Immigration is rapidly becoming what Hilaire Belloc, after Edward Gibbon, once called "the World's Debate." It's even bringing subtle changes to the entrenched immigration enthusiasts who constitute America's Establishment Conservatives. We at VDARE.COM naturally welcome all changes – while hoping they're not simply superficial.
Some months have passed since my challenge to National Review's John J. Miller expired at the conclusion of Lent. [VDARE.COM note: Miller was judged by Peter Brimelow – in the Afterword to Alien Nation, of which we publish only a truncated web version - to be "the most unscrupulous of immigration enthusiasts." His hiring by National Review was the first public sign that William F. Buckley, despite denials, was caving on the immigration issue after his secret firing ("resigning to write a book") of Editor John O'Sullivan. Williamson's Miller Watch was set up to monitor this phenomenon.]
Then, distressingly, Miller went mum.
Miller first crawled out of the perambulator as a brash proponent of the quintessential neoconservative "Immigration's Great, We Just Have To Work On Assimilation" dogma, specializing in vicious attacks on conservatives who doubted it. In his review of Peter Brimelow's Alien Nation for Reason Magazine he wrote:
Complete assimilation might take a couple of generations, it might seem to stall from time to time, and it will surely come with plenty of rough spots. But it will happen, just as it always has. By the time 2050 rolls around, today's furor over immigration will seem like nothing more than another episode in the long series of fusses Americans have had over every group of strangers at our gate. If we're still using terms like "majority-minority," they will probably mean something entirely different and unexpected.
(N.B. no mention of the historic role of immigration pauses in assimilation–let alone, of course, the 1921-65 cut-off.)
This position was always absurd. But it has become embarrassing after 9/11. I suspected that, as in Robert's Rules Of Order, silence meant consent–that Miller knew in his heart that assimilationist theory was succumbing to separationist reality. So I invited Miller to come on over to the winning side in the Great Immigration Debate.
The response to my magnanimous gesture was, needless to say, nothing.
Not that I was holding my breath, you understand. It isn't exactly an everyday occurrence when a journalist who has made a reputation, however slight, on an issue, takes a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn on that issue, in public view. More surprising by far is Miller's continued–in fact, his deepening–silence on immigration generally.
The only exception I can find in the magazine was his article "Border Blues" (March 11, 2002).
Miller describes his visit to the U.S.-Mexico border around Douglas, Arizona, where thousands of illegal immigrants make their way into the United States monthly, trashing ranches and robbing and terrorizing their American owners. His lurid account of the horrific border situation could almost have appeared in VDARE.COM…with a little polishing. But it contained an incongruous but characteristic swipe at "the anti-immigration crowd" for failing to see that the solution is–the temporary guest-worker President Fox wants President Bush to establish!
(N.B. no mention of the hole in the bottom of any guest worker proposal–the fact that their U.S.-born children would be American citizens under the current interpretation of the 14th amendment.)
Immediately after John O'Sullivan's removal from the editorial chair, the word from 215 Lexington Avenue was that National Review would not jettison his immigration reform line, but simply "talk about it less." For some time, "less" seemed to mean not at all. This sudden silence was noted by observers as diverse as arch-immigration enthusiast Bob Bartley at the Wall Street Journal ("[NR has] stopped stridently claiming opposition to immigration as a conservative cause," July 3, 2000) and the more thoughtful Fr. Richard Neuhaus in his magazine First Things (March 2002).
The only talking about immigration appeared under the lingering by-line of John O'Sullivan (now "Editor-at-Large"). But the severance agreement that has permitted him for almost five years to speak truth to youth on immigration and the National Question is approaching its term limit.
"Less" verged on absolute zero in the middle of last year. NR Senior Editor Ramesh Ponnuru pronounced immigration reform officially dead in an April 2 article subtitled "Towards A Restrictionism That Can Succeed," by which he apparently meant "Towards A Restrictionism That Does Not Restrict." Ponnuru devoted most of his space to attacking immigration reformers like Brimelow for racism and extremism. Shortly afterward, Ponnuru and Miller reached a sort of neocon nadir: they urged George W. Bush to pander even further to Hispanics by proposing a Constitutional Amendment to permit an immigrant to become President.
Then came 9/11.
For some months afterward, immigration was still a non-issue in NR. Maybe Editor Rich Lowry was waiting for instructions.
But we would be churlish not to note that, since early this year, the issue of immigration reform has been permitted to creep back into National Review. Indeed, Franklin Foer has recently argued in the The New Republic (July 22) that Pat Buchanan's new magazine The American Conservative will fail precisely because "pro-immigration [!!] magazines like The Weekly Standard and National Review have turned racial profiling and a tougher visa system into crusades."
In the past months NR, declaring that immigration policy is "on the verge of breaking down," has defied the Wall Street Journal to oppose 245(i), which it rightly called a "quasi-amnesty bill," and printed articles by the Center For Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian and John O'Sullivan that drew a pained response from Daniel T. Griswold, the Cato Institute's new immigration propagandist. ("After a season of remission, I see National Review has succumbed to another bout of anti-immigration fever.") There have been NR appearances by names familiar to VDARE.COM readers, such as George J. Borjas and Steven Camarota. In the July 1 issue, Joel Mowbray ("Catching the Visa Express") exposed the scandal by which Saudis have been able to purchase visas priced at $10,000. The July 15 issue offered a cover story meditation by Rod Dreher on Holland's problems with Muslim immigration. Apparently, these strangers at the gate are not behaving as John Miller blithely predicted.
However, NR chose to print the letter from Cato's Griswold without rebuttal. And Jonah Goldberg at NRO had to go outside the editorial clique to draft John Fonte of the Hudson Institute to refute Mr. Griswold. (Speak for yourself, Jonah! – or Rich, or Rick, or Jay. But only John Miller is familiar with the issue. And he won't admit error.) Also, Rod Dreher's article defending the late Pim Fortuyn as a Dutch version of Mayor Giuliani struck a strange note in a "conservative" website:
"Rudolph Giuliani was a social liberal but a reformist, law-and-order Republican for whom many New York Democrats voted because they were sick and tired of the urban, welfare liberalism that had turned their city into a dirty, crime-ridden, ungovernable mess."
In other words, the NR editors found it necessary to defend a European immigration reformer by invoking his otherwise liberal credentials.
What is going on at National Review? Some individual editors speak with a tongue that is not so much forked as it is simply shredded. For instance, during Election 2000, long-time Senior Editor Richard Brookhiser 'fessed up to a fear that Our Lady of Guadalupe might become the first female president of the United States and admitted that Pat Buchanan wasn't all wet on immigration.. But more recently Brookhiser wrote a poisonous and incoherent review of Buchanan's Death of the West, in which he effectively took back every nice thing he had ever said about Buchanan and added a few fresh insults to boot.
Quite probably, NR has been taking the heat from a readership base disgruntled by the editors' failure to declare themselves unequivocally for immigration reform. Judging from Jonah Goldberg's comments in the Los Angeles Times and on C-SPAN, the boys blame us at VDARE.COM for that.
And Sam Francis, writing in Chronicles ("Immigration Reform's New 'Palatable Face,'" May 2002), described what he perceives to be a more or less organized "onslaught" by such people as Tamar Jacoby, Stephen Steinlight, David Horowitz, Paul Greenberg and Jonah Goldberg against the grassroots movement for effective immigration reform produced by the terrorist attacks last September. The aim, Francis speculated, is to hijack real reform and replace it with a program for pseudo-reform (recently dubbed "Reform Lite") that will leave the institutions of mass immigration intact. His argument raises the question of whether National Review is just another party cooperating in this onslaught.
The answer (I speak as one who was on the magazine's masthead for 27 years) is that National Review has become a thoroughly establishment organ, now edited by ambitious young people who are establishmentarians, politicians, and journalists in that order. And the Establishments of both the Right and the Left–to the extent that they are any longer distinguishable from one another–still support (publicly, anyway) mass immigration.
For the boys at NR, elitist products of a generation brought up to regard "racism" and "discrimination" as being of the devil and "equality" the Holy Grail, it goes against the grain to oppose the Establishment consensus. They have internalized liberal values, a conservative heresy we have christened "Goldbergism" after its most insistent voice.
Embracing National Greatness Conservatism strikes NR editors as a means to play up to the power brokers of the GOP in Washington (who insist on mass immigration as a function of globalism), while ingratiating themselves further with the Manhattan godfathers (who have an interest in "regime replacement" in the Middle East). NR now dissents from the Bush administration on two counts: its insufficiently brutal support for Sharon's government, and its pandering to Vicente Fox and the illegal immigrant population. I sense dissent in the first instance is sincere as well as self-serving. But in the second instance, it's basically an attempt at covering an exposed flank and holding the troops in place.
One obvious means of bringing the two agenda together: urge the restriction of Muslim immigrants to America . National Review's newfound concern with immigration could well be intended to help make straight the way for that. You read it here first.
The problem for National Review, as for all enthusiasts of National Greatness abroad and mass immigration at home, is that deepening danger overseas and the preoccupation with Home Defense is rapidly placing them in the situation of St. Peter, when the Lord promised him a time would come when others would put a belt round him and lead him where he would rather not go. NR, already feeling that belt tightening at the waist, is anxious not to proceed any sooner than absolutely necessary where it really, really doesn't want to go. Hence its continued hankering for a "restrictionism that does not restrict."
A test to ascertain National Review's real view of immigration would include such questions as:
Further questions should and could be added to the test. We invite readers to consider this important matter.
And let us know if you sight John Miller.
Chilton Williamson Jr. is the author of The Immigration Mystique: America's False Conscience and an editor and columnist for Chronicles Magazine, where he writes the The Hundredth Meridian column about life in the Rocky Mountain West.
July 24, 2002