Jason DeParle's Unpatriotic Struggle Against John Tanton And Patriotic Immigration Reform

My first reaction after reading the New York Times 2,900 word Sunday lead article [April 17, 2011]  on the venerable Dr. John Tanton: yawn.

The reporter, Jason DeParle [Email him], had been contacting various figures in the patriotic immigration reform movement about Tanton for months, so it was no surprise. And, while it was in a new venue, the material was old. Numerous lefty magazines, such as In These Times and The Nation  [Greenwashing Nativism, August 16-23, 2010], have profiled Tanton. And vigilante groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center ($PLC to VDARE.com), America's Voice, and The Center for New Community have been smearing Tanton, to whom the movement owes a great debt,  as "The Puppeteer" for years.

Nor was I expecting anything more balanced from the Times. Its editorial board includes former Southern Poverty Law Center lawyer Adam Cohen, and the paper has often recycled SPLC press releases and even reprinted entire reports by the group.

DeParle is infamous for his disgraceful profile of Charles (The Bell Curve) Murray, whom he called the nation's "most dangerous" conservative and who he described as "sweeping, callous, seemingly smug." [Daring Research or 'Social Science Pornography'?: Charles Murray October 09, 1994]

The sole basis of these personal attacks was the fact that the interview was conducted in  an airplane while flying first class. It was later revealed by Murray's wife that he had upgraded both his own and DeParle's flight with frequent flyer miles—for the sole purpose of making the interview easier.

Indeed, given this record, DeParle's piece wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be. Unlike his treatment of Murray, DeParle painted a somewhat sympathetic picture of Tanton as an individual, quoting personal friends who heaped praises upon him. And he reported that Tanton's initial interest in immigration control was rooted in unimpeachably goo-gooish environmental and civic concerns.

This is not to say the piece was fair. It pretty much recycled many of the arguments made in the Southern Poverty Law Center's slanderous attacks on Tanton as the "Puppeteer", combined with taking at face value the SPLC designation of pieces of his correspondence (deposited, with typical good faith, at the University of Michigan, as hateful.

Dr. Tanton, who at the age of 77 is suffering from Parkinson's disease, declined to be interviewed. So DeParle says this "leaves his files to speak for themselves"[The Anti-Immigration Crusader, April 17, 2011]

Of course, while spending three months researching the piece, DeParle could have visited Dr. Tanton's website JohnTanton.org and looked at the front page link "Answering my critics" which addresses most of these supposedly scandalous accusations.

What were these shocking revelations?

The most extreme quote they could actually tie directly to Dr. Tanton's mouth was his use of the phrase "Latin onslaught" to describe immigration (while it sometimes has violent connotations, onslaught can be defined as "an overwhelming outpouring") and the self-evident assertion that "for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." [In a December 10, 1993 letter to Garrett Hardin.]

The rest is the usual repeats of guilt by association taken directly from the Southern Poverty Law center: Tanton took money from the Pioneer Fund (DeParle failed to mention that dozens of universities have as well) which has funded research saying blacks are,  on average, less intelligent than whites (he also failed to mention that the New York Times Sunday Book Review has said as much.) [What Is Intelligence, and Who Has It? By Malcolm W. Browne, October 16, 1994] Tanton also wrote approvingly of American Renaissance's Jared Taylor.

And in the most stretched guilt by association, Tanton "corresponded with Sam G. Dickson, a Georgia lawyer for the Ku Klux Klan, who sits on the board of The Barnes Review, a magazine that, among other things, questions 'the so-called Holocaust.'"

Unless the New York Times wants to claim that anyone who corresponds with a lawyer is responsible for the views and actions of the lawyer's clients, the extent of this accusation is someone who is on the board of some immigration control organizations once wrote a letter to someone who was on the board of publications where someone supposedly denied the Holocaust. (This letter, by the way, was written over fifteen years ago and had nothing to do with the Holocaust, the Klan, or even immigration.)

Off with their heads!

But how does the New York Times apply this standard to the Left?

When the North Carolina Republican Party ran ads that referred to Jeremiah Wright as Obama's "spiritual mentor," and then played a tape of Wright preaching, "'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America" the New York Times ran a staff editorial entitled "A Shameful, Ugly Ad" that opened, "Manipulative. Shameful. Race-baiting."

When Obama finally repudiated Wright, the New York Times bemoaned: "It is an injustice, a legacy of the racist threads of this nation's history, but prominent African-Americans are regularly called upon to explain or repudiate what other black Americans have to say, while white public figures are rarely, if ever, handed that burden."

Dr. Tanton is a 77 year old retired doctor on the board of a non-profit that receives no government funds and has a budget of a few million dollars a year. Barack Obama was the Democratic nominee for president.

Barack Obama attended Rev. Wright's church for 20 years, named his campaign autobiography The Audacity of Hope after a phrase in one of Wright's sermons, referred to him as a "moral compass" and "sounding board", and had planned to have him on his campaign. In contrast, neither Dr. Tanton nor Sam Dickson remembers ever talking to each other.

And of course, Obama's preacher Jeremiah Wright has said things far more radical than anything ever said by Jared Taylor—such as blaming the US government for inventing the AIDS virus "as a means of genocide against people of color," and referring to "white America, the US of KKKA,".

And to properly draw the analogy, Dr. Tanton would be the Rev. Wright to the Barack Obama of NumbersUSA's Roy Beck, Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian, and Fair's Dan Stein's—making the guilt by association smears against these heads of Beltway immigration patriot organizations separated by yet another degree.

