Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Immigration Debate: A note on persuasion and "tone" ...

Here's some advice from Glenn Reynolds: "If you find yourself sounding like a Kos diarist, step away from the blog and take a break, lest you do for your cause what the Kossacks have done for theirs."

Food for thought, indeed.

Glenn also pointed me to this post by John Podheretz, which is reprinted here in its entirety:
The immigration debate is a very heated and passionate one, and the heat and passion on the part of those on the restrictionist side have been useful tools for pushing the conversation in your direction. But there's a difference between heated disagreement and the insistence on lock-step uniformity. Suddenly, immigration restriction has become one of those issues about which one is not permitted to disagree, because to disagree is to join with the forces of Evil. Those who favor a less restrictive policy are said to be bought and paid for by Big Business, to want to oppress poor American minorities who can't earn a decent wage, and to seek the cultural destruction of America. Chief among these villains, it appears, is the president of the United States, whose efforts on behalf of conservative causes — from faith-based policies to stem-cell research to a strict-constructionist judiciary to entitlement reform and massive tax cuts — have all fallen down the memory hole. He is not a conservative, my e-mailers tell me. He is Jorge Arbusto, an agent of the Mexican government. And neither, by the way, am I, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and someone who left mainstream journalism to toil in the fields of conservative media when conservative media weren't cool, to put it mildly.

This inability to stomach disagreement on a hot-button issue should be troubling to anyone and everyone who has found an intellectual home on the Right — in part to avoid the kind of crippling self-censorship that has afflicted the P.C. Left. We can see it at work, sadly, at the once-fine website Polipundit.com, which has served as a Big Tent for all sorts of conservative opinion over the past few years. Its proprietor, Polipundit, has become one of the most aggressively hostile voices of restriction in the blogosphere even as some of the posters there, like Lorie Byrd and DJ Drummond, have remained more firmly in the president's camp.

Last night, Polipundit informed his fellow bloggers that he would no longer permit any postings on immigration with which he disagreed, a move that effectively kills his group blog. It is certainly his right to do so. I can even understand why he would do so on an issue he cares so deeply about. If I were a proprietor of a blog where some of those I had invited to join me began, say, writing anti-Semitic dispatches, I would not be able to countenance it. But the fact is that a more expansive view of immigration policy has long been part of the mainstream of the conservative movement — indeed, Ronald Reagan himself held such an opinion. We are moving into very dangerous territory here — territory in which it has been declared that there is to be no debate, no discussion, and no heterodoxy any longer. This is how political-intellectual movements become diseased and sclerotic. This is how they die.