I dunno guys. Sure, it’s a dog whistle. But MS-13 really is a deadly group that takes considerable pleasure in theatrical cruelty and revenge killings. The entire gang is roughly 10,000-strong in the United States, and it’s a pretty serious threat as these things go.


That’s right: Drum’s big post about why it’s dumb to get mad about this starts off with an acknowledgement that there’s a larger context to Trump’s comment. Then, Drum proceeds to out why MS-13 is bad. Of course they’re bad! No one is arguing that they aren’t!

He continues:

A few days ago Trump called them “animals,” and liberals went through a painfully contorted effort to demonstrate that Trump was talking not just about MS-13, but about everyone deported from the country. Trump finally made it clear that he was talking only about MS-13, so then the conversation shifted. It was now bad even to call MS-13 gang members animals. They’re human beings too after all.


Here, have a look at the transcript for yourself to see if liberals are making a “painfully contorted effort” to show that Trump was talking about everyone Trump has deported:

[Fresno Co. Sheriff Margaret] Mims: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 gang member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.

Trump: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.


Not “We have MS-13 members coming into the country,” or even “We have those people coming into the country.” Just “people,” which are then being taken out of the country. Not to mention that yesterday, Trump said this about unaccompanied children—children!—at an “immigration roundtable” in New York:

“We have the worst immigration laws of any country, anywhere in the world,” Trump said at the roundtable held at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center. “They exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors.”

Trump added: “They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.”

Drum ends this shit sandwich of a blog by arguing that “animals” and “a bunch of very bad folks” is interchangeable:

In the meantime, do we really want to expend our energy in defending MS-13 just because Trump doesn’t like them? That’s kind of crazy, isn’t it? And speaking solely for myself, I’m perfectly happy to call them animals. It seems pretty accurate in their case.

This kind of stuff does nothing but waste our own time, make other people think we’re nuts, and give Trump terrific ammunition to use against us. How about if we dial down the political lens on every last thing and just agree that MS-13 is a bunch of very bad folks? They are, you know.


What he means is that the language the government uses to refer to people doesn’t matter, which is the opposite of the Trump administration’s own position, whether it concerns “radical Islamic terrorism” or even “unaccompanied alien minor.”

The take is completely ahistorical, as it’s been a well-documented feature of genocide, and Trump, you’ll remember, is a president who has said that neo-Nazis and white nationalists—whose stated goal for the United States is ethnic cleansing—are “very fine people.” (He also reportedly “loves” the idea of taking a page out of Rodrigo Duterte’s book in slaughtering drug dealers.)


So while Drum may think it’s “wasting time” to challenge Donald Trump’s definition of what a human being is, it’s much more actively harmful to write a column that provides liberal backing for that definition, particularly when you’re framing the issue as a simple matter of common sense. (Not to mention, he did it for a magazine named after a legendary socialist labor organizer.)

Human beings are not animals, no matter what sorts of inhumane things they’ve done in their lives. You don’t even have to be a political progressive to see that—just someone who has a very basic conception of what the phrase “human rights” means. Kevin Drum, it appears, does not.