The Tale Of John Tanton: CIS' Krikorian, Kammer Make Fatal Concessions To SPLC

The Center for Immigration Studies' backgrounder Immigration and the SPLC: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Invented a Smear, Served La Raza, Manipulated the Press, 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 make fatal concessions that, if accepted, will ultimately obviate the patriotic struggle against the SPLC.

Most of these problems come to light in the CIS document's treatment of John Tanton.

As Kammer explains, John Tanton is a retired ophthalmologist who first got involved in immigration because of environmental concerns. He started state and local chapters of Planned Parenthood, the Audubon Society, and The Sierra Club, where he would become the chair of their National Population Committee from 1971-1974.

The Sierra Club's abandonment of immigration reduction was a major reason why Tanton helped start the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Tanton later helped secure grants and funding for the Center for Immigration Studies and Numbers USA, though he never had any position of influence with them once they began.

FAIR, CIS, and Numbers are the three best-funded and most visible Beltway organizations in the patriotic immigration reform movement (though their combined budgets are far less than 10% of the $PLC's.)

The fact that Tanton had some role in the formation of these three groups has made him Public Enemy Number One to the Open Borders lobby. They've gone over his entire life with a magnifying glass, blowing every minor Politically Incorrect quote out of context, manufacturing other smears out of thin air.

The SPLC ran a cover story in its Intelligence Report portraying Tanton as "The Puppeteer" secretly pulling the strings of the patriotic immigration reform movement. In contrast, Kammer uses former FAIR executive director Roger Conner's appellation of the Johnny Appleseedof the movement—planting the seeds of organizations, but letting them bloom and grow themselves.

This is description is apt. The only organization Tanton actually controls is the U.S. Foundation, whose main project is The Social Contract Press,publisher of a quarterly journal that deals with environmental and immigration issues.

The SPLC got a hold of Tanton's correspondence, which he gave to the University of Michigan Library. But in over 20 years of communication the "most remarkable" letter they could find was an "endorsement of a proposal from another friend—Peter Brimelow, who would later start a racist anti-immigration website [VDARE.COM note: This means VDARE.COM!]—that FAIR hire Sam Francis to edit its newsletter. That proposal, which Tanton sent to FAIR's Dan Stein on Nov. 3, 1995, was made two months after The Washington Times fired Francis for racism." [The Tanton Files, Intelligence Report, Winter 2008]

Besides the fact that this should not be scandalous, if Tanton is such a"puppeteer," then FAIR would have followed his suggestion, which they did not. [VDARE.COM note: For Peter Brimelow's comment, seehere].

At the National Press Club, while acknowledging Tanton helped found the modern patriotic immigration reform movement, Kammer claimed "he has also helped to undermine that movement."

Tanton  has a "tin ear for the sensitivities of immigration", Kammer claimed, and his "openness to all points of view has shaped some decisions that are regarded as tactless and self-defeating even by some who admire him for his commitment to efforts to protect the environment and reduce immigration."

Kammer said at the panel, "In an arena that requires the ability to frame issues in a way that broadens consensus, he sometimes speaks with a freewheeling bluntness that even those who admire him find upsetting. Some say that Tanton has shown a tendency to be unnecessarily provocative, a tendency that some have used to change the topic from immigration to Tanton himself. Tanton has become the great distraction, the great diversion."

So Kammer does not throw Tanton under the bus exactly—but he accuses him of jaywalking without looking both ways.

This is a completely unfair accusation. The bulk of Tanton's "unnecessarily provocative" statements were made years ago before Tanton became such a target, and (as Kammer does a great job in demonstrating) they are pretty reasonable when put in proper context.

Tanton made one decision that was imprudent—deciding to put his correspondence public. I bring this up only to say that if the $PLC went through every single press statement and decades of communication ofanyone, I'm sure they'd to find plenty of "blunt" and "provocative"statements to take out of context.

Outside of these distorted statements Kammer points to "Tanton's efforts to raise funds for FAIR led him to continue to accept funding from the Pioneer Fund—a group that supported eugenics research—well after some associates urged him to cut ties to the group."

This final phrase makes clear that no one had any initial reservations when FAIR first accepted Pioneer Fund money in 1985. Back then, the witch hunting against immigration reform patriots did not extend to attacking donors. Whether FAIR stopped taking Pioneer's money in 1986 as compared to 1994 makes no difference to the smear mongers.

The only other Tanton "mistake" Kammer pointed out: hiring Wayne Lutton to edit the Social Contract.

What makes Lutton so bad? He had once been "worked in an advisory capacity for the Council of Conservative Citizens, "which means that he had, for a short time served on the editorial advisory board of their publication Citizens Informer when his friend Sam Francis edited it. And he had been hired by Tanton long before that.

