Alabama's new toughest-in-the-land immigration law, modeled after but more demanding than the highly publicized law in Arizona, is a comedian's dream. The idea that there is a big problem with people trying to get INTO Alabama is always good for a few laughs. Nonetheless the law has real world consequences, some of which were unintended.

Back during my high school years, circa 1994-95, Alabama made headlines by literally greasing up its own cornhole, bending over, and grabbing its ankles for Mercedes-Benz when the German automaker decided to open its first U.S. factory. No tax break was too lavish and no assurance of a docile, authority-worshipping workforce was too strong for the political and economic leaders of a state whose primary industries are teen pregnancy and Rickets. It worked, much to the dismay of other states, initiating the now common practice of wooing potential employers with buckets of money and other special favors. That tangent aside, M-B is now one of Alabama's most important employers, if not the most.

So imagine the hilarity that ensued when the new law resulted in the arrest and detention of a white collar M-B manager, a German legal resident driving without his passport or German drivers license. Governor Robert Bentley, who signed the bill into law, apparently started making phone calls to state immigration officials when he heard about the arrest (which I'm sure the Governor does in every case, seeing as how our justice system treats everyone equally). The man was released when his German license and passport were brought to the jail, but you can bet that Gov. Bentley and the State Leguslature will be ordering extra lip balm and mints for some enthusiastic ass kissing and pole smoking of the M-B higher ups in the near future.

Hilariously, due to such "unintended consequences" the Governor is considering some, ahem, revisions to the law. The nation – nay, the world – waits breathlessly to see how they will try to re-word the law so that wealthy, white collar German executives are spared further embarrassment. Knowing Alabama's track record, my guess is that words like "greasy" and "brown" will be added to the law to ensure its effectiveness against the targeted population without causing any collateral damage among the mighty Job Creator class.

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52 Responses to “SHOW US ZE PAPERS”

  1. Thomas Collette Says:

    Oh, Alabama…
    Your Cadillac Mercedes has got a wheel in the ditch
    And a wheel on the track…
    —Neil Young

  2. Xynzee Says:

    I'd read how certain agrarian based businesses were having "trouble" finding "employees".

    Every once in a while, these Libertards (seems to fit better w Libertarians don't it?) manage to shoot themselves in the face in such a way w there precious "market" that it actually gives me faith that there are times when an unfettered market actually works like a charm.

    With the "risks" so great for the average migrant field worker (ie being really tan) and the cops feeling they can stop anyone who meets "the description". That either after one harvest season where everything rots on the vine because every smart migrant is avoiding the state, or they have to pay those who will take the risk a matzah to work there, or law enforcement has to make a mockery of itself by turning a blind eye to the illegals working in the state. Yup, ain't Free Market economics grand?

  3. HoosierPoli Says:

    A new personal best, Ed, although sometimes reality is funnier than any joke. My core belief is that the only higher power in the universe is a tendency towards irony.

  4. ConcernedCitizen Says:

    Classic deep South! You say teen pregnancy is a primary industry of Alabama, but here I thought that was Mississippi's game. You know Mississippi – the state that just this month had a referendum on its 'Personhood' Amendment, a ballot measure that "declared fertilized human eggs people that have the same rights and protection that people do" and "would have banned all abortions and some contraceptives, including 'morning-after pills' and intrauterine devices"?* Yeah, that Mississippi. (Don't worry, a whopping 55% voted against it; there may yet be hope!)

    Alabama and Mississippi… It'd all be so gosh darn funny if these people ONLY voted in state elections.


  5. J. Dryden Says:

    Older Alabamans: "It's all the fault of this goddamned younger generation. Little sonsabitches never paid attention all those times we told 'em about the good old days–prob'ly think that 'Jim Crow' is a character on Nickelodeon or something–and now they don't know how to do it right. Time was, you'd pass a law and not have to write 'Darkies Only, Stupid' in the margins. (Sigh.) Times like this, I fear the South may never rise again…"

  6. Hugo Says:

    But would any right-minded person not have to be enticed into Alabama somehow? Who would willingly come without some kind of cash offer?

