George Packer (Togo 1982-84) in recent issues of The New Yorkers
The two recent The New Yorker magazines (August 31st & September 7th) contain articles by George Packer (Togo 1982-84), both worth reading. In the August issue is a long, long piece entitled “The Other France” that is subtitled, Are the suburbs of Paris incubators of terrorism? The article goes onto saying that “Although the alienated, impoverished immigrant communities outside Paris are increasingly prone to anti-Semitism, the profiles of French jihadists don’t track closely with class. Many of them have come from bourgeois families.”
The second piece is a short The Talk of the Town comment entitled “The Populists” that begins with a 1910 quote from Thomas E. Watson, a populist from Georgia, who had a long demagogic career in American politics. Packer writes that Watson “ended his career, as a U.S. senator, whipping up white-Protestant enmity against blacks, Catholics, and Jews.” (Does this sound like someone we know today?) Watson began his career, however, as the leader of the People’s Party in the eighteen-nineties, he urged poor whites and blacks to join together and upend an economic order dominated by “the money power.”
Packer then writes about Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and other anti-politics politicians, i.e. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, as well as Trump who is currently famous for saying, “There’s no dirtier word in the lexicon of his stump speech then ‘politician’.”
It is a good piece. Look for it online.
Packer has written seven books, including The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, for which he won the 2013 National Book Award for nonfiction. He also won the Peace Corps Writers Paul Cowan Non-Fiction Award in 2001 for Blood of the Liberals.
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It’s always useful to be reminded.
This is the Watson quote:
The scum of creation has been dumped on us. Some of our principal cities are more foreign than American. The most dangerous and corrupting hordes of the Old World have invaded us. The vice and crime which they have planted in our midst are sickening and terrifying. What brought these Goths and Vandals to our shores? The manufacturers are mainly to blame. They wanted cheap labor: and they didn’t care a curse how much harm to our future might be the consequence of their heartless policy.
Packer writes that the objects of Watson’s bile were the Italians, Poles, Jews, and other European immigrants then pouring into the United States. A century later, in the populist summer of 2015, some of their great-grandchildren have been cheering Donald Trump as he denounces the latest generation of immigrants, in remarkably similar terms.
It strikes close to home for me, a second generation American: