The dangers of mainstreaming hate

History repeating itself.


Some of the books about the Holocaust that I read this summer made the point that, in comparison with the really violent anti-Semitism pervasive in much of German culture during the 1920s and 1930s, the Nazis’ initial overtures into that crowded field seemed, well, rather ‘reasonable’.


And, yet, as outrageous as that sounds, with today’s benefit of hindsight, it’s a dynamic that repeats itself.

When there are really hateful and dangerous voices on the scene, even other, only slightly-less-hateful voices can sound, somehow, less so.

In immigrant rights, this is dramatic and visible and really concerning.

When one legislator is advocating shooting undocumented immigrants from helicopters like feral pigs, calls to ‘just’ kick immigrant students out of college seem almost tame.

When some national political figures calls for mass deportations, plans to make life so miserable for immigrants that they will ‘self-deport’ back to their countries of origin seem like novel ideas worth exploring. Sort of.

When one anti-immigrant organization alleges that Mexicans are having babies in order to ‘reconquer’ U.S. territory, others’ pseudo-academic ‘studies’ about the negative environmental impact of immigration actually get included in congressional testimony.

Oh, actually, those are both part of the same organization, a twist on the ‘moderate by comparison’ approach.

And this is part of why paying attention to the margins matters so much: they’re not really marginal, because they drive not only what happens on the edges but also what ends up in the middle.

Then, and now.

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