There is no "migrant" crisis in the Mediterranean
August 23, 2015 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Why Al Jazeera will not say Mediterranean 'migrants'.

"Imagine waking your children in the morning. Imagine feeding and dressing them. Imagine pulling a little girl’s hair into a ponytail, arguing with a little boy about which pair of shoes he wants to wear.

Now imagine, as you are doing that, you know later today you will strap their vulnerable bodies into enveloping life jackets and take them with you in a rubber dinghy - through waters that have claimed many who have done the same. Think of the story you’d have to tell to reassure them. Think of trying to make it fun. Consider the emotional strength needed to smile at them and conceal your fear.

What would it feel like if that experience – your frantic flight from war – was then diminished by a media that crudely labelled you and your family "migrants"? "
posted by standardasparagus (45 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Strikes me how this varies so much by the context of the discourse and where the Overton window is placed. In the US for example, if the mainstream media started consistently referring to undocumented people fleeing danger as "migrants", it would be a huge step forward for humane language...
posted by threeants at 1:50 PM on August 23, 2015 [45 favorites]


Better "migrants" than "illegals."
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:56 PM on August 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


In the aftermath of Katrina there was a lot of consternation and rancor over describing people who had fled from the affected areas as 'refugees'. After all, refugees are people running away from other countries, probably dominated with melanin, and assuredly shitholes. It just wasn't conceivable that there could be anyone seeking refuge from American soil. The directive came down from on high: call them evacuees.

There is power in words.
posted by djeo at 2:06 PM on August 23, 2015 [37 favorites]


Better "migrants" than "illegals."

You're missing the point. It's not the choice of one or another. Otherwise we'd be going around calling people homos and negroes...because I guess it's better than the alternative.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:25 PM on August 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


The terms mean something if one considers history. Jews fleeing Nazi Germany were not allowed into the U.S. Back then, there were quotas on getting legally into our nation. Post WWII, we recognized that those people fleeing their nations for a variety of reasons could be given asylum as political refugees.

The term migrants is a more general word and usuually refers to those moving from one area--sometimes within the same nation. Those we had and still have migrant farmers. During the Dust Bowl days,however, the people fleeing to the west coast were sometimes referred to as Dust tbowl refugees.

There seems then to be almost a legal hook to the work refugee and merely a descriptive idea to the word migrant.
posted by Postroad at 2:27 PM on August 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Migrants" is our "illegals", at least in this part of Europe. "Migrants" are people who choose to leave their homes to seek a brighter future - possibly by stealing your (yes, your!) job and/or any loose valuables they find when they descend upon your own country like a swarm of locus. That's what living in the UK for three years have taught me.

I'm so glad Al Jazeera are doing the right thing and using the power of words to highlight that none of these people have a choice - that they are not migrating. What they are doing, families and children and lone survivors, is fleeing from death and rubble to anywhere safer, at any cost. That's not migration - that is desperate survival. And it's a travesty that our peaceful, prosperous nations don't do all we can to give them a place to rest and recuperate and put their lives in some kind of order until things (hopefully, hopefully) get better, and those who wish to do so can return.
posted by harujion at 2:28 PM on August 23, 2015 [58 favorites]


There seems then to be almost a legal hook to the work refugee and merely a descriptive idea to the word migrant.

It could be argued that, for example, to go from Syria to Turkey makes you a war refugee but to go from the relative safety of Turkey to Greece makes you an economic migrant.
posted by MikeMc at 2:46 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


We become the enablers of governments who have political reasons for not calling those drowning in the Mediterranean what the majority of them are: refugees.

I don't see this as a stunt, but it's technically incorrect. They are asylum seekers; they're refugees only when they are granted refugee status by the nation where they claimed asylum. The problem is that "asylum seekers" carries just as much pejorative weight in the European media. I do applaud the attempt to not dehumanise people in a horrendous situation with a blanket word which erases their story and humanity. It's just that "refugees" is no more correct than "migrants". It's a pity we can't just stick to "human beings".
posted by billiebee at 3:03 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Better "migrants" than "illegals."
I don't think it would be either inappropriate or terribly inaccurate to call America's non-native non-citizen population "refugees". The only problem is the increasingly inaccurate impression that America is some kind of "refuge".
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:44 PM on August 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Just under the story there is a link to a story about "Mediterranean migrants", so obviously AJ needs to figure out how to send out memos to its subs team.
posted by parmanparman at 4:05 PM on August 23, 2015


Just under the story there is a link to a story about "Mediterranean migrants", so obviously AJ needs to figure out how to send out memos to its subs team.

