Updated on December 29, 2004
by Peter Brimelow
[An expurgated and somewhat bowdlerized
version was published in
National Review, April 22, 1996]
He does not seem to know what
an argument is. He never uses arguments himself. He
never troubles himself to answer the arguments of an
opponent. . . . It has never occurred to him . . . that
when an objection is raised, it ought to be met with
something more convincing than "scoundrel" or
"Essay on Southey's Colloquies"
Alien Nation ("one of the most widely discussed
books of 1995"—Jerry Adler, Newsweek) was
published in April and was immediately and almost
universally reviewed, somewhat to my surprise although
not, I must say in tribute to their professional
judgment, to that of my hardcover publishers, Random
House. I also found myself defending the book on a
multitude of national and local television and radio
shows, so that by the fall I was being recognized on the
streets of New York. This was an unusual experience for
a humble financial journalist. And, under the
circumstances, rather alarming.
(Actually, everyone who approached
me was very nice. I received only one death threat, on
my voicemail at Forbes from an East European—accented
woman. She was apparently incensed by my deriding, in a
bitter exchange in The New York Times, both
A. M. Rosenthal and American Civil Liberties
Union Executive Director
Ira Glasser for their obsession with Alien
Nations single reference to my son Alexander’s blue
eyes and blond hair. This scandalous revelation—it’s on
page 11—was probably the
most cited passage in the book.
not once, as far as I can see, was it cited in its
context: the paradoxical and destructive effect of the
non-white immigration and
affirmative-action quotas upon those native-
born Americans who are not members of the so-called
"protected classes," as Alexander manifestly is not—
I regard this hysterical reflex as further proof of my
opening thesis in Alien Nation: current
immigration policy is Adolf Hitler’s posthumous revenge
at AEI [ American Enterprise Institute]," Judge
Robert Bork told me with mock ceremony during
Norman Podhoretz's retirement dinner in May,
"are very grateful to you for drawing fire away from
Later in the summer I got a call from Murray himself,
Bork’s colleague at AEI and co-author of
The Bell Curve, professionally curious to
see how I was holding up.
fact, the first (and in the publishing business most
important) reviews, in The New York Times—twice—The
Washington Post and
were at least respectful, serious and sometimes,
particularly the Times’s
Richard Bernstein— strikingly generous. But
after that, as Wellington said at Waterloo, it was hard
pounding—the only question being who could pound
"Hateful, racist" "gentrified racism,’’ "openly
racialist." (there was a lot more of this,
exactly as predicted on p. 9). "narrow-minded,"
"poppycock’ "deliberately misleading," "an
ugly jeremiad," "tirade," "diatribe,"
fervent and obsessive polemic," "breathtaking
disingenuousness," "inflammatory?’ "incendiary,"
"conspicuous bad faith,"
"beyond the pale," "bigoted,"
"intellectualized white rage . . . in-your-face
vileness." Etc., etc., etc. I was blamed for
the Oklahoma City bombing (by Ramon Mestre in the
and compared to Hitler and Germany’s neo-Nazi skinheads
(by Jeff Turrentine in the Dallas Morning News.)
My favorite hostile review: probably Lawrence Chua in
the Village Voice—"His
fear is justified. We will bury him."
there were the attacks that might actually have
concerned me: on my prose. Even some friends muttered
about Alien Nation's "sledgehammer style,"
unfamiliar (lucky them) with the brutal techniques
devised by American financial writers to explicate
dismaying quantities of detailed information. The London
Economist, familiar but superior,
said I had "the quality of an embarrassing
dinner-party guest—boorish, noisy and loquacious but
also, maddeningly, often right." My slogan:
"Don’t be misled by this book’s simple style: it is
interlaced with material that can challenge the acutest
mind."—Paul A. Samuelson, preface, Economics,
seventh edition, 1967.
always fascinating for an author to see one reviewer
complaining that a book is a
"struggle to get through"
(John J. Miller in Reason), while
another, just as hostile, says the book is "witty and
conversational, full of clever asides" (Philip
Kasinitz, New York
and a third, still by no means uncritical, announces
that "it is a pleasure to read Peter Brimelow at
length. He writes straightforwardly, with wit, honesty
and good humor" (Boston University’s
Glenn C. Loury in National Review). When the
latter views are the majority, as I can modestly report
was the case with Alien Nation, it becomes hard
to avoid the conclusion that the more infantile critics
are just fumbling for any off-the-shelf insult. I'm
surprised they didn’t claim my hair, in the hardcover
jacket photo graph, was too long. My mother would have
expected Brimelow to smell of sulfur," wrote
Arizona Republic editorial writer
Linda Valdez of her interview with me in September,
after my diabolical status had been well established.
(Her conclusion: I didn’t smell of sulfur. But I was
Naturally, I found these reactions encouraging. After
all, exactly the same incredulous rage has greeted the
American conservative movement at each successive stage
of its triumphant three-decade- long march through the
institutions, beginning with the nomination of
Barry Goldwater in 1964.
had a simple test that I applied to every review: did
it discuss the 1965 Immigration Act? Or did it
instead just burble on about the glories of immigration
in principle, missing Alien Nation's key
point—that the operations of 1965 Act in practice have
resulted in an influx far larger,
less skilled and far more dominated by a few
Third World sources than anything envisaged at the time.