    Seriously, if I may, I will offer an anecdote related to the "immigrant" discourse. I'm an English citizen living in Canada, and some years ago I worked in a call center catering to USian clients. Their callers were encouraged to believe they were calling the United States, not Canada, but owing to my British accent I was identifiably foreign (whereas most Canadians, especially in southern Ontario, are not identifiably foreign to USians). So they would ask where I was from, in an interested just-making-conversation tone, and I would answer, "England." I used to say "Birmingham" as I thought "England" might be construed as patronizing but gave up after the eighth person asked if I meant "Birmingham, Alabama."

    Anyway, they would generally then proceed to make small talk about England usually related to some god-awful seaside town five hundred miles from my hometown, which they visited on vacation years ago, and did I know it, etc. No, sadly, I've never been to Misery-on-Sea or Little Piddlington or Grey Drearyness-on-the-Constantlyraining. Sorry. And I don't think I ever will.

    The point is that since I was white and spoke English, I was perfectly respectable in their books. Probably more than merely respectable, as I've noticed that having the "BBC English accent" in North America lends one a gravitas certainly not justified by non-rhotic pronunciation. The irony is that many of these callers would express their relief at not having to speak to "some Indian" or other Johnny Foreigner. Indians or Mexicans are just as foreign to you as I am, my USian friends, but I get a pass because I am wearing the correct skin colour of the day (hint: every day is "white" day).

    It's not about immigration. It's about racism. And like Ed, I'll be interested to see how this law can be revised so as to make it more racist without sounding racist.

  7. Arslan Says:

    It takes more than being non-rhotic. New England accents are non-rhotic.

  8. Middle Seaman Says:

    A good post and sharp comments. (I am wearing a white skin, but the Brits still hate me.) Arizona started the immigration pogrom at the behest of the prison industry. Newt want to abolish child labor laws to get even richer without any skills. He also wants to shot Barney Frank. Herman Cain harasses women and the American people. Bachmann wants to stare us down.

    Ich bin ein Alabaman fits too many of us.

  9. San Erino Says:

    Hugo, if Lennox Lewis was at that call center, he'd get a pass as well. Most English accents give most USians a sense that they are speaking to at least an equal of the same skin color.

  10. Hugo Says:

    Possibly true, race and culture intersect in a different manner in the UK. However, you can't claim not to be a racist if you treated a racialized person well only because you *thought* he was white. That discourse still has racism at its core: if you think you're talking to a white Anglophone foreigner, you are comfortable; if you think you're talking to a racialized foreigner, they're stealing American jobs and they should go back to whatever the hell country they came from. Or Africa.

  11. VALIS Says:

    Thanks for adding some more context about how important MB is to the local economy; it makes the schadenfreude that much more chocolaty and delicious.

  12. Basilisc Says:

    Ed, did Alabama really literally grease its cornhole etc? Would have been a sight to see …

  13. * Says:

    Out of curiosity, since Alabama gave so many concessions to MB how are they doing fiscally?

  14. c u n d gulag Says:

    I wonder who the cop(s) was who arrested him, and whether he/she was Hispanic or Black? (I know – not overly likely in AL.)

    'Cause if it was a white guy, I can see everyone from the Governor, to the AG, to his Police Chief, calling him in and asking him, "Son, wtf were you thinking?" Quickly followed by, "So, where are you fixin' to move when you leave this state?"

    As a side note – I'd bet that this same middle-aged white -exec who was stopped for this, wouldn't get questioned down there if he went to vote.

  15. Fiddlin' Bill Says:

    As depressing as the Alabama law is, this event is really even more depressing–because it was entirely predictable. Write a crappy law and crappy stuff happens. This is exactly the level of stupidity on which the Republican Presidential candidates reside, every last one of them. And our so-called press still calls Newt an "intellectual." I predict that one of these days stupid people are going to get their fingers on the red button. It's gotta happen.

  16. Sarah Says:

    @Hugo, to be fair, my fellow USians were pretty nasty about them thar Frenchies when France didn't want to get on board with the "War on Terror." But yes, you're right. I'm a brown person myself, and I had a recent run-in at my now former hairdresser's when I had to sit and listen to them rail about "illegal immigrants" for thirty minutes while ignoring me almost entirely, before they queue-jumped a white lady who walked in after I'd been there waiting over twenty minutes. Yes, I wrote them a nasty letter and cc'd it to their corporate office (it's a franchise operation). And yes, I'm a US citizen, having been born on a military base in Florida and being the daughter and granddaughter of US Navy veterans.

