As far as making a point goes, this social experiment went pretty damn far. Dan Margulis, who works in advertising and lives in a northern suburb of Detroit, wanted to call attention to the discrimination that Irish immigrants to the U.S. once faced, drawing parallels to the current immigration debate. His tactic was to create a fake pub in downtown Detroit on St. Patrick’s Day, and then deny entry to Irish people. Hoo boy.
The Detroit Free Press reports Margulis rented an empty storefront along the parade route and hung a sign that said “No Irish Pub.” A bouncer stationed out front then refused to let people wearing green or Irish garb into the bar, calling them “lazy” and “lower class citizens” and telling people to “go back to their own country.” A production crew covertly filmed passers-by’s reactions, which range from confused to angry.
“On a day when everyone is proclaiming solidarity with an immigrant group ... we wanted them to feel what it was like to be treated like an Irish immigrant … years ago in this country, and hopefully that would get them to think about the way we treat current immigrant groups,” Margulis told The Detroit Free Press.
This experiment reminded us of the New Orleans restaurant that recently began charging black and white guests different prices for the same meal in an effort to highlight race-based income disparity.
These circumstances aren’t exactly the same, though; for one, the Detroit revelers were probably a few Guinnesses deep and didn’t realize they were part of a social experiment. (Generally, I find it’s best to have rational discussions about immigration and ethnic discrimination when my friends aren’t hopped up on Irish car bombs, but maybe that’s just me.) According to The Detroit Free Press, most bystanders weren’t let in on experiment, so it’s unclear how much they actually learned from the charade.
“Anything that I think that allows people to experience what it feels like to be discriminated against firsthand, I think it’s good. It shocks people into empathy,” Margulis told the paper. Shocking people into empathy seems like a generous term for what happened here; the phrase pissing off a lot of Irish people is probably closer to the truth.