In other words, even if you want a million immigrants a
year—and the American people
overwhelmingly do not—why this particular
the shamefully large number of reviews that flunked this
test a big fat "F" without any further ado. For the
purposes of America’s current immigration debate, they
were just not in the game. Unsurprisingly, Mestre,
Turrentine and Chua were all "F" Others prominent
examples: Christopher Hitchens, Los Angeles Times:
Linda Chavez, USA Today: Clarence Wood, Chicago
Tribune: Peter Skerry, Commentary.
more encouraging: throughout the print media barrage I
was spending hours a day on television and, through the
miracle of telephone hook-ups, on talk radio all round
the country. And there it was not at all unusual to get
100 percent supportive calls—from real Americans. The
only exception were the shows on National Public Radio,
which, whatever else you can say about it, has clearly
found an audience. But even there, the calls were
as a print journalist I am appalled to say that my
experience with Alien Nation has left me gloomily
convinced that electronic media, particularly talk
radio, really does now carry the brunt of American
public discourse. This is not just because a lot of talk
show hosts—Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, David Brudnoy and
many others, thanks to them all—were totally supportive
in a way that no self-respecting print journalist seems
ever able to be. Even my critics were generally at least
polite and reasonable. When an angry caller complained
to Larry Mantle, a liberal host on Los Angeles
KPCC-FM, that I was being allowed to spread my
noxious propaganda without anyone to oppose me, Mantle
reprovingly said no one ever objected when he had
liberals on alone. (I remember this particularly because
I looked up to see through the soundproof glass my
Random House escort, the beautiful Sheryl Benezra,
locked in ferocious battle with the other young women in
the studio on my behalf.)
personalities, however, the discipline of live
electronic media makes it intrinsically more honest than
print. When Linda Valdez suggested in the Arizona
Republic ("F," of course) that I had revealed my
underlying racism by urging Eastern European immigration
rather than Mexican, her readers could not know that in
reality I was giving this as an example of the potential
use of immigration s a foreign policy tool—and saying it
has been precluded by statutory inflexibility and the
immigrant binge of the last thirty years (pages 84-85)
Bryant Gumbel made the same suggestion on NBC's
Today show, I was able to whack him smartly on the
radio and television, unlike print, I could compel
questioners to address the central question on page 119:
why do you want to transform America? Quite often they
were honest or naive enough to answer—as did Larry
Josephson on his "Bridges" NPR show—that America in 1965
was just too homogeneous ("white bread") for their
taste. Then I could move in for the kill: "That’s great!
Now let’s ask the American people if they agree."
addition, of course, events continued to move Alien
Nation’s way This undercut my critics logically,
albeit not emotionally. House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s
bipartisan task force on illegal immigration reported,
recommending among other things reform of the
Fourteenth Amendment interpretation whereby all
children born in the United States, even of illegal
immigrants, are American citizens. (I had been
reproached in various debates by Peter Skerry for
suggesting such an outlandish idea; reviewing my book
for Commentary, Skerry was
prudently silent on this point, while continuing to
claim my other proposals were outlandish). And former
Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Jordan’s Commission on
reported, recommending a
one-third cut in the legal influx, in effect rolling
back the 1990 Immigration Act and conceding that the
system was broke and needs fixing. This was precisely my
much-denounced point on page xx of Alien Nation.
President Clinton actually endorsed the Jordan
Commission’s findings, to the utter shock and horror of
the immigration enthusiast community in Washington. ("We
know he’s seen your book," the National Immigration
Forum’s Frank Sharry, the nicest of my regular debate
opponents, told me darkly, as we waited to go on CNN’s
suspect that, as a Southerner, President Clinton may be
plotting a daring Chancellorsville-style march around
the Republicans’ right flank on the immigration issue,
perhaps during the 1996 election campaign. His
administration and key liberal Democrats, like
California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein,
have al ready been
significantly tougher on illegal immigration than
Presidents Reagan and Bush.
contrast, Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey
reflexively denounced the Jordan Commission. "I’m
hard-pressed," he said later in the summer, "to
think of a single problem that would be solved by
shutting off the supply of willing and eager new
was an astonishing comment, and indicative of the fatal
intellectual inertia still prevailing among many leading
immigration enthusiasts. No doubt Armey was too busy to
read the free copy of Alien Nation sent him by
Random House. But even a nanosecond’s thought would have
revealed to him that, if immigration drives the U.S.
population up 50 percent by 2050—the Census Bureau’s cur
rent estimate—it must inevitably cost the taxpayers
massive additional monies far schools, prisons and other
infrastructure, regardless of whether it also offers
some particular benefit (which it does not).
large and small, continue to move Alien Nations
way. As I was preparing to write this at the end of
1995, I randomly picked these two stories out of the
same newspaper (The New York Times. December 10):
MEXICO WOOS U.S. MEXICANS,
PROPOSING DUAL NATIONALITY
Mexican President Ernesto
Zedillo supports an amendment to the Mexican
constitution allowing Mexicans to retain their
nationality when they
take out U.S. citizenship."You're Mexicans—Mexicans
who live north of the border," Mr. Zedillo told
Mexican-American politicians in Dallas this year. He
said he hoped the amendment would not only permit
Mexican-Americans to better defend their rights at a
time of rising anti-immigrant fervor, but also help
create an ethnic lobby with political influence similar
to that of American Jews.
