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National Review’s Style Guide Apparently Takes No Issue With ‘Wetbacks’

Look at this wetbackNational Review famously maintains a roster of aging white nationalists to blab about the non-white aspects of American society in disparaging tones. This is not of my white ’50s culture, they write, and we must stop it. But usually they’ll at least work with sanitized think-tanky buzzwords to describe their pure belief that non-whites are ruining the country. Thoughts on “assimilation,” for example, always add a nice distance to the thing at hand. And yet today, there’s Jay Nordlinger, just stone cold typin’ “wetbacks” as a direct substitute for illegal immigrants, and my god how has this not been changed yet?

It was Nordlinger’s shift on the Reagan Desk this morning, just wanking away as usual about whatever, Ronald Reagan and stuff, and we’re going along reading his article, and it’s fine, okay, fine, and then HA HA UMM WHY DOES IT SAY WETBACKS?

During the 1980s, Tip O’Neill and other liberals said, “We were hoping that Reagan would grow in office, but he hasn’t grown at all.” What they meant was, he had not shed his small-government principles and his hawkish views. He had not accepted the post-LBJ state, and détente. He had not learned to love Big Brother. He was still clinging to guns and religion, so to speak. He was as provincial, blinkered, and right-wing as ever.

Truth is, some conservatives lamented that he had indeed “grown” in office. He had gone out of his way to accommodate liberals and moderates, and to accommodate the Kremlin. He was raising taxes, spending like crazy, welcoming wetbacks, pursuing arms control. One common cry from the right was, “None of this would be happening if Ronald Reagan were alive.”

It seems he’s writing “in the voice of ’80s conservatives,” like that was their mainstream line at the time, “welcoming wetbacks.” (It’s sort of funny how much shit you could still say in public in the 1980s.) And of course, the Reagan Foot Soldiers were all really racist. Ronald Reagan was a racist person too.

But even some sort of historical use of “welcoming wetbacks” to describe the popular vernacular of the time doesn’t work well alongside “raising taxes,” “spending like crazy,” and “pursuing arms control,” which are all basic ways of describing policies. How did they say these things in the ’80s, Jay Nordlinger? “Spending at the rapid pace of rich young starlet Madonna,” for example, was a common line. “Pursuing arms control, the arms being from the Cold War, which is still happening because we are in the ’80s,” was another bit of hip lingo. “MTVing taxes.” MTV was in the ’80s and they would just say “MTVing” to describe any action, so entranced were they with the new music video channel. Anyway, Jay, we’re just throwing out a few suggestions, because you look like an asshole right now.

[The Corner via Gawker]

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Jim Newell is Wonkette's beloved Capitol Hill Typing Demon. He joined Wonkette.com in 2007, left for some other dumb job in 2010, and proudly returned in 2012 as our "Senior Editor at Large." He lives in Washington and also writes for things such as The Guardian, the Manchester paper of liberals.

View all articles by Jim Newell

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150 comments

  1. actor212

    I cut the guy some slack¹. I can only begin to imagine the shitstorm he went through with a name like "Nordlinger".

    ¹#Notintendedasafactualstatement

    1. Mittens Howell, III

      The shitstorm he went through is known colloquially as 'being nordlefingered'.

      *shudder*

    2. Negropolis

      Nordlinger is so very German. You know what other German had a problem with racial minorities?

    1. Negropolis

      I had a classmate tell me that girls don't sweet, they glisten. Ergo, all females are Mexicans.

  2. SexySmurf

    It seems he’s writing “in the voice of ’80s conservatives”

    In Soviet Russia, wetbacks welcome you.

    1. KeepFnThatChicken

      Even by a stretch, that's not an alliterative. Gotta have three "we-"'s to count.

  3. Crank_Tango

    I dunno, I see nothing wrong with bareback.

    Also, and slightly OT, but does anyone know how to work the wonket iphone site? can you comment on there? is there a "too soon!" macro? etc.?

    1. Texan_Bulldog

      Wonkette takes FOREVER to download on any i-Product, but I hear they are working on it. I just come to Wonkette on my PC.

    2. Fare la Volpe

      Look down at the bottom of the page for Mobile and Original tabs. The Original tab opens up comments, but it takes a minute to load.

  4. mrpuma2u

    Jinkies Scoob! In the 15 seconds remaining before they throw this tool under the bus, I eagerly await his lame esplaining to do. "Uh I meant greenbacks, when the Raygun raised taxes, yeah that's the ticket"

    1. ASHLEIGH_Joe

      He clearly meant Lobsterbacks, because of Reagan's warm relations with Maggie Thatcher.

      And lobsters live in the water, which is how he got "wet". Clearly.

