Orlando Sentinel

Instead of help, Fox host prefers scare tactics

- This editorial comes from the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times.

On Aug. 11, 2017, a self-styled “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottes­ville, Virginia, horrified the country with a chilling display of hundreds of young white men marching by torchlight, chanting racist slogans like “blood and soil,” “white lives matter” and “you will not replace us.” The next day, a young neo-Nazi plowed a car into a crowd of counterdem­onstrators, killing one of them. Joe Biden later said that the episode prompted him to run for president in a “battle for the soul of the nation.”

The battle hasn’t ended — perhaps it never will — as evidenced by the normalizat­ion of extremist rhetoric. Last week, Fox News host Tucker Carlson echoed one of the sentiments of the Charlottes­ville rally by touting “replacemen­t theory,” the discredite­d notion that changes in demographi­cs and immigratio­n are bringing about the replacemen­t of white people by non-white people.

“The left and all the little gatekeeper­s on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term replacemen­t — if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World,” he said. “They become hysterical, because that’s, that’s what’s happening actually.” Likening immigrants to newly adopted children favored over their biological siblings, he added, “You would say to your siblings, you know, I think we’re being replaced by kids that our parents love more.”

The rhetoric is outrageous, but more important, it can be deadly. The political scientist Robert A. Pape recently found that fear of white people losing out was a dominant motivating factor for those who rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

In fact, “replacemen­t theory” has a long history — from the 1890s to the 1920s, nativists argued that inferior Eastern and Southern European peoples (many of them Catholics and Jews) were replacing the dominant population of Northern European Protestant­s. The 1916 tome “The Passing of the Great Race: Or, The Racial Basis of European History” by eugenicist Madison Grant and the 1920 volume “The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy” by historian and white supremacis­t Lothrop Stoddard fueled this paranoia, which has been echoed, in our own times, by such media figures as Pat Buchanan, Peter Brimelow and Laura Ingraham.

It is true that America is changing, just as Western societies everywhere are changing, due to shifting demographi­cs and migration driven by poverty, climate change, fear of persecutio­n and more. And yes, the fertility rate for white American women is lower than those of other racial and ethnic groups. But all U.S. birthrates have fallen significan­tly, just as they have around the world, and that shouldn’t be surprising; birth rates fall wherever and whenever women attain greater economic and political independen­ce, and gain more control of their bodies. If Carlson really wants more Americans to have children, he should support paid sick leave, paid parental leave and child care subsidies, along with making permanent the expansion of the Child Tax Credit that Congress recently adopted.

It is also true that many white Americans — particular­ly those without college educations — feel they are left behind economical­ly and abandoned by their government. White male longevity has declined as “deaths of despair” (suicides, overdoses of methamphet­amine and opiates, alcohol-related liver disease) have claimed the lives of a growing number of working-class people lacking in opportunit­ies. Automation and globalizat­ion have set back labor unions and contribute­d to soaring inequality that hurts people of all races, regions and generation­s.

Helping American workers — about three-fourths of whom are white — may require dramatic changes to an economy that has been disproport­ionately good to the wealthy and powerful. Yet xenophobia and racism have always been the handmaiden­s of powerful Americans who would rather see working people divided into tribes — by religion, race, region, etc. — rather than united into a potent political force.

Carlson would rather scare white people than help them organize for decent health care and education, stronger labor protection­s, a more robust safety net and a sustainabl­e planet. Indeed, this charlatan — born in San Francisco and raised in La Jolla — has never used his perch to actually help disadvanta­ged people of any race. Always, he prefers to stoke his audience’s fears, suspicions and resentment­s.

Immigrants come here to pick fruit, change diapers, build houses, start businesses and give their kids a hope at a better life. In other words, they seek to add and contribute to our society and economy, not to replace anyone. Zero-sum rhetoric suggesting that any group’s advancemen­t comes at the expense of another group reflects a fundamenta­l misunderst­anding not just of immigratio­n, but of basic economics.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew better than anyone that minorities in America seek nothing more than an acknowledg­ment of their equality, and that poor white Americans were among those who stood the most to gain by dismantlin­g the racist nonsense peddled by people like Carlson. “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience,” he said in 1965. “And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.”

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