But at the time, the CCC regularly hosted prominent congressmen, senators and governors, such as Jesse Helms, Bob Barr, Trent Lott, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Guy Hunt, Kirk Fordice, Roger Wicker, and even Richard Gephardt. Since then, the usual suspects have led a smear campaign which resulted in then-RNC Chair Jim Nicholson demanding that all GOP officials cut ties with the Council.

But, as with taking Pioneer Fund money, being marginally associated with the Council of Conservative Citizens was not seen as being so evil until well after Lutton joined the editorial advisory board of the Citizens Informer. (Ann Coulter was attacked by the SPLC for making much the same point in her "surpriseNew York Times bestseller Guilty.)

Kammer expects Tanton to have anticipated the unprecedented smear campaign against him before it started.

How does one allegedly Politically Incorrect employee and a few trivial statements taken out of context help undermine the movement? Kammer's answer is to quote Roger Conner:

"Immigration touches so many sensitivities and stirs so many passions that it requires careful handling by those who seek to change policy, Conner said. 'It is not enough to 'be racially inclusive in your heart,' he said. 'You have to avoid even the appearance of bigotry.'

"Conner has a blunt message to those who complain of a double standard: 'You're right—it isn't fair. Get over it.' 'Motives matter on immigration,' he continues. 'The risk of a big-tent philosophy was—and is—that if you don't explicitly exclude the fringe groups from your tent, you can ruin it for the majority of Americans—those of us who are just as opposed to intolerance or racism as we are to excessive immigration.'"

But this puritanical attitude could ruin the patriotic immigration reform movement.

No doubt Beltway groups such as FAIR, CIS, and Numbers USA do valuable work in large part due to their ability to be included in the conversations by the Main Stream Media and on Capitol Hill. No doubt this is an important service that more outspoken groups, like us at VDARE.com, could not perform. For this reason, I usually defend these Beltway organizations when some of my more purist friends accuse them of being squeamish. Sometimes Political Correctness is the correct politics.

But discretion is one thing—defeatism is another. Conceding the basic charge of the self described watch dog organizations will ultimately undercut not only many perfectly legitimate organizations and individuals who dare to take Politically Incorrect positions in the immigration debates, but also ultimately the Beltway immigration groups themselves.

This was well demonstrated in the Q&A session of the CIS panel. Erin Rosa from the far left Campus Progress prefaced her question by saying that she was not interested in guilt by association, but asked CIS to defend the statement "if small time con-artists and Third-World gold diggers can obtain green cards with so little resistance, then surely terrorists can (and have) done the same" that appeared in one of its publications on marriage fraud. [Hello, I Love You, Won't You Tell Me Your Name: Inside the Green Card Marriage Phenomenon, David Seminara, Center for Immigration Studies, November 2008]

Krikorian responded that the backgrounder was written by a Foreign Service officer who did not work for CIS at the time and that, while he had "cut out a lot of the colorful language" that appeared in theoriginal submission, "that one got by us."

While noting that the statement was technically true, Krikorian continued to backtrack:

"Would I have worded it that way if I had written it? Probably not…This is a very different thing from being you know, equivalent to the Aryan Nations. If you want to deal with copy editing and how many angels should be described as dancing on the head of a pin, well that's fine. But we're talking about minutiae here."

Rosa followed up:

"The 'Third World gold diggers' kind of comment, I mean, do you think that kind of incendiary rhetoric that insinuates that all immigrants are from the Third World, or that they're all interested in money, do you think that works to foster, what [the panelists] were talking about, a 'healthy debate?'"

Krikorian capitulated: "Looking back over it, I would have cut that out as well or reworded it…it was colorful language that was too colorful. Um, but, is it beyond the pale, I would say no." [Calling Immigrants 'Third-World Gold Diggers' Was Just 'Colorful Language,' Anti-Immigration Group Assures, Erin Rosa, CampusProgress Blog, March 18th, 2010]

 CIS deserved this embarrassment. By distancing itself from Tanton's"blunt" language, it inevitably opened itself to this attack for failing to sufficiently de-color its own work.

Instead of playing defense, patriotic immigration reformers need to strike back. If Krikorian had been up on the news, he could have not only have stood by the statement, but have said how prescient it was.The very day of the press conference, Colleen La Rose aka "Jihad Jane" was indicted for, among other things, recruiting women with Western passports to marry terrorists so they could easily enter America.

At the National Press Club event, Krikorian happened to call on Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media next. Before Kincaid asked his question, he responded to the previous exchange by pointing out that Campus Progress had recently hired Van Jones and quoted some of his much more "colorful" anti-white diatribes.

The audience erupted in laughter—showing how going on the offensive works better than backtracking.

Kammer preferred to take the high road. In the press conference he called La Raza president Janet Murguia "a wonderful person from a tremendous family that I regard as an all-American family from Kansas, with proud roots as Mexican Americans."

Needless to say, La Raza and the SPLC do not extend patriotic immigration reformers the same courtesy.