Alien Nation, pages 193-195. And --
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION BY IMMIGRANTS IS BECOMING
CAUSE FOR CONCERN IN
"As you get more and more
immigrants from countries where this is a practice,
Somalia, there are pockets of it [clitoridectomy]
popping up wherever you see concentrations of
settlements," Representative Pat Schroeder, the Colorado
Democrat, said in an interview.
. . . Ms. Schroeder [has]
proposed laws similar to ones in Britain and France
genital mutilation a crime.
course, this is completely hypocritical. Either values
are relative or they are not. What it shows once again
is that immigration enthusiasts’ enthusiasm for
"diversity" is highly selective. They fully
intend to pick and choose among diversities. In effect,
immigration just gives them an excuse to remake America.
See Alien Nation. pages 105—6, 231—32.
Ironically, Pat Schroeder had been the 563rd critic to
brilliant idea, when she got her free copy of
Alien Nation from Random House chief Harry Evans, of
pointing to our
common British origins. "We welcome immigrants,
even crabby ones," she wrote back grandly.
"Somehow they all find their niche."
Did the shock of finding out what some crabby immigrants
are really like contribute to her subsequent decision to
probably not. Immigration enthusiasts are a notably
be said, however, that America professional politicians
are being relatively pervious about immigration. They
know an electoral earthquake—Proposition 187—when they
see one. In both parties, they are prepared at least to
contemplate immigration reform. Even House Speaker Newt
Gingrich, who has privately made it clear he does not
want to see the legal immigration issue raised at all,
probably because he fears accusations of racism, now
says flatly in
To Renew America that illegal immigration should
and can be stopped. (He is silent, of course, about
deporting illegals already here.)
contrast, the Wall Street Journal editorial page
has never formally rescinded its annual July Fourth call
for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing "open
borders," probably the high water-mark of loony
libertarianism. (Still, this instant tradition did cease
in 1995, abruptly and without explanation, after the
publication of Alien Nation)
conclusion: it is not so much elected officials who are
the barrier to rational immigration reform in America:
it is the "permanent government" of bureaucrats,
mediacrats, educrats, assorted policy wonks and
intellectuals—in alliance with ethnic and economic
special interest groups.
these, as it happens, are also the people who review
books. Reading through the notices of Alien Nation,
the sensation I get is exactly that of putting a
recalcitrant three-year old to bed crying, screaming,
struggling, kicking, proclamations of hatred.
Then—and this is significant—sudden, serene sleep. And
you go off for a quiet scotch and a heart attack. Or in
my case to finish some mundane article on the stock
market, further building the Forbes family fortune and
thus financing, indirectly, Steve Forbes’s race for
no good on immigration, alas. By contrast, Pat Buchanan
bless his heart, was photographed holding up my book
when he announced his support for an immigration
moratorium. I think I might tug my forelock and
respectfully hold out for whichever presidential
candidate does the most to promote my Alien Nation.
Of course, it could be Bill Clinton).
are basically two views about how you can influence
public debate. The Thin End of the Wedge Theory, favored
by gentle souls like James W. Michaels and John
O'Sullivan—respectively my editors at Forbes and
National Review magazines, is that while emphasizing
how much agreement there is between you and everyone
else, you politely but firmly insinuate modifications
into the discussion, all of such an eminently sensible
character that no-one can possibly (or. at least,
reasonably) object. Over time, you turn people around.
contrast, there’s the Thick End Theory. You pick up the
wedge by’ its thin end and pound the opposition with the
thick end, as hard as possible. Then you stand back and
see what happens.
to admit that I lean toward the second approach. This is
probably a fault of personality. I lack the patience to
maneuver opponents in detail, especially since it means
I may never get to state my own very important opinion
directly. Indeed, I think that re pressing an opinion in
this way can be harmful to everyone’s health. Such
tactfulness in the face of the hyperemotional minority
is why most Americans now lack the language to express
their common private conviction that, since America has
been historically a white nation, it might very well
matter that public policy is at present so rapidly
shifting the country’s racial balance. (Of course, it
might not. But if not, why not discuss it? See page
as Alan Abelson, the great editor of Barrons,
used to reassure me when I worked for him, sadism is a
professional requirement for a journalist. So in
Alien Nation I hit the immigration enthusiasts head
Some reviewers appreciated this.
Jack Miles, in his very thoughtful essay in
The Atlantic Monthly,
said I was "an
inspired controversialist, determined to storm the
enemy's redoubt where it is strongest, not where it is
other reviewers simply could not stomach the resulting
bloodshed. For example, Jacquie Miller in the Ottawa
Citizen worried—all too presciently, for what it is
worth—that "phrases can be plucked out of Brimelow’s
book that, shoved only slightly out of context, provide
ammunition[for the inevitable
charge of racism] She instanced my references
high black crime and Laotian welfare rates.
