CRUELTY VS. COMPASSION
Under Hitler too, millions of human beings became… inhuman. Subsequently, the experience of U.S. psychologist Stanley Milgram realized between 1960 and 1963 demonstrated “the extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority.”
According to this mechanism, “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”
Note that Milgram referred not only to the holocaust, but to any act of a government that goes against conscience: “The immigration and slavery of millions of blacks, the extermination of the American Indians, the internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese origin, the use of napalm against the civilian populations of Vietnam are all ruthless policies that have been devised by the authorities of a democratic country and executed by the whole nation with the expected submission.”
In his famous 1961-62 trial, Adolf Eichmann, the main agent of the mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps, claimed that “he had never done anything out of his own initiative, that he had no intentions whatsoever, good or bad, that he had only obeyed orders.” One heard the same argument from officials of the Department of Home Security (DHS) during their pre-trial deposition, notably Lee Cissna and Gene Hamilton, who hid behind law enforcement to deny immigrants their rights.
“The greatest evil in the world… is the evil committed by nobodies – evil committed by men without motive, without convictions, without wicked hearts or demonic wills, by human beings who refuse to be persons,” famously explained the German political scientist Hannah Arendt. “And it is this phenomenon… that I have called the banality of evil.” Or more simply, as one commentator put it, “the de-individuation and the dissolution of responsibility. (He told me to do it so I do it, it’s not my fault).”
The greatest evil in the world… is the evil committed by nobodies – without motive, without convictions, without wicked hearts or demonic wills, by human beings who refuse to be persons
In reality, Eichmann was neither indifferent nor ignorant. According to a witness at the trial, he reportedly said he was going to “leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had five million people on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary satisfaction.” The same satisfaction that the sinister Stephen Miller said he had when he spoke to the anti-immigration nativist hate group Center for Immigration Studies, and at the thought that not a single more refugee would arrive in the United States.
Indeed, it is time to move from the agents to the masterminds, in our case: Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller. In the case of the Nazis, these were the hierarchical superiors of Eichmann: Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the Jewish holocaust with his lieutenant, Reinhard Heydrich, “the man with the iron heart,” as Hitler called him.
PROVIDING WATER IS CRIMINAL
As far as U.S. immigration policy is concerned, we can talk outright about cruelty and cowardice that reached its peak on the U.S.-Mexico border with the separation of families with children – often very young – as well as with refugees fleeing war, famine, and persecution. “The administration seems to delight in picking on the most vulnerable people,” said David Robinson, former assistant secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the State Department.
It is not just immigrants who are treated as criminals simply for crossing the border to seek refuge – be it political or economic. Those who help them are criminalized too. Volunteers of No More Deaths – an association founded in 2004 by religious people in Arizona – sometimes travel distances of more than 20 kilometers on steep or rocky terrain, without shade, to bring water, canned food, blankets and other items for refugees crossing the Sonoran Desert that has claimed more than 8,000 lives in the past 15 years.
On Jan. 18, four women were sentenced to prison by Judge Bernardo Velasco because ‘the defendants did not get an access permit, they did not remain on the designated roads, and they left water, food, and crates in the refuge. All of this, in addition to violating the law, erodes the national decision to maintain the [Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife] Refuge in its pristine nature.” In another immigration case, it was revealed that this judge had secretly communicated with Trump’s attorneys in an act of “improper influence by the government.”
Can we talk about civilization when providing water to human beings in danger of death is likened to littering, and criminalized and punishable with jail time? Like Trump who presents, without any foundation, the refugees as human and drug traffickers, and the caravans of immigrants as an invasion, Art Del Cueto, vice-president of the Council of the National Border Patrol, defends himself by claiming that this humanitarian aid “is going to the drug cartels, it’s going to the people smuggling, and it’s going to the scouts that are up there trying to harm.” On the contrary, it is his own people who are doing wrong: agents have been filmed while destroying water containers and cans left for refugees.
AT ROOT, THERE IS HATRED
At root, there is hatred. In high school, Stephen Miller was angry – verbally and in writing – against Latin American students who “lacked basic English skills,” and one day he told his childhood friend Jason Islas: “I can’t be your friend any more because you are Latino.” He hated the Hispanic club at his school and felt that Hispanics were over-represented in Congress. His classmate, Natalie Flores, wrote an article for Huffington: Miller seemed to have “an intense hatred toward people of color, especially toward Latinos. […] He thought they lived off welfare,” just as Trump believed that blacks live on public assistance. Democratic Congresswoman Julia Brownley,: “I was the school board president at the time. We wanted to focus on students who were underperforming. Whatever we were for, he was against — against bilingual education and any assistance to English-language learners.”
