The Puppeteer - a racist nativist hate attack by Southern Poverty Law Center on Dr. John Tanton

In the Summer of 2002, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published a hit piece on John Tanton, MD in its Intelligence Report. Below are excerpts from the article. You can read John Tanton's response in The Puppeteer Replies.

The organized anti-immigration 'movement,' increasingly in bed with racist hate groups, is dominated by one man, John Tanton.

...The meeting with Tancredo and Bilbray - and the entire lobbying operation in mid-February - was masterminded by NumbersUSA, an anti-immigration group that had recently opened a "government relations office" in a three-story, red-brick Victorian near the Capitol.
 
NumbersUSA hosted an afternoon open house at its plush new digs, where the lobbyists relaxed, nibbled on catered food, and conversed with the leaders and other officials of key anti-immigration organizations.
 
Patrick McHugh of the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which purports to be a squeaky clean think tank that rejects racism, was there pressing the flesh along with Barbara Coe, head of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, who repeatedly referred to Mexicans - as she has for years - as "savages."
 
The Citizens Informer, a white supremacist tabloid put out by the Council of Conservative Citizens hate group, was available.
 
...To be sure, this was no grassroots effort. Nor is NumbersUSA, in any sense of the word, a grassroots organization.
 
Despite attempts to appear otherwise, it is a wholly owned subsidiary of U.S. Inc., a sprawling, nonprofit funding conduit that has spawned three anti-immigration groups and underwrites several others, many of which were represented at the NumbersUSA conclave.
 
What's more, this interlocking network of supposedly independent organizations is almost entirely the handiwork of one man, a Michigan ophthalmologist named John H. Tanton.
 
A four-month investigation by the Intelligence Report, conducted in the aftermath of the September terrorist attacks, found that the appearance of an array of groups with large membership bases is nothing more than a mirage.
 
In fact, the vast majority of American anti-immigration groups - more than a dozen in all - were either formed, led, or in other ways made possible through Tanton's efforts.
 
The principal funding arm of the movement, U.S. Inc., is a Tanton creation, and millions of dollars in financing comes from just a few of his allies, far-right foundations like those controlled by the family of Richard Mellon Scaife.
 
Moreover, tax returns suggest that claims of huge numbers of members - in the case of one group, more than 250,000 - are geometric exaggerations put forward to create a false picture of a "movement" that politicians should pay attention to.
 
Finally, even as activists court increasing numbers of national politicians in the wake of Sept. 11, the Report's investigation reveals that they are moving in large numbers into the arms of hate groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens - a 15,000-member organization whose website recently described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity."
 
...Although that is hard to measure, the caucus website now carries a prominent link to an outfit called American Patrol - a racist hate group run by Californian Glenn Spencer.
 
...It is not often that a single individual is largely responsible for creating an entire political movement. But John Tanton can claim without exaggeration that he is the founding father of America's modern anti-immigration movement.
 
In addition to directly controlling four prominent immigration restriction groups, Tanton has been critical in establishing or helping fund several other anti-immigration groups.
 
He serves on the board of the group with the largest membership, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which he founded 23 years ago.
 
...Raising a family and practicing medicine in Petoskey, Mich., Tanton started out as a passionate environmentalist. In the 1960s and early 1970s, he was a leader in the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club and other mainstream environmental groups.
 
But Tanton soon became fixated on population control, seeing environmental degradation as the inevitable result of overpopulation.
 
When the indigenous birth rate fell below replacement level in the United States, his preoccupation turned to immigration. And this soon led him to race.
 
Tanton had something akin to a conversion when he came across The Camp of the Saints, a lurid, racist novel written by Frenchman Jean Raspail that depicts an invasion of the white, Western world by a fleet of starving, dark-skinned refugees.
 
Tanton helped get the novel published in English and soon was promoting what he considered the book's prophetic argument.
 
...And so he began to develop a counter-force. After 1979, when he co-founded FAIR, Tanton launched "a whole array of organizations that serve the overall ideological and political battle plan to halt immigration - even if those groups have somewhat differing politics," explained Rick Swartz, the pro-immigration activist who founded the National Immigration Forum in 1982.
 
"Tanton is the puppeteer behind this entire movement," Swartz said. "He is the organizer of a significant amount of its financing, and is both the major recruiter of key personnel and the intellectual leader of the whole network of groups."
 
...In 1982, Tanton created U.S. Inc. to raise and channel funds to his anti-immigration network. The following year, he created his second major vehicle, U.S. English, which made a cultural argument - that the English language was in mortal danger of being made irrelevant.
 
And later, in 1985, FAIR would spin off yet another major Tanton organization - the Center for Immigration Studies, which presented itself as an impartial think tank and later even sought to distance itself from the organization that had birthed it.
 
Today, the Center regularly dispatches experts to testify on Capitol Hill, and last year it was awarded a six-figure research contract by the U.S. Census Bureau.
 
