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National Review Article Uses the Word “Wetback”

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National Review's Senior Editor Jay Nordlinger penned an article using the word "wetback" to describe President Ronald Reagan's immigrant policy.

CREDIT: flickr

Last month, the senior editor of the National Review and former George W. Bush speechwriter Jay Nordlinger published an op-ed in which he used the word "wetback."

Opining on President Ronald Reagan's legacy, Nordlinger said:

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.”

Tellingly, readers who commented on the post pointed out that the National Review message board system does not allow the word "wetback" to be used, notifying users that "wetback" is considered "objectionable language."

Nordlinger has responded to the complaints about his article–using dismissive and misogynist language–arguing that his critics just don't get what he was trying to do when he wrote the word "wetback":

What has gotten knickers in a twist is that word “wetback.” What should have been clear is that I was reflecting a certain mentality: the mentality of Reagan’s critics, some of them, at that time. The angst over tax deals, amnesty deals, arms deals, etc.I have no doubt that most readers knew what I was doing. But I guess you have to issue these little “clarifications” for the benefit of the dim. Look: I am not a politician. I’m a writer. And if you don’t like what I write — for heaven’s sake, there are 8 billion others you can click on. I would further say to the complainers, using a phrase I’ve never liked, frankly: Get a life. Get a frickin’ life.

One more word: If people wet their pants on seeing the word “wetback,” this country is as far gone as the most pessimistic and alarmist people say it is.

Two more words: Good grief.

The feebleness with which Nordlinger defends his writing is almost comical as he resorts to taunting readers, asking them to merely stop reading if they're offended by his poor word choice. What Nordlinger does not seem able to grasp is that using a pejorative in an effort to represent the mentality of Reagan's critics is not a writing feat that exceeded the intelligence of his readers, but rather a not-so-clever way to degrade immigrants–undocumented and otherwise–who have contributed back breaking labor to an industry our nation's economic well-being still depends on.

Dahlia Grossman-Heinze is a reporter-blogger for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @salvadordahlia.

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