Princeton Professor of African American Studies Eddie Glaude took to MSNBC this week to comment on the announcement of President Donald Trump that his Administration will commence with widespread deportations in the coming week. Rather than address the merits of such a plan or the alternatives, Glaude showed how reasoned discourse has become little more than raw (and in this case unhinged) hyperbole. Glaude declared that the Trump announcement should be viewed as a “terroristic act.” I recently published an article on the trend from academics to advocacy on our campuses. Glaude declared just a week earlier that, with Trump, “we’ve moved beyond autocratic to almost monarchical.” It appears now that he has moved by the monarchical to the terroristic.
The scene on MSNBC has become all-too-familiar with the host first refuting Trump’s policy directly before asking Glaude a question. He then immediately declares that we should all just dismiss the arguments made by the Administration because it is obviously based not on deterrence but “cruelty.”
Glaude notably warns that people should not take his words as hyperbole: “What Donald Trump did yesterday, what he announced via Twitter — and this might sound hyperbolic to some folk — it was a terroristic act.”
However, it is hard to see how an enforcement policy under federal law would be an act of terrorism when ICE is saying that it will focus on those people who have failed to appear for their hearings. President Obama also heavily increased such enforcement but I do not recall Glaude calling him a terrorist. Indeed, Obama set the record for deportations.
While calling the move “horrifying,” Gould also insists that it is meaningless in that it will not likely succeed. However, he insists that it is still an act of terrorism: “This was just a political ploy. But what is he doing? He’s terrorizing families in communities who think that they’re going to be snatched from their kids, who have to walk around daily wondering whether an ICE Agent is going to show up at work and snatch them.”
The exchange on MSNBC reflects perfectly our age of rage and the lack of any serious discussion of such policies. People simply tune into shows for echo-chamber media where they will hear an academic holding a prestigious academic chair assure them that the President is little more than a terrorist and they do not have to even discuss the stated rationale by ICE for this action.
As an academic, I feel an added burden to try to add value to the national debate by bringing in detached and substantive analysis. I cannot claim to have always been successful and many can have legitimate disagreements with my understanding of the law or history. However, I believe that professors have a deep duty to the academy, their schools, and themselves to rise above the hyperbolic and reckless rhetoric that reflects our age of rage. One can disagree with this policy without joining a race to the bottom on cable news to come up with the most extreme possible description. It certainly makes for thrilling television and no small degree of popularity. However, as tenured faculty, we have the ability to offer objective analysis, even when our conclusions are neither popular nor well-received by a particular audience. Otherwise, we are just little more than credentialed members of a mob.
Once again, I share Professor Glaude’s skepticism on the ultimate success of such a program. I particularly question how we are going to move from roughly 7,000 deportations a month to such a massive deportation effort. That is a debate that would be worthy and meaningful . . . if only one could find it on any cable or network program.