During a videotaped speech at Santa Monica High School when he was 17, he said students should not have to pick up their own garbage because there are “plenty of janitors who are paid to do it.” The janitors were all blacks or Latinos. The student public of this liberal school quickly booed him and threw him off the stage. The same happened 15 years later, in January 2018, with CNN host Jake Tapper when Miller was aggressive, refusing to answer certain questions, and had to be escorted out of the television station.
STEPHEN Miller seemed to have An intense hatred toward people of color, especially toward Latinos.
There seems to be a pathological dimension. “He looked really happy,” said Charles Gould, a classmate about his fiasco speech, “it was as if he had planned it.”
In the high school video, Miller shows an early ability to go against the tide and provoke controversy. Justin Brownstone, president of the student association at the time, said he had already heard this remark about janitors: “He enjoyed saying things that were perceived as racist. The more he offended, the happier he was.”
“Confrontation was his sort of modus operandi,” added Ari Rosmarin, the former Santa Monica high school newspaper editor, who now works for the American Civil Liberties Union. “I think it’s why he came to school in the morning.” At Duke University, North Carolina, where he just got a B.A., Republicans called him the “Miller Outrage Machine.”
Miller himself said it, he “delighted in challenging political convention and social niceties, even as a high-school student. ‘I will say and I will do things that no one else in their right mind would do.’”
Such an attitude must have not attracted many people. Said Oscar de la Torre, member of the school council: “He always seemed unhappy. He had a lot of grudges. He didn’t go out of his way to go to dances or to have girlfriends,” de la Torre said. “I don’t remember ever seeing him smile.” Just look at the many pictures of him. If he smiles on some photos, as soon as he feels targeted, he becomes serious as a gray eminence who wants to inspire fear and disgust.
Without going deeper into his psychology, it seems obvious that Miller “feeds off our outrage and anger, so ridicule and humiliation work best on him.” People close to him were intrigued by this strange behavior: “Kids who don’t get positive attention often will do anything for any attention. He probably only got attention when he was bad, and it’s continued into adulthood”. Maybe “he enjoys the infamy, like some perverted power trick which I think is completely disgusting. He has a lot of power in school but he uses for evil purposes […] he lacks integrity, he is insulting and he is disrespectful.”
In any case, the most interesting feature for us is that he excels at throwing something far-fetched and extreme to provoke a reaction that obviously serves to satisfy deep needs. And one of these might be revenge. The cruelest policy of this administration has been the separation of children – often at a very young age – from their parents on the U.S.-Mexico border. The parents were declared criminals for crossing the border illegally and the children – at least 2,700 – were sent to detention in cages. Latinos make up almost all the families arriving at the southern border of the United States.
While the outcry engulfed even supporters of the White House’s zero tolerance policy, the president’s entourage felt uncomfortable. Trump himself decided to put an end to the policy. But one person was enjoying it, its very author: “Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” a White House outside adviser said at the time. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.” During World War II, it was the bloodiest military corps of the Nazis, made of several nationalities who volunteered to slaughter civilians, and were considered criminals at the Nuremberg Tribunal. Said journalist Jane Coaston from Vox: “Miller’s response is a reminder that not only does he not care, but the cruelty is by design.”
Beside the harsh criticism of his own rabbi – Comess-Daniels – Sen. Ben Sasse ®-NE) wrote: “Family separation is wicked. It is harmful to kids and absolutely should NOT be the default U.S. policy. Americans are better than this. This is wrong. Americans do not take children hostage, period.” One of this policy’s associated goals was to use children as leverage to force Democrats to accept a border wall or some other form of immigration restriction. Even former Fox News reporter Bill O’Reilly said the Trump administration “will not win on this one.”
But for Miller, it seems that everything was going as planned, it was another “constructive controversy” like in high school, when we he was thrown off the stage: as desired! Enforcing this policy of separation of families was a “simple decision,” Miller added. It was just like when Gene Hamilton ended DACA, hurting hundreds of thousands of young people, or like Kissinger, when he engineered the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Chileans.