And sometimes it is necessary to stir up passions. Everyone agrees that angry Americans defeated amnesty in 2006 and 2007 by shutting down the Senate switchboard with their calls. Groups like Numbers USA deserve enormous credit for this—but it would not have been possible had it not been complemented by talk radio show hosts, cable news commentators webzines and bloggers. They made very "incendiary,""blunt," and "colorful" arguments. And it worked—it inspired Americans to take action.

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo was undoubtedly the most effective legislator against amnesty. He did it by being blunt. If John Tanton has a"tin ear" for worrying about the "sensitivities" of immigration,Tancredo has a titanium ear. But it worked.

This is not to suggest that CIS needs to use this language—I agree that think tanks should focus on facts and analysis and leave the fiery rhetoric up to other commentators. However, fiery rhetoric is still necessary. It should not be denounced.

The second problem with the Conner/Kammer method of defending against the SPLC is their insistence that instead of fighting the double standards and the anti-racist hysteria, we should simply avoid any taint of racism ourselves. This is simply impractical.

Indeed, Mark Krikorian himself began his comments at the press conference with this very insightful observation:

"The accusation of racism is the most serious charge you can make against someone in modern America, comparable to accusations in the past of being a leper, a witch or a communist. The charge of racism is so incendiary that even mass murderer Jeffrey Dahmer felt it necessary to deny that his crimes were motivated by it. This man, a cannibalistic, necrophiliac killer, went to great lengths to assure a relative of one of his victims that, in her words, quote, 'He was not a prejudiced person. It wasn't out of race that he killed these young men,' unquote."

In a political culture where opposition to "racism"—whatever that means—is so hysteric, it is impossible to actually win on an issue like immigration without changing that culture. Conner's suggests we should just "get over it" and then do everything possible to "avoid even the appearance of bigotry" is a recipe for self-neutralization.

One can only look at the conservative Establishment, which perpetually panderspurges, andapologizes to eliminate any hint of racism—but still continually faces fanatical accusations even when dealing with completely non-racial issues like Health Care.

Maybe it is prudent for Beltway organizations to keep an arm's distance from groups like the Pioneer FundAmerican Renaissance, and Council of Conservative Citizens. However, the truth is that these groups have been unfairly smeared by the SPLC and their cohorts.  And when no one defended them, the SPLC smelled blood and went after more politic groups like FAIR and CIS.

Although they don't say it explicitly, the gestalt of Conner and Kammer's approach is that we should exclude people who are concerned with racial balance—with the fact that mass immigration is changing America from what was a 90% white country 40 years ago into minority white country in 32 years, or sooner if we further liberalize our laws.

Many immigration patriots are honestly not concerned about this. And I agree it is a very controversial position to take. But beyond the fact that I believe the demographic threat posed by Third World immigration is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed publicly, it is simply bad politics to ignore it.

The most popular books on immigration in the last 20 years are Peter Brimelow's Alien Nation, Michelle Malkin's Invasion, Pat Buchanan'sDeath of the West and State of Emergency, Victor Davis Hanson'sMexifornia, and Samuel Huntington's Who Are We.

Save Invasion, every single one of these books dealt with the ethnic and/or cultural shifts caused specifically by Hispanic immigration. Hanson and to some extent Huntington argued that we could solve these problems without a European majority, but Brimelow and Buchanan did not.

Whatever you think of these men, they both motivated thousands of people to our cause.

I can honestly say that I've never met anyone outside of the beltway who has said "I am against mass immigration, but I'm turned off by all these racists involved".

But there are many cases, inside and outside the Beltway, where liberal arguments against immigration turned people off patriotic immigration reform.

For example, along with John Tanton, many of the founders of immigration reduction movement were environmentalists primarily concerned about overpopulation. Just as the SPLC uses the racism allegation, pseudo-conservative immigration enthusiasts like Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed use the same guilt by association techniques to con naïve conservative Christians into thinking immigration control somehow has something to do with abortion.

This stunt convinced/gave cover for many conservative congressmen tovote against enacting the Jordan Commission recommendations.

While few admit this publicly, dozens of people have told me that they don't mind immigrants who they think work harder, complain less, and/or are more law abiding than African Americans. This is especially true in the South and other places that are populated by lots of blacks and relatively few Hispanics. Whenever I bring up figures about African American unemployment caused by Hispanic immigration, they respond that this is just because African Americans are lazy. Immigration reformers who argue against displacement, much less argue that immigrants are taking affirmative action set-asides from blacks, turns many Americans off.

Personally, I am concerned about the environmental effects ofoverpopulation and the wages of African Americans.

However, if we are that concerned that some people's motives for immigration control will turn off potential converts, we might as well exclude these liberal arguments as well.

The Center for Immigration Studies did a service by helping shed light on the SPLC's agenda and its unscrupulous tactics in accusing all immigration patriots of racism.

But as long as we do not challenge the claim that being a "racist" is worse than "a leper, a witch or a communist," then we will never defeat them.

Alexander Hart (email him) is a conservative journalist.