An array of right-wing foundations and think tanks support efforts to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable.
Around the country, ideas that originated on the hard right or in the fevered imaginations of conspiracy theorists are finding their way into the mainstream. In a number of cases, these ideas have become commonplace in American minds.
Are black people inherently less intelligent and more prone to criminality than whites? Are Catholics incapable of self-government? Did the Civil Rights Act of 1964 strip Americans of their freedoms? Does a tiny cabal of Jewish families control international banking? Do interracial relationships have the effect of weakening both races? Are there natural ruling elites who should be governing society?
These are the kinds of ideas that are being popularized today.
How do ideas that once were denounced as racist, bigoted, unfair, or just plain mean-spirited get transmitted into mainstream discussions and political debates? Through a wide array of political and social networks. Such networks are a robust part of democracy in action, and include media outlets, think tanks, pressure groups, funders and leaders.
In the 1960s, for example, networks based in churches and on college campuses mobilized people to support civil rights legislation. But it is important to remember that backlash movements also formed to oppose equality. In the 1950s and 1960s, segregationists and white supremacists mobilized to block the demands of the civil rights movement.
Today, there are still political and social networks that seek to undermine full equality for all Americans. Their messages are spread using the standard tools: prejudice, fear, disdain, misinformation, trivialization, patronizing stereotypes, demonization and even scare-mongering conspiracy theories. While many of the groups within these networks describe themselves as mainstream — and many disagree with one another — they all have helped spread bigoted ideas into American life.
What follows are descriptions of a number of these institutions, organized alphabetically, that focus on their roles in spreading bigotry.
Organizations listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center are indicated by an asterisk.
The American Cause
American Enterprise Institute
American Immigration Control Foundation*
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
Castle Rock Foundation
Center for American Unity
Center for the Study of Popular Culture
Federation for American Immigration Reform
Free Congress Foundation
Institute for the Study of Man
Ludwig von Mises Institute
New Century Foundation*
John M. Olin Foundation
The American Cause is a foundation founded and run by commentator and nativist firebrand Patrick Buchanan, a three-time presidential contender who may have done more than almost any other individual to popularize white supremacist and Christian nationalist ideas in America.
Founded in 1993 to promote "national sovereignty, economic patriotism, limited government and individual freedom," the organization is actually an echo chamber for Buchanan, who has long been disdainful of non-white immigration. In one 1984 column, Buchanan wrote that the issue of immigration has "almost nothing to do with economics, almost everything to do with race and ethnicity. If British subjects, fleeing a depression, were pouring into this country through Canada, there would be few alarms. The central objection to the present flood of illegals is they are not English-speaking white people from Western Europe; they are Spanish-speaking brown and black people from Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean."
Buchanan argues that democracy can only work in societies populated by a single ethnic or racial group and culture. His recent book The Death of the West bemoans the rise in non-white, non-Christian immigrants, and uses information from the racist New Century Foundation* to spread claims that blacks have an inherently more criminal nature than whites. He is also given to conspiracy theories about the New World Order, secular humanist plots and powerful Jewish elites. Buchanan's latest project is a magazine, The American Conservative.
Founded in 1943, the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is one of the most influential conservative think tanks in America. While its roots are in pro-business values, AEI in recent years has sponsored scholars whose views are seen by many as bigoted or even racist.
For example, Dinesh D'Souza, the author of The End of Racism, holds an Olin Foundation research fellowship at AEI. D'Souza has suggested that civil rights activists actually help perpetuate racial tensions and division in the United States, and has even called for the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. After his book was published, black conservatives Robert Woodson and Glenn Loury denounced it — Woodson released a statement saying it "fans the flames of racial animosity" — and broke their own ties with AEI.
Another AEI-sponsored scholar, Charles Murray, is more controversial. Murray, who has a Bradley Foundation research fellowship at AEI, is the co-author of The Bell Curve, a book that argues that blacks and Latinos are genetically inferior to whites and that most social welfare and affirmative action programs are doomed to failure as a result. The book, described as a reheated "stale stew of racial eugenics" by historian Godfrey Hodgson, cites the work of some 16 researchers financed by the racist Pioneer Fund*.
The American Immigration Control Foundation, founded in 1983, has been headed since 1990 by John Vinson, a conspiracy-oriented Christian nationalist. Vinson wrote the AICF-published Immigration and Nation: A Biblical View, in which he claims that it is against God's will to weaken the "divinely unique" character of every nation.
In the case of America, Vinson makes clear in the booklet, that character belongs to English-speaking white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. In fact, Vinson attacks Catholics who came to America in the 19th century, claiming that because they did not understand God's plan, they foolishly supported a strong federal government and high taxes.
He says that assimilating "the races of the world" is "an impossible task," and argues that current immigration patterns may "destroy our nationhood." Vinson also attacks the "spiritual Balkanization" he says immigration of non-Christians promotes.