That story is from August 4. Apparently the new policy is more recent than that. Some might consider it dishonest to re-scrub old stories as in a Kremlin purge.
posted by JackFlash at 4:27 PM on August 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yes, my fellow Americans, migrant is a more value-neutral term in the US than it is in Europe. It would, in fact, be an improvement in American English to say "migrants" instead of "illegals." But in a lot of Europe, "migrant" = "illegal" and is used in the same dismissive, dehumanizing way to wrap up a bunch of people under a label that makes them scary and other, instead of humans who are really pretty freakin' desperate or they would not be attempting these border crossings.

Maybe we should talk about the European usage since we're talking about the European immigration/asylum seekers, and whether the technical correctness of the word under the UN definitions makes it a good one to use, or whether the racism and nationalist sentiment that's been attached to the word poisons it too much for sensible discourse to occur.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:32 PM on August 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Mod note: Couple of comments deleted. If you have a complaint about the post's framing, as always that doesn't belong here, it belongs in the contact form or MetaTalk. And yeah, let's maybe keep the focus on the actual situation the article's about, rather than the situation in the US. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:34 PM on August 23, 2015


Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'.
Up to 1,000 protesters have clashed with police in eastern Germany in riots reportedly sparked by the arrival of 250 migrants.
The European consensus seems a little semantically muddled here. Refugee and migrant in consequetive sentences.
This is because the waves of people flooding into Europe have been hugely augmented in recent months by people fleeing Syria where 9 million people have been displaced. I personally don't care what they called but consider that all those fleeing war should be granted Refugee status; and especially the Syrians whose civil war is a direct result of Bush and Blair together with the coalition of the willing invading Iraq.
posted by adamvasco at 4:45 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a darkly cynical part of me that can hardly wait until the water levels around affluent coastal cities rise to the point where some of those who are now bitterly complaining about today's refugees find that it's their turn to desperately seek refuge elsewhere.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 5:32 PM on August 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


It is not a person – like you, filled with thoughts and history and hopes – who is on the tracks delaying a train. It is a migrant. A nuisance.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:50 PM on August 23, 2015


There's a darkly cynical part of me that can hardly wait until the water levels around affluent coastal cities rise to the point where some of those who are now bitterly complaining about today's refugees find that it's their turn to desperately seek refuge elsewhere.

And yet, it seems predictable that this will be framed entirely differently, and that pointing this out will be met with "Yes, but we are different than them."
posted by clockzero at 5:53 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a darkly cynical part of me that can hardly wait until the water levels around affluent coastal cities rise to the point where some of those who are now bitterly complaining about today's refugees find that it's their turn to desperately seek refuge elsewhere.

Here in New York, most of the people who live directly in the path of the rising seas during hurricanes are very low-income, or people who cannot afford to seek higher ground.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:00 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bwithh, I'd like to scrutinize a couple of the things you wrote just a bit.

First, the "invented political correctness" of changing "migrant" to "refugee" is not as clear as the post seems to presume. In terms of its "invented"ness, it's important to recognize that all the categories involved are fundamentally invented. John Torpey has a book about the invention of the passport―its use as a restriction on cross-border movement―and the state-border construction is an artifact itself of the Treaty of Westphalia. The point is, state borders are inventions and are inextricable from the classification schemes of migration. State borders make migrants, and they make migrants' Other, the citizen.

Second, the "political correctness" charge may come off as snark rather than an attempt to contribute to a discussion, because (a) it applies as an idea to any time a categorization is put into question; (b) usually gets deployed against the interests of the less-well-off; and (c) it doesn't seem to mean a whole lot other than to indicate disapproval in a mocking way. I'd politely plead for a more clear term in the future.

Third, the UN framework cited in your post is problematic when used ontologically. Its raison d'etre is to create standards for uniform enforcement across countries, similar to (e.g.) the Uniform Plumbing Code. It has no actual authority and it not meant to end debate. Rather (and as your post notes) it solves a practical problem of which rights regime applies to which persons.