  17. Hairless in Gaza Says:

    I was in high school in Columbus, Georgia, a little while after Lester Maddox' last term as governor.

    A lot of our fellow students were from Phenix City, just over the river in Alabama, and would occasionally razz them about their state. Typical rejoinder: "You know what the Alabama state motto is? 'Thank God for Mississippi.'"

    Good times…

  18. Douche Baggins Says:

    Intel Corporation preceded M-B by 3-4 years when they were siting the chip factories that would be used to build 486 CPU's. They went to county governments in CA, OR, AZ and NM, and demanded concessions that were breathtaking in their scope — $1/year property tax rates, sales tax rebates, etc. As an employee I sat in the BUM (business update meeting) and listened in horror as the execs crowed about this "achievement"; it was the beginning of my anti-corporatist lifestyle…

  19. Da Moose Says:

    Don't forget "short." Yeah, you couldn't make this shit up if you tried.

  20. Arslan Says:

    Hey a bit off topic but you know what really makes someone sound really pretentious? Referring to Americans as "USians".

  21. My Truth Hurts Says:

    The Govs name is Bentley. Haha.

  22. Bernard Says:

    The "sweet" sound of the South. time passes and nothing changes a whole lot. Getting better at appearances, while the fear remains. all about each of us "knowing our place".

    ah! Mississippi. If it weren't for Mississippi, what would the rest of the South do?

  23. Hugo Says:

    It's not our fault the US has no real demonym of its own. "America" is a continent. Canadians, Brazilians and Chileans are Americans as much as Germans or Italians are Europeans.

  24. Arslan Says:

    Well the US, unlike Brazil, Canada, and Chile, put the word "America" in its official name. The world is full of people whose names don't reflect geography. Should Russians be called RFians, seeing as how much of "Russia"(which is actually called Rossiya) is historically non "Russian" land(I put that in quotes because what we call Russians, or 'Russkiye', often refers to so called "Muscovites" or Great Russians)? And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    I think American will do just fine.

  25. MBL Says:

    Here's a test, Hugo. Go to any of those places and ask somebody if they've been to America lately. If you can find one single person who says they're already there I'll give you a blowjob. Go ahead. Just one.

    North America is a continent. South America is a continent. America is a country. Stop being dumb.

  26. Arslan Says:

    Another thing, how many people in these countries have actually expressed a strong desire to be known as Americans? Do you see Chinese or Koreans jumping at the bit to be called "Asians" as opposed to their nationality? Even in Europe, most people prefer their nationality rather than be called "European". This is true despite the machinations of the EU. Besides, the EU redefines being in Europe as being in their German-dominated club.

  27. Barry Says:

    * Says:

    "Out of curiosity, since Alabama gave so many concessions to MB how are they doing fiscally?"

    The state or the people running it?

  28. sarah Says:

    during my travels in mexico, i encountered several people who were offended at my self-categorization of "americana." i'm cool with hugo's attempt at alternate nomenclature.

  29. Arslan Says:

    Holy crap, SEVERAL people in Latin America? I stand corrected, clearly this is a popular movement. Did you ask them if they would prefer to be called Americanos, as opposed to Mexicanos? Spanish actually has an alternative name, Estadounidense. This sounds far better than USian.

    Bottom line: USian is pretentious, attention-seeking faux progressive clap-trap.

  30. Hugo Says:

    Here's where we differ, guys. You're saying that "American" is the word already in use as a demonym for "people from the United States," and yes, you are overwhelmingly correct. People who prefer the word "USian" (and I admit, they are overly concentrated in academia, progressive groups, and other groups you might find pretentious) are arguing that "American" is perhaps not the best word for that as it can be a) confusing and b) US-centric, and that we should change the language here. Languages change all the time – either unintentionally, as in the great vowel shift, or intentionally, as in the efforts of LGBTQI or racialized people to reclaim the epithets and slurs which were previously used to refer to them derogatorily.

