A Note About The Debate

As a couple Debaters pointed out, my earlier post was dull. News flash: I know.

Those who have been participating in The Debate for a while now understand that early in the week (Monday or Tuesday), I spend a day on the facts -- just the facts, nothing but the facts. Yes, I agree that facts can be pretty dry, but the reason I do these Facts posts is so we can have an informed debate on the subject at hand.

Sure, I could just throw my personal opinions at you all week, but that wouldn't produce a productive discussion; it would only lead to polarization and flame wars.

One of the many things I have learned from working in the Editorial department at the Post* is that having an informed opinion -- backed up by plenty of facts from reliable sources -- is infinitely preferable to being like the 24-hour-news-channel pundits who simply spout their gut reactions to issues, using twisted (and sometimes just plain fabricated) statistics to bolster their contentions (example). These Facts posts ensure that everyone participating in The Debate can easily find the solid resources they need in order to develop and argue a strong, fact-based position on the issue.

At its best, The Debate is a haven for informed people to discuss controversial issues, to critique arguments and to attempt to persuade their fellow Debaters -- all without resorting to insulting each other.

Pseudonyms and anonymity aside, there's a real person behind each of the comments here, and ideally, Debaters would not say anything in the comments that they wouldn't say if they were debating face to face. I suppose I should mention that there's a real person back here behind these words, too, and I take all of your comments to heart -- the kind and the cruel alike.

My thoughts on possible immigration solutions -- and more importantly, the opinions of editorial boards, columnists, bloggers and Debaters -- will be in each of the upcoming posts. This Debate on immigration is just getting started. Indeed, it's likely to stretch into next week as the full Senate considers immigration legislation.

Another Facts post will be up momentarily. Yes, it will probably be pretty dry. So it goes. But follow some of the links and you'll find useful information to back up (or possibly refute) your opinions on this issue, whatever they may be.

* Standard disclaimer: I work in the editorial department, but I am not a member of the editorial board. (The editorial board members are the ones who write the unsigned editorials every day.) Any views I express here are my own.

By Emily Messner |  March 21, 2006; 4:41 PM ET  | Category:  Misc.
Previous: The Facts: Congress on Immigration | Next: The Facts: Immigration Info and Stats

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Thanks for your post, Emily. I'd point out that although the discussion we've had on your blog this week has been lively, it never devolved into flame wars or insults between commenters.

The only person I (and other commenters) really went after was you, because, as we pointed out, the way you framed the debate was clearly and obviously biased in favor of the small but media-dominating pro-illegal immigration crowd (the line about the misspelling of "vigilant" was especially insulting).

So deal: no one here will insult you if you don't hide from intelligent debate behind smears like "racist," "xenophobic," "lunatic,"
"fringe," "absurd," "wacky," "paranoid,"
"extreme," or "vigilante," all of which you packed into what you amusingly now refer to as your "facts" post. I'd pick a different word.

I understand that you've been taught in college that uttering any or several of these words ("paranoid racist crowd" was my favorite) automatically and immediately decides the debate in your favor, but that doesn't cut it in the real world. So you cut out the insults, and we'll follow your lead. Fair enough?

Posted by: DC Dude | March 21, 2006 05:07 PM

Just to clarify right up front: My post on the paranoid fringe was quite obviously not a Facts post. If it were, it would appear on the list of Facts posts, and the word "facts" would have appeared somewhere in the post.

I did not suggest that anyone who disagrees with me is paranoid, wacky, etc. -- if fact, I haven't even stated my opinion on immigration yet. And you can't possibly have any idea what it is, because the facts I gather and the arguments I come across in this Debate will help me to formulate it.

I directed those negative descriptions toward people who think the immigrant "invaders" are akin to the Nazis and are going to cause "Civil War II," the battle of the White Man vs. everyone else. Of course, if that is what you believe, then yes, I guess I did insult you.

Assuming you are a reasonable guy who's not a flaming racist, those descriptions were not directed at you. If, however, your opposition to immigration really *is* because you believe it threatens the white race, I still maintain that is not a valid argument, and that's why I wanted to get it out of the way right up front -- to ensure we would have a debate based on reason, not racism.