In the 1980s, U.S. Inc. provided millions of dollars to FAIR, U.S. English, the Center for Immigration Studies and several similar groups - the 21st Century Fund, Population-Environment Balance, and the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is now a litigation arm of FAIR.
 
During the 1990s, Tanton's U.S. Inc. adopted a new tactic, creating programs called NumbersUSA, The Social Contract Press (which publishes The Camp of the Saints), and Pro English.
 
...There were failures, too. In 1996, Tanton helped to energize an effort to get the Sierra Club, a mainstream environmental group whose Population Committee he had headed during the 1970s, to pass an anti-immigration plank. [See SUSPS.org.]
 
A major battle ensued, with many Sierra Club members seeing the proposed plank as fundamentally racist and out of line with the group's charter. The plank was finally rejected by 60% of those voting - but that may not be the end of it.
 
...Between 1985 and 1994, FAIR accepted $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund - an outfit once described by eugenics expert Barry Mehler as a "neo-Nazi organization, tied to the Nazi eugenics program in the 1930s, that has never wavered in its commitment to eugenics and ideas of human and racial inferiority and superiority."
 
...More damaging, however, was the leak, shortly before a 1988 English Only referendum in Arizona, of the so-called WITAN memos written by Tanton and the then-executive director of FAIR, Roger Conner. (WITAN was short for the Old English term "witenangemot," meaning "council of wise men." The memos were meant for Tanton colleagues who met at retreats to discuss immigration.)
 
The memos were replete with derogatory references to Latinos, reflecting a kind of entrenched bigotry that had only been suspected before. They complained mightily of the high Hispanic birth rate suggesting that Latin American immigrants would bring political corruption to the United States.
 
The memos included a demographic punchline that depicted Hispanics as hyperactive breeders and revolted many readers: "[P]erhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down."
 
Linda Chavez, executive director of Tanton creation U.S. English and later a prominent Republican conservative columnist, quit over what she saw as Tanton's bigoted, anti-Latino bias.
 
So did several well-known U.S. English board members, including advisory board member Walter Cronkite, who called the memos "embarrassing."
 
Eventually Tanton left, although he complained he was being smeared as a racist, and went on to form a replacement organization - English Language Advocates, later renamed Pro English.
 
More to the point, perhaps, the WITAN memos spelled out the strategy that Tanton would continue to follow for years. "We have spent some time, money and effort trying to build a membership for purposes of political validity and power," one memo said, "but this has not been a major emphasis."
 
...More and more key leaders in the Tanton network seemed to abandon all caution when it came to joining forces with like-minded white supremacist activists.
 
That summer, The Social Contract Press released a special issue of its journal, The Social Contract (published by Tanton), that was entitled "Europhobia: The Hostility Toward European-Descended Americans."
 
The lead article was written by John Vinson, head of the Tanton-supported American Immigration Control Foundation, and argued that "multiculturalism" was replacing "successful Euro-American culture" with "dysfunctional Third World cultures."
 
Tanton himself elaborated on Vinson's remarks, saying an "unwarranted hatred and fear" of white Americans was developing. The main culprits, in Tanton's view, were immigrants and their ideological allies, the "multiculturalists."
 
...The tax returns reveal another hidden aspect of many anti-immigration groups - their heavy reliance on funding by right-wing foundations.
 
...Since 1998, the links have been strengthened between key anti-immigration activists and groups and white supremacist organizations - in particular, the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) and American Renaissance (also known by the name of its parent, the New Century Foundation).
 
In 1999, the CCC hosted a panel on immigration that featured four key anti-immigrant activists - Vinson, Spencer, Population-Environment Balance's Virginia Abernethy and Wayne Lutton, who had begun to edit The Social Contract, a Tanton publication, just a year earlier.
 
More recently, Lutton joined the editorial board of the Citizens Informer - and also became a trustee of the racist New Century Foundation, parent of American Renaissance magazine.
 
...Two weeks after the NumbersUSA lobbying trip to the offices of Tom Tancredo and a series of other congressmen, Glenn Spencer, head of the Tanton-funded anti-immigrant American Patrol, was one of the main speakers at a conference hosted by Jared Taylor of American Renaissance magazine.
 
Joining Spencer, who warned his audience that a second Mexican-American war would erupt in 2003, was an array of key extremists:
* Mark Weber, a principal of the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review;
* White power web maven, former Klansman and ex-con Don Black;
* Gordon Lee Baum, "chief executive officer" of the CCC; and
* several members of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
 
Neo-Nazis like those of the National Alliance were not among those who lobbied Tancredo and the other politicians during the NumbersUSA event two weeks earlier.
 
...There is a real threat that members of Congress - many of whom are rushing to become involved in immigration issues in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks - may be taken in by the propagandists of the racist right.
 
Opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Americans believe that immigration needs to be cut below current levels, although that does not imply that they support the ideas of white supremacists or other bigots.
 
...The danger is not that immigration levels are debated by Americans, but that the debate is controlled by bigots and extremists whose views are anathema to the ideals on which this country was founded.

You can read John Tanton's response to the above accusations in The Puppeteer Replies.

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