    "American" can be confusing if it refers to a people and a continent. Consider a scenario in which you wanted a word to refer to people who lived north of the Mason-Dixon but south of the Canadian border. Would you say "North Americans?" No, probably not, because you'd probably be understood to include not only those south of the Mason-Dixon, but Mexicans and Canadians as well. Would you say "Northerners?" No, since "northerner" is a relative term and all countries have a "north." Would you say "Yankees?" Probably not, as that word is archaic, no longer descriptive, and carries a lot of baggage. You could say "people living north of the Mason-Dixon but south of the Canadian border," but that is very cumbersome. So what would you say? I think "Northern USian" works well.

    "American" as the US demonym is US-centric because, as Sarah has said, it basically implies that the US is synonymous with the continent and that the US is the only country worth considering on the continent, which is often offensive to other Americans who don't live in the United States. 2/3rds of people on the continent don't live in the United States. This term was not the cause of Manifest Destiny or the Monroe Doctrine: of course, but these are largely fed by the same ideas, that the US is the only country worthy of consideration on the continent and that the continent is synonymous with the US.

  31. Hugo Says:

    "USian is pretentious, attention-seeking faux progressive clap-trap."

    I'm sorry you feel that way. Perhaps you've met people who are indeed pretentious fauxgressives who like the term "USian," and such people do exist, but I don't believe that there's a causal relationship there and that everyone in category "B" is also inevitably in category "A."

    Hopefully you can at least see that there are rational reasons for preferring the term, even if you don't necessarily agree with them, and that therefore, not necessarily everyone who uses the term does so out of pretentious fauxgressivism – they may actually have thought out their use of the term and prefer it for reasons other than drawing attention to themselves.

  32. David R Says:

    Bumping this back on topic slightly, did anyone notice this lien at the end of the article:

    "He was released on a signature bond, according to Anderson."

    If the German exec was released on signature bond that means that, even after his friend produced his documents, Alabama didn't drop the charges, and he's going to have to further fight this in court.

    I actually love visiting that state, but will NOT be going there anythime soon, especially not with my non-citzen wife and dual citizen son.

  33. Arslan Says:

    No, sorry, using "American" is not confusing at all. I live abroad and when I identify myself as "American" nobody gets confused. This includes Latin Americans as well. As I said before, names used for various people don't always reflect their geography, history, ethnicity, etc., but we still manage to use them with a reasonable degree of understanding. When someone says he has an "Iraqi" friend, I don't immediately get confused and say, "WAIT! Is he Arab? Persian? Kurdish? Turkmen?!"

    Or when someone says he has a Russian friend I don't shout "BUT RUSSIA HAS WELL OVER 200 NATIONALITIES WITHIN ITS EXPANSIVE BORDERS!!!" Then fall onto the floor in a fetal position crying and wondering whether said friend is actually ethnically Russian(a term that is itself difficult to define) or perhaps Chechen, Tatar, Ukrainian, Armenian, Georgian, Roma, Volga German, Yakut, Buryat, Uzbek, Tajik, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Avar, Lezgi, Belorussian, Udmurt, Mordovian, Moldavian…..

    American became the term for those from the United States of AMERICA, and others accepted it. Using a pretentious term like USian is not progressive in the slightest. It reflects a major point about what is wrong with the "left" in the US. The idea that changing words will somehow change reality in a positive way. Maybe instead of encouraging people to use USian, you could do something more productive for Latin America, such as educate people about the School of the Americas.

  34. Andy Says:

    @Arslan Your Iraqi/Russian examples don't hold water; if it was of relevance to specify that the friend was Kurdish then there is a specific word for it, in that instance both "Iraqi" and "Kurdish" are correct with different degrees of precision. "American" is ambiguous in the usage of it you prefer as it is both the general and the specific case. The first use of the word "USian" in this thread was a perfect example of a good grammatical argument for it's use, in specifying the the call centre was Canadian (American) while the customers were USian (American). It's not pretentious to want to use language unambiguously.

    "American became the term for those from the United States of AMERICA, and others accepted it." This is entirely a presumption on your part. Did they accept it? Sarah's experience suggest otherwise. It seems more likely that they were powerless to do anything about it. If all the other countries in America asked you nicely to use a different word, do you really think you would?

    Here's a question: do you find the word USian offensive?