I don't really know how I could have made it any clearer that I was talking about the paranoid racist fringe -- not the people who want a wall built along the entire border, not the people who want a complete moratorium on immigration, not the people who believe the border should be sealed forever and every illegal immigrant ought to be rounded up and immediately deported. I believe that reasonable arguments can be made for each of those positions.

I simply wanted to make sure it was understood that arguments based on racism won't hold any water in this Debate. That's all.

You said in one of your many comments that I didn't address the other side of the paranoid, racist fringe. So far, I have not come across anyone who advocates completely open borders because they think Latinos should rule the United States and put the smack down on all the white people. If I've missed them, please do point me in their direction -- I will be delighted to add them to the post.

http://blogs.washingtonpost.com/thedebate/2006/03/the_fringe.html

My dear DC Dude, I very much look forward to reading your arguments as this Debate develops.

Posted by: Emily Messner | March 21, 2006 05:24 PM

Emily,

My mistake on the "Facts" post. I thought you meant your entire series of posts today and yesterday were "facts posts".

It's a big world out there, and it turns out there really are people -- a lot of them -- who believe in completely open borders, and whose explicitly stated goal is to demographically Mexicanize the American Southwest with an eye towards returning it to Mexico. I trust I am not introducing you for the first time here to the terms "Aztlan" and "la Reconquista"? Some of these people are college professors at American universities.

Anyway, I already did provide a list of a few of them here:
http://blogs.washingtonpost.com/thedebate/2006/03/the_fringe.html#c15218324 , and I suspect you could find many more using the same Google skills that led you to the white nationalist sites you've already shown your readers. I assume your introduction to these pro-Aztlan sites will feature the same language ("fringe," "racist,", etc.) that you used previously.
I appreciate you clarifying that even people who are pro-wall, pro-deportation hold positions you consider defensible. You are going to hear a lot of pro-wall, pro-deportation arguments from commenters this week, and I agree with you that their positions are reasonable. Indeed they may already be majority opinions in the country, so your graciousness may just be making a virtue of necessity, but I still give you props for it.

At the risk of being labeled what you call a "flaming racist," may I ask why the white racial position is so out of bounds here? Consider: four blocks from the White House, an organization called "The Race" --La Raza -- has a brand new headquarters, and one of their goals (implicit, granted, but come on now) is to allow as many Hispanics as wish to to emigrate to the United States, envisioning an eventual majority-Hispanic USA (Texas will be majority Hispanic in another 6-8 years, so the process is well under way).

La pregunta mas importante es: why is one race (La Raza's word, not mine) permitted to openly advocate for their group's majority status, but another (whites) is barred from doing so? It seems like a double standard, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise.

Anyway, I hope I will not be banned for at least questioning your exclusion of the white racial position on illegal immigration. I promise I won't make a big deal of it after this post, but I think if you're going to frame the debate so that the white racial position is unacceptable, you might at least tell me why the Hispanic racial position is entirely acceptable. Or is neither acceptable? That I could live with, but who'll tell La Raza?

Yours,

DC Dude

Posted by: DC Dude | March 21, 2006 06:43 PM

Emily,

If this was a personal blog "anything goes" wouldn't be an issue (it's a traffic getter), but this is the WP. Items posted here have the WP stamp of approval on them and they carry weight beyond here, compared to a yahoo's personal blog.

What upset me about it was the tone of the article along with the Dubai port deal. Then finding out that WP bought a Latino paper to reach further into that community as a business decision. Money taints alot of things in the media and beyond, and these immigration/race issues of late seem to have that reach value. It came off as corporate business, not journalism.

By making a commentary only on xenophobia, the Debaters see the inbalance as it didn't address the other side of the coin (there's two sides of every issue). And knowing that folks who aren't racists would get labeled as xenophobic and racists if they disagree (it's like a red flag in front of a bull -- say it, and it frames the entire thread), that missive came at us and it felt personal. That's two whammies, on top of the Dubai week.