      1. Chichikovovich

        He meant all the Canadian frostbacks rushing over the border to snap up those professor jobs.* They come south, the frost melts,….

        *[But nobody points out that these jobs are crummy ones in research areas that Americans don't want to do. Like, you know, descriptive set theory.]

          1. Chichikovovich

            Look, it's called Polish topology for a reason, which is that all its best practitioners are Greek.*

            [Well, I didn't say it was a good reason.]

            *Warning: My knowledge of these things is way behind the times, 'cause I stopped doing this kind of stuff soon after finishing my thesis.

          2. Chichikovovich

            Holy crap! That's amazing. I'd never seen that before.

            It's not every day you see a joke involving the Banach-Tarski* Paradox.

            *Both from back in the days when people who did Polish topology were Poles, dammit!**

            **And not simple Poles either.

          3. bobbert

            I don't know if you mean you'd never seen that particular strip, or never seen xkcd, but it is a thing on the internet that is actually worth the average time spent.

          4. Chichikovovich

            Ben oui I've seen xkcd. But my reading is kind of hit or miss, so a lot of good stuff from there comes as news to me.—

      1. SorosBot

        The NR has been throwing out at least some of the people who've been getting overtly racist lately; which has been happening a lot as having a black President has lead a lot of them to become unhinged and forget to speak in code.

    1. kittensdontlie

      Everyone I've ever met has been great people. They get into trouble only when they become Americanized.

  5. kingofmeh

    the reagan administration also was very pro-affirmative action, as seen by the way james watt bragged he had "a black, a woman, two Jews, and a cripple."

    1. Chichikovovich

      Ah, yes, and let's not forget loveable jokester Earl Butz, who was so reflective concerning the hopes and life ambitions of African-Americans.

  6. UnholyMoses

    It seems he’s writing “in the voice of ’80s though now conservatives."

    Fixorated

  7. silvershoes

    If you look in the comments, people are noting that the website won't even let you use that word in the comments. It screens it out.

    1. MissTaken

      Not A Racist 'Bobby Zimmerman' says it's A-OK to call illegal immigrants 'wetbacks'. Because he's Not A Racist.

      Bobby Zimmerman
      07/16/12 11:15

      It looks to me like Mr. Nordlinger used the w-word to be ironic. In the context of the other examples in that sentence, that's how it looks to me. Nothing offensive about it in this instance–and for the record, because I have a feeling that replies to this comment will be loaded with accusations of racism, I am not a racist.

        1. MissTaken

          Can we give a lesson to the world what the word 'ironic' actually means?

          To say 'wetback' when referring to illegal immigrants is not ironic.
          To say 'I'm not a racist' when you obviously are is ironic.

          1. ASHLEIGH_Joe

            I believe that's what's know as dramatic irony, as the actor believes and says one thing (that Nardlinguerer's not a racist), whereas we, in the audience, are aware that this is not true.

          2. SorosBot

            To say I'm not a racist" when you are famous for being a giant vile violent racist is extra-ironic, now known as one of the biggest racists in the country, is extra-ironic.

      1. UnholyMoses

        Ironic: A word that doesn't mean what Zimmerman thinks it means.

        Hell, it's a word that, much like "literally," is used incorrectly about 98% of the time, so not sure I should expect some NROian to use it correctly.

          1. MissTaken

            For reals, that is my biggest pet peave. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

          2. Chichikovovich

            For me, it's using "begs the question" to mean "invites the question"[which is then asked] instead of "presupposes the proposition you are purporting to argue for".

            Drives me up a wall, and I hear it all the time.

            Aside to Chet:
            And now that you know this, don't get any ideas, because I've got a "should of" right here with your name on it. And I'm not afraid to post it.

          3. sullivanst

            Hmm, interesting, I'm pretty sure even BBC Radio 4 almost invariably gets that one wrong, to the point I wasn't even aware of the correct usage.

          4. Chichikovovich

            Thanks for the link. The "invites the question" use is so widespread that it's crowding out the standard use, that's true. But the suggestion that "only a few pedants know it" is overstated, and backing that opinion up by referring to two wiki-style online dictionaries is silly. It's a phrase used for adjudicating arguments that has been used by lawyers, rhetoricians and logicians (in various languages) for around 2000 years. It's a useful phrase, because there's no other quick way to say "presupposes the proposition meant to be argued" in English but that, whereas there are lots of ways to say "invites the question" ("suggests the question, "leads to the question",…)
            So the language would be dumbed down if we let it go.

            I'd be very surprised if Websters, New American Dictionary, OED, etc. had anything but the [if I may say] "correct" definition listed first, and the other listed as a mistaken usage or not listed at all. 'Course, I may be wrong, as I don't have the time to look it up just now, and I may be just one of those pedants.