Miller also felt that the "credibility" of my account of
Robert Kennedy's ludicrous underestimate of Asian
immigration resulting from the l965 Act (p. 78) somehow
suffered from what she described as "a typical slur": my
adding that "tragically,
Robert Kennedy himself was to be assassinated by an
immigrant counted by the INS as Asian."
first reaction to this sort of thing, of course, is
incredulity. I believe truth should be an absolute
defense, as it is in libel law. Laotians do have
disproportionately high welfare rates etc. And I
said "tragically." didn’t 1’
I recognize a problem. There is no point in repelling
readers, at least those who show Ms. Miller’s symptoms
of open-minded ness.
problem, however, is not easily resolved. The truth, we
are told after all, shall set us free. And it is
precisely because of the media’s flinching from facts
that many Americans are unaware of the immigration
dimensions of major contemporary public policy dilemmas
(see p. 7). It is because Americans are never reminded
of the Jordanian origins of Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan
Sirhan, that they don’t think to put him at the head of
a list of infamous immigrants to counter the immigration
enthusiasts’ silly ploy of reeling off, in place of
argument, the names of distinguished immigrants. In
fact, many Americans can’t think of a list of infamous
immigrants at all—another example of the one-way nature
of the immigration debate.
New York mayor Ed Koch pulled this trick on me in the
course of a surprisingly disappointing and weak review
in the New York Post; "Albert Einstein, Arturo
Toscanini, Madeleine Albright, I. M. Pei, Patrick Ewing,
John Shalikashvilli, Henry Kissinger, [etc., etc.] .
. . Brimelow should squirm at their very mention."
unsquirming answer, in part:
Giuseppe Esposito (founder of the Italian Mafia in the
Meyer Lansky, "Lucky" Luciano, Al Capone (all
organized crime); V. K. Ivankov (of the
emerging "Russian Mafia"); Bruno Richard Hauptmann
(Lindbergh kidnapper); Rosario Ames (wife and
co-conspirator of traitor Aldrich Ames); Civil War
John B. Turchin, USA, and
Henry Wirz, CSA (respectively dismissed from U.S.
Army for atrocities against Southern civilians and
hung for atrocities against Union prisoners of war
as camp commandant at Andersonville) . . .
Charles Ponzi (inventor of the type of financial
fraud named after him, whereby early investors are paid
off with later investors’ monies, luring more in—just
immigration enthusiasts’ fantasy of how immigrants
will bail out the
Social Security system. Ben Wattenberg was still
repeating this in his syndicated column in late 1995,
despite Alien Nation’, conclusive refutation, p.
I have hope for Koch. who is sensible about illegal
immigration and other things. It seems he was simply
unable to focus on my book’s content, a common failing,
because of the memory of his own immigrant parents. One
of my happiest moments in taping the three-part
immigration debate television special for William F.
is establishing through cross-examination that Koch
did not realize his parents could not immigrate under
current law anyway (because they came from European
countries that have been shouldered aside by the
family-reunification inflow triggered by the 1965
Act—see p. 18.) 1 expect that we can resolve our
differences over the lunch to which he has kindly
less hopeful about the ACLU’s Ira Glasser. in the second
part of the Firing Line debate, he so far forgot
himself as to accuse me of "lying" and bet me a
year of his salary ($127,950 according to the 1993
American Institute of Philanthropy yearbook) that I had
not discussed in Alien Nation the fragmentary
evidence that the proportion of immigrants in state
prisons does not repeat their over-representation at the
federal level. Of course, I had (p. 184).
has now conceded this, buried in a long abusive ink-
cloud of a private letter to me. Unaccountably, however,
he neglected to include his check. As a gentleman, he
will no doubt have rectified this oversight by the time
this paperback edition is in readers’ hands. But you can
fax him at the ACLU and ask: (212) 354- 5290.
mildly interesting question how Glasser could be such a
fool as to get himself in this mess. My theory is that
it is partly be cause of the pervasive influence of
lawyers on American public de bate. Trial lawyers have a
reductionist and pragmatic view of arguments. Their
object is to convince the jury, not arrive at the truth.
Glasser automatically assumed I would suppress
apparently unfavorable evidence because, well, he would
in my place.
wouldn’t. No. dammit. I wouldn’t. Twenty-five years ago,
when I had been in the U.S. only months, this passage
jumped out of a book I was illicitly reading at the back
of a finance class at
Stanford’s business school:
I realize about myself that I am, for all my passions,
implacably, I think almost unfailingly fair:
objective, just. This not vanity, it is
book: Cruising Speed (1970). The author: William
F. Buckley Jr.
it’s a conservative thing. The Glassers of the world
(what I really think) perhaps it has something to do
with the great civilization of the West. In which case
it may be—not will be, may be—threatened by immigrants
from a different cultural tradition.
is more than its own reward, however. In spite of the
ferocious assault on Alien Nation, only one minor
nontypographical mistake was discovered. Raul Lowery
Contreras, a radio host and
professional ethnic in San Diego, complained in a
letter to the New York Times that my sources had
been wrong to suppose he was part-Anglo: he merely had
an "Irish step-father." (p. 274). Naturally he
did not mention that he had read this in the free,
inscribed book he had bummed off me when we ran into
each other in KOGO's studios, where I had just appeared
on Peter Weissbach’s show.
course, the change does not affect my fundamental point:
assimilating visible minorities is more difficult, even
given apparent social integration, than optimists
highly cogent presentation of what is going to be the
benchmark case against immigration," wrote
Richard Bernstein in the New York Times.