The pen is quicker than the sword, Emily. You have the power to shape debates, and lead the debate, and because of that folks look to you to be also responsible -- to "see" before posting an article how it'll come across to the community. It came as a personal shot, one that anyone can see was a one sided view -- only addressing the fringe of the anti-immigration side, but saying little to nothing about the fringe on the pro-immigration side.

Balance is important, since warring opinions come with replies. ;)

Thanks for answering.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 21, 2006 06:55 PM

Kudos to SandyK and DC Dude.

Whenever I read a commentary that includes xenophobia I am well aware of the position and advocacy of the writer.

The cry of xenophobia is intented to silence the critics and to manipulate the debate.

Anti-illegals are not xenophobic or Islamophobic, they are simply Americans that believe our laws should be obeyed by immigrants, corporations and politicians and that those that violated our laws should not be rewarded but punished as is expected when one violates our laws.

Posted by: camus | March 21, 2006 08:34 PM

DC Dude and SandyK


Both of you doth complain too much. Anybody who paid attention can see the point of her 'fringe' post. I even pointed it our more than once. As for the claim that because the Post buys the Spanish language paper they are somehow pro illegal immigration is absurd. Lots of people including politicians like Bush cater to the Hispanic population, not all of them are illegal immigrants, for various reasons.

Illegal immigration is a real problem. The solutions are also many and should be debated on their merits. The favorite of lots of 'nativist' (for lack of a better word) republicans is to send them all home and make them wait in line for their turn. But is that practical? From either an economic or political point? There are other solutions so let debate them.

And stop this whining. It's getting old for two grown men(?) to keep beating up on a 25 year old for something she did not do. And to assume that just because this blog appears on the Post site that some how it carries the Post official imprimatur is naive. The only thing that carries the Post Editorial Board 'official' position is the unsigned editorials that appear daily in the editorial section. And they have been spectacularly wrong before as in the Iraq war case. Everything else is personal opinion that stands or falls on the merit of the position and the reputation of the columnist. As for this blog the owner can either state her position as in the Dubai case which I personally disagree with for I think it's naive. Or she can choose to stand back and act as a referee, or an enabler, or even a provocateur for positions not taken. It's her choice. Readership also requires some knowledge and responsibility. Otherwise these dabates degenerate to sophomoric level quick and often.

Posted by: Borg | March 21, 2006 09:09 PM

Anti-illegals are not xenophobic or Islamophobic, they are simply Americans that believe our laws should be obeyed by immigrants, corporations and politicians and that those that violated our laws should not be rewarded but punished as is expected when one violates our laws.

Posted by: camus | Mar 21, 2006 8:34:26 PM | Permalink


Now that's a position clearly stated by one of my favorite writers. Is it practical? I doubt it.

But first just to argue from a pure legal stand point that all laws should be obeyed or else violators be punished. If you take that position to its extreme all of us would be punished daily for our traffic offenses. But that's trivial. A more relevant case that's closer to home. Take the law banning seniors from importing cheap medicines from Canada that are obviously made into laws to protect the pharma industry. Would you throw moms and pops and grandmas and grandpas into jail? I've heard one senior claimed the law is unjust and she's not bound to uphold it. Who is to tell her otherwise? You?

Are all laws just or are some of them skewed to benefit certain segments of the voting public? Back in the 90's Irish American politicians pushed thru law to grant amnesty and special quota to thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of illegal Irish immigrants in this country. Or the law passed to grant special immigation status to Jewish immigrants from the old Soviet Union. What did they do for this country to earn that? Or the law that grant legal status to any Cubans who thru whatever means can make it to US shore. Why should the Cubans be treated better than the Mexicans who probably have better historical claim to some of the land in this country?

Laws are not all what they are cracked up to be. Some times, many times, laws are just what some special interest groups manage to pay enough lawmakers into inserting into any piece of legislations that must pass.

Posted by: Borg | March 21, 2006 09:37 PM

I didn't know about the Post buying Tiempo Latino, but I tend to side more with Borg than with SandyK on this particular point. The Post has been strongly pro-illegal immigration for as long as I've read it closely (10+ years), so I think the arrow of causation points the other way -- i.e., they're not pro-illegal *because* they bought eTL, but perhaps they bought eTL because they're pro-illegal. Or maybe they just thought it was a good business decision -- that's probably a simpler explanantion.

