In the epic slapfight between Trump adviser Stephen Miller and blow-dried twit Jim Acosta, Miller pointed out that Acosta’s assertion that requiring competency in English meant that immigration was going to be limited to people from the UK (well, maybe not Geordies) and Australia. Acosta was trying to paint a very logical policy as racist (never mind that this year the most common boy’s name in London was the ancient Welsh name “Muhammad.”)
Note to Acosta, a lot of people speak English.
This is what happened:
MILLER: That you think only people from Great Britain or Australia would speak English is so insulting to millions of hardworking immigrants who do speak English from all over the world. Jim, have you honestly never met an immigrant from another country who speaks English outside of Great Britain and Australia? Is that your personal experience?
ACOSTA: Of course there are people who come in from other parts of the world.
MILLER: That’s not what you said and it shows your cosmopolitan bias.
ACOSTA: It just sounds like you’re trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.
MILLER: That is one of the most outrageous, ignorant, insulting, and foolish things you’ve ever said.
Being the rube that I am, I assumed that Miller’s reference to “cosmopolitan” dig referred to the “in the bubble” meme. That it referred to the common set of beliefs of people who live in upscale, metropolitan areas where their only contact with immigrants is the janitor or cab driver. I was wrong. Jeff Greenfield, writing in Politico, set my butt straight. This was the headline: The Ugly History of Stephen Miller’s ‘Cosmopolitan’ Epithet. Subhead: Surprise, surprise—the insult has its roots in Soviet anti-Semitism.
When TV news viewers saw Trump adviser Stephen Miller accuse Jim Acosta of harboring a “cosmopolitan bias” during Wednesday’s news conference, they might have wondered whether he was accusing the CNN White House reporter of an excessive fondness for the cocktail made famous on “Sex and the City.” It’s a term that’s seldom been heard in American political discourse. But to supporters of the Miller-Bannon worldview, it was a cause for celebration. Breitbart, where Steve Bannon reigned before becoming Trump’s chief political strategist, trumpeted Miller’s “evisceration” of Acosta and put the term in its headline. So did white nationalist Richard Spencer, who hailed Miller’s dust-up with Acosta as “a triumph.”
Why does it matter? Because it reflects a central premise of one key element of President Donald Trump’s constituency—a premise with a dark past and an unsettling present.
One reason why “cosmopolitan” is an unnerving term is that it was the key to an attempt by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to purge the culture of dissident voices. In a 1946 speech, he deplored works in which “the positive Soviet hero is derided and inferior before all things foreign and cosmopolitanism that we all fought against from the time of Lenin, characteristic of the political leftovers, is many times applauded.” It was part of a yearslong campaigned aimed at writers, theater critics, scientists and others who were connected with “bourgeois Western influences.” Not so incidentally, many of these “cosmopolitans” were Jewish, and official Soviet propaganda for a time devoted significant energy into “unmasking” the Jewish identities of writers who published under pseudonyms.
To be clear: Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller would angrily wave away any suggestion that they are echoing the sentiments of anti-democratic political movements, much less anti-Semitic dog whistles. But there is no evading the unhappy reality that to label someone a “cosmopolitan” carries with it a clear implication that there is something less patriotic, less loyal … someone who is not a “real American.”
For things to be dog whistles the dog has to be able to hear them. If you think the average American heard cosmopolitan and said to themselves, “by gosh, Martha, he called that ol’ boy a ‘cosmopolitan.’ That’s exactly what Uncle Joe called the Jews back in ’46. You know, that Acosta feller does look mighty Jewish, don’t he?” your experience in dealing with Americans is a lot different than mine. This attack is clearly bullsh**. By the way, Miller is very Jewish and it is apparent that Greenfield never thought a guy with Miller as a surname could be Jewish. Otherwise, he would have used Google.
Cosmopolitan doesn’t imply you aren’t “patriotic.” It implies you don’t have friends and associates, other than your nanny, outside of a certain economic status and educational background. It is the sort of thing that is expressed in this tweet:
Of course they are hard-working. They mean well. Just close-minded, provincial, angry & easily misled. My wife's dad was a coal miner in PA. https://t.co/9q5JJ3fq90
— Stuart Rothenberg (@StuPolitics) August 4, 2017
This was simply the second prong of a coordinated assault on Miller after he humiliated Acosta. The other attack was that to mention that the awful poem by Emma Lazarus was added to the Statue of Liberty a quarter century after the dedication of the statue in response to Acosta using it as a statement of US immigration policy, was something that only white supremacists knew about, sort of an Aryan Gnosticism.
We’re just going to have to get used to this, I suppose.