By Heidi Beirich
In the nearly 30 years since the Southern Poverty Law Center has been monitoring the American radical right we’ve seen a major shift in the nature of organized groups that specialize in vilifying certain people because of their race, ethnicity or other characteristic.
In the beginning, they were the usual suspects: Klan factions, neo-Nazi groups, black separatists, racist skinheads and the like.
We’re in a different world today. Hate has gone mainstream. Today, the purveyors of hate don’t always burn crosses or use racial slurs. They might wear suits and ties. They might have sophisticated public relations operations. They might even testify before Congress.
They’re also more likely to be animated by a nativist or white nationalist ideology that sees the “white race” as being under siege by immigrants of color across the Western world. Reflecting this trend, our annual list of hate groups has evolved to include more groups closely linked to white nationalism.
This year, for the first time, we listed the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a nativist think tank that churns out a constant stream of fear-mongering misinformation about Latino immigrants. Predictably, the hate group designation provoked an attack by the group’s executive director, Mark Krikorian, whose March 17 commentary in The Washington Post accused the SPLC of conflating groups like the Klan with groups, like his, that “simply do not share” our political beliefs.
It’s understandable that Krikorian would recoil from being labeled a “hate group.” But the CIS has earned it – and not only because of statements by Krikorian, such as his suggestion after the devastating earthquake in Haiti that the country is “so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough.”
CIS is the brainchild of John Tanton, the father of the modern nativist movement, and part of a network of closely related anti-immigrant groups that Tanton founded. These groups have been responsible for much of the hysteria about immigrants that dominates conservative politics.
Tanton, a retired Michigan ophthalmologist, spent decades at the heart of the white nationalist movement. In addition to his flagship organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), he founded and operated the Social Contract Press, which has published numerous overtly racist tracts, including the rancid novel Camp of the Saints.
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Heidi Beirich leads the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, which publishes the award-winning Intelligence Report and the Hatewatch blog.
Source: The Southern Poverty Law Center