  35. Hugo Says:

    Yes, Andy is correct: Iraq and Russia are not analogous to the American/USian example. A better analogy would be to imagine if there was no such demonym as "English," and that "British" could therefore either refer to people from Great Britain (including Scotland and Wales) or to people from England specifically. It could be confusing, and there would probably be quite a few Scottish and Welsh people who would object to being linguistically lumped in with the English. They already do.

    As to changing words not changing reality, well, you couldn't be more wrong. Remember your Foucault: language is a power structure. It's the lens through which we perceive and describe the world. The words we put on things define their cultural meaning. Think about the reclamation of racist and bigoted terms by racialized and LGBTQI people, as I said above. They do this because those words have power. There are words you can say to a black person which will encapsulate hundreds of years of slavery and subjugation, and coming from a white person those words reinforce and continue that subjugation. Words dehumanize people. Using different words to describe an out-group is one of the early stages of a genocide.

    I'm not saying that we must use "USian" or there will be genocide. What I'm saying is that your assertion that changing words doesn't change reality is dead wrong. Words define our reality.

  36. Hugo Says:

    By the way, the demonym for "Russians" as in "people from the landmass of Russia" is "rossiyane." The demonym for "Russians" as in the ethnic group is "russkiye."

  37. Arslan Says:

    Oh thanks for telling me that(which I already alluded to) Hugo, I wouldn't know seeing as how I've only been living in Russia for more than 5 years. Secondly, my analogies, while not being 100% comparable, still "hold water" because my whole point was that a demonym for a particular nationality doesn't always reflect history, geography, ethnicity, etc.

    But I will concede your point. From now on, when I meet people from the American continents, I'm just going to start referring to them as Americans. "Oh you're from Toronto? Good to meet a fellow American! Ecuador? Hey, I didn't know we have so many Americans in Moscow!" Yes, let's see how that works out.

    As for Foucault, he's yours, not mine. Words do not change objective reality. You see, referring to yourselves as USians isn't going to change America's economic policies towards Latin American nations. The elimination of overtly racist words from mainstream American society has thus far failed to end many forms of institutional discrimination. This post-modern, make your own reality bullshit has got to stop.

  38. Arslan Says:

    I might also add that 'Rossiyanin' is rarely used save for as an epithet referring to someone who is not ethnically Russian. But perhaps Russians need to stop using 'Russkiye' too, because after all, "Ukraine" was the birthplace of the first "Russian" state. Ukrainian is also an arbitrary nationality that never even appeared until 1654(and only came into common usage much later). Plenty of people in Russia should be able to call themselves Ukrainian as well. WHAT A TERRIBLE INJUSTICE!!!

  39. Hugo Says:

    What's this "objective reality" you're referring to? We're talking about nations and ethnicities, which are social constructs. There's no objectivity here. Their "reality" is defined, not discovered. You can't be objective when you're talking about social constructs, because they're invented. They don't exist outside of human experience. The physical sciences can deal in objectivity, because the physical universe exists independently of human experience and can be discovered. The atomic weight of helium is the same everywhere. Nationality is not.

    You even say that "Ukrainian is also an arbitrary nationality that never even appeared until 1654," and yet you can't see my point? You acknowledge that nationhood, nationality and ethnicity can be arbitrarily deemed to come into existence, and that that can be a lasting change (inasmuch as most people would acknowledge that there is a nationality known as "Ukrainian," I'm sure you'd agree) – yet you think that we can be objective about nationality, that nationality is discoverable and not defined, that terminology is irrelevant to social constructs, and that redefining terms does not change social structures?

    I'm curious as to how you can hold such dissonant ideas at the same time.

  40. Hugo Says:

    Perhaps this will explain it better. It seems to me that your point is, "humans cannot define things that humans define." That's why I'm having trouble understanding it; it's self-contradictory.

    My premise is that "the United States" is an arbitrary concept that only exists in human experience. There is no discoverable "United States" outside of human experience that exist before or after the existence of humanity, which isn't true of, say, the atomic weight of helium. If you believe otherwise, i.e. that "the United States" can and/or has existed outside of human experience, perhaps before humans themselves existed, I'd like to hear an explanation of that in some depth, please. Your argument that nationality cannot be changed by human action implies that, but I don't know if it's what you meant to say; if so, please explain, as it would be a very controversial point and certainly one that we could not take as read.

