay in the States—and the term “rapacious” has never been used, according to Nexis. More often, these people have simply claimed that some parents come to the States when it’s time to give birth so that the baby will be an American citizen, possibly letting the parent and other family members reside in the U.S.
(That’s the way the claim began. The nature of the claim has changed through the years, a point we’ll note tomorrow.)
The people who speak about “anchor babies” disapprove of this alleged practice. That doesn’t mean that the term they’re using is a racial slur. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the term is “super offensive.”
It doesn’t mean that they meant for us to think that anchors are brown. It doesn’t mean that they were comparing people to bags of hammers.
Was the term meant or intended as a “slur?” The commenter didn’t explain why we should view it that way. Meanwhile, just for the record, it’s perfectly plain that some people do come to the U.S. for the purpose of giving birth to a baby who's an American citizen. Whatever a person may think of that practice, it’s plain that the practice exists.
When a reader responded to the comment we’ve posted, he or she took note of this fact. In our view, this responder helps us see how anchored we are to the tribal practice of eagerly taking offense:
COMMENT TO DRUM: It’s kinda insulting to insinuate you’re so rapacious as to purposefully get pregnant and have a kid just so you can stay in the U.S. It suggests you see the child as a legal boon, not someone to love. In a more family-oriented culture that’s very hurtful.In our view, that response is a bit sad, but instructive. Let’s note what this first responder said.
RESPONSE TO COMMENT: I agree. It’s the notion that an undocumented person is having a kid to “anchor” them in the United States, and hence, beat the system.
It's possible that it could be viewed neutrally—as describing a functional reality—and hence not offensive. But look at the word “homosexual.” That strikes me as a neutral description, but some in the gay community don't like it at all. Why? Probably because it's mostly used by people hostile to them. Which is a description of the majority who use the term “anchor babies.”
In the picture accompanying Kevin's post someone is holding up a sign "NO BIRTH TOURISM!" A couple of years ago there was a big story about a place east of Los Angeles that had pregnant Chinese visiting for about two to four weeks, timed so that they would give birth in the U.S. That seems to me to merit the description “birth tourism.” I’m not sure what the consensus is about the offensiveness of that expression.
Needless to say, the responder agreed with the original comment. He seems to feel that the term in question is offensive because it’s “kinda insulting.”
At the same time, the responder was vaguely aware of the fact that quite a few people do come to the U.S. for the express purpose of giving birth to babies who are American citizens. That said, his information on the matter is a bit out of date.
In this May 1 news report, the Los Angeles Times reported ongoing federal prosecutions connected to the practice, which is indeed called “birth tourism” or “maternity tourism.” These prosecutions have been reported in the Times on an ongoing basis.
Rightly or wrongly, those prosecutions were being conducted by Eric Holder’s Justice Department. That said, let’s look at the extent to which this responder is anchored to the practice of eagerly taking offense.
First, note the way this responder seems to decide if a term is offensive. It almost seems that he holds this view:
If a term is used by people who object to a certain group in some way, then by definition the term in question can be deemed “offensive.”
In his view, some gays object to the term “homosexual” because it’s used by The Other Tribe. We don’t know if any gay person has ever actually felt that way. But as a general matter, this comes quite close to describing the way our low-IQ tribe now functions.
Increasingly, how do we function? Increasingly, like this:
Has a statement been made by The Other Team? Then, almost by definition, we judge that it must be offensive! It’s left to us to invent some rationale, however absurd, with which we can sell this claim to the wider world. But the assessment is automatic.
That’s what happened when Drum’s readers took his iconic challenge. By definition, everyone knew that the term in question had to be offensive—super-offensive, a slur. And then, we invented our rationale:
The Other Tribe was comparing babies to bags of hammers! Also, anchors are brown!
In that middle paragraph, the responder describes a basic part of our current tribal game. If it’s said by The Other Tribe, it’s by definition offensive.
In his third paragraph, the responder displays another part of the way we currently function. When he mentions the term “birth tourism,” he offers this sad glimpse of the pseudo-liberal mind:
“I’m not sure what the consensus is about the offensiveness of that expression.”
Is the term “birth tourism” offensive? Is it super-offensive, a slur? On his own, it seems that this reader can’t tell! Apparently, he’ll have to wait until he receives “the consensus.”
Lucky for us, multimillionaire tribal leaders now appear on TV each night to feed us our tribal consensus. We used to laugh at The Dittoheads for this. Now, it’s the way we play!
Kevin Drum’s readers were eager to say that the term in question was offensive. They invented some deeply inane rationales. But they all agreed to agree.
Drum’s readers just knew the term was offensive. At the same time, we couldn’t help noticing this:
They didn’t seem to know very much about the actual facts on the ground with respect to The Other Tribe’s complaints. We’re skilled at eagerly tasking offense, but we’re weak at discussing the possible merits of complaints The Others have made.
To what extent has The Other Tribe been making valid complaints in this area? To what extent might The Other Tribe’s complaints make some sort of sense?
We pseudo-liberals are highly skilled in finding their language deeply offensive. We’re useful as a bag of hammers when it comes to the rest.
Tomorrow: Concerning the other tribe’s claims