PBS Guest Likens Conservatives to Osama bin Laden on Immigration

On Friday's Tavis Smiley show, on display for PBS viewers was the latest in a parade of mostly left-wing guests getting to promote their liberal views as author Sasha Polakow-Suransky of the Open Society Foundations promoted his book -- Go Back Where You Came From -- that was critical of right-wing political movements in Europe and in the U.S. reacting against too much immigration. 

At one point in the interview, he went into hyperbole as he suggested that right-wing politicians are just a step away from being like Osama bin Laden as he pointed out that an outright bin Laden would not be able to get elected.

After tying together the success of Brexit in the UK, the election of Donald Trump in the U.S., and the increasing power of right-wing parties in Europe like that of former French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the liberal author got around to making an analogy between right-wing politicians and bin Laden:

So what I'm saying is that this isn't necessarily going to happen tomorrow, but this is a worrying trend that we see because people are voting for these sorts of politicians, and they're able to appeal -- as I said in the New York Times op-ed -- they're able to appeal to voters in a way that a radical Islamist never could. 

He added:

You know, no one's going to vote for an Osama bin Laden character if he were running in this country or France, but someone can come up and say, "We are the natives -- this is our country -- this is for us -- and we don't want anyone else in it," and people are going to listen, and they're going to vote. And that is what scares me. I feel that these people are able to get enough support and enough popularity to the point that they could actually dismantle some of the institutions that make our society democratic.

Even though some liberals have admitted that assimilation is a legimiate concern regarding immigration, host Smiley provided no pushback against his liberal guest.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, October 27, Tavis Smiley show on PBS:

SASHA POLAKOW- SURANSKY, OPEN SOCIETY FOUNDATIONS FELLOW: This is happening in Europe, is not going away, and it is happening in other countries as well, including our own.

TAVIS SMILEY: You draw a bold line and make a brash argument for this link between -- as your subtitle suggests -- the backlash against immigration and the fate of Western democracy. And again, now, I'm going to ask you to answer this in a question when you spent a whole book trying to address this. But that's a pretty strong link to draw, that the fate of Western democracy, the future of Western democracy, is linked somehow to this backlash against immigration. Give me your short thesis.

POLAKOW-SURANSKY: What I'm arguing is that the people who are leading the backlash against immigration right now, if they become increasingly popular, and if that becomes the central issue in election campaigns in all of these countries in elections going forward, they have the ability to draw large majorities into their orbit and win elections. And so part of that argument is, you know, everyone's afraid of terrorist attacks, everyone's afraid of immigrants, and a lot of the right's political program has been playing on those fears. 

But what I'm saying is that terrorist attacks are terrible and they're a real risk, and we as Western democracies need to deal with that and stop that, but it's manageable. We survived 9/11 -- the Brits survived the terrorist attacks -- the French have persevered -- but if a party or politician who is promoting an anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner, anti-refugee agenda, brings enough people with them, and that becomes the central theme in the campaign, they can start to take things apart from the inside. They can start to challenge the independence of the courts. They can start to take away birth right citizenship which has been a big issue in a lot of these countries, and create a second class of citizens. 

So what I'm saying is that this isn't necessarily going to happen tomorrow, but this is a worrying trend that we see because people are voting for these sorts of politicians, and they're able to appeal -- as I said in the New York Times op-ed -- they're able to appeal to voters in a way that a radical Islamist never could.

You know, no one's going to vote for an Osama bin Laden character if he were running in this country or France, but someone can come up and say, "We are the natives -- this is our country -- this is for us -- and we don't want anyone else in it," and people are going to listen, and they're going to vote. And that is what scares me. I feel that these people are able to get enough support and enough popularity to the point that they could actually dismantle some of the institutions that make our society democratic.

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