Brow Beat

Watch Michelle Wolf Compare ICE to ISIS in a Segment That Should Win Her a Bunch of Free Advertising From Outraged Conservatives

Michelle Wolf stands in front of a group of black-clad ICE agents holding automatic weapons.
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Michelle Wolf has built a career out of gleefully making arguments other TV hosts won’t touch—see, e.g., her salute to abortion earlier this month—and this week’s segment about ICE is no exception. There’s a hard and fast rule in American political discourse that no matter what a law enforcement agency has done—from minor offenses like murder to more serious crimes like lots of murder—it’s essential to do a lot of handwaving about the brave and hard-working officers whose reputations are being unfairly tainted by the bad apples who keep making headlines. To the untrained eye, it might seem like there are systemic reasons why the bad apple harvest from the bad apple trees planted at Uncle Sam’s Bad Apple Orchards always has so many bad apples in it, but it’s rare to see anyone entrusted with a TV show ask what kind of person takes a job working for an internal deportation force in the first place. Once you cross that first line, though, the other lines start looking pretty arbitrary, and before you know it, you’re comparing ICE to ISIS:

Take the segment with a large grain of salt: The niche Wolf is carving out for herself in the media ecosystem depends on being a magnet for conservative outrage, and this is already delivering. But it’s also not a bad exercise in shifting the Overton window: Let ICE supporters make the argument that abduction and rape are different when we do them. To be clear, Wolf’s segment will not spark a robust public debate about immigration policy. It will spark an unfathomably boring debate about whether it is appropriate to compare ICE and ISIS, which will play out along predictable lines. But the fact that this is now a debatable question—even if that debate consists exclusively of finger-wagging at Michelle Wolf—should make it clear that for all their differences, ICE and ISIS have one very big thing in common: You do not, under any circumstances, “gotta hand it to them.”