"Those who think the system needs no fixing cannot
responsibly hold to that position any longer unless they
take Mr. Brimelow’s urgent appeal into account."
be misled by the verbal pyrotechnics. . . no reformer
can avoid grappling with the formidable work of Peter
Brimelow," wrote David Frum, author of Dead Right
and now a Contributing Editor with the
Weekly Standard (hope this doesn’t get him
fired!) in his syndicated column in Canada.
agree, as a matter of fact. John Dizard, in a front page
story in the
New York Observer reporting a civil war among
conservatives provoked by my book, quoted me as saying
("ominously") that "my opponents are hopelessly
overextended intellectually and empirically, and are
facing annihilation up and down the line." Nine
months later, having been confronted with no new
contrary argument or fact, I still think that.
I suspect, do they. Unlike Charles Murray when he came
review the reviews of The Bell Curve,
I have essentially no intricate technical
counter-arguments to refute, because no one pro vided
any. My critics tended to behave like Macaulay’s
description of Southey in debate: either they simply
reasserted their opinion, often using points that I had
just painstakingly refuted in Alien Nation, a
technique I found bewildering; or they resorted to
abuse. Or, quite often, both.
Alien Nation was going to press in 1994, the Urban
Institute’s Michael Fix and Jeffrey Passel published
Immigration and Immigrants: Setting the Record Straight,
which claimed that there was significantly less
deterioration in immigrant skill levels and welfare
dependency than shown in George Borjas’ research. it
materialized—distressing to me, since Alien Nation
takes other Urban Institute work at face value—that Fix
and Passel had abolished the immigration problem by the
ruthless expedient of abolishing problem immigrants. For
example, all Mexicans had been excluded from the
education calculations on the grounds that many are
illegal. But Mexico is also the largest source of legal
immigrants. So excluding Mexicans gives a falsely
positive picture of the legal flow. This statistical
equivalent of anecdotal evidence, scrabbling through the
immigrant population to find some subgroup that out
performs the native-born—left-handed blue-eyed
women’!—has become a common immigrant enthusiast nick.
However, although hyped by the usual guilty, and
occasionally brandished feebly by my regular
professional immigration enthusiast debating partners,
the Urban Institute’s numbers played surprisingly little
role in print reviews. Critics just tended economically
to sweep aside my— George Borjas’—work without offering
any explanation at all: "rehashing tendentious
research on immigrant welfare dependency"—Tom
"What we need is a real debate about immigration,"
wrote Thomas Sowell, who, while interested but not
two syndicated columns, was visibly twitching at the
unmistakable political correctness of my immigration
enthusiast opponents: "Peter Brimelow’s Alien Nation
makes him top choice for the contrary position."
debate about immigration is exactly what much of the
opposition absolutely does not want to see. As Milton
Friedman once remarked to me, many individuals in
American intellectual life are not truly intellectuals
but frustrated activists. And the activist’s
characteristic concern with tactics rather than truth
became pain fully apparent as the controversy about
Alien Nation got rolling.
classic example: Ben Wattenberg. When I arrived at Diane
Rehm’s celebrated WAMU talk show in Washington at the
beginning of my book tour, I found Wattenberg was to
appear with me. We had a perfectly affable disputation,
not surprisingly since (we agreed) we had substantial
policy proposals in common—such as the utility of an
English-language preference, which would have a dramatic
impact, particularly on the Hispanic influx. Wattenberg
undertook to send me his forthcoming book for a possible
later, with Alien Nation getting famous and
legislation reducing immigration being introduced by
Rep. Lamar Smith and Senator Alan Simpson, Wattenberg
was transformed. He bristled with determination to
anathematize me for mentioning the fact that government
immigration policy is shifting the U.S. racial balance.
He was comically baffled because (at a Congressional
briefing with him sponsored by Jane DeLung’s
Population Resource Center) I instead talked about
how immigration policy is also in effect second-guessing
the American people’s implicit decision, evidenced by
their generally smaller families, about the ideal U.S.
population size overall
more comic was Wattenberg’s behavior when we taped his
PBS TV show
(Me versus two critics and Wattenberg as a
self-declared ‘immoderator." Balance!) He made the very
common error of claiming that Alien Nation
advocates a shift to white immigration, instead the
"time-out’ from all immigration I actually recommend on
p. 262. I challenged him. Confidently, he started to
read something from his lectern. It began "Brimelow
says. . ."
a review!" I interjected. It was a knockdown blow. So
much so that before the show appeared, Wattenberg (or
his handlers) took the unusual but masterful step of
going into the tape and editing out the exchange.
book never arrived at Forbes, presumably because it
tries to shrug off Alien Nation as "half
hokum, half racism." Without explanation, of
course. Its title:
Values Matter Most.
said it, Ben.
important, and sadder, example of an immigration
enthusiast attempting to suppress debate: Robert L.
Bartley, Editor of the Wall Street Journal Bob
and I crawled out of the same conservative! libertarian
hole. I had known him and written for his editorial page
since the l970s. But he still published the nastiest,
and most incompetent, review to appear in any major
paper, charmingly heading it "Natterings
of a Neo-Nativist."
resounding F-minus performance by Tufts historian
Reed Ueda not only ignored the role of the 1965 Act
but every other major argument in Alien Nation—including,
amazing for a business paper, my demonstration that
immigration is not an economic necessity—in its
eagerness to accuse me of resembling " late-19th-century
forecasts of Anglo-Saxon "race suicide"; i.e.
