I always read comments. I also try to ignore them. That's an odd combination on the surface, but for professional and practical reasons I have to resist the urge to get in back-and-forths that will eat up a lot of time that would take me away from the things I get paid to do. And I learned about ten years ago that in the case of trolls it is absolutely not worth it under any circumstances to engage with them.

If that read like a caveat, it is. I've never been more floored by the stupidity of a comment that was posted over on Facebook today, and it merits some attention:

I should never be surprised by the level of historical ignorance (much of it willful) one finds among people like this, but this literally took the air out of the room when I read it. That's how stupid it is.

Let's ignore the really obvious problem that there was this thing called Organized Crime that was imported to the United States by immigrants from Sicily and mainland Italy and eventually grew into one of the most violent and rapacious criminal enterprises in the history of human societies. Let's ignore the many 19th Century Irish immigrants who rose from the lowest rungs on the social ladder to take control of and abuse with every manner of graft and corruption known the political machinery of many of our biggest cities. Let's ignore all the people who hopped on a steamer to the U.S. because the law was after them and in that era traveling across the Atlantic was effectively the same thing as disappearing into the mist. Let's ignore all that. Instead let us focus on the concerted effort by Galleanists – Italian anarchists who became infamous when two of their ranks, Sacco and Vanzetti, were executed for a twin homicide that they in all likelihood did not commit – to bring about the collapse of the American government by exploding truly enormous homemade bombs and killing people by the dozens. I think today we call this terrorism.

Starting in 1916 with the Preparedness Day Bombing in San Francisco (10 killed), Italian anarchists led by a radical named Luigi Galleani (hence "Galleanists") orchestrated a sustained and organized campaign of murder and terror across the entire United States. In 1917 a bomb killed 9 policemen in Milwaukee. In June 1919, 25 dynamite bombs were mailed to major American political figures and judges, with one fatality. The 1920 Wall Street bombing involved a weapon of such size that not only were 38 people killed but damage to buildings like Federal Hall can be seen even today. Anarchist activity subsided briefly due to the Palmer Raids, but resumed with a wagon-sized bomb targeting the judge in the Sacco and Vanzetti trial and the 1933 assassination attempt on FDR (which left one person dead) by an Italian anarchist who, admittedly, may not have been all there in the head.

Wait, there's more.

In 1916 a Galleanist working in a hotel kitchen attempted to fatally poison the guests at a civic banquet and managed only to badly sicken 100-plus people. Also in 1916 an Italian anarchist stabbed a Boston policeman who responded to a large bomb that had just been detonated. Sacco and Vanzetti, it bears noting, almost certainly did not commit the murder for which they were convicted, they did have extensive ties with Galleanist bomb-makers Carlo Valdinoci and Mario Buda, and substantial evidence exists to connect at least Vanzetti to bomb-making in relation to several of the attacks listed here.

But since Italians are white people and they go to church a lot and love their mothers it makes sense to overlook the fact that a non-trivial minority of those who came to the United States did intend to "destroy our way of life" and/or enrich themselves through murder and pillage. Before you can even say "Not all Italians!" you've uncovered the base hypocrisy of supporting restrictive immigration today because someone who might want to kill people might sneak in with the thousands of people who just want to live where they won't get hit by mortar shells.

No intention to pick on the Italians in particular here; I just happen to know a lot about the Galleanist movement, so it came to mind as an example. Certainly there are other examples. The point is the breathtaking historical vacuousness required to believe that the phenomenon of some portion of immigrants possibly being shitty people is a new one.