This brings me to the ontological point. For academics, the notion that migration decisions are not disaggregable and mono-causal in nature is something that every generation re-discovers, like Philip Larkin and sex. To give a few examples: Wilbur Zelinsky's "Impasse in Migration Theory" in the early 1980s; Linda Basch et al's Nations Unbound and much of the transnational turn; the work of Douglas Massey and his many collaborators on chain-migration theory in the 1990s and 2000s; and most recently, and more accessibly, the failure of the US Border Patrol's "prevention through deterrence" strategy (their words) of making overland journeys more expensive and more dangerous―that part was successful―on the idea that each increase in the "cost" of migration would marginally decrease migration attempts (didn't happen).

So fourth, all the categories of migration that embed one major cause or driver (e.g. "economic migrant" or "refugee") are well-known to be incorrect approximations. That signals a politics behind their continued use: they are useful for legitimating governmental actions that treat different "types" of people distinctly, for instance.

Finally, that politics is also an important site for people who want to enact social change around government migration policies. Inventing new categories or disputing migrants' placement within existing categorical schemes―what Al Jazeera is up to―is a strategy in action.

You can argue that it's not the appropriate strategy for this moment, or that it's incomplete without another simultaneous strategy, or that it's going to have unintended consequences. But to argue that it's "invented political correctness" and therefore illegitimate seems to me a position in need of revision.
posted by migrantology at 7:18 PM on August 23, 2015 [33 favorites]


“Migrant,” to this American, connotes a normal regular pattern of movement. Migratory birds fly south for the winter and then back north in spring. Migrant workers work strawberry fields in summer and apple orchards in fall. It’s not a bad word in and of itself, but even if there were no racist overtones in the European usage, misapplying it to refugees under extraordinary circumstances minimizes their plight. These aren’t ordinary run-of-the-mill circle-of-life journeys.
posted by El Mariachi at 7:39 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


How times change. When I was a boy we were called "migrant workers" because we followed the crops from Somerton Arizona to Redding California--up and down, back and forth, according to the season. I guess they might have chosen to call us "migrating workers," but they didn't. By the way, as neutral as the term may sound to young ears nowadays, it was not a kindly reference.

The euphemisms are duly noted. It may that they will determine whether a person will be shipped back, allowed to languish in a shanty town, or greeted with compassion by a caring nation. My expectations are not very high.
posted by mule98J at 7:52 PM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


When Al Jazeera refers to refugees "from Syria" it elides something that's very relevant to their story. A large proportion of these refugees are fleeing the region specifically because (in the eyes of the UN) they are not Syrian refugees. A quirk of international law means that if they stayed in the region they would not be assisted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees .

The UNHCR's mandate is guided by the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which specifically excludes "persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance." There is only one body other than the UNHCR, in practice, that extends protection and assistance to refugees: The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

UNRWA was originally tasked with assisting Jewish and Arab refugees from the 1948 war over the former British Mandate for Palestine. Its remit was gradually widened over the years to include their descendants and descendants of refugees from the 1967 war - and the criteria for admission was never policed very well, so its default assumption is that it is there to serve every descendant of a Palestinian (in the male line) seeking assistance in Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. It has schools, it distributes food parcels, it does all sorts of things - but it's not much good at helping with displaced people, because its population has been mostly settled for decades and its budget is fully utilised serving them.

What this means in effect is that there are two classes of refugees from Syria: "Palestine refugees" and everybody else. The UNHCR doesn't help Palestine refugees, so if they make it to the border of Jordan or Lebanon they're usually turned back. If they make it through, they're forced to seek assistance from an UNRWA-supported refugee camp. These camps are actually run by the residents, and they don't necessarily welcome strangers. So "Palestine refugees" who may have been settled, middle-class individuals, in Syria for generations are forced to try to get somewhere outside of UNRWA's coverage, like Egypt or Turkey. But those places aren't very welcoming either, and which forces them to go further afield.