As Dr. Tanton is no longer deeply involved in the operation of any of these organizations, they are the real targets of the article.

While DeParle apparently could not find anything that Roy Beck or Dan Stein had said themselves that was "racist", he gleefully pointed that they will not repudiate him. Both heap a great deal of personal praise upon Tanton, though they were both careful to downplay his influence with their groups.

DeParle managed to get disgruntled ex-FAIR employee Patrick Burns to bemoan "The immigration reform movement has to say what it is and what it's not, and it has to say it's not John Tanton." Burns, of course, has not done a thing for patriotic immigration reform movement in the last twenty years.

The Center for Immigration Studies, DeParle writes, "has come closest to criticizing him, writing last year that he had a 'tin ear for the sensitivities of immigration.' (A blogger then attacked the center as undermining 'the patriotic struggle.')"

Though DeParle does not mention me or VDARE.com, the quote came from my article The Tale Of John Tanton: CIS' Krikorian, Kammer Make Fatal Concessions To SPLC [April 7, 2010] and was taken somewhat out of context. What I said was

""The Center for Immigration Studies' backgrounder Immigration and the SPLC: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Invented a Smear, Served La Raza, Manipulated thePress, and Duped its Donors by Jerry Kammer, and the panel about the report that CIS hosted at the National Press Club, included a lot of great material and arguments. But CIS also made fatal concessions that, if accepted, will ultimately obviate the patriotic struggle against the SPLC."

In even fuller context of my article, the biggest "fatal concession" was to not challenge the Politically Correct paradigm—which, by CIS President Mark Krikorian's own estimation regards "racism," undefined, as more taboo than necrophilia and cannibalism—and to accept that the patriotic immigration reform movement must censor itself to prevent, in Roger Conner's words, "even the appearance of bigotry" because "motives matter."

Though DeParle doesn't say it explicitly, the underlying premise of his article is that it is OK to oppose immigration for liberal environmental reasons, but illegitimate to oppose it, not just for racial reasons, but also out of any culturally conservative motives, or with populist tactics. I think this is why he decided to take the words "patriotic struggle" out of context. While there are absolutely no racial connotations, to the New York Times-targeted audience, it sounds like the Tea Parties and Talk Radio.

DeParle's nice statements about Tanton's environmental origins were designed to create the impression that "his evolution — from apostle of centrist restraint to ally of angry populists and a man who increasingly saw immigration through a racial lens" which he says is representative of the entire patriotic immigration reform movement evolution to where now FAIR hosts a number of right wing talk radio hosts in its annual radio event.

But the reason for this shift has absolutely nothing to do with Tanton's supposed evolution, but political reality. As Peter Brimelow noted earlier, a disconnect within the patriotic immigration reform movement is that "its natural constituency is conservative nationalists, but its operatives are basically liberal and centrist and terrified by Pat Buchanan."

Many of movement's operatives are still liberals. But, with few exceptions, they at least recognize that Middle American conservatives are the demographic that opposes mass immigration—and that the Democrats are completely hopeless.

In fact Mark Krikorian has acknowledged that immigration control has become a Republican issue in…the New York Times:

"the vocal support for the Dream Act and other amnesty measures by a Democratic president and Democratic Congressional leadership is actually helpful in clarifying the politics of the issue. It unites most Republicans in opposition (even some who might otherwise be unreliable on immigration) and presents voters with a clearer choice for the future between Republican immigration hawks and Democratic immigration doves. There will continue to be exceptions, but they will remain anomalies, like pro-choice Republicans and pro-gun Democrats, able to hold their heterodox opinions so long as they keep quiet about them."[The Party Lines Grow Clearer, NYT, December 9, 2010]

At the same time, the few liberals who support immigration control are not necessarily politically correct. While DeParle makes it look like FAIR's liberal supporters left them because of the supposed new populist tone, this is simply not the case. Eugene McCarthy wrote a glowing blurb for Peter Brimelow's Alien Nation. FAIR Board member and former Democratic Governor Richard Lamm gave an excellent speech to FAIR on the perils of multiculturalism.

And many of the more populist talk show hosts—even the Birthers—will be even more emphatic that they do not care about race or even legal immigration levels.

As DeParle himself notes, the reason why liberals oppose immigration control is that "most liberal groups saw immigrants, even illegal ones, as minorities to be protected, rather than economic rivals. Unions saw potential members; Democrats saw voters." He did not say that any of these groups dispute the negative impact that immigration has on the environment, minorities, or the working class.

The unfortunate truth is that most liberals, especially the types at the New York Times or Southern Poverty Law Center, are more concerned about demonizing conservatives than actually helping the environment or even racial minorities.

Over at CIS's blog, Jerry Kammer's response to the DeParle piece has been to up his criticism of Tanton (calling his actions "politically poisonous" and his some of his statements "disgraceful") while bemoaning that DeParle did not give sufficient attention to the "non-nativist" (i.e. left wing) reasons to oppose mass immigration. .[Deconstructing the New York Times, CIS, April 22, 2011]

By making these arguments, Kammer once again is conceding that left wing opposition to illegal immigration is somehow more legitimate than the concerns of Middle American Tea Partiers.

If the New York Times wants to blind-quote me again: Kammer's concession will once again undermine "the patriotic struggle."

Alexander Hart (email him) is a conservative journalist.