(for most American intellectuals) of proto-Nazism.
(Evading Alien Nation thesis about the workings
of the 1965 Immigration Act is unusually important for
libertarian imigration enthusiasts—for example, it was
also repressed by
Alan Bock in the Orange County Register,
Stephan Chapman in the Chicago Tribune and,
needless to say, by John J. Miller in Reason
magazine Otherwise they would be forced to admit that
this specific immigrant inflow is the result, not of a
free market, but—aargh!—government intervention.
Essentially, they are in the same position as the
boosters of dams and supersonic airliners who conned an
earlier generation of libertarians into thinking that
these projects were the product of market processes
rather than federal subsidies and log- rolling. But at
least the dam-boosters were after a dishonest buck. What
is the libertarian immigration enthusiasts’ agenda?)
House was eager that I support Alien Nation with
op-ed articles in major newspapers. And in the end, I
appeared in the Washington Post Los Angeles Times.
USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, Houston
Chronicle and related syndicates across the country.
Even the New York Times twice commissioned
articles, but then reneged. However, it was very fair in
other ways. And I can see that running an article by me
would have caused the much- loved A. M. Rosenthal to
burst a blood vessel. He attacked me twice in his
columns, childishly trying to avoid mentioning in by
name, finally concluding (June
Just a few words, no more needed, about that British-born
immigrant—Peter Brimelow is his name, I remember now.
His book is much too farbissen, my mother’s
Yiddish word for embittered, to be of value.. . . That
British immigrant really must go home. Mercy extends
just so far.
if Rosenthal doesn’t like being told what to do by
immigrants, he had better support restriction very soon.
My mother’s word for all this: daft.
Finally, on Nov. 27. I was the only non-immigration
enthusiast (if you don’t count Barbara Jordan) in an
editorial page symposium of ten 200-word mini-articles
timed to demoralize immigration reformers in Washington.
The intellectual level of the enthusiasts was raised by
the presence of Dr—in psychology—Ruth
Westheimer, the sexologist .She advanced the novel
arguments that immigration had saved her from the
Holocaust and solved her servant problem.
Wall Street Journal editorial page, however, was a
blank wall of unreturned phone calls. Unreturned phone
calls are a pet hatred of mine, so when speaking to
audiences on the road I began to amuse myself, for this
and other reasons, by describing the conservative civil
war: "Even the Editor of the Wall Street Journal has
stopped talking to me. At least, I think he has. It’s
hard to tell with Bob Bartley!" (An in-joke. Bob is a
notoriously taciturn Mid-Westerner.)
Eventually, I must have said this on Brian Lamb’s
extraordinarily influential C-SPAN show Booknotes.
Bob was inspired to return a call. We talked, and he
promised to check upon when he had last allowed an
article dissenting from the immigration enthusiast party
tine. After some weeks, I faxed him pointing out it had
been two years.! added "LOOK ON BRIGHT SIDE—LAST
DISSENTER (poor Dan James, author of Illegal
course, I heard nothing further. Bob’s sense of humor is
somewhere in the same latitude as his loquacity.
during our conversation, he did say something profoundly
significant. Defending his inflexible private opinion
that nothing can ever be done about illegal immigration,
he remarked: "The destiny of Europe has already been
decided in North Africa [ of the population explosion
a poor look-out for the nation-state," I said,
think the nation-state is finished. I think
Ohmae [a prophet of
economic regionalism popular among businessmen]
thunderstruck. I knew the devoted fans of the Wall
Street Journal editorial, overwhelmingly conservative
patriots, had no inkling of this. It would make a great
Wall Street Journal front page story:
WALL STREET JOURNAL
AS SECRET ONE-WORLDER—CONSTERNATION AMONG
FAITHFUL—IS POPE CATHOLIC?
much of this most crucial American debate, Wall Street
Journal readers have been able to follow the critics’
arguments only by deducing them from between the lines
of continuous denunciations, rather like Pravda
readers under Stalin. Curiously, Bob Bartley presided
over a similar shut-out in the early l980s, when I used
to beg him to editorialize against affirmative action,
then rapidly metastasizing. Finally, he said: "I’ll
write about affirmative action when you get me a black
he did find black writers—one of them, Joe Perkins now
with the San Diego Union-Tribune, bravely
broke with immigration enthusiast orthodoxy to defend
Alien Nation in his column. But by then of course it
was too late. Quotas were entrenched.
Fortunately, Bob does not strike me as being as
sensitive as the
shepherd hero of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the
Madding Crowd; "It had always been a shadow in
his life that his flock ended as mutton—that a day came
and found every shepherd an arrant traitor to his
defenseless sheep." The fact remains, however, that
arguably the most brilliant career in American
journalism has failed its supreme test.
