America is now running ‘concentration camps,’ say academic experts
Because we do not have public policy debates in this country, only political spats, much of the hottest Republican fury is over Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s use of the term “concentration camps” to refer to government detention centers for asylum-seeking refugees and other migrants, centers repeatedly exposed as squalid, unsanitary, and overcrowded and in which, government lawyers argue, it is unnecessary to provide detained children with essentials such as soap or toothbrushes. Observers describe the camps as scenes of “sickness and filth” in which children are left to care for themselves and 155 adults are stuffed, standing-room only, into cells intended to hold 35. Multiple children have died, and many others are sick.
If the debate over whether these compounds qualify as “concentration camps” were confined merely to intellectual circles, it is quite certain nobody in Washington would give a damn, but having a sitting member of Congress use the term has sent her political opponents into a raging performative snit. One of the two political parties in this nation has gone far enough into the pit to defend the shocking conditions we are keeping migrant children in, but they will still shout indignantly if anyone else has the audacity to use charged words in describing the facilities.
So, inevitably, here we are.
For the future record, Newsweek went to the trouble of asking actual academic experts to settle the question. Those experts did not beat around the bush: Yes, the term concentration camp is accurate. Sociology professor Richard Lachmann defined the term as “any place where large numbers of people are held in poor conditions because of their nationality, ethnicity, religion or other characteristics rather than as individuals convicted of crimes.”