Posted by: DC Dude | March 21, 2006 09:46 PM

I'm going to agree with Borg again (sort of). When a country passes laws and then openly chooses not to enforce them, as we've done with illegal immigration, it leads to a general breakdown of respect for both the specific unenforced laws and for the law in general.

I can imagine certain special cases where non- or lax enforcement of a law is the best thing for society, but not many, and certainly not something with as many negative, real-life consequences as illegal immigration.

Posted by: DC Dude | March 21, 2006 10:38 PM

Borg wrote:
===========================================
Both of you doth complain too much. Anybody who paid attention can see the point of her 'fringe' post. I even pointed it our more than once. As for the claim that because the Post buys the Spanish language paper they are somehow pro illegal immigration is absurd. Lots of people including politicians like Bush cater to the Hispanic population, not all of them are illegal immigrants, for various reasons.
===========================================

Actually, the buyout and tone of the posts can reflect editorial change. We don't know what goes on in WP's boardroom or newsroom, but we do know the posts of late on immigration and the Dubai ports deal has been harshly one sided.

And only under protest was Emily willing amend the record for the fring pro-immigration side.

That's what was asked for, and that's was amended and you can chill now.

Borg wrote:
===========================================
Illegal immigration is a real problem. The solutions are also many and should be debated on their merits. The favorite of lots of 'nativist' (for lack of a better word) republicans is to send them all home and make them wait in line for their turn. But is that practical? From either an economic or political point? There are other solutions so let debate them.
===========================================

It's very practical, because if the demand for labor is that high, business can foot the education bill (like my brother's employer did with paying his college CS and Macro-Economics bill).

Those VISAs aren't really needed, Americans are around who would like to work in certain fields if they could afford it. Student loans are a bear to payback, with no certainity of a living wage job.

Borg wrote:
===========================================
And stop this whining. It's getting old for two grown men(?) to keep beating up on a 25 year old for something she did not do.
===========================================

Like Howell, Emily can take care of her own. She wouldn't be a journalist if she was a softie -- they're pushy types, as that's what the job demands.

So how about stop playing male chauvinist pig, okay?

BTW, I'm a woman, and old enough to be Emily's mom. And by the looks of you, more so.

Borg wrote:
===========================================
And to assume that just because this blog appears on the Post site that some how it carries the Post official imprimatur is naive.
===========================================

Like Nature and a ton of other scientific journals certain publications due have weight in the public's eye. WP is no different. They have a duty to dot those i's and cross those t's, because of the wholesale damage a periodical can do.

I hope you're abreast of the Hearst Empire, and yellow journalism, right?? If not, get a clue. More so in this digital age!

Borg wrote:
===========================================
The only thing that carries the Post Editorial Board 'official' position is the unsigned editorials that appear daily in the editorial section.
===========================================

Nope it don't work that way, Borgie. She gets her pay check like any other employee and has to abeit by rules, not only set by WP, but her profession (AP Ethics guidelines, if you're again clueless). Rogue reporters exist, but they tend to work for the tabloids -- and Emily's not that stock.

Borg wrote:
===========================================
And they have been spectacularly wrong before as in the Iraq war case. Everything else is personal opinion that stands or falls on the merit of the position and the reputation of the columnist. As for this blog the owner can either state her position as in the Dubai case which I personally disagree with for I think it's naive. Or she can choose to stand back and act as a referee, or an enabler, or even a provocateur for positions not taken. It's her choice.
===========================================

Again, only to a degree. Other columists have had their blog pulled at WP (Froomkin for example) for going overboard. The editorial staff will step in when it effects their bottomline -- as employees are expendable. Even superstar reporters. Emily knows this too -- so she can post what she wants, within guidelines.

Borg wrote:
===========================================
Readership also requires some knowledge and responsibility. Otherwise these dabates degenerate to sophomoric level quick and often.
===========================================

Yes, practice what you preach before pointing the fingers on others. Some of your posts haven't been Pultizer let alone tabloid material.

BTW, coming back to cause a second stink is troll play, Borgie. What to just start fighting for fighting's sake?

