Colorful descriptions of Haiti

My Facebook friends have their panties in a twist because President Trump purportedly referred to some countries where people want to emigrate to the U.S. as “shitholes.” (e.g., see “Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa” from the nytimes) The only righteous attitude toward these countries is that they are wonderful places full of culture, orderly Swiss-style cities and villages, and economic opportunity. It is just that the people who live there would rather be in Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, or Buffalo.

Their horror reminded me of the experience of a CBS News crew in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. A former instructor at our flight school was flying a Pilatus PC-12 for a rich guy and the owner said “go down to Haiti and fly supplies around.” He was indifferent to whether the plane was flying out of Teterboro or Port-au-Prince so he packed his bag, stopped for fuel in Fort Pierce, Florida, and kept going to Hispaniola. After a week or so, Dan Rather hopped on the plane so as to be on the ground when the food and water were delivered to grateful quake victims. The crew decided to gather some B-roll from the pilot, assuming that he was there in Haiti because of his profound commitment to humanitarianism. Here’s how the conversation went…

  • CBS: What do you think the effect of your work here will be?
  • Pilot: Well, Haiti was a shithole before this earthquake and I’m sure that it will be a shithole after all of these relief workers have packed up and gone home.

Somehow I don’t think that this heartwarming footage was ever aired…

[Separately, when are the folks who criticize Trump for saying that Norway is nicer than Haiti going to spend their vacation time and money in Haiti? Or, better yet, become rich by setting up a vacation resort in Haiti?]

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40 Comments

  1. Rick

    January 12, 2018 @ 12:28 pm

    1

    Haiti is where McPee was invented.

  2. Anonymous

    January 12, 2018 @ 1:21 pm

    2

    While saying so about any country is extremely rude, that is actually how less developed/third world/etc countries are treated by even those condemning Trump, for example Europe, UK and Canada. As a citizen of India I have had to go through a lot of paperwork and long process to obtain visas to just visit these places, when they let people from more developed/richer countries visit without any such restrictions.

    And India wasn’t always a third world country. It was the richest country for thousands of years. Its downfall was due to internal fights while being completely oblivious to rest of the world (which they then did not really consider a big threat). United States, in its much shorter history, has primarily only seen things improve and not deteriorate. US population does not seem to realize that that can happen. I think top politicians (even Democrats) must certainly understand, but they simply prefer to get reelected and not start painful discussions that might affect their chances.

  3. anon

    January 12, 2018 @ 2:19 pm

    3

    Senators present at the meeting say TheDonald did not use the word “shithole”. Is this just more “Fire and Fury”?

    https://mobile.twitter.com/CBSNews/status/951877385628078080

  4. Grumpy Cat

    January 12, 2018 @ 2:24 pm

    4

    How interesting and telling that Mr. Greenspun, who once flew tents or something down to Haiti if I recall correctly, can only report other people’s reactions to the “shithole” characterization, but not offer his own.

  5. Fact Check on Aisle 7

    January 12, 2018 @ 2:45 pm

    5

    @Grumpy https://blogs.harvard.edu/philg/2010/01/19/personal-haitian-relief-operation/ shows that our host got no closer to Haiti than Turks and Caicos.

  6. Vince

    January 12, 2018 @ 3:07 pm

    6

    The controversy is not about the characterization of Haiti and other countries. It’s the assumption that immigrants from poor countries are all undesirable, that every single resident is a shit person. Y

    Of course, the vast majority of all immigration has always been for economic reasons. Most Americans can trace their ancestry to immigrants who came from countries that were shit countries at the time.

  7. boozedog

    January 12, 2018 @ 4:44 pm

    7

    Brain drain isn’t helping these countries, either.

  8. George A.

    January 12, 2018 @ 4:53 pm

    8

    @Vince, that’s very true. But once you reach a certain threshold and maturity, you will need to be selective otherwise you can end up being a “shithole”.

    Ever wonder why Harvard and MIT stand out? They are very selective and don’t want to fall into a “shithole”.

    No, I’m not saying I don’t care about 3rd world and their citizens, but to fix the issues in those 3rd world, it’s not by letting their citizens into a developed nation, it is letting those countries fix their own problems and move up.

  9. toucan sam

    January 12, 2018 @ 5:34 pm

    9

    your facebook friends lost their shit!

  10. Vince

    January 12, 2018 @ 6:48 pm

    10

    @George:

    You didn’t pick up on the totality of my remarks. We hear often that Silicon Valley is crawling with highly talented engineers and executives from India. You and Trump presumably think that it was a mistake to let any of them. India must certainly fall into the shithole category.

    Also, @anon, I saw the following from a CNN guy on Twitter:

    So for those keeping track of those who were in Trump mtg:
    Durbin: Trump said “shithole” countries
    Graham: publicly silent, but confirmed comments to Tim Scott
    McCarthy: Silent
    Goodlatte: Silent
    Diaz-Balart: Skirts comments in stmt
    Cotton: Does not recall
    Perdue: Does not recall

  11. Ralph

    January 12, 2018 @ 7:41 pm

    11

    First, I’m surprised that you have ANY Facebook “friends” left

    You might also like this about Nigeria
    https://www.theonion.com/nigeria-may-be-a-developing-nation-but-it-is-rich-in-c-1819594269

  12. Russil Wvong

    January 12, 2018 @ 7:56 pm

    12

    In foreign relations, how you do something is often as important as what you do. There’s a difference between saying that a country is poor, for example, and calling it a shithole. Openly demonstrating your contempt for non-whites isn’t a winning foreign policy.

    I like the old FidoNet rules: (1) Don’t be offensive. (2) Don’t be easily offended. Maybe next time don’t elect someone as US President who lacks the self-control required to follow rule #1?

  13. philg

    January 12, 2018 @ 8:03 pm

    13

    Russil: Suppose that we accept your premise that people in Haiti are offended by the Trumpenfuhrer. Now we have a “losing foreign policy”? What American interest has been lost? Haitians will no longer trade with us? Rather than accept our tainted dollars, they will sell their goods at lower prices to Canadians with good manners who haven’t offended them? Haiti will invade the U.S.? Take over Puerto Rico, for example, and start stringing power lines and writing welfare checks there?

    The Prime Minister of France, in 1991, said that Englishmen were gay (see http://www.nytimes.com/1991/06/20/world/gallic-dart-distresses-british-men.html ). That was presumably offensive to at least some people in England. How did France “lose” as a result of this?

  14. Neal

    January 12, 2018 @ 8:14 pm

    14

    “Suppose that we accept your premise that people in Haiti are offended by the Trumpenfuhrer…What American interest has been lost?”

    Then by this premise American citizens of Haitian descent would also be offended. President Trump represents them too.

  15. Russil Wvong

    January 12, 2018 @ 8:37 pm

    15

    Philip: The US is the most powerful country in the world. Naturally, this leads to a certain amount of resentment on the part of less powerful countries. It’s human nature to keenly resent those who have power over you, while regarding one’s own power over others as natural and justified. Douglas Adams:

    It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion on them.

    On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.

    Power obviously has material factors (wealth and military might), but less obviously, it also depends on psychological factors, and particularly consent. Louis Halle, The Cold War as History:

    … real power is always something far greater than military power alone. A balance of power is not a balance of military power alone: it is, rather, a balance in which military power is one element. Even in its crudest aspect, power represents a subtle and intimate combination of force and consent. No stable government has ever existed, and no empire has ever become established, except with an immensely preponderant measure of consent on the part of those who were its subjects. That consent may be a half-grudging consent; it may be a consent based in part on awe of superior force; it may represent love, or respect, or fear, or a combination of the three. Consent, in any case, is the essential ingredient in stable power – more so than physical force, of which the most efficient and economical use is to increase consent.

    By using physical force in such a way as alienates consent one constantly increases the requirements of physical force to replace the consent that has been alienated. A vicious spiral develops that, continued, ends in the collapse of power.

    I would suggest that the current behavior of the President is weakening consent for US power even among its closest allies. The President’s visit to the UK was just cancelled.

    In theory, you could compensate by ramping up your hard power – but military spending is expensive, and as you’ve observed countless times, the US is currently running large deficits, with no appetite for higher taxation to close the gap.

    As a Canadian who benefits from and supports the US-dominated international status quo, it’s something like watching the fall of the Roman Empire. As US power retreats, I would expect China (in East Asia), Russia (in Eastern Europe), and Iran (in the Middle East) to be the main beneficiaries. But there may also be unexpected crises and instability ahead.

  16. philg

    January 12, 2018 @ 8:41 pm

    16

    Maybe this is not a bad thing. If the U.S. is roughly 50 percent “deplorable” racists, as demonstrated by the 2016 Presidential election, why not let the prejudice-free Chinese, Russians, and Iranians run the world? And, since randomly selected immigrants are a huge boost to any economy, folks from poor countries will surely be welcomed as immigrants to China by the prosperity-minded technocrats in Beijing (also to Russia and Iran by smart leaders in Moscow and Tehran!).

  17. Vince

    January 12, 2018 @ 9:06 pm

    17

    Maybe this is not a bad thing. If the U.S. is roughly 50 percent “deplorable” racists, as demonstrated by the 2016 Presidential election

    Hillary said that it was half of Trump voters who were deplorable. The good news is that that’s only about 10% of the population.

  18. philg

    January 12, 2018 @ 10:18 pm

    18

    Vince: In a country of 325 million, 10 percent is 32.5 million hate-filled racists. Surely you wouldn’t wish association with these 32.5 million deplorable people on a person who currently lives hate-free in Haiti? There is no urgency for anyone to emigrate from Haiti, right? (i.e., Trump’s characterization of the country cannot be correct, can it?)

  19. Neal

    January 12, 2018 @ 10:47 pm

    19

    philg: If it is your intention to pivot the conversation from what the President said to immigration policy, then I first expect you to explicitly concede the points that you have just implicitly conceded (i.e. that the President made a statement which was offensive to a significant fraction of the U.S. and World population and that there was no good reason for him to do so).

    “In a country of 325 million, 10 percent is 32.5 million hate-filled racists.”

    Are you claiming that 32.5 million is a good rough estimate for the number of racists in the U.S.?

    “Trump’s characterization of the country cannot be correct, can it?”

    What does the number of racists in the U.S. or whether or not the President’s statement was “correct” have to do with whether or not what Trump said was offensive or whether or not there was a good reason for him to say it?

  20. philg

    January 12, 2018 @ 10:55 pm

    20

    My assumption is that voters are a reasonably random sample of the population. Therefore, since nearly 50 percent of Americans voted for Donald Trump, approximately 50 percent of Americans are racist (I am informed by the best minds of the New York Times and Facebook that only racists could have voted for Trump). So it would actually be approximately 160 million racists in the U.S. (see https://www.census.gov/popclock/ ).

    Vince is suggesting a lower estimate of only 10 percent of Americans, which is still 32.5 million more racists than in a non-deplorable country.

    Trump was surely wrong in his statement regarding Haiti. Therefore Haiti must be at least a reasonably nice place. Thus there is no reason for Haitians to emigrate to the U.S. where they will be surrounded by millions (if not 160 million) racists.

  21. Neal

    January 12, 2018 @ 11:16 pm

    21

    “I am informed by the best minds of the New York Times and Facebook that only racists could have voted for Trump”

    If this is a statement you agree with then please provide better evidence for it and explain how it supports your argument. If you don’t agree with this statement, then it is a straw man because no one in this thread has suggested anything like this.

    “Trump was surely wrong in his statement regarding Haiti.”

    Claiming that what Trump said was offensive does not necessarily imply that what he said was “surely wrong”.

    “Therefore Haiti must be at least a reasonably nice place. Thus there is no reason for Haitians to emigrate to the U.S. where they will be surrounded by millions (if not 160 million) racists.”

    This is a non-sequitur (even if Haiti is a “reasonably nice place”, it does not follow there is “no reason for Haitians to emIgrate to the U.S.”) and also begs the question that there is less racism in Haiti, but more importantly it is irrelevant to whether or not what Trump said was offensive or whether or not there was a good reason for him to say it.

  22. Glen Raphael

    January 13, 2018 @ 1:22 am

    22

    > Or, better yet, become rich by setting up a vacation resort in Haiti?]

    For what it’s worth, I have TWICE been to a vacation resort destination in Haiti. It was lovely; I went zip-lining. I certainly hope *somebody* is getting rich off of it!

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=labadee

    (Labadee is a very nice chunk of Haiti that is on a long-term lease being managed by a cruise company. I know a guy who flew into Haiti to get there, but nobody does that – essentially all access to Labadee is by ship unless you’re a local worker.)

  23. Anon

    January 13, 2018 @ 9:55 am

    23

    Given that the US stands to further lose its standing in Africa to countries due to these reports of the President’s alleged statements about African countries and Haiti, don’t you think it was wrong of Sen. Durbin to issue his statement. By doing so, he helped create further enmity between US and Africa and thus hurting our trade relations even more. After all, the President has denied these comments publicly and were it not for Sen. Durbin, the world would not have heard about these alleged comments.

