The nature of the immigration ‘problem’.
The contemporary manifestation of the immigration crisis – in full flow now for more than 20 years – is better understood as a moral panic rather than a typical policy problem amenable to rational solutions.
The moral panic over immigration we have witnessed in this country for so long is really a rechanneling of economic anxiety stemming from the crisis of globalization toward the vulnerable bodies of immigrants – since we as a nation have felt ourselves helpless to do anything about globalization.
The fact that the moral panic often reaches crescendos independent of the magnitude of the problem — such as the Prop. 187 movement in California in the early 1990s when NAFTA had barely taken off or the current anxiety when net immigration from Mexico is declining and probably negative — suggests that this hysteria is often disconnected from reality.
What made that outcome almost certain Thompson thought was the obliviousness of Berkeley California types who from the safety of their cocktail parties imagined that they understood and represented the downtrodden.
The Berkeley types Thompson thought were not going to realize how presumptuous they had been until the downtrodden broke into one of those cocktail parties and embarked on a campaign of rape – pillage and slaughter.
For Thompson the Angels weren’t important because they heralded a new movement of cultural hedonism but because they were the advance guard for a new kind of right-wing politics.
As Thompson presciently wrote in the Nation piece he later expanded on in Hell’s Angels – that kind of politics is ‘nearly impossible to deal with’ using reason or empathy or awareness-raising or any of the other favorite tools of the left.