NYT op-ed: I’m not saying we should doxx immigration officers staffing Trump’s detention centers, but I am sort of saying that
This isn’t doxxing, insists author Kate Cronin-Furman. It’s just a targeted campaign of social intimidation aimed at people where they live.
The identities of the individual Customs and Border Protection agents who are physically separating children from their families and staffing the detention centers are not undiscoverable. Immigration lawyers have agent names; journalists reporting at the border have names, photos and even videos. These agents’ actions should be publicized, particularly in their home communities.
This is not an argument for doxxing — it’s about exposure of their participation in atrocities to audiences whose opinion they care about. The knowledge, for instance, that when you go to church on Sunday, your entire congregation will have seen you on TV ripping a child out of her father’s arms is a serious social cost to bear. The desire to avoid this kind of social shame may be enough to persuade some agents to quit and may hinder the recruitment of replacements. For those who won’t (or can’t) quit, it may induce them to treat the vulnerable individuals under their control more humanely. In Denmark during World War II, for instance, strong social pressure, including from the churches, contributed to the refusal of the country to comply with Nazi orders to deport its Jewish citizens.
She implies two distinctions with doxxing. One is that she’s not calling for publicizing the home addresses of immigration officers. What she wants to do is find out where they live, then go to their neighborhoods and highlight their treatment of detained immigrants. Revealing their precise location to the public doesn’t seem to be in her playbook — for now. The other distinction has to do with intent. It’s not her goal to see them harassed, threatened, or attacked, she suggests. The goal is to shame them. Make them embarrassed to show their faces in places they care about and they’ll end up defying their orders at work or quitting altogether.
In other words, it’s doxxing with a wink. Alerting a neighborhood that a CBP or ICE officer lurks close by while people like AOC are screeching about concentration camps is of course an invitation to activists to find that person and make their life hell. Whatever the intent, the reality will be the same as in doxxing: Physical intimidation, a warning to the target that We Know Where You Live and that they’d best sleep with one eye open until they change their behavior. This is what’s fit for print, apparently, on the op-ed page of the world’s most august newspaper.
Why the same immigration officers weren’t targeted this way five years ago, when Obama’s DHS was shunting unaccompanied minors off into some of the same facilities Trump is using, remains a mystery for another day.
This is one piece of a larger argument by Cronin-Furman that what border agents are now involved in is nothing more or less than a crime against humanity (“it meets the definition of a mass atrocity: a deliberate, systematic attack on civilians”) and therefore extraordinary measures — international tribunals, boycotts, you name it — to convince them to desist are warranted. How extraordinary? Pretty extraordinary, dude:
Similar to the way the American Medical Association has made it clear that its members must not participate in torture, the American Bar Association should signal that anyone who defends the border patrol’s mistreatment of children will not be considered a member in good standing of the legal profession. This will deter the participation of some, if only out of concern over their future career prospects.
I’ve heard of left-wing academic hiveminds exiling a lawyer for defending an especially odious client. Never in my life have I heard of a professional legal gatekeeper doing so. And I mean never: Rule one in the profession of law is that everyone’s entitled to a defense. 9/11 jihadis get lawyers at Gitmo. The Nazis had lawyers at Nuremberg. In this singular instance, it seems, Cronin-Furman is prepared to send legal ethics down the toilet and institute a new rule in which DOJ lawyers — and, I guess, attorneys for individual border agents — who defend Trump’s policies risk disbarment for taking the position they’ve taken.
Is she seriously proposing this? Or is this just an over-the-top bit of virtue-signaling in a progressive game to see who can signal their contempt for Trump’s policies most vividly?
An unanswered question is what Cronin-Furman would recommend if her tactics were tried but didn’t work. She and her friends show up to a CBP agent’s neighborhood, post photos of him behind the fence at an immigration detention facility, and warn passersby with a sign that HE WALKS AMONG YOU. Then, nothing happens. The agent doesn’t even go into hiding. In light of the moral stakes she’s presented here, that this is a slow-motion atrocity and must be halted by every available means, she would have to escalate, right? Traditional doxxing would necessarily follow. If that didn’t work, presumably out-and-out violence would be warranted. Auschwitz wasn’t liberated by a boycott or a “shaming” campaign, after all.
This is where the crimes-against-humanity logic leads you, and why it’s disingenuous of her to disclaim that she’s not threatening anyone here.
I expect that the Times editorial board will defend their decision to run this with the standard defense used by opinion journals: We offer a variety of viewpoints, not all of which we agree with. Right, but every journal has an Overton window of “reasonableness” through which submissions must pass. You’re not going to see an op-ed in the Times by Richard Spencer calling for Trump to send blacks back to Africa, and rightly so. Whether a majority of the editorial board agrees with Cronin-Furman or not, clearly a majority believes that her proposal is sufficiently reasonable that it deserves to be publicly debated. In which case, I invite you to submit your own op-ed to the Times mirroring this one in every particular — except targeting abortion doctors instead of immigration agents. See how you fare in getting them to print it.
This isn’t the only opinion piece in a major newspaper today calling for chucking norms of civility out the window to combat the Trump administration and its defenders. The owner of the restaurant that asked Sarah Sanders to leave last year has a piece up in WaPo defending a business’s right to refuse service to someone whose politics they find obnoxious. (She notes that that defense doesn’t include the server who recently spat on Eric Trump, since that amounts to actual battery.) “If you’re an unsavory individual — of whatever persuasion or affiliation — we have no legal or moral obligation to do business with you,” writes Stephanie Wilkinson, insisting that that’s her “right.” That’s an … interesting argument amid a national debate about whether creative businesses like bakeries should be legally obliged to cater gay weddings. In fact, in the latter case, I doubt someone like Jack Phillips would even use a word like “unsavory” to describe the nature of his objection. It’s a religious conviction that’s stopping him from making a cake for the wedding, not some visceral contempt for gays, whom he serves in all other contexts.
Wilkinson may be relying for a distinction on the fact that antidiscrimination laws apply only to “essential” parts of one’s identity — race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, *not* partisan affiliation. But in 2019, many Americans would say that their politics are an essential part of who they are. Spend a week online watching modern partisans argue and you’ll be struck by some of the parallels to religion. Telling right-wingers that they have a duty to bake the cake at their own businesses but no right to buy a cake themselves from anyone else’s will produce acidic resentment and destroy the gay-rights arguments against Phillips that everyone deserves equal opportunity for service in a pluralistic society. I wonder if Wilkinson even realizes what she’s arguing.