  24. Jack

    January 13, 2018 @ 10:16 am

    24

    Looks like literal “Neal” is once again trying to pin you down with school book logic, Phil. Kind of reminds me of those girl wrestlers who thought they were going to pin down Andy Kaufman.

  25. George A.

    January 13, 2018 @ 10:38 am

    25

    Trump can fix this in a snap. He needs to hold a “teachable moment” [1] meeting at Rose Garden with his haters and offer them beers. That will unite the country and the world.

    [1] http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=8208602

  26. M

    January 13, 2018 @ 3:24 pm

    26

    As my friend and a next door neighbor said, “Yes we are Russians and I will be the first to admit that Russia is a shithole. Still, we mananged to elect Trump as the president of a first-world country. So STFU or we will re-elect Trump in 2020.”

  27. philg

    January 13, 2018 @ 4:19 pm

    27

    Anon: That is a great point. We can expect Trump to be President for at least another three years. If it is damaging to Americans when foreigners learn what our President thinks of the infrastructure and society that they’ve built, why would someone who has America’s best interests at heart reveal what was said at a private meeting?

  28. anon

    January 13, 2018 @ 6:06 pm

    28

    philg: We can expect Trump to be President for at least another three years

    Have you not been watching the news? Surely THIS TIME is the beginning of the end for Trump, and impeachment is imminent!

  29. Neal

    January 13, 2018 @ 9:29 pm

    29

    “If it is damaging to Americans when foreigners learn what our President thinks of the infrastructure and society that they’ve built”.

    Most of the damage comes from having a President who thinks this way whether those thoughts are public or private. However, I agree that in this instance it probably would have been better for Senator Durbin to keep his mouth shut.

  30. Jack D

    January 14, 2018 @ 10:27 am

    30

    Haiti in fact used to be a popular vacation destination – after all it is a tropical island in the Caribbean. IIRC, the Clintons spent part of their honeymoon in Haiti. One of the many problems of Haiti is that during the Duvalier regime, anyone with any brains or education (Haiti was all black after they expelled all the whites in an early 19th century slave rebellion but they had a small French speaking lighter skinned elite – the masses speak Haitian Creole which is a sort of French based pidgin) moved to the US (thanks to our liberal immigration policy), while the lower classes continued to have more surviving children than in the past thanks to American vaccines, etc. so Haiti today is even more of a crowded shit hole (sorry, poor country) than it was in the past.

  31. paddy

    January 14, 2018 @ 1:06 pm

    31

    How many of the offended on behalf of Haitians, have said similar things about e.g. inner-city Chicago, or rural dwellers of Appalachia , or Missouri, I wonder?

    When (if) he said “s-hole” people knew what he meant, and it was a relief to some to think that maybe the immigration question should be framed in terms of “does it benefit the American people who are already living in the USA”?

    As it is, California will likely gain House reps based on 2020 Census numbers that will include the millions of illegals they give sanctuary to, thereby defrauding the other states (and disenfranchising the citizens in those states). Why should CA be rewarded for helping criminals stay in the USA?

  32. Neal

    January 14, 2018 @ 2:27 pm

    32

    “How many of the offended on behalf of Haitians, have said similar things”

    This is irrelevant to whether or not what Trump said was offensive or whether or not there was a good reason for him to say it. Plus, holding the Presidency involves certain additional responsibilities. They are not President; he is.

    “maybe the immigration question should be framed in terms of “does it benefit the American people who are already living in the USA”

    The President saying something offensive about Haiti does not so frame the debate. It creates a different, more sinister, frame.

    “As it is, California will likely gain House reps based on 2020 Census numbers that will include the millions of illegals they give sanctuary to, thereby defrauding the other states (and disenfranchising the citizens in those states). Why should CA be rewarded for helping criminals stay in the USA?”

    This is a different question, which we could debate. Before pivoting the discussion to this new topic, I would prefer that the participants either explicitly concede the on-topic points I have made above or provide a compelling argument against them.

  33. George A.

    January 14, 2018 @ 5:35 pm

    33

    @Neal,

    I’m curious, what is your opinion of the following (I picked them randomly as they came to mind):

    1) Hillary’s deplorable comment: http://time.com/4486502/hillary-clinton-basket-of-deplorables-transcript/

    2) Obama’s “flexibility” comment to Medvedev: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/barackobama/9167332/Barack-Obama-microphone-gaffe-Ill-have-more-flexibility-after-election.html

    3) Clinton’s “I did not have sex” statement: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinton%E2%80%93Lewinsky_scandal

  34. Neal

    January 14, 2018 @ 6:45 pm

    34

    George A: That’s a lot of work. I’ll tell you what. Pick one of those questions. I’ll answer it if you can give a coherent explanation of how that question applies to the topics previously under discussion in this thread.