          5. sullivanst

            "Assumes the premise" seems like a reasonably concise alternative to the correct meaning. Only one additional syllable.

            The Free Dictionary's results include the following from Collins:

            beg the question
            a. to evade the issue
            b. to assume the thing under examination as proved
            c. to suggest that a question needs to be asked the firm's success begs the question: why aren't more companies doing the same?

            Usage: The use of beg the question to mean that a question needs to be asked is considered by some people to be incorrect

            Nice weasel words at the end there!

          6. Chichikovovich

            Well, the premises are what you're allowed to assume, so that won't quite do, but "begging the conclusion" comes close. It loses the implication, important to the analysis specifically of rhetoric rather than the logical analysis of argument, that this is a topic that has been posed for debate, or is for other reasons currently conversationally salient.

            I understand, of course, that lexicographers are informal empirical scientists: they have the descriptive job of recording usage as it occurs, in the speech and writing of speakers. But they also play a normative role in stabilizing the language. English doesn't have anything like the French Academy, so it needs other devices to give a reference standard for usage. In practice dictionaries serve that function.

            Ah, but what the heck. Why not go descriptive. Given that "could care less" seems to have overtaken "couldn't care less" on the lips of the great mass of speakers, and "can not" is pulling ahead of "cannot",… etc. if someone is willing to grant that "couldn't care less" is no more correct ( or 'correct') than "could care less", then I'll not argue about "begging the question".

          7. sullivanst

            Good point, and "assumes the proposition" is more of a mouthful.

            There comes a point where even the most determined lexicographer has to accept that usage has overtaken old rules – even Fowler's Modern English Usage sometimes admits defeat.

            I'm still not ready to stop rankling at "could care less". On the issue of cannot, I can not care about that, and indeed I choose to exercise that ability not to care, in large part because "can't" is more common than either.

          8. kittensdontlie

            I learned all I know about irony from Alanis Morissette so I will abstain from commenting.

          9. sullivanst

            Grr. I did, but IntenseDebate unclosed them. It appears to be extraordinarily fussy about which characters it allows in URLs, that one didn't even have spaces (which I've discovered you have to reencode from + to %20, despite the specs being quite clear that + is OK). Maybe it's just in a mood with me, that one still doesn't work if I encode the -s as %2ds, and I don't see any other nonalphas that don't need to be preserved.

  8. sbj1964

    Mittens dad was kind of like a mexican.But Mitt decided stealing hub caps was to much work so he went for stealing peoples dreams,and shipping them to Mexico.

  9. UnholyMoses

    Nordlinger forgot "selling advanced missile technology to our mortal enemies in order to fund Central American death squads" in the list of Reagan's, um, "accomplishments."

    1. mrpuma2u

      But the Contras were the "moral equivalent of our founding fathers" which was news to me back then, as who knew so many of our founding fathers were ex national guard dirty tricks thugs.

    1. SorosBot

      He's in charge of their days and their nights; Baio's in charge of their wrongs and their rights…

  10. littlebigdaddy

    Is this a setup for a Carlos Mencia joke? If so, it's not funny, like all the rest of them.

    1. CalamityJames

      It's been around for a while, but I've only just recently stumbled across the video of Joe Rogan (I hate him) going off on Mencia (REALLY hate him), on stage, in the middle of the wetback's set. Completely brilliant. I'd post a linky, but I'm probably the only 90-year-old 30-year-old in existence and I just don't know how. Needless to say, if you're going to steal someone else's jokes, at least have the balls to admit it before some douchebag turns your entire audience against you.

  11. BaldarTFlagass

    The joke's on him: the Rio Grande (original source of the water that made the back wet) dried up years ago.

    1. coolhandnuke

      Double your wetback humor, double your wetback fun…we've also stopped the Colorado River from ever reaching the Gulf of California.

  12. Estproph

    How could he be racist? He talked about Reagan WELCOMING wetbacks! How is welcoming racist?

  13. SayItWithWookies

    Has Nordlinger apologized yet if anyone was offended because he used the simple practice of calling a spade a spade and we're only allowed to be sissies anymore? Because that's how I see him apologizing for this.

    Hey, you know what other word doesn't mean what it used to mean? Apologize. Nowadays people apologize for their bigoted statements the same way my brother and I used to apologize if we wanted to get smacked again.

    1. anniegetyerfun

      "If anyone was offended, they should be mad at the federal government, headed by a known Negro, that allows these taco-eaters in to begin with."

      Is how I see it going.

    1. Doloras

      One of only two good songs written by the post-Peter Gabriel Genesis. (The other one is “Home By The Sea”.)

