There has been, from the very beginning, an alarming amount of misinformation surrounding the debate on Syrian refugees in the United States. This issue has roots in extreme distrust towards Islam that is felt on the far right of the International political spectrum.
This evening on CNN, Brianna Keilar had on as her guest Congreswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who attempted to posit talking points regarding Syrian refugees’ nefarious entry into our country. In an encouraging display of journalism, Mrs. Keilar pushed back, challenging her assertion that Syrian refugees are getting in the country without strict vetting, a claim that has been made by a veritable who’s who list of prominent Republican leaders, most notably and loudly Mr. Trump himself. Mrs. Blackburn then shifted the conversation to the issue of public safety, in an effort to re frame the debate. This has been a tried and true strategy employed by conservatives to great effect in the past.
I’m hearing deep concern over public safety, and making sure that the terrorist cells that are now located in the United States are being dealt with. They’re concerned about what is happening with refugees, and the realization by many that our governors and our mayors do not know when refugee populations are coming into communities. And also, the awareness that indeed, many of these individuals are not vetted, and you have heard from terrorist leaders that they plan to infiltrate…
That is as far as she was able to get before being challenged again. Mrs. Keilar respectfully acknowledged concerns by citizens, and interjected that the vast majority of refugees are in fact peaceful. She stated again that all are subject to a vigorous vetting process, and asked for any documented instances of this process being sidestepped.
The Congresswoman then went on to suggest that if Mrs Keilar had “taken the time to visit some of these reception centers on our southern border or the office of refugee resettlement reception Centers, she would learn many individuals are coming in illegally and therefore are unable to be tracked.” Mrs. Keilar simply would not allow her to get away with suggesting that there is an influx of individuals from Muslim counties entering our country unaccounted for. She was very familiar with the process, citing numerous government agencies who are heavily involved. She repeatedly pointed out that what the Congresswoman was calling for already in fact exists, which suggests a more insidious motivation at play.
The most revealing part of the entire interview came when the Congresswoman suggested “until we have a little more specificity and certainty in this process…” She was then interrupted and asked for specific instances of individuals circumventing the vetting process, which she was unable to provide. I suspect she was going to suggest that we need to put a halt on the process until we can get the “vetting process worked out” (they’ll be working around the clock, pinky swear). Until we have a little more specificity and certainty in this process…
This is a familiar strategy, and it is being used brilliantly here to gin up a kind of fevor pitch against Muslim immigration. This issue cuts much deeper than just refugees or immigration, it is in fact a religious conflict in its nature. The Republican party now openly takes the position that the world is in a conflict, a struggle for civilization which pits traditional Western values on one side, and a barbarous ideology (as opposed to religion, which Islam is not) on the other. Conservatives have long flirted with a kind of a return to Crusade-era language in their rhetoric towards Islam. This has ramped up significantly since the Tea Party and now with the coming Trump Presidency. The total permeation of this philosophy into Republican politics was cemented with Trump’s overtaking of the party, and in pairing with ultra right-wing firebrand media establishment Brietbart, this will only intensify going forward.
Suggesting that we halt immigration until further notice is an example of the coming radicalization of our national political discourse. It is based on hearsay and speculation, but it plays to basic fear and uncertainty which is why it is so effective. This strategy is very alarming, and it is fantastic to see journalists who will step up and challenge this brand of anti-intellectual nonsense.
Taking a Side
It is important to dispute this argument when confronted with it, as it will be presented more frequently and with much more vitriol in the coming months and years. It is the state of our discourse currently, and a favorite tool of the future leader of the free world. People are saying… I’m hearing…
We will be needing honest and decent reporting in this climate. Kudos to Brianna Keilar for her tough questions, and to CNN for sticking up for their reporters:
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) December 21, 2016