  35. Russil Wvong

    January 14, 2018 @ 10:50 pm

    35

    Anon: “Given that the US stands to further lose its standing in Africa to countries due to these reports of the President’s alleged statements about African countries and Haiti, don’t you think it was wrong of Sen. Durbin to issue his statement?”

    Correct. The President shouldn’t have said it, and Senator Durbin shouldn’t have told journalists.

    Admittedly, the President’s remarks aren’t completely surprising. Still, there’s a big difference between knowing that someone is saying things behind your back, and getting slapped across the face.

    Philip: “If the U.S. is roughly 50 percent ‘deplorable’ racists, as demonstrated by the 2016 Presidential election – ”

    I prefer to think that there’s an awful lot of Republican voters who are the equivalent of the yellow-dog Democrats – they would vote for a yellow dog, or a Roy Moore, over a Democrat.

    – why not let the prejudice-free Chinese, Russians, and Iranians run the world?”

    They’re not in a position to run the world! But as US power weakens, they’ll be pushing to expand their respective spheres of influence. The basic divide is between those supporting the current status quo and those seeking to overthrow it. The more the President discredits the US, the weaker the pro-status-quo, pro-US faction becomes.

    Here in Canada, Trump has his supporters – but on the whole, I’d say that he’s made the Republican brand politically toxic, far more so than George W. Bush. No Canadian politician wants to be perceived as being close to Republicans or to Trumpism.

    Jack: “Looks like literal ‘Neal’ is once again trying to pin you down with school book logic, Phil.”

    Philip’s a contrarian who delights in mocking anti-Trump critics. But if you elect as President someone who’s widely perceived as a total fuck-up, even by his own staff, people will lose their respect for the US, and it’s going to be harder to get them to do what you want – it’s not exactly rocket science.

  36. Tom

    January 15, 2018 @ 4:38 am

    36

    “There’s a difference between saying that a country is poor, for example, and calling it a shithole. Openly demonstrating your contempt for non-whites isn’t a winning foreign policy.”

    You need to consider that this was not an official statement, but a leak of a private discussion by some foolish bystander, perhaps Dick Durbin, then trumpeted by the media. The onus thus rests on said fool and said media.

  37. philg

    January 15, 2018 @ 8:45 am

    37

    Even if Trump did say something of this form, which there is no way for anyone who wasn’t in the room to know, how does it relate to “non-whites” or racism? Where is Trump on record as going to an all-white country at the same level of economic development and organization as Haiti and saying “Wow, this place is awesome”?

  38. Russil Wvong

    January 15, 2018 @ 12:05 pm

    38

    Philip: Are you serious, or just being contrarian? We’re talking about world public opinion, not a court of law or a philosophy seminar (“do we really know anything?”).

    Daniel Lin, on Twitter:

    TRUMP: I am not a racist

    ALSO TRUMP: Don’t rent to black people. Central Park Five are guilty. Obama was born in Kenya. Mexicans are rapists and criminals. Judge Curiel can’t be fair because he’s Mexican. All Haitians have AIDS. Nigerians live in huts. Nazis are very fine people

  39. Neal

    January 15, 2018 @ 12:41 pm

    39

    “how does it relate to “non-whites” or racism”

    Well there is the fact that all of the countries which President Trump apparently called shitholes happen to have majority non-white populations. Plus, the context of the comment:

    – during a conversation about immigration from those countries
    – with no acknowledgement of the historical circumstances which have made the countries under discussion shitholes (in some cases the U.S. has substantial active responsibility for the existing shithole conditions)

    contributes to an implication that the non-white people in those countries are somehow inferior who don’t belong in the U.S.

    Of course, this is merely suspicious and not probative of “racism”. However, most people evaluate the comment in the context of many other suspicious statements and actions from President Trump:

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/15/opinion/leonhardt-trump-racist.html

  40. paddy

    January 15, 2018 @ 5:41 pm

    40

    Part of the reason that Trump is accuses of racism, there are no majority white countries, or even a population of white South Africans, who have refugee or TPS status in the USA. All the TPS and DACA etc people under discussion are not white…

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