How “anti-immigration” is the new “homophobia”
By Alec Rooney
The phrase “anti-immigrant” is loose in media land, being used to describe politicians and everyday Americans alike.
How can anyone be “anti-immigrant?” Immigrants are hard workers! We are a nation of immigrants! The phrase is used recklessly by the New York Times, U.S. News and of course MSNBC, as well as many others.
Never mind that there is a huge difference between immigration and illegal immigration. That’s a difference as profound as renters versus squatters, or even customers versus burglars.
To be anti-illegal-immigration is NOT the same as to be anti-immigration. Yet the phrases are being used interchangeably in the press, and will continue to be used as if there is no difference. Why?
For a precedent, look at the word homophobia.
It was coined in the 1960s, according to Wikipedia, to describe the fear of heterosexual men that others will think they are gay. Since then, however, the meaning has strangely evolved. Now it describes any unfriendliness toward homosexuality — any opinion that runs counter to loving acceptance of gays and gayness.
The word is now entrenched, providing a way for homosexual activists to “win” any debate before it even begins, by instantly smearing the opponent. How?
Because a phobia is a fear, of course — a special kind of fear. Acrophobia. Agoraphobia. Arachnophobia. Dendrophobia. Gynophobia. Hemophobia. These describe, respectively, the fear of heights, open spaces, spiders, trees, women, blood.
What makes a phobia a phobia, though, is that the thing being feared is usually something that isn’t all that scary to reasonable people. Some might disagree about spiders and blood, but on the whole, the construction -phobia suggests an irrational fear or obsession — a defect or weakness in the person doing the fearing.
This makes homophobia a handy word to label and mischaracterize your opponents at the same time. It implies that any disapproval of homosexuality must be the result of fear, mental instability or cowardice.
Except that distaste for homosexuality does not equal fear, any more than opposing illegal immigration means opposing legal, law-respecting immigrants.
Just because you don’t want to open the month-old bag of take-out food in the refrigerator and stick your nose into it, doesn’t mean that you’re afraid of it. You don’t hate it; you don’t fear it. You just don’t want it around. It’s based on food, but has evolved into a form where it is no longer food, and no longer a good thing.
That doesn’t make you phobic about it. That’s an important difference.
There is a lot of mischief in these word games — in changing or ignoring the meanings of words just to deceive, or to try and win an argument you might not win otherwise.
Another word for it is, simply, lying.
And it always seems to be the same kind of people who are playing these games.
Alec Rooney serves as communications director for the Christian Action Network. He is a longtime journalist, with experience as a writer and editor at five daily newspapers over 25 years. An award-winning print copy editor and copy desk chief, he also works as a freelance academic book editor. He is a 1986 graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and holds an M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky.