Bret Stephens Angers Tucker Carlson, Other Conservatives With Anti-Trump Deportation Satire in The New York Times

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Bret Stephens, the newest columnist for The New York Times, seems to have a knack for angering his readers. His inaugural column, "Climate of Complete Uncertainty," infuriated liberals by making a somewhat tortured comparison between the certitude of Hillary Clinton's campaign and the certitude of climate scientists. Many canceled their subscriptions to the newspaper of record—or at least threatened to do so.

Now, Stephens, a Pulitzer Prize winner formerly of The Wall Street Journal, is the subject of ire once again. This time, though, it's from the right, for a column titled "Only Mass Deportation Can Save America." In a satirical reversal of President Trump's promise to deport undocumented immigrants from Latin America, Stephens says that it is native-born Americans who deserve a one-way ticket out:

I speak of Americans whose families have been in this country for a few generations. Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.

This seems to be a criticism, for the most part, of less-educated white Americans, though it could also apply to non-white Americans as well. Stephens does not inject race into his argument, only nationality. But the right's anger over the column was fueled by media outlets that speak largely to right-leaning whites.

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Tucker Carlson, the bowtie wearing tribune of the common man, came out strongest against Stephens. "He...shows little care for Americans as anything besides units of economic productivity, widgets to fuel the machine of global capitalism that pays Bret Stephens many thousands a year to write mediocre opinion columns in a dying newspaper."

The National Review, founded by the famously patrician William F. Buckley Jr., also criticized the column, though with far more nuance than Carlson:

Whether or not a poor American “deserves” to be an American is beside the point—what matters is that he is American and that, by virtue of his citizenship, he has an inherent claim to the public square and public concern.

Buckley at least has a point worth arguing: whether someone can squander his or her citizenship. The National Review also noted that Stephens was plainly writing in the tradition of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal," perhaps the most famous satire in the English language.

For the most part, however, right-wing criticism of the column entirely missed the point, demonizing Stephens as an enemy of the "forgotten Americans" who championed Donald Trump. 

"Naturally, in the eyes of this N.Y. Times columnist, illegal immigrants are better than Americans," said an author for the conservative BizPac Review. "Far better."

"[H]is dissimulation is only surpassed by his intentional, seemingly gleeful, offensiveness to tens of millions of Americans," said a blog post for NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for stricter immigration controls.

The argument Stephens made is similar to the one J.D. Vance advances in his bestselling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, which excoriates blue-collar whites for their supposed laziness, lack of civic engagement and ignorance. John McWhorter, the noted black linguist, offered a similarly tough take on African-Americans in Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black AmericaPublished in 2000, that book bemoaned "a strong tendency toward anti-intellectualism at all levels of the black community," echoing both Vance and Stephens.

Stephens, though, is neither African-American nor a product of impoverished Appalachia. The son of a corporate executive, he was raised abroad, attended boarding schools and the prestigious University of Chicago. That may explain why the right has attacked his most recent column just as vehemently as the left did his first effort for the Times.

Stephens responded to Carlson on Tuesday morning, once again finding himself in the position of having to publicly defend a column.