Closely tied to AICF is the lobbying group Americans for Immigration Control*, publisher of the newsletter Immigration Watch and distributor of an array of anti-immigrant books including the grotesquely racist French novel, The Camp of the Saints.
The Bradley Foundation was created with $290 million from the 1985 sale of a Milwaukee electrical parts business started in 1903 by brothers Lynde and Harry Bradley. With a mission of "strengthening American democratic capitalism and the institutions, principles and values that sustain and nurture it," the foundation funds a wide range of activities, including the arts, health care and education. But it has also funded an array of right-wing organizations, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, the Free Congress Foundation and the Rockford Institute. The Free Congress Foundation has received more than $6 million, according to MediaTransparency.com.
The Castle Rock Foundation is controlled by members of the Coors family, whose fortune stems from the beer business. The foundation, whose board includes family members William K. (president), Peter H. (vice president), Jeffrey H. (treasurer), and Holland H. (trustee), has awarded grants to the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and the far-right Free Congress Foundation.
The older Coors Foundation, which funded the Free Congress Foundation and similar groups for many years, no longer makes grants to ultraconservative groups.
Long-time anti-immigrant activist and author Peter Brimelow is the president of the Center for American Unity, a Virginia nonprofit foundation "dedicated to preserving our historical unity as Americans into the 21st Century." On the surface, the center is concerned with promoting English as a common language, but a bit of digging reveals concerns that non-white, Catholic, and Spanish-speaking immigrants are polluting America.
This is most obvious in the foundation's VDARE project, which is named after Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World in 1587. Brimelow says that he once planned to bestow Dare's name upon "the heroine of a projected fictional concluding chapter in Alien Nation [his anti-immigration book], about the flight of the last white family in Los Angeles."
Reviving a favorite theme of early nativists and the Ku Klux Klan, Brimelow attacks 19th-century Catholic immigrants for being supposedly subservient to popes and monarchs, and thus incompatible with democratic self-rule.
The VDARE Web site also contains an archive of columns by Sam Francis, the immigrant-bashing editor of the newspaper of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens*. In his columns, Francis rails against the "emerging Hispanic majority," plugs conspiracy theories, and promotes white racial consciousness.
In April, VDARE took one more step toward the racist right, publishing an essay on its Web site by white supremacist Jared Taylor that dismisses "the fantasy of racial equality," claims the Civil Rights Act of 1964 "stripped Americans of the right to make free decisions," and says that "[b]lacks, in particular, riot with little provocation," unlike the far more peaceable white race.
David Horowitz, a former leftist born again as a right-wing conservative, founded the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in 1989, and is also the editor of the Net publication FrontPageMagazine.com.
Although he makes much of his past working for civil rights for blacks and others, he more recently has blamed slavery on "black Africans ... abetted by dark-skinned Arabs" — a selective rewriting of history. He also claims that "there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians — Englishmen and Americans — created one." That, of course, is false. Critics note that Horowitz is ignoring everything from the slave revolt led by Spartacus against the Romans and Moses' rebellion against the Pharaoh to the role of American blacks in the abolition movement.
He has attacked minority "demands for special treatment" as "only necessary because some blacks can't seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within reach of others," rejecting the idea that they could be the victims of lingering racism.
Founded in 1978 by Michigan activist John Tanton of U.S. Inc. (see below), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) blames immigrants for a host of social problems including crime, poverty, disease, urban sprawl, traffic jams, school overcrowding, racial tensions and potential terrorism.
Between 1985 and 1994, FAIR accepted some $1.2 million from the racist Pioneer Fund*, until bad publicity apparently convinced its leaders to desist. Another Pioneer Fund grant recipient, Garrett Hardin, was for years a FAIR adviser and remains a "board member emeritus." Hardin has opposed sending food aid to Africa because, he argues, that only encourages overpopulation. "Tragically, flights of food that save lives increase fertility — which increases the mistreatment of the environment." He also told OMNI magazine, "Looking at history with an open mind, you'll see that infanticide has been used as an effective population control."
FAIR has run ads that attacked then-Sen. Spencer Abraham (R.-Mich.), an Arab American, for supporting more visas for those with high-technology skills. The ads said Abraham's proposal would make it easier for Middle Eastern terrorists to strike, sparking widespread condemnation of what was seen as a race-based attack. On FAIR's board of advisors is Pat Choate, who helped white nationalist Patrick Buchanan take over the Reform Party prior to Buchanan's run for president in 2000.
In 1974, ultra-conservative political strategist Paul Weyrich and beer magnate Joseph Coors co-founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, which evolved into the Free Congress Foundation (FCF). This came after the Heritage Foundation they had earlier helped start moved too far into the mainstream for Weyrich's taste. FCF received funding from the Coors and later the Castle Rock Foundation, but even more so from far-right foundations controlled by Richard Mellon Scaife and his family.