It's really outrageous that this double standard exists. It's pretty well recognised that the whole point of the provision is to keep an entire class of people immiserated, for political reasons. Things haven't been at a crisis point until now, though, so UNHCR could just keep saying that it used a different definition of "refugee" than UNRWA. Now, though, you have a huge population that are refugees by every definition except the UNHCR's. Something's got to give.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:13 PM on August 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


How times change. When I was a boy we were called "migrant workers" because we followed the crops from Somerton Arizona to Redding California--up and down, back and forth, according to the season. I guess they might have chosen to call us "migrating workers," but they didn't. By the way, as neutral as the term may sound to young ears nowadays, it was not a kindly reference

This term is still around in the western US - "migrant farmworker" is the variant I'm familiar with. I encountered it as a term of art in public health, but it hadn't occurred to me that it might be an unpleasant term for those to whom it was applied (there are worse terms, of course, but that doesn't excuse using a descriptor the described find aversive). Thank you - I will use "migrating (farm) workers" in future.
posted by gingerest at 9:24 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I never thought of that before, but basically every term that describes a worker who moves around is deprecatory, or marks someone who is the butt of a joke: a "transient worker", a "migrant worker", even a "travelling salesman." Being forced to seek employment elsewhere is a bad thing; doing so regularly is actively shameful. I guess it's a sort of low-level xenophobia that's embedded in our culture.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:15 PM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


At least a migrant is a person. Here in Australia we don't bar refugees, we "stop the boats".
posted by flabdablet at 11:22 PM on August 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


In the late 90s and early 2000s, there was a lot of talk in the media in the UK of "bogus" asylum seekers. i.e., someone who was "just" an economic migrant pretending to be someone fleeing for safety. Now as some pointed out at the time, there was no such thing, as you can be an asylum seeker regardless of your circumstances, and then the nation where you claim asylum determines whether to offer you refugee status. It didn't matter. There was hatred stirred up, and as a result the Labour government in their most shameful acts tightened up the procedures for asylum assessment, and as a result asylum seekers are treated horribly in the UK (one act the lib dems did in coalition was to lessen this somewhat).

The world moved on, and later we were hating polish migrants. And then Romanian and Bulgarian migrants. And now Migrants/asylum seekers from Africa. The problem anyone seeking aslyum in Europe will have is that while they might want to reach a particular country, they will have to pass through others, and it will be demanded that they should remain there. Now there's lots of reasons they might not want to do that: they might not know anyone there, they might not have a common language, the country might already have a great deal of asylum seekers, and lacks the capacity to care for more in a meaningful way. So they move on, magically becoming economic migrants by virtue of not sitting in a shitty camp with no prospects of employment or integration.

And so it goes. The UK is desperate to avoid anymore asylum seekers, despite taking much less than Europe, and all of Europe acts the same, despite taking much less asylum seekers than Africa or the middle East.

I don't have a solution to all this by the way, just a shriek of despair.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:36 AM on August 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


Not to make light of this horrendous situation, but looking at the photo at the end of the article, I wonder why Daniel Radcliffe isn't wearing a lifejacket.
posted by greatgefilte at 4:54 AM on August 24, 2015


So far this year, nearly 340,000 people in these circumstances have crossed Europe's borders. A large number, for sure, but still only 0.045 percent of Europe's total population of 740 million.

This is the kind of perspective I am used to from media sites like Al Jazeera, but not in America's mainstream media.

Most of us American readers are rather interested in hearing about the negative implications of the word "migrant" in Europe, as the word is not even used much here. We do use the word "immigrant," which has often (like these days) had a somewhat derogatory flavor, even without the appended adjective "illegal." Of course, we have the word emigrant, too, but that's just too confusing to use in everyday American English. (Google search: 60 million hits for immigrant, 7 million for emigrant.)
posted by kozad at 5:17 AM on August 24, 2015


As far as I can tell Qatar has let in 42 Syrian refugee/migrants:

Qatar is sponsoring 42 Syrian refugees as 'guests of the Emir'.[134]
posted by rosswald at 6:28 AM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not to make light of this horrendous situation, but looking at the photo at the end of the article, I wonder why Daniel Radcliffe isn't wearing a lifejacket.

greatgefilte, that picture was posted on reddit last week under the title "Yer a refugee, Harry!"
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:56 AM on August 24, 2015


none of these people have a choice

Please don't make sweeping statements like this. We cannot know for certain why a given person is making the move. Big difference between the Afghani who worked as a translator for the US Army and the Senegalese guy who hears from a cousin in Paris that there's good money to be made in France. (If asked, of course the Senegalese is going to cite oppression - he's not stupid, even if the interviewer is.)

