The lobbying of the u.s english movement since 1983: a campaign via the media in quest of national unity
par Victoria Riposseau
Université de Nantes - Maitrise IRT Anglais 2010
In this part, our focus will be on the pro-immigration image projected by U.S ENGLISH in their different publications.
On the official website of U.S ENGLISH, one can read Official English is proimmigrant?88. In order to determine to what extent U.S ENGLISH is pro-immigrant, we need to examine both the rhetoric and the communication strategies of the movement.
First, the choice of the successive Chairmen has been part of U.S ENGLISH strategy to introduce themselves as a pro-immigrant organization. Since its creation in 1983, the movement has always been headed by a man of immigrant origins. Between 1983 and 1993, the movement was headed by S.I Hayakawa. Hayakawa, son of a Japanese immigrant, was
88 Talking Points?on the official website of U.S ENGLISH at < http://www.us-english.org>
brought up in Canada before his father had to come back to Japan for business leaving him to one of his American friend. Hayakawa proudly shared his experience as an immigrant in the monograph he wrote in 1985 in support for an English Language Amendment. The document started as follow: many have wondered how it is that a movement aimed at making English the official language of the United States is being headed by a man with a Japanese name?? (Annex IV, l.2-3). This rhetorical question is certainly not an innocent question. The author emphasized his immigrant origins to make the cause he was fighting for more transparent. This strategy allowed the author to clear himself from any anti-immigrant feelings as he is himself an immigrant. It can also be understood as a kind of appeal that would say: if you are also an immigrant who took the step to learn English, be sure that other immigrants will have to do the same by joining our organization.
The same communication strategy has been used in 1994 by Mauro Mujica. A year after he became the Chairman of U.S ENGLISH, Mujica published an advertising campaign entitled: Why a Hispanic Heads an organization called U.S ENGLISH??(Annex XII). Mujica is an immigrant from Chile who became a naturalized US citizen in 1970. On the very first line of the body of this advertisement one can read: I am very proud of my heritage?(Annex XII). This statement deviously suggested that this movement is pro-immigrant and that immigrants have to be proud of their heritage. Like Hayakawa, Mujica put forward his past to clear the organization's image from any anti-immigration accusations from the public opinion and Congress.
Another technique used by U.S ENGLISH consisted in presenting the nation as a nation of immigrants. Both Mujica and Hayakawa have been paying tribute to the linguistic and cultural diversity of the nation while promoting official language legislation for the nation. In their different advertising campaigns, U.S ENGLISH has been referring to the United States as our nation of immigrants?. Similarly, in his speech to introduce an amendment to immigration legislation in support of English as the official language of the nation, Hayakawa considered the United States as a land of immigrants from every corner of the world? (Annex II, l.62) and had a welcoming and enthusiastic attitude towards immigrants when he said that we have all benefited from the sharing of ideas, of cultures and beliefs ... We have all enriched each other. ... All around, we are better Americans because we have all melded our cultures together into this wonderful cultural symphony which is the United States of America? (Annex II, l. 65-69). Further on, he described the United States as being a multiracial, multicultural democratic society? (Annex II, l.86). Moreover, in the 1985 monograph by Hayakawa, one can observe that the nation is referred to as a hodge-podge of
nationalities, races and colors? (Annex IV, l.118). In all their publications, U.S ENGLISH systematically acknowledged the role that immigration has played in the creation of the American culture. To do so, they have constantly pointed at the plural dimension of the nation as being a positive characteristic. On several occasions, they have been overemphasizing the power the nation has to assimilate immigrants by always referring to the ethnic, racial, linguistic and cultural diversity of the US.
But on the bumper stickers for sale on their official website, one can read: The United States of America built, powered and made great by immigrants who learned English? 89. In other words, they acknowledged the role of immigration in the building of the American nation but they considered that only immigrants with knowledge of the English language played a role in the nation-building process. So considered, it seems that according to U.S ENGLSIH, the language ability of immigrants is of the utmost importance when acknowledging the role they played in the creation of the nation. The tolerance the movement showed for immigrants' influence on the American culture can then be questioned. The ambiguity between their celebration of diversity and their attitude towards foreign language speakers conveys an impression that their admiration for the plural dimension of the American society is simply high-words. Paying tribute to the multicultural character of the nation was a communication strategy to introduce their organization as pro-American and pro-immigration but as our analysis showed, this was only a cover.