Highlights from the reviews:
|Harvard University's Stephan Thernstrom in the
Washington Post: Has recent immigration to
the U.S. really been huge? Not really . . . in
proportion to total population, the more relevant
comparison, it continues to be fairly low by historic
standards . . ." |
devoted all of chapter 2 to crushing this vulgar error,
basically by demonstrating that immigration is now high
relative to population growth But it still cropped in
many reviews—another automatic "F." When I politely
pointed out Thernstrom’s mistake in a letter to the
Washington Post, he replied huffily, extemporizing
that when population growth is static, even one
immigrant would be 100% of population growth. True, and
so would 100 million immigrants—which is why I invented
the Wedge Chart on page 47, showing the actual situation
(50% higher population by 2050). My theory: reviewers
notoriously don’t read books. But did Thernstrom even
look at the pictures?
|Nicholas Lemann in the New York Times Book
"Judging from a couple of asides, Mr. Brimelow doesn’t
consider Jews to meet his definition of’white’ either;
for example, he refers to the Clinton Administration as
‘a black-Hispanic-Jewish-minority white (Southerners
used to call them "scalawags") coalition.’ Else where he
points out that Jews played a major role in the passage
of the hated 1965 immigration law,
course, I also point out that Jews are prominent in the
current reform movement too, but Lemann didn’t mention
that. After some puzzling, I have decided that his first
sentence means I should have said "minority
non-Jewish white." Bunk. Technically, I should have
said "non-Hispanic white" too, because
some Hispanics are white. But I do not throughout
Alien Nation in the interests of minimal
Strangely, Lemann’s review was not particularly hostile,
al though of course passing over my chapters on
economics in favor of race (like virtually everyone
else—this part of the immigration debate has not even
begun.) My theory: when Lemann referred to Alien
Nation’s "amazing absence of euphemism and
disingenuousness," he meant just that: he was
literally amazed. Wandering around in his state of
amazement. he idly insinuated anti-semitism in much the
same spirit as a mechanical ignoramus in an automobile
salesroom kicking a new car’s tire.
|Jacob Weisberg in New York magazine: "Brimelow
re sorts to statistical abuses that would make a
high-school debate blush. His first distortion is a
chart that shows immigration in absolute numbers. By
including those who applied for legal status under the
temporary amnesty of a few years ago, he succeeds in
producing a recent ‘spike.’"|
fact, of course, the IRCA amnesties are included in the
INS official figures. (Chart I, p. 30-31). And I discuss
this problem and correct for them (Chart 2, p. 32) Even
if Weisberg had not turned the page, he was present at
my address to the Manhattan Institute when I pointed
this out. To its discredit, New York refused to
publish a correction letter from my researcher Joseph E.
Interestingly, Weisberg was involved in a similar
incident involving The Bell Curve. He wrote that
at a conference sponsored by AEI the book’s linking of
intelligence and race was only raised (by
him, although he didn’t say so) when Glenn Loury,
who is black, left the room. In fact, Juan Williams, who
is also black, was
theory: Weisberg is a type, common in New York, whose
verbal slickness exceeds his intellectual powers. Faced
with an argument that disturbs him emotionally, he
compulsively lies about it, like a lunatic exposing
himself to a nubile woman.
|Michael Lind in
the New Yorker "uses the rhetoric of an
after-dinner speaker at a Klavern banquet." etc.
well, the meteoric Lind is a special case. Once a
hanger-on of the conservative movement and National
Review, he seems to have made the entirely
rational decision that there’s more money on the left.
(My wife keeps telling me the same thing.) You can
more or less date this process: less than two years
earlier, Lind had written in the New Republic
(August 23, 1993) that my original National Review
cover story, which constitutes about a quarter of
Alien Nation, was "an eloquent restatement .
. of traditional American conservative arguments."
I even received an effusive four-page, single-spaced
private letter from him on the subject.|
Notion posed a peculiarly acute problem for Lind. His
own soon-to-be-published book, The Next American
Nation, actually called for immigration restriction
just like Alien Nation, although in
a way that tried to appeal to political liberals.
Much of the debunking of immigration enthusiast myths
was eerily similar, including for example a passage on
Tom Paine that was almost identical (see page 17). Lind
had adopted many arguments first developed in
National Review such as the economic impact on
blue-collar workers. (He had even acknowledged this in a
letter to National Review, published March 7,
1994.) He could purge National Review from his
footnotes, and he did. But he could not afford to have
his new friends making close comparisons with Alien
Nation. So he tried to drive it out of public debate
in the usual way.
won’t last, of course. Although there are good
traditional liberal reasons to oppose immigration, modem
liberalism is differently motivated. And sooner or
later, another even younger and equally vicious Lind is
going to come along and make his reputation with an
article on "Michael Lind’s Tainted Sources"—the
title of a
notorious attack on
The Bell Curve. Additionally, Lind himself is too restless and
quarrelsome. My theory: this strange, driven figure will
next become a Mormon. No doubt of a heretical kind.
Miller in Reason. "Follow that reasoning? It
goes something like this: Colin Ferguson is an
immigrant. Colin Ferguson is bad. Therefore, all
immigrants are bad."
number of reviewers (Christopher Hitchens, Los
Angeles Times: Christopher Farrell, Business Week)
were uncomfortable about my mention of Colin
Ferguson. the Jamaican immigrant and Long Island Rail
Road mass-murderer, and "immigration dimension"
of some current problems. But the most extreme
treatment, typically, was by Washington policy wonk
Completely missing from these discussions was the
context (page 6-7). 1 had noted that prevailing taboos
make it virtually impossible to report anything bad
about immigrants, resulting in a "one-way immigration
debate." I then deliberately gave the Ferguson case
as an example of news that could have been treated as an
immigration story, but that in fact became a more
palatable gun control story because of the taboo. I am
promptly denounced taboo. This is exactly like an AIDS
researcher contracting the virus.