We look at this evil individual, not to analyze one of the thousands of people with personality disorders, but because he is in a position to do tremendous harm to millions of people – TPS, DACA, refugees, illegal or legal immigrants – being the architect of the U.S.’s restrictive immigration policy essentially to satisfy his psychological needs. These policies are neither founded nor designed for a concrete purpose. “A hallmark of the Trump approach to politics is the assumption that politics is all about activating emotional reactions, not persuading anyone to change their mind,” explained Jane Coaston in Vox. In short, “triggering the libs.”
KICKING AN ANTHILL
With Miller, this dates from his youth. Seyward Darby, his editor at Duke University’s student newspaper The Chronicle, “recalls that his columns were never calibrated for persuasion. They were designed to agitate. And now that he’s in the White House, he is deploying similar tactics. ‘I have no recollection of ever speaking to someone who said, ‘Oh, Stephen makes some good points in his latest column,’?’ He picked the most contrarian of stances to articulate, wrote the most hyperbolic prose he could, then put it out into the world. I have to imagine that he then sat back and waited for people’s reactions. Really, the smartest response was to avoid having one.”
“I mean, at some level, you have to be interesting,” Miller said in his endless quest to provoke.
“He just loved to kick shit up,” more than elaborate a policy or believe in a dogma. It’s like a brat who kicks an anthill and then enjoys the spectacle of ants frantically running around in all directions.
We can now decipher the profound motivations of the Trump administration’s policies, all of which follow the same pattern: purely political decisions, overriding any expert analysis and any facts – as in the case of the Temporary Protection Status (TPS), where the administration did not take into account the actual conditions in Haiti as reported by its own officials.
Trump administration’s policies follow the same pattern: purely political decisions, overriding any expert analysis and any facts
As soon as they came to power in late January 2017, they decreed a travel ban, not only without consulting their experts, but without even warning them. “Several key figures in the administration (including, reportedly, top officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon) were left in the dark, not being informed until Trump was signing the order.”
And while the chaos was widespread, Steve Bannon, Miller’s mentor and just as perverse, said he was “tickled by the hysteria” and “boasted that they had enacted the measure on a weekend [Fri., Jan. 27, 2017] ‘so the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.’ They counted the anger on display as a political win.”
“Snowflakes” is the pejorative term assigned to Miller’s generation, supposedly for being “too emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own,” i.e. the opposite of macho.
Miller had chaired a meeting of the National Security Council regarding the presidential decree – an extremely unorthodox move – which put him against the bureaucrats, and then he got criticized by the media. A source close to him said he was “beaten.”
“I think he feels totally under assault. He’s not politically astute, he’s not ready for this. He doesn’t know anyone in our world. Reince [Priebus], of course, knows everybody.” The official was deeply mistaken: exactly six months later, on Jul. 28, Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, was fired.
Similarly, at the UN last September, 126 heads of state around the world laughed at Trump when, self-lauding as usual, he said that his administration had accomplished in two years more than any other administration in U.S. history. The speech “was not about coherence. His message was to take you to the guts.” A true manifesto of nativism, “it was intended for another public: its main supporters, who despise the UN and all that it represents.”
Another major event intended to create chaos was the recent U.S. government shutdown, the longest (another superlative, this time in clear disavowal of Trump) in U.S. history. From the beginning and on Miller’s choice, Trump declared himself “proud” to close the government since Congress was not giving him $5.7 billion to build his wall on the Mexican border. This resulted in the forced furlough of 800,000 civil servants for 35 days, without payment, causing countless problems up to and including at the airports where sky controllers – civil servants – were forced to work without pay.
Putting an end to TPS and DACA had the same dishonest and crooked purpose. The very director of immigration services (USCIS), Lee Cissna, explained it during his deposition to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, prior to our trial before Judge William Kuntz of Brooklyn, when he was asked if Haiti could absorb the return more than 59,000 people. “Well, some of them won’t leave. They’ll hide in the United States and wait to be deported. In order for these people to go to Haiti, they would need to get travel documents from Haiti. And [I am] sure Haiti won’t give them the documents. So they’re going to have to stay in the United States. They’ll be illegal. They’ll be unauthorized. They won’t be able to work. They won’t be able to get driver’s licenses. If they do either of those two things, they will be criminals and subject to deportation.”
So this “policy” is not even rational from the nativist point of view, which is to get rid of immigrants. But in the meantime, dozens of lawsuits are taking place across the country creating a judicial quasi-chaos, and the TPS and DACA holders live in constant fear and go around in circles, frenzied like the ants whose anthill has been destroyed. It is the very result desired by Stephen Miller.
(To be continued)