Furthermore, even a detailed analysis of the documents produced by the organization fails to account of their pro-immigration views. On their website, they justified that they were pro-immigrant with the following argument:
A department of Education study showed that those who do not know English earn only half as much as those who do. Moreover, knowledge of English is essential to the assimilation process.90
In fact, those arguments account of the link between social mobility and language ability but do not encourage immigration in any ways. In a testimony made in front of Congress in 2006, Mujica said that H.R 997 is a pro-immigration bill? (Annex VI). But like on their website, the movement failed to justify those views. In this speech, one can read that in a country whose residents speak 322 languages, multilingual government should be the exception, not the rule? (Annex VI, l.22-3), and that if we are to successfully remain a 'nation of immigrants' the government cannot see immigrants as mere customers, to be served
89 Bumper sticker on U.S ENGLISH official website at < http://www.us-english.org/bumpersticker>
90 Talking Points?, U.S ENGLISH official website at < http://www.us-english.org/view /40>
in whatever languages they happen to speak? (Annex VI, l.52). This testimony was made in order to explain why the government should stop providing multilingual services on the basis that it was wasteful and that it actually discouraged immigrants to learn the language of the majority. Once again, there is nothing pro-immigrant about those arguments. In fact those multilingual services that U.S ENGLISH has been rejecting, aimed at encouraging immigration and helping newcomers to participate in society. In this light, the suppression of those services can be understood as an attempt to encourage only a selected immigration to the US.
As we have seen in part one, both Mujica and Hayakawa linked their successful immigration experience to the learning of the English language. In their different publications, evidence shows that they have been trying to present their own experience as the rule. The idea that only a certain type of immigration should be promoted was omnipresent in the monograph written by Hayakawa in 1985. Hayakawa, who had been a professor and a writer, then the president of San Francisco State College, and finally the Senator of California in 1976 before being Honorary Chairman of U.S ENGLISH, saw in his own story, the story of one immigrant?(Annex IV, l.112). He assumed later that each immigrant had a parallel experience and thus a remarkable story? to tell (Annex IV, l.113). Throughout the narrative of his own success story, Hayakawa presented immigration as a moving and inspiring? experience (Annex IV, l.116). He even went further when he generalized his own successful experience to all immigrants by explaining that there was a huge number of former immigrants in the composition of Congress: I continue to be impressed by the fact that so many of my colleagues in the House and Senate have the same kind of story?(Annex IV, l.118-119). Moreover, Hayakawa purposely overemphasized the positive aspects of his own experience by sharing his feelings with the reader: much to my delight? (Annex IV, l.54), I was very happy? (Annex IV, l.55), what excitement for a nineteen year old!? (Annex IV, l.61), it was a thoroughly gratifying experience? (Annex IV, l.66), we had never regretted our move? (Annex IV, l.80), I was overjoyed? (Annex IV, l.96).
Similarly to Hayakawa, Mujica used his own experience as an immigrant to clear the movement's image from any anti-immigration accusations. In a testimony made in front of Congress in 2006, Mujica said: As an immigrant and naturalized citizen, the issues we are discussing today are of great personal importance... Mr. Chairman, one third of U.S ENGLISH members are either immigrants or the children of immigrants? (Annex VI, l.8-12). In this speech Mujica also justified the pro-immigrant image of the movement by putting the emphasis on the number of immigrants or children of immigrants that support the movement.
Another strategy to give a pro-immigration image to U.S ENGLISH has been to select lots of immigrants or children of immigrants to represent the movement in its Advisory Board91. In fact, research about the national origin of the different members that composed their Advisory Board in 2009 revealed that sixteen out of the thirty two members of the Advisory Board of U.S ENGLISH were immigrants or son/daughter of immigrants: Mauro E. Mujica and his sister Barbara Mujica are immigrants from Chile, Harvey Meyerhoff is the son of an immigrant from Ukraine, Nathan Glazer is the son of Polish immigrants, Andre Emmerich was born in Frankfurt in 1924, Dinesh Desai is a naturalized citizen born in India, Jorge Delgado is a Uruguayan footballer, Jacques Barzun, is an immigrant from France, Alex Trebek is an immigrant from Canada, Togo W. Tanaka is an immigrant from Japan, Alex Olmedo comes from Peru, Norman Podhoretz is the son of Jewish immigrants from the Central Europe, James Schlesinger is the son of a Russian mother, and an Austrian father, Rosalyn Yalow is the daughter of German immigrants, and finally, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an Austrian immigrant.
U.S ENGLISH has been using several strategies to be considered as a pro-immigration movement. But as our analysis has shown, this is only a cover because it seems that they tend to promote only a certain type of immigration. Furthermore, one may wonder if their aim was really social integration through a language legislation as they have been pretending because none of the members of its the Advisory Board is specialized in education.
In the next part we will see through the analysis of their 2008 advertising campaign that official language legislation may be a cover for more extreme views on immigration.