Nation was attacked—for example, George Ramos,
Los Angeles Times—for not containing enough
touchy-feely interviews with immigrants. Partly this is
because my view of what constitutes evidence is a
financial journalist’s: numbers, concepts, analysis. But
my Ferguson experience makes another problem clear:
stories about immigrant criminals, welfare cases and
disease carriers would simply not be tolerated by
today’s book reviewers, regardless of the truth.)
theory: never underestimate the intense emotion with
which people read books. You cannot rely on phrases, let
alone paragraphs, being read in context. I don’t believe
that this applies to Miller, though. Careful study has
led me to view him as the most unscrupulous of
contemporary immigration enthusiasts.
having given the immigration enthusiasts a good pound
with the thick end of the wedge, what do I see when I
seems clear that the Wall Street Journal is
losing, if it has not already lost, this debate. . ."
wrote Fr. Richard John Neuhaus who regards himself
as pro-immigration, in
First Things magazine. "Brimelow’s raising
of the race question. however. . may also be the reason
why, if Brimelow’s argument wins in the political arena
(which seems more than possible), few people will give
him and his book much credit in helping transform U.S.
be. Who knows? This is the equivalent of having a heart
attack alter putting your three-year-old to bed.
there’s also the blissful quiet. The professional
immigration restrict were quick to spot it. Contrary to
allegations, they have usually in the past confined
themselves to environmental and economic arguments. But
writing in the Spring
1995 issue of The Social Contract, the
restrictionist movement’s house magazine. FAIR’s Ira
Mehlman, offered this penetrating insight under the
evocative heading: "Brimelow Drops The Big One.’
Brimelow actually makes a very broad case against
current immigration policies, but not surprisingly,
almost everybody has focused on those chapters that deal
with race, ethnicity and culture. . . . By bringing up
subjects that had heretofore been considered taboo,
Brimelow has scared a lot of people who have been
observing the debate from the sidelines into conceding
that our current immigration policies don't make
[There is a] sudden willingness of many in the media (who
are a good barometer of the intellectual elite) to
choose a side on the question of whether immigration is
beneficial or harmful to the economy.
effect, I had won the economic debate by raising the
question of racial balance and culture. The pattern that
Mehlman spotted was so immensely powerful as to become
funny. Again and again, reviews denounced me and
Alien Nation, and then go on to say in effect that
"of course" there are things wrong with
immigration. . .just not the things, or all the things,
I had in mind. Examples:
Michael Lind, New Yorker; Christopher Farrell,
Business Week; Tom Morganthau, Newsweek;
Jeff Turrentine, Dallas Morning News: Margo
Harakas, St. Petersburg Times; Jacob Weisberg,
New York magazine...
"Glad to hear it, Mr. Weisberg," wrote Richard
Brookhiser sarcastically in the New York Observer.
"where can we find those earlier analyses of
illegal immigration, and of the flaws of the 1965
Immigration Act? The ones you wrote pre-Brimelow?"
no guarantee that this will have a permanent effect, of
course. Bad faith, intellectual laziness and
unacknowledged agendas are characteristic of immigration
enthusiasts. But Ira Mehlman argued that the change was
The only question is in what context [reforms] take place.
They can occur because the intellectual elite are
finally persuaded that the cur rent policies do not make
economic or environmental sense, or be cause the general
public rises up in revolt over policies that perceive
are irreparably altering the racial, ethnic and cultural
balance of their country.
choice should be rather easy.
Lauderdale, I went into WFTL-AM’s studio to appear on Al
Rantel’s wild and woolly talk show. Rantel’s sometime
sidekick Rick Seiderman turned out to be particularly
eager to challenge any idea of criticizing immigration.
"Look at you," he said at one point across the
microphone. "You look like Adolf Hitler’s wet dream."
believe that people like Seiderman actually have no idea
what effect this sort of attack, so casually and
constantly made, has upon those who have to endure it.
It lights a small point of incandescent rage deep inside
you, like the steadily encircling campfires of a
besieging army at night.
course, you are not allowed to respond in anger. So I
just said mildly: "My father spent six and a half
fighting Hitler." (World War II began for
Britain in 1939.)
he win?" demanded Seiderman, aggressively
unimpressed. It was one of those moments in debate when
a reply comes unbidden, both for my
poor father, dead five years, and indeed for my
mortally wounded land of origin.
"No," I said with a sudden bitterness. "He lost."
Seiderman pulled a face and moved on.
course we have all lost to
Adolf Hitler, native-born and immigrant, white and
non-white alike because the resulting emotional spasm of
a policy is inflicting upon America damage that will
still be felt in a hundred years. If indeed it does not
time before Alien Nation was published, a famous
sociologist was talking to a private dinner group in New
York about a controversial question of the day. He gave
his position but added that he would not lake it in
public—"there’s a limit to what you can say in a
refuse to accept this. But judging by the reception of
Alien Nation, it is far from clear that he is
wrong. In which case, the question must be asked: can
such a society can be truly free?