It is sadly ironic that New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis thought she could illuminate the character of NumbersUSA head Roy Beck by consulting Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose serial efforts to assassinate the character of those who want to limit immigration show the ethics and subtlety of a $100 hit man.
The result was not fit to print, particularly this paragraph, which is fit to be stuffed, mounted, and hung in the newspaper Hall of Shame.
"He's played footsie with extremists all along," said the SPLC's Heidi Beirich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which tracks hate groups. Even as she described Mr. Beck as a “completely nice guy,” Ms. Beirich said that “in a way, what Beck does is, he provides cover for the bad guys.”
The inference this invites is clear. Hirschfeld is consulting Beirich. Beirich tracks hate groups. Ipso facto, mirabile dictu, and holy mackerel, Roy Beck must be running a hate group!
As for the concession that he's a nice guy, on the basis of my work tracking the malicious, reckless Beirich and her pals, I'd bet Hirschfeld Davis had to pry that out of her with a crow bar.
Beiricich, who demonstrates her appreciation for the complexity and nuance of the immigration debate with her claim that those who want to limit immigration are racists, is about as likely to volunteer something positive about Roy Beck as Wile E. Coyote is to say something nice about the Road Runner.
The SPLC tracks hate groups the same that way Joe McCarthy tracked officials in the State Department. It is driven by an obsession that takes whatever material is at hand, then twists it, distorts it, and uses it for purposes of character assassination and passing the collection plate to well-intentioned liberals who are expected to respond with righteous anger and $100 bills.
The SPLC stirs fear of hate groups the way Geritol ads once warned about the debilitating effects of iron-poor blood. That's their hustle. That's their shtick. That's how they make their living.
As we have noted here, the SPLC, under the direction of Direct Marketing Hall of Famer Morris Dees has been working the con for years.
"No one has been more assiduous in inflating the profile of [hate] groups than the millionaire huckster, Morris Dees," wrote JoAnn Wypijewski of The Nation magazine in 2001. "Hate sells; poor people don't, which is why readers who go to the SPLC's website will find only a handful of cases on such non-lucrative causes as fair housing, worker safety, or healthcare, many of those from the 1970s and 1980s. Why the organization continues to keep 'Poverty' (or even 'Law') in its name can be ascribed only to nostalgia or a cynical understanding of the marketing possibilities in class guilt."
Hirschfeld Davis's story made scant effort to take the fundamental step of explaining the meaning of the numbers in Beck's NumbersUSA. She failed to note Census Bureau projections that immigration-driven population growth could easily double the nation's population before the end of the century, to more than 600 million.
Hirschfeld Davis begins her story by unfairly tying Beck to a pair of xenophobic rants posted on his website who go unidentified. But later, she notes that Beck, in order disinvite racists, has posted on the NumbersUSA website a photo of Barbara Jordan, a Texas congresswoman and civil rights leader who was the chairwoman of an immigration commission.
But she failed to note the fact about Jordan that is most salient to the story of Roy Beck. The recommendations that Jordan presented to congress in 1994 — a cut in legal immigration and firm action to stop illegal immigration — are close to what Beck is seeking today. This fact would have been inconvenient to Hirschfeld's alarmist thesis. So she leaves it out, and leaves the foul odor of the Beirich quote hanging noxiously in the air.
Hirschfeld Davis observed in passing that Beck, who became interested in immigration as an environmental reporter, has written books. Had she wanted to acknowledge the substance of his work, she might have quoted the review of Beck's The Case Against Immigration that was written by Francis Fukuyama and published in — the New York Times!
Fukuyama said the book "fosters serious debate rather than name-calling" and that Beck's arguments "are presented carefully and dispassionately and deserve serious answers."
Yes, that review actually appeared in the New York Times. But, of course, Francis Fukuyama is not a reporter for the Times. Neither was the reviewer for Foreign Affairs, who wrote that "as persuasively as anyone he states the case and marshals the evidence for restricting the high levels of legal immigration."
Hirschfeld Davis ignored substance like this, while allowing Beirich to say Beck gives aid and comfort to bad guys, and not allowing Beck the chance to respond.
But the holidays approach, so I'll close with this. God forgive Julie Hirschfeld Davis's reporting on Roy Beck and NumbersUSA. She knows not what they do. And she knows not what she does.