Yawn.......

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 22, 2006 05:40 AM

DC Dude wrote:
===========================================
I didn't know about the Post buying Tiempo Latino, but I tend to side more with Borg than with SandyK on this particular point. The Post has been strongly pro-illegal immigration for as long as I've read it closely (10+ years), so I think the arrow of causation points the other way -- i.e., they're not pro-illegal *because* they bought eTL, but perhaps they bought eTL because they're pro-illegal. Or maybe they just thought it was a good business decision -- that's probably a simpler explanantion.
===========================================

And that type of cherry picking doesn't work, and it tends to polarize the same community they're hoping to reach out too.

We've been through that 50 years ago, with a caring editor/newspaper owner. Wound up polarizing the community, to where now that community doesn't trust the paper at all.

And the Black community in DC may have the same exact feeling of WP.

The mistake is, in their effort to try to reach out, they also judge by the same filters that seperate the races. Can't undo what you are -- live abroad, and you can adapt, but you long to hear your countryman on the street corner, and eating a steak cooked on a mesquite grill.

Same occurs with ethnic programming based on marketing, that doesn't do beans in understanding the community. They're not cattle to be tagged and bagged.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 22, 2006 05:47 AM

Yes, practice what you preach before pointing the fingers on others. Some of your posts haven't been Pultizer let alone tabloid material.

BTW, coming back to cause a second stink is troll play, Borgie. What to just start fighting for fighting's sake?

Yawn.......

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | Mar 22, 2006 5:40:53 AM | Permalink


Ha!

Unlike you I don't wear my emotion or my ideology on my sleeve. Who's to say some of my posts were not there to stimulate debate or to provoke a certain reaction or to accentuate some extreme positions? People like you hide your prejudice against foreigners behind some grand sounding legality. Go read some of your posts too. In the same paragraph you claimed you were only against illegal immigration yet two sentences later you railed against doctors and nurses here on special need visas. What do you think those visas are? Plastic? Calling me a troll and a pig will elevate this debate? I have beat up on and poked fun at the 25 year old before. But to repeatedly harp on the same point over and over and over and over is tiresome and boorish. Sort of like Che's posts.

But I can give as well as I take. So get real you old witch. You reactionary republican hicks get played daily and over and over again by the same politicians you repeatedly and enthusiastically vote for as soon as they throw you some red meat. You think this republican controlled congress and whitehouse will kick all the illegal Mexicans out of this country because you want them too? Ask Karl Rove if he's not scared to death of turning Texas over to the democrats the way Pete Wilson turned over California. And what do you think happens to republicans on election days when they start losing Texas?

And learn to express your prejudice in English also before you rail against the hapless Spanish speaking illegals who will never learn your native tongue. It should be:

"Some of your posts haven't been tabloid let alone Pultizer material."

Not the other way around as you put it.

Come to think of it maybe it should be as you put it for your level of education. Maybe Pultizer is even lower than tabloid, whatever it is.

Ha!

Posted by: | March 22, 2006 06:53 AM

Forgot to sign previous post. Before SandyK dear accuses me of hiding behind...

Borg,
Resistance is futile!

Posted by: Borg | March 22, 2006 07:15 AM

Ah, so you're the sockpocket from The Fix, huh?

As I didn't mention anything about sockpuppetry here.

Gotcha!

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 22, 2006 08:37 AM

Ah, so you're the sockpocket from The Fix, huh?

As I didn't mention anything about sockpuppetry here.

Gotcha!

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | Mar 22, 2006 8:37:27 AM | Permalink


That's the best you can do this morning? Come on give it to me.

BTW never heard of the sockpocket. And never post on the fix either.

Borg,
Resistance is futile!

Posted by: Borg | March 22, 2006 08:59 AM

The comparison between the Israeli barrier and the wall on the Mexico border is misleading. The US-Mexico border is internationally agreed and not disputed. The wall will be built entirely on US territory. The Israeli wall is being built on occupied territory, and cuts transport links within the Palestinian territories, for example at Qalqilya.

Henry

Posted by: Henry B | March 23, 2006 03:16 AM

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