Combating the Nativist Narrative
Week of October 16, 2023
Bigoted Conspiratorial Fearmongering Threatens Public Safety:
The political right has been in overdrive, constructing a narrative to exploit the pain, fear, and confusion following the attacks in Israel to drive their domestic nativist agenda. Two themes have emerged on this front: (1) falsely associating migrants with Hamas and terror threats and (2) fearmongering about migrants from the Middle East. Trump has been leading the bigoted conspiracy bandwagon to demagogue migrants as agents of Hamas seeking to carry out terror attacks in the US. No such evidence currently exists of any such threat from Hamas, and while there are a small number of individuals who have been flagged on the terrorist watch list, the concern is wildly miscategorized and overstated by the political right. Right-wing media has nevertheless been pumping out a steady stream of xenophobic fearmongering to construct this narrative. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) provides one example of the Tucker Carlson strategy of “just asking questions” to advance the narrative that is indicative of the right’s messaging, writing on X: “Is Iran sending terrorists to cross Biden’s open border?” Or the Heritage Foundation running an ad on X with a provocative image and all but claiming Hamas is sending militants through the border. This more mainstream conspiratorial and strategic bigotry is, as is often the case, the more easily identifiable tip of the dangerous iceberg lurking just below the surface. Online spaces have been inundated with antisemitic and Islamophobic hate the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism noted a nearly 500 percent increase – “in hate and violent content against Jews and Muslims on unregulated platforms,” like 4chan. It is the dark corners of these unregulated online platforms where those who have committed the racist domestic terrorist attacks in recent years tend to hang out. The latest gruesome reminder of the deadly downstream consequences is found in the horrific murder of six-year-old child named Wadea Al-Fayoume by a man engrossed in the latest right-wing bigoted conspiratorial rhetoric. The bigoted conspiratorial rhetoric being pumped out by the political right did not create the hate, but its normalization encourages it to grow and courts more political violence to come in its wake.
COMBATING THE NARRATIVE: Following the horrifying murder of Wadea Al-Fayoume, over 100 Jewish groups released a statement that read in part: “Let us be unequivocally clear: The Jewish community rejects Islamophobia, anti-Arab hate, antisemitism, and all forms of bigotry. Particularly as extremists continue to exploit this moment, we are reminded that all of our communities’ safety and futures are inextricably linked — and recommit ourselves to fighting hate in all its forms. We stand in solidarity with all our neighbors under threat, and urge our elected and civic leaders, law enforcement, schools and universities, and employers to make clear there will be zero tolerance for any act of hate.”
Republicans Look to Exploit Hamas Attack to Advance Nativist Domestic Agenda:
The second piece of this nativist narrative being constructed before us is the legislative and campaign promises to advance the extreme anti-immigrant agenda based on the bigoted conspiratorial rhetoric. U.S. Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Ryan Zinke (R-MT), along with House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY), a resolution late last week cynically pushing the narrative as Zinke and Stefanik add white nationalist “invasion” conspiracies, into the mix. Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN), who previously introduced legislation echoing the white nationalist replacement theory, put forward a messaging bill to bar any Palestinian refugee from being resettled in the US. Co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI), this effort is all about nativist messaging and has no chance of becoming law, but their proposal is more in line with the racist Chinese Execution Act than the immigration policy of the last half-century. Ogles has made it abundantly clear he subscribes to the racist lie that all Palestinians are terrorists, peddling bigoted conspiratorial rhetoric, writing: “We MUST stop Biden from importing terrorists!” Illustrative of Ogles’ expansive definition of who qualifies as a Hamas terrorist, he and several other Members of Congress, characterized peaceful protesters at the U.S. capital calling for a ceasefire in Israel as “Hamas Insurrectionists.” Unsurprisingly, Trump and Ron DeSantis were quick to make similar campaign promises of bans, even as there has been no indication from the White House of increasing refugee resettlement of Palestinian families as the conflict continues. The superPAC aligned with the DeSantis campaign is up with an ad this week disparaging GOP rival Nikki Haley’s remarks that “We should care about the Palestinian citizens and America has always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists.” The ad goes on to clip DeSantis’ promise to back radical total exclusion policy. Indicative of the incentives inside the GOP primary, Haley quickly clarified that she, too was supportive of ethnic refugee bans, saying, “I’ve always said we shouldn't take any Gazan refugees into the U.S.”
COMBATING THE NARRATIVE: Nikki Haley’s initial take was correct, we can and must separate civilians from terrorists, to flagrantly equate the two, particularly along racial and ethnic lines, is extremely dangerous. But the reflex of basic humanity and nuance in complex deadly situations apparently has no place in this new Republican Party. There are devastating downstream consequences both to public safety and to policy if political leaders continue to use this narrative for their own cynical political purposes. The normalization of ethnic immigration exclusions and the white nationalist conspiracies is a dangerous mix, and Republicans have been eager to exploit the situation to advance that dual agenda.