Ironically, even tragically, those with gumption are just the sort the home countries should wish to keep at home. Indeed, one might argue that rich countries are exploiting poor ones by taking these people in. Some countries - like Qatar - more than others, of course. There's a reason Qatar has a grand total of 88 asylum seekers. (It's surprising there are that many. Freedom House lists the entire peninsula as unfree or even worse.

Of course, we have the word emigrant, too, but that's just too confusing to use in everyday American English.

Obviously two different words with two different meanings. What's your point? Other than to snark stupid Americans?
posted by IndigoJones at 7:15 AM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


With the disclaimer that this is my company, I thought this post from the NPR ombudsman was pretty interesting, and that the reporters' thoughtfulness and care about it -- none of which has to do with being afraid to call refugees refugees -- was impressive. In particular, Ari's point that ideally, you don't tell someone's story by calling them a refugee or a migrant, but by letting them explain the specifics of their circumstances.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:28 AM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Mere" economic migrants: Sorry, we have our hands full taking on all these refugees, and your simple desire for a better life for yourself and your family just isn't compelling enough for us to care about you.

Refugees: Piss off.
posted by Peter J. Prufrock at 7:35 AM on August 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


kozad: Of course, we have the word emigrant, too, but that's just too confusing to use in everyday American English.

IndigoJones: Obviously two different words with two different meanings. What's your point? Other than to snark stupid Americans?

No snark intended. The words have overlapping meanings. The great and tragic 1971 Swedish film The Emigrants takes as its subject a mid-19th century Swedish family who emigrates to Minnesota. They are emigrants, but they are also immigrants. Or, more simply: migrants (a word which, by the way, is used somewhat less on the internet than the word immigrant, due, I'm guessing, to the predominance of American English online.)
posted by kozad at 8:43 AM on August 24, 2015


Peter J. Prufrock explains the sentiment where I live perfectly. I read a column on a left-wing magazine (De Groene - in Dutch) website this weekend where the author said that while they were fine helping refugees after looking at pictures of them in distress, that intention disappeared (they actually said they wanted to build a wall around Europe) when they saw a refugee with an iPhone. That's the sentiment here. It makes no sense at all to me, because if you had to suddenly flee your country because of war, of course you would take your cell phone with you. It is as if people cannot comprehend that these people were not always poor, that they had an actual life before they had to flee their countries.

So, if you're a refugee with an iPhone, you're not desperate and pitiful enough to get our sympathy and aid. But if you're super poor and don't have anything, then surely you're "just" a "luck seeker" and we don't want to help you either. (There was also an article this weekend that argued that it is a good idea to allow people to immigrate for economic reasons and offered a few good arguments. There was a poll next to it. Over 80% of respondents said that no, we should definitely not allow this kind of immigration at all. )

I think Al Jazeera's intentions are good, and I also agree that when we're talking specifically about people risking their lives to escape war "migrant" is not the right word, but I also think it's important not to give the impression that there's anything wrong with migration by people who really want a better life for their family. By saying that migrant is a "dehumanizing blunt pejorative" it kind of feels like they're doing that.
posted by blub at 9:30 AM on August 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tangentially related - NPR had an interesting story this week about the use of the term "illegal alien" in the US. It's now used by the right as a pejorative term, but it was originally pushed by Latino activists as a more acceptable replacement for terms in use at the time (wetback etc. ...). Interesting how this stuff evolves. The key thing of course is how people are treated as they move from place to place for whatever reason, and how the larger societal and political framework affects how people move. The current ME situation is heartbreaking for a lot of reasons, but as an American I feel a pretty strong sense of guilt because our various interventions there helped set the stage for a lot of the current turmoil.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:39 AM on August 24, 2015


...possibly by stealing your (yes, your!) job ...

What's saddest about the anti-immigrant fervor both in EU and US is that it is driven by the very real fear of those at the bottom of the economic ladder, those barely above the very immigrants they are told to loathe and fear. They really are at risk for losing their jobs and that fear is a direct function of the grinding lack of power these workers have in our top-down economic systems. Arbitrary dismissal is a fact of life for them and the anxieties driven by this sword of Damocles hanging above their heads lead to all sorts of maladaptive behavior and misdirected anger. This is why the right-wing is gaining momentum and power in the west, urged on by those who know better but lust for the power this movement yields.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:50 AM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


What's saddest about the anti-immigrant fervor both in EU and US is that it is driven by the very real fear of those at the bottom of the economic ladder, those barely above the very immigrants they are told to loathe and fear. They really are at risk for losing their jobs and that fear is a direct function of the grinding lack of power these workers have in our top-down economic systems.

