The first mistake in analysing the travel ban is thinking its primary aim is to ban travel. It won’t work. It isn’t intended to work. The Trump administration is not aiming to institute effective policy. It’s aiming to communicate. If you understand communication as the primary aim of the ban, it has worked and will continue to work. If you try to counter it by proving it’s inefficient, unjust and unconstitutional, you’re not addressing it, as it’s not intended to be any of those things.
To tackle it, you have to understand it as communication and out-communicate it. This is a culture war and a meme war. You establish a narrative about immigration. Within that narrative you lay down a solution that you know you can meet. You reach power, you implement the “solution” you’ve seeded over the previous decades. The resolution is extremely satisfying to those who are emotionally invested in the narrative. The issue is not about policy; it’s about storytelling.
For well over 30 years political “realists” on the soft left have thought concerns about immigration policy were really about immigration policy. In worrying about, and pandering to, “legitimate concerns” on migration they have validated the hard right’s narrative of immigration being one of the major challenges facing administrations in the US and Europe. Every attempt to steal that ground has actually just been acquiescing to it, adding credence that the narrative is valid. Triangulation has not, and cannot, work. They will never be able to create a satisfying resolution to that narrative because they don’t fundamentally believe in genocidal racism — although their objections are more economic than humanitarian. They do, however, believe in their own political superiority and right-to-govern, and will pander to genocidal racism in the mistaken belief they’re seeing it off. In doing so they have validated the story told by the hard right. They have created the conditions whereby the narrative has reached its dramatic high-point and can only be resolved by decisive, public, unashamed and totalised genocidal racism.
They have also, in their infinite intellectual superiority and strategic nous, handed the fascist right all the (literal, infrastructural) tools needed to implement these high-camp public displays of genocidal racism. Britain has concentration camps for migrants. They were built by the Labour Party. The United States has the tools for absolute surveillance of migrants. They were (partly) built by the Democratic Party. Indefinite house arrest: Labour. Drone strike assassinations of your own citizens: Democrats. Fire to fight fire, with plenty of petrol cans as spare capacity.
This is why supposed pragmatic support for Clinton was so dangerous – it has allowed the right to legitimise the narrative. This is why Blairite triangulation on immigration was strategically idiotic as well as morally disgusting. Any capitulation to TINA (There Is No Alternative) is taking the brakes off any narrative the right might choose to implement. The solution is not to address the inefficiency of Trump in implementing spectacular versions of your own racist border policies. It’s to develop a counter-narrative of similar vision and resonance, and, despite its seeming popularity (or otherwise), to hammer away at it for decades until it becomes a vision of the world that people buy as credible, humane, beautiful. A pole of attraction that resonates more than a promise on immigration, carved in stone.
That’s why “No Borders” is not just a utopian slogan but a political vision that it is vital to pursue. No one is illegal, no borders. No one is illegal, no borders. No one is illegal, no borders. Create the world by changing all expressions of political vision into long-sighted narratives of who humans are and what we can be.
“The growing proletarianization of modern man and the increasing formation of masses are two aspects of the same process. Fascism attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves. The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property. The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life. The violation of the masses, whom Fascism, with its Führer cult, forces to their knees, has its counterpart in the violation of an apparatus which is pressed into the production of ritual values.
All efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: war. War and war only can set a goal for mass movements on the largest scale while respecting the traditional property system. This is the political formula for the situation. The technological formula may be stated as follows: Only war makes it possible to mobilize all of today’s technical resources while maintaining the property system. It goes without saying that the Fascist apotheosis of war does not employ such arguments.
“Fiat ars – pereat mundus”, says Fascism, and, as Marinetti admits, expects war to supply the artistic gratification of a sense perception that has been changed by technology. This is evidently the consummation of “l’art pour l’art.” Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.”
—Walter Benjamin – The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (full text here)