    Given that, if nationality is defined by humans, I don't see why you argue that humans cannot redefine nationality. If humans came up with the terminology, you argue that they cannot come up with new terminology. That just doesn't make sense to me, especially when you give an example of a terminological change of precisely the sort you argue cannot exist.

    I'm also curious to hear an answer to Andy's question: do you find the term "USian" offensive? If so, why?

  41. Arslan Says:

    Goddamn, perhaps my use of the term American IS confusing you, because I don't see how anyone could have gotten such simple concepts wrong.

    Yes, nations, nationalities, identifiers, etc. are social constructs. Guess what national identifier was "constructed" for people from the United States of AMERICA: American. When someone says America, people don't suddenly become confused and ask, "Wait, which America? North, South? Colombia, Peru, Canada?" Conversely, I don't see a significant movement of non-US "Americans" pushing to be called American.

    And no, I don't find the term offensive, and it doesn't matter if I did. I find it pretentious, and I find this mentality to be part of a foundation of everything which is wrong with America's "left". Instead of looking at concrete, material reality, it long ago decided to go down the road of Frankfurt-school inspired idealistic bullshit, so that people are more concerned with "reclaiming" certain terms or inventing new ones instead of actually dealing with problems in the real world.

  42. Arslan Says:

    Short version: My whole point is that there is nothing wrong with the term American for citizens of the United States BECAUSE the term "American" is a social construct.

  43. Hugo Says:

    I've tried to explain it to you as best I know how. You seem to be just reiterating your initial point rather than responding to anything I've said.

    I've offered you a practical argument for the use of "USian," which you've ignored. Even though other people here have agreed that my initial use of "USian" was actually a good use of language to be more precise in a context where the useage of "American" could have been confusing, you don't see my or their points. I've shown how it can be confusing, other people have agreed with me, and your response is, "It's not confusing to me, therefore it is not confusing to anyone." The mere fact that we're having this conversation proves you wrong.

    I've offered a sociological argument that language is a power structure, and that linguistic change is a) possible and b) can be meaningful, and your response has been to both acknowledge and deny that at the same time. You argue one thing and offer examples that disprove your argument. It's weird.

    "Short version: My whole point is that there is nothing wrong with the term American for citizens of the United States BECAUSE the term "American" is a social construct."

    This is not a good justification. Let's substitute some words: "My whole point is that there is nothing wrong with the term "faggot" for homosexual people BECAUSE the term "faggot" is a social construct" (lease note I am not saying you would say such a thing; this is just a thought exercise).

    Is that acceptable to you? Is the fact that it is a social construct sufficient justification for the continued use of that term? Would you use the term "faggot" to refer to homosexuals? Why/why not? If language has no power to change reality, then can there actually be anything harmful about calling homosexual people "faggots?" Will using this term – or not – have absolutely no measurable social consequences?

  44. Arslan Says:

    "American", when used to identify US citizens, equals "faggot" now? Who's using bad analogies now? I'm just wondering how much it cost you to study this shit in university. I take it they have a no refunds policy.

    The fact is your "practical" argument fails. The term "American" to identify US citizens has been around for over 200 years, and I'm sorry but there hasn't been a significant movement among non-US nationalities to appropriate that identifier. Hell, some people fought pretty hard NOT to be "American". Nobody gets confused by the term.

    So now it's your turn to answer questions. Can I just start referring to anyone from North or South America as Americans? Also, would it be cool if I just referred to anyone from Europe as European, Africa as African, etc.?

    The term has existed for quite some time, if it's not broke don't fix it. This cannot be compared with a pejorative term like "faggot", which is specifically aimed at attacking people based on their real or perceived sexual orientation.

  45. Arslan Says:

    Oh and one more… What would you think about someone who uses all the "right" and socially acceptable terms for various groups of people while discriminating against them? This kind of thing happens all the time. All the right words can't make up for bad actions.

  46. MBL Says:


    "American" means someone from the United States of America. Period. "USian" isn't a goddamned word.

    If you think "American" means anything else, or that it should mean anything else, it's not because it's confusing. Ever. It's because you're either impossibly pretentious or an asshole.

    If you've met Mexicans who jumped your ass for calling yourself an American, those Mexicans were absolutely, undeniably assholes. Their opinions shouldn't matter to normal people.