    2. doloras

      One of the few good songs written by the post-Peter Gabriel Genesis. (Note to up-and-coming bands: do not I REPEAT do NOT let the drummer become lead singer even if he sounds just like the old one.)

  14. BloviateMe

    A young Mexican kid was bored, so he splashed some flour across his face. He went and showed his mother, who promptly slapped him across the face. "Go and show your father what you did," she screamed. He went to his father, who also smacked him, and yelled "go show your grandmother what you've done!"
    So he hesitantly walked up to his grandmother, who also slapped him across the face, and asked "what have you learned?!"
    He answered, "I've only been white for 5 minutes, and I already hate Mexicans."

  15. SoBeach

    It’s sort of funny how much shit you could still say in public in the 1980s.

    Yeah, we could still call guys like Nordlinger "peckerhead".

        1. sullivanst

          Not the real 1958, of course, the Republicon fantasy 1958 where the Republican President wasn't embarking on massive public infrastructure projects, union membership wasn't significantly higher than today, and the top marginal rate of personal taxation wasn't 91%.

          1. Hammiepants

            No, their 1958 is the one where the blahs and messicans knew their place (picking something, somewhere), women kept their mouths shut, the cookie jar full and their legs spread, there was no gey because OMFG, gey, are you KIDDING me, and everyone in charge was white and wanged.

  16. Mittens Howell, III

    There goes me again, just stone cold typin’ “Herpe Slurpers” as a direct substitute for Republicans

  17. edgydrifter

    True fact*: Reagan's assistants had to remove all the Mexican jellybeans from the crystal bowl on his desk when they refilled it each morning.

    *not intended to be a factual statement

  18. Lionel[redacted]Esq

    I'm waiting for the next hard hitting piece from NRO on Reagan. After all, not only did he welcome wetbacks, but Sammy Davis Jr. was a personal friend of his, so clearly he was a nigger lover.

    1. Fare la Volpe

      In the Reagan white house, the kikes were always welcome to try the ham at the Christmas dinner.

  19. Texan_Bulldog

    Calm down, everyone. He's just trying to be cool–like when a white person says the N word, and we all know how well that goes over.

    1. UnholyMoses

      As a white guy who literally* has quite a few black friends, I can assure you that is still not allowed.

      Trust me. I asked. Apparently, us white folks lost our n-word privileges for some reason. Can't imagine why …

      (* Used in the correct sense of the word, not the not-at-all-actually-literal sense of it.)

    2. LetUsBray

      After which they complain bitterly about how the Politically Correct crowd are the real racists.

  20. mavenmaven

    since so many of their writers and readers are self hating restroom action barebacks…

  21. JackObin

    I'd pay to see a wetback twist that little pussy into a pretzel. We could bring back "Firing Line" and do it live.

  22. An_Outhouse

    "One common cry from the right was, “None of this would be happening if Ronald Reagan were alive.”"

    That makes no sense, Reagan was technically still alive then. Maybe they were referring to Reagan's brain.

    1. sullivanst

      I guess it could have been a joke that he'd been killed and replaced with an Invasion of the Body Snatchers style pod-person, thus explaining his general lack of adherence to anything he ever said he stood for.

  23. SorosBot

    "He had not learned to love Big Brother:

    Uh, dipshit, he had learned to love Big Brother; 1984 told of a fascist, far-right society of the kind Reagan was trying to bring about. Idiot.

    1. sullivanst

      Well, to be fair, 1984 was inspired by Stalin, but of the two parties, it's pretty fucking obvious which one wants state intrusion into our most private moments, and it sure as fuck ain't the Democrats.

  24. CarolinaStewPie

    Nerdlinger needs a Wayback machine, then he can say 'Welcoming Wetbacks' all he wants! Here's a fun one with Sherman and Mr. Peabody on the origins of the Iranian hostage crisis, Saddam, and the Taliban. He'd probably call those guys 'Camel Jockeys'. Besides, Welcoming Wetbacks from the Wayback is just plain fun to say!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpgJzlY9y8A

  25. sezme

    White America, what, nothin' better to do?
    Why don't you kick yourself out? You're an immigrant too.
    -Jack White

    1. Negropolis

      Well, Jack White was born and raised in Detroit proper, so they consider him an honorary blah, anyway.

  26. BitterKlingon

    I hate Nordlinger more than anyone else from National Review because he's a pretentious ass who calls his column "Impromptus" like he's Frederic Fucking Chopin.

  27. Negropolis

    He only did this in the service of poetry. "Welcoming wetbacks" is so alliterative.

    It's funny when they let their freak-flag fly, and by funny, I mean completely sad and pathetic.

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