The Anatomy of an On-Line Discussion Thread

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Letters To The Editor

Letters To The Editor

Wherein I Get Called a Traitor with 5 !’s After Eight Short Posts

I’ve made a point of getting a Letter to the Editor (LTE) of our local newspaper published at least once each month since last summer. Over these past months my writing has evolved from simple rebutting of our local Conservative columnists to writing on original topics. Part of the change from rebutting columnists is that the newspaper has introduced commenting in their on-line version. This on-line commenting is moderated but apparently only filtered for obvious spam, as evidenced by the range of opinions that actually gets posted.

A comments thread I participated in became extremely amusing to me extremely fast today. Unfortunately, it is also a sad example of what now-a-days passes for “educated discussion” on immigration in this Virginia county of Prince William.

This thread started, as all threads do, with a LTE. This particular LTE was titled;

There is not enough room for all to come.”

It started out discussing three recent LTEs all published the same day on “Illegal Immigration.” The writer worked through and commented on each, giving his personal views relative to each particular letter. The first letter he commented on was written by a Ms. Johnson-Firth, who wrote in favor of rationality in dealing with local immigration issues. The writer closed with this paragraph:

“Being an American is a fortunate privilege and while it would be nice if all six billion of our neighbors could enjoy America as we do, the fact is there just isn’t room and we have the right and responsibility to determine who we admit and under what circumstances. “

Reading that ticked me off, as it directly relates to our family history. All four of my grandparents were immigrants, and my maternal Grandmother entered the US through Ellis Island and the Hall of Immigration. Our family story is that her parents sent her to the US at the age of 16, shortly after WWI when the German economy was collapsing and there seemed to be little future for her there. My grandmother entered the US as a teenager, not able to speak any English, no money, and little education other than her training and skills as a seamstress, with her biggest asset being a determination to build a life for herself in America.

As a guess, I would say my maternal Grandmother would today be a person the writer of this LTE considered “undesirable.” So, I started off the comments thread with this post:

Posted by ( RonCharest ) on May 11, 2008 at 9:27 am

Well, that settles it. We certainly don’t need that towering pile of moldering copper sitting smack dab in the middle of New York Harbor anymore:

“The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch,
whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning,
and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome;
her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”
cries she With silent lips.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883”

My thread was quickly followed by a series of regular commentators, most of whom would be Conservative and with whom I’ve sparred with on occasion:

Posted by (###) on May 11, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Mr. Grassilli:

Ms. Johnson-Firth makes a living off the backs of legal and illegal immigrants, so her stance is predictable. You should see how many of these lawyers are handing out business cards at police community outreach meetings. It is one stop shopping for all who are illegal immigrants. Mr. Westoff, in previous letters has never supported the Rule of Law Resolution, so his comments are predictable as well as politically motivated. The Democratic party in our county doesn’t support the resolution.

Chairman Stewart,and Supervisors Caddigan, Covington, and Stirrup should be commended for wanting to preserve law and order in Prince William County. These supervisors are looking out for the best interests of all of our citizens.

Then, in quick succession, we had two posts in succession from the same person. This person is also a regular commentator and normally takes the same positions as I do, but is also sometimes a bit wild in their writing:

Posted by (###) on May 11, 2008 at 3:12 pm

do the right thing: what is this “law and order” PWC BOCS goons are trying to preserve? Sure, there are law breakers among illegals just as there are among citizens.

Mr. Charist, maybe we could replace the statue with one of Steewart, Letiecq, HSM, et al – and build some sort of fence. Maybe we could become the n. American “Burma”.

Posted by (###) on May 11, 2008 at 9:37 pm

The country is not big enough for you and me, and all I care about is me.

Then we had another Conservative commentator, whom I consider to be normally close to the border but still on the reservation.

Posted by (###) on May 12, 2008 at 4:12 am

Ron Charest where in the “New Colossus” does it say that illegal aliens are welcome? Would you invite a criminal inside your house knowing that he or she was a criminal? As for only caring about me, I would assume that ### is profiting off the backs of illegal low cost workers and or their illegal votes.

Meanwhile, the comment about “a statue of steewart” got me to thinking, and I posted my response:

Posted by ( RonCharest ) on May 12, 2008 at 7:58 am

I think you’re on to something there, suggesting a statue to Stewart and Letiecq et al. I’m thinking perhaps a 300 foot representation of a person carrying submachine guns and various other armaments symbolizing a vigilante, made out of razor wire and concrete barricades.

I think that would pretty much represent the America these sorry people want to live in.

After posting, I spotted the earlier post about “New Colossus” welcoming illegals. So, I did my research, and posted my reply:

Posted by ( RonCharest ) on May 12, 2008 at 9:40 am

I suggest you read up on the history of immigration visas and immigration restrictions. Immigration quotas and visa requirements in the US only started with the Immigration Act of 1924, or Johnson-Reed Act, including the National Origins Act, Asian Exclusion Act. Restrictions and prohibitions on Asians started with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was the first time the US set restrictions on who could migrate into the US. It was further extended in 1917 by excluding more Asian groups.

Of note, the 1924 act first defined the term “Immigrant.” Besides specifically excluding all people from specific Asian nations, it set quota limits on people from European nations, but set No Limits on immigration from Latin America (which included Mexico).

All these laws are now commonly considered to have been driven by nativist and xenophobic sentiments of the people at that time.

So the Statue of Liberty does not have any fine print on the bottom of the poem “New Colossus” as at the time she was set out in New York Harbor, we were still a nation that had not defined “Illegal Immigrants.”

If you want to go after me, you need to do your homework first.

Ref:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Act_of_1924
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Act_of_1917

Still a rational enough discussion, I thought. But then, another local Conservative jumped in with their thoughts. This particular commentator is always on top of every article on immigration and always quite predictable in offering their completely-off-the-reservation rabid right-wing opinions:

Posted by (###) on May 12, 2008 at 9:46 am

### & roncharest,

Are you two on the same floor over there at St Elizabeth’s? There is a floor there especially for Traitor mental patients such as you guys. I know it hurts to be on the loosing side but you have to stop crying at some point and move on or out of the county. Again Cindy Sheehan will be going to visit with Fidel and Hugo soon. They have room for both of you Anti-American nut cases. As far as education, your writings reflect your 3rd grade education at best. Hey did you see the Washington Post article about families moving into PW County? One particular family moved here because of the crackdown on illegal immigrants. She stated that it would be much safer community to raise her daughters. But that’s right, you guys would rather have all the illegal murdering, raping, hit & run trash living here vice nice American Families. TRAITORS!!!!!

I’m assuming “St Elizabeth’s” the writer referred to is a local mental hospital, but I’m not sure. One could guess that this particular writer has more knowledge of the place than I do. I did, of course, add my final comment just to keep the pot stirred:

Posted by ( RonCharest ) on May 12, 2008 at 10:52 am

As I’ve written in previous threads; In any argument, the person screaming the loudest is usually the most wrong. I think anyone reading this thread can tell who is the “loudest” and most hysterical about now.

Of course, no one could have predicted that from here, the discussion thread degenerated into mostly a “Neener, neener, neener, bla bla bla” type of discussion. I didn’t add any more comments.

So there you have it. An anatomy of what the local Conservatives (aka: wingnuts) consider to be rational intelligent debate on a matter of vital national urgency; keeping short brown-skinned Spanish-speaking people out of sight of regular Americans here in lovely Prince William County, Virginia.

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