The Bell Curve analogy is apt because it too dealt with unmentionable subjects—race and intelligence. Mr. Huntington doesn’t invoke genetic arguments, but the same accusations of “racism” that smeared the authors of the earlier book are being warmed up for him.
The most recent attacks popped out of the ovens this week in the Los Angeles Times, long a liberal-to-left wing voice for Open Borders. Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes was the first, with an op-ed accusing Mr. Huntington of fomenting “hate and suspicion” of Latin American immigrants. [Wrongheaded Assault on a ‘Brown Peril’, By Carlos Fuentes, March 14, 2004]
Mr. Huntington, Mr. Fuentes trembles, is
“drawing on a deep strain in U.S. history: the need to have an enemy; the Manichean division of the world into ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys.’ John Quincy Adams denounced this kind of thinking: Go not abroad ‘in search of monsters to destroy.’”
Somebody should explain to Señor Fuentes that Adams was talking about foreign policy.
The people in this case who are going abroad are the immigrants who have left their own countries for ours and whose entry Mr. Huntington wants to limit.
“Mexicans in the U.S., according to Huntington, do not live, they invade; they do not work, they exploit; and they do not create wealth, they perpetuate poverty,” spouts Mr. Fuentes.
The rest of his article is all about how these claims are wrong. Not once does he actually quote anything Mr. Huntington has written, and much of his “refutation” is no more than the usual clichés about the “traditional values” and all the new businesses immigrants create.
“What ethnic group will be Capt. Ahab Huntington’s next Moby Dick?” Mr. Fuentes demands in his nasty parting shot.
The brunt of the second article, by University of Illinois linguist Dennis Baron [email him], devoted to the demolition of Mr. Huntington is that the rapid growth of Spanish in the United States is really a good thing. It starts off with the sentiment that “Linguistic nativism—the kind that says ‘speak English or go back where you came from’—is a regrettable, nonsensical American tradition. The reality is, no matter how hard minority-language speakers work to preserve their speech, they inexorably shift to English.” [ No Translation Needed: ‘Door Is Closed’, March 14, 2004, By Dennis Baron ]
Of course, Mr. Huntington’s point is that that shift may not happen in the future as millions of Spanish speakers for the first time deposit themselves on American soil and retain their own language.
It’s perfectly true, as Mr. Baron notes, that the 2000 Census reported “92 percent of all Americans over age 5 have no difficulty speaking English,” but that implies there are some 8 percent—some 23 million people—who don’t. Since there were about 32 million foreign-born persons in the country in 2002, that means the majority of them—nearly three-fourths—have difficulty speaking English.
That’s far more than enough to create the kind of linguistic fracturing and subnational enclaves Mr. Huntington is worried about. “For the new nativists,” Mr. Baron sneers, “who like to call Miami a foreign country, Spanish is the enemy.” They call Miami a “foreign country” because, unlike Mr. Baron, they know Spanish is a foreign language. In our country we speak English.
Both attacks make use of Mr. Huntington’s article in the current issue of Foreign Policy rather than his forthcoming book, but the sneers, straw men and outright insults with which they try to smother his arguments before they’ve even hatched are typical of what’s coming.
What’s interesting about the attacks is not only that they precede the appearance of the actual book but seek more to discredit Mr. Huntington himself—as a nut, a “nativist,” a fount of “hate and suspicion”—by name-calling.
That tactic was also typical of the attack on The Bell Curve, and whenever it’s deployed, it offers a clue to what’s going on.
The tactics of smear almost always tell us that the smear’s target has offered facts and arguments that can’t be answered on their merits—and the only way to answer them at all is to attack the person who brings them up in the first place.
Mr. Huntington may not be right about everything he says in either his article or his book, but to judge from the level of the discussion of it so far, he’s coming much closer to the truth than his enemies can tolerate.