Texas Builds the Wall Along Border with New Mexico:
Starting last week Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas National Guard to lay 18 miles of concertina wire along the border Texas shares with New Mexico. This latest board wall construction follows the biting court ruling against Governor Abbott’s construction of the intentionally deadly river wall in the Rio Grande. We previously warned about Abbott’s radical proposal to wall off Texas inside the US. Short for the massive structure, Abbott claims the interior razor wire barrier is to prevent migrants from entering Texas after crossing the border from Mexico into New Mexico. Like his other moves, Abbott’s extreme and cruel approach is more concerned with nativist political theater than actual workable solutions to address the challenges of forced global migration. And this latest tactic might be a further effort to provoke a legal challenge to the United States Supreme Court with the hopes of overturning Arizona v United States (2012), creating a 50-state immigration regime where Texas Republicans’ nativist agenda could run wild.
COMBATING THE NARRATIVE: In a joint statement from the Democratic Party Chairs from New Mexico and Texas wrote in part: “It’s clear that Governor Abbott has no plans on actually addressing our broken immigration system head on — but instead adding more fuel to Operation Lone Star’s dumpster fire… Greg Abbott knows that our neighbors in New Mexico are not the enemy, but is working overtime to gain Fox News airtime to cover up his proposed legislation to implement unpopular school voucher scams, imprison vulnerable migrants and their families, and his own Party’s public infighting… Shame on Greg Abbott for using public tax dollars to uplift his dangerous approach to border security, and infringing upon Texans’ and New Mexicans’ right to move freely across state lines.”
Republican House Chaos: Paralyzed by infighting, the Republican House heads into another weekend without a clear path to nominate a speaker. This week, the hard-right got three shots at the gavel with three failed votes for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). Even as Jordan has failed – as of this writing – to secure the top job in line for the Oval Office, the fact that he and his politics, which include a leading role in the Jan. 6 coup attempt and promotion of deadly replacement conspiracies. Notably, several members facing tough elections, including Reps. Juan Ciscomani (AZ-06), John Duarte (CA-13), Mike Garcia (CA-27) David Valadao (CA-21), and Monica De La Cruz (TX-15) all voted to empower that extremism embodied by Jordan. A vote that is worth remembering if these members start to campaign as moderates this time next year.
Texas Legislature: The Texas State Senate advanced two new draconian pieces of anti-immigrant legislation in their special session. Senate Bill 4 (SB4) would create a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for a charge for smuggling. While this crime can be as bad as it may sound, many of those who might be engaged in this activity are people recruited off social media who are in search of work and are not hardened criminals, but these minimums remove the much-needed discretion for doling out punishment in these cases. Senate Bill 11 would grant vast new powers to the local and state police to act as immigration agents, creating a new charge for unauthorized entry. The potential for harassment and expositional costs to the taxpayer are of serious concern with SB11. These pieces have ways to go before ending up on the Governor’s desk but Texas continues to be a laboratory for nativism. More HERE from Gabe Ortíz.
LA-GOV: Jeff Landry won a surprising 52% majority win to stave off a November runoff to become the next Governor of Louisiana. Currently Attorney General, Landry has been a constant collaborator with corrupt Texas AG Ken Paxton in utilizing “the anti-immigrant judicial pipeline.” Landry has initiated and joined multiple lawsuits in federal courts, knowing his political allies on the 5th Circuit will willingly take his side in whatever attack on immigrants or on any progressive policy for that matter. But notably, Landry’s anti-immigrant zealotry was not a major part of the race. This is in contrast to the prior gubernatorial election in 2019, where Republican nominee Eddie Rispone ran hard on anti-immigrant attacks and lost in the red state. It is also in contradiction to what is playing out on the national stage and the obsession for national Republicans to tie everything to the border. We are tracking GOP messaging in ads and social media closely, but in local and state elections this cycle, we are not seeing the anti-immigrant attacks at the levels of previous cycles, as with this Louisiana race.
WEEKLY STATS OF NATIVIST NARRATIVE
Of the 525 GOP Twitter accounts we track, this week, they sent:
464 original tweets peddling anti-immigrant attacks mentioning “border”
130 original tweets about “open borders,” with Marjorie Taylor Greene tweet having the most reach with 747.3K Views, 3,637 Retweets, and 14K Likes.
8 original tweets that used “Biden Border Crisis” with Ted Cruz tweet having the most reach with 171K Views, 209 Retweets, and 1,041 Likes.
13 original tweets that mentioned both “fentanyl” and “border” with Matt Rosendale tweet having the most reach with 5,778 views, 47 Retweets and 130 Likes.