    Anyone who claims that "American" is confusing is either a) lying, b) an idiot, or c) an asshole. There are no other options.

    The end. Everyone else shut up.

  47. Hugo Says:

    We're getting a little into name-calling and ad-hominem attacks here. Let's try and keep it civil, OK? If you feel I've been either needlessly provocative, insulting or ad-hominem then I apologize.

    The practical argument does not fail. I've used "USian" above to eliminate confusion (which I felt to be important since I was discussing people from the US and people from Canada, and additionally, as a European I am aware that many people not from that continent conflate the two to some extent), it worked, and other people than yourself felt it added clarity to my point. I've also given an example of how the use of "American" creates confusion and you have offered absolutely no refutation of that example. So, the point stands until such time as you can prove that the use of "American" to signify "of the United States" and "American" to signify "of the Americas" never, ever causes confusion to anyone.

    I'm not saying and did not say that "American" equated to "faggot." My point was that you believe language does not have social consequences and has no bearing on "reality," my example was intended to illustrate that words do indeed have power and their use is part of social power structures. Otherwise, derogatory words and terms would have no barbs. Perhaps I should have been clear that this was a separate argument aimed at refuting a different point.

    As to your questions:

    "Can I just start referring to anyone from North or South America as Americans? Also, would it be cool if I just referred to anyone from Europe as European, Africa as African, etc.?"

    Sure, if it would make whatever you were trying to say more succinct and less ambiguous, or even if it would be less likely to cause offence. E.g. if you wanted to say "people from France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, etc. etc. [and all the other countries in Europe]" it would indeed be clearer, quicker and probably less prone to confusion if you simply said "European." I wouldn't have a problem with that, just as I have no problem with using "USian" when it makes something I'm trying to say more precise and less prone to confusion.

    "What would you think about someone who uses all the "right" and socially acceptable terms for various groups of people while discriminating against them? This kind of thing happens all the time. All the right words can't make up for bad actions."

    This is true; I wouldn't argue with you that such a person is indeed bad. Where we differ is on this: I believe that language is a mechanism of power and a lens through which we view the world, and thus if one considers oneself a progressive, it is important to think about language and how it is used (consider the "faggot" example here). I don't believe that changing language alone brings about social change (I'm not inclined to believe it could ever do so by itself), but I believe that changing language can often be a necessary part of many social changes we would like to bring about. For example, if we want to end racism, it is not enough to reclaim the word "nigger" by itself; however, the significance of any institutional changes is lessened if "nigger" continues to be widely used by white people as a pejorative label for black people. Language is a reflection of what we think and how our society is arranged, but it also shapes what we think and how our society is arranged for the simple reason that we don't get to define our language very much (as you're proving here). We come to know a language and it comes to frame our internal and external descriptions of the world before we even know that such concepts exist.

    What I believe your position to be, is that language does not constitute a part of any social power structures and is irrelevant to social change. I do not believe this is correct, and I think I have made a case for this. I understand that you want to see more substantial changes, and I agree with that; I also understand that you dislike it when people view a linguistic change as the be-all and end-all of progressivism (and we know that there are people who consider themselves "progressive" simply because they don't say "nigger" and yell at people who do), and I agree with that too. My point is that language and terminology is neither completely irrelevant nor totally without value to social structures.

  48. Hugo Says:

    MBL, if you would care to address my arguments I'd be happy to hear you out and respond.

  49. Arslan Says:

    MBL has already addressed your arguments. The term "American" is not ambiguous. In any case where it might be, the context makes it clear. Plus, as I pointed out, Spanish has a specific word to denote someone from the US if it is absolutely necessary, Estadounidense.

  50. MBL Says:


    You're being an asshole and you don't get to argue your way out of it. I don't care if you think you've got good reasons for being an asshole. I'm not reading them.

    You're being an asshole, you don't have to, and you should stop. Period.

  51. Xynzee Says:

    Coming back to topic,
    @Basilisc: how much did they grease up you ask? Take a look at the history of how they once proudly flew the stars n bars a top their capitol building. Flew from the 1860s until 1993… which coincides nicely with MB setting up shop and appears to have been an unspoken condition of their doing so.

    As I said earlier, ain't the unfettered power of "the market" grand?

  52. Aracema Says:

    incredibly good.