This sums up that sentiment perfectly.
posted by billiebee at 9:57 AM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Emigrant" and "immigrant" simply sound too similar with modern American pronunciation. I have the same qualm with "oral" and "aural".
posted by mellow seas at 11:00 AM on August 24, 2015


I think there are probably big differences in anti-immigrant sentiments across Europe. I don't really recognise the "immigrants are going to take away our jobs" sentiment here. It probably exists, but I get the impression that more people think immigrants are lazy and want to get welfare. And a big part of anti-immigration here is anti-multiculturism, anti-islam. The "all immigrants are lazy" people cite statistics that show that a majority of immigrants from a certain country are on welfare as if that is the fault of those people and as if it doesn't have anything at all to do with racism by employers.
posted by blub at 11:17 AM on August 24, 2015


I think a humanizing portrait that people miss out on here in Canada/America is how hard even economic migrants work to succeed. As a spoiled, shitty white kid (at 18) I went to an adult highschool that was mostly composed of recent immigrants, and the dedication they showed enhanced my respect for them immensely. There were moms and dads working full time while chipping away at their GED! Never before had I been so acutely aware of how privileged I was. Most of the people present were toiling under significant economic pressures with graceful dignity and upbeat outlooks, which really put me and my snotty suburban unemployed peers into perspective. I count that experience as a significant milestone in my growing up, and re-education from pseudo racist centrist liberal garbageness.
posted by constantinescharity at 11:27 AM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder how this will all play out... the Hungarian government is at the cutting edge of being assholes to the people who cross the country's borders from the southeast without passports or papers. Through a hate campaign thinly veiled as a "national consultation", followed by a series of several hundred roadside billboards admonishing immigrants - in Hungarian - they have successfully amplified some ugly sentiment... and the "help" they dispense to immigrants is totally inadequate. Gut there's also a large grass-roots response, so while the government are purposefully failing to help out those people who do get across the border, and spend our money on building a razor-wire fence along the Serbian border instead, thousands of volunteers do their job for them, and, at long last, academics seem to be mobilizing, too. And, also financed strictly by individuals, our joke party, the Two-Tailed Dog Party ("There shouldn't be any work, but there should be money! Free beer and immortality!") have matched the billboard campaign with one of their own, with messages ranging from the funny to the pretty hard-hitting. And defacing the government posters has become a bit of a citizen's movement, too.
posted by holist at 11:41 AM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


We are very clever at staging and positioning. When I was a kid the Lithuanians in our camp were refugees, and the folks from Mexico were wetbacks (you understand that most of these brown guys had never been to Mexico, didn't have any relatives there, and a lot of them were Indians from California and Arizona). We white guys were migrant workers. General parlance, as I remember, took the Lithuanians and Mexicans into that definition. When we were looked upon kindly, it seemed me that the tone was condescending (teachers, mostly, just trying to be kind, I guess). I didn't know that word when I was a kid, but I sure did know what they meant. It was when they (the mainstream) thought to break down the ethnicities that sneers formed on their lips.

In the mid-50's a lot of the workers actually were Mexicans, from Mexico. I was getting into my lower teen years by then. My stepbrother's uncle had a contract for a camp, and employed about a hundred of these guys under the bracero program. I worked around the camp and in the kitchen. Uncle was a Navajo, and spoke good Spanish. Step-bro was a Navajo, but his Spanish was limited to hasta lavista, taco, and chingatumadre cabron. I spoke better Spanish than he did, and we use to mess with the braceros when they talked to him in Spanish, and he'd look at me for the translations.

Anyhow, if they are refugees you have to take them in, so you call them something else and get on with the bar-be-cue. I want to go have another look at that plaque on Ellis Island. I think I missed something.
posted by mule98J at 1:02 PM on August 24, 2015


Shouting Nazi slogans, Germans riot against asylum-seekers
– Government shelter burned down near Dresden; Merkel condemns ‘shameful’ scenes

posted by Joe in Australia at 6:50 PM on August 25, 2015


Refugees race into Hungary as border fence nears completion
– Thousands of refugees, most fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, have been snaking northward through the Balkans in recent days, confronting a Europe woefully unprepared to deal with them at every step.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:24 AM on August 26, 2015


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