In 1987, Weyrich commissioned Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda, which became the script for what has become known as the "culture wars." Four years later, FCF staffers William Lind and William Marshner edited Cultural Conservatism: Theory and Practice.
Rejecting right-wing libertarianism as materialistic, "cultural conservatism" saw itself as based on Judeo-Christian ethics and at first concentrated its fire on gays and feminists, depicting them as sinners. But FCF soon expanded into conspiracy theories about sinister plots, themes reflected in two FCF-sponsored books, The Homosexual Agenda and Gays, AIDS and You.
Race surfaced in 1999, when Lind wrote that, "The real damage to race relations in the South came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won." Had that happened, Lind added, "at least part of North America would still stand for Western culture, Christianity and an appreciation of the differences between ladies and gentlemen." Instead, when the South lost, the "official American state ideology" became the federally imposed "cultural Marxism of Political Correctness." In a speech to a Holocaust denial outfit last year, Lind blamed "cultural Marxism" on a tiny group of German Jews.
Most remarkable of all, one of Weyrich's long-time advisers on European-American issues has been Laszlo Pasztor Sr. The aging Pasztor, an ardent foe of communism, was active with the Hungarian Arrow Cross in the 1940s, when it was collaborating with the Nazis. Pasztor says he did not participate in the anti-Semitic violence promoted by the Arrow Cross Party. Pasztor currently has office space in Washington, D.C., provided by the Coalitions for America, a group chaired by Weyrich and located in the same building as the Free Congress Foundation, and described by it as its "sister organization."
The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of Man has long been headed by Roger Pearson, one of the most virulent race scientists operating today. For some three decades, Pearson has been pushing discredited pseudo-anthropological claims about racial Aryanism that are similar to those of the German Nazis. In 1966, Pearson wrote, "If a nation with a more advanced, more specialised, or in any way superior set of genes mingles with, instead of exterminating, an inferior tribe, then it commits racial suicide, and destroys the work of thousands of years of biological isolation and natural selection."
He claims that the demise of ancient Greece was the result of a "decline in Nordic blood," adding that "Nordic decay was heralded in by ideas of 'enlightenment' and individualism." Pearson has used pseudonyms to make some of his most unvarnished remarks.
According to The Funding of Scientific Racism, a 2002 book by scholar William Tucker, Pearson has claimed that Nordics are "the very peak of evolutionary progress," far removed from "the ape-like appearance of our original ancestors" who were more like "Negroes and monkeys."
Pearson also publishes the Journal of Indo-European Studies, which focuses on the roots of "Aryan"-based languages, and the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies. Wayne Lutton — who previously wrote for the racist American Mercury and the Holocaust-denying Journal of Historical Review — also has been a frequent contributor to the latter Pearson journal.
Pearson co-edits a third journal, the eugenicist Mankind Quarterly, with Richard Lynn, who like Pearson's institute has been financed by the racist Pioneer Fund*. Lynn's work, including a study on "Positive Correlations between Head Size and IQ," is cited in The Bell Curve.
"What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the population of incompetent cultures," Lynn wrote in 1972. "But we do need to think realistically in terms of the 'phasing out' of such peoples. ... To think otherwise is mere sentimentality."
The Ludwig von Mises Institute, founded in 1982 by Llewellyn Rockwell Jr. and still headed by him, is a major center promoting libertarian political theory and the Austrian School of free market economics, pioneered by the late economist Ludwig von Mises. It publishes seven journals, has printed more than 100 books, and offers scholarships, prizes, conferences and a major library at its Auburn, Ala., offices.
It also promotes a type of Darwinian view of society in which elites are seen as natural and any intervention by the government on behalf of social justice is destructive. The institute seems nostalgic for the days when, "because of selective mating, marriage, and the laws of civil and genetic inheritance, positions of natural authority [were] likely to be passed on within a few noble families."
But the rule of these natural elites and intellectuals, writes institute scholar Hans-Hermann Hoppe, is being ruined by statist meddling such as "affirmative action and forced integration," which he said is "responsible for the almost complete destruction of private property rights, and the erosion of freedom of contract, association, and disassociation."
A key player in the institute for years was the late Murray Rothbard, who worked with Rockwell closely and co-edited a journal with him. The institute's Web site includes a cybershrine to Rothbard, a man who complained that the "Officially Oppressed" of American society (read, blacks, women and so on) were a "parasitic burden," forcing their "hapless Oppressors" to provide "an endless flow of benefits."
"The call of 'equality,'" he wrote, "is a siren song that can only mean the destruction of all that we cherish as being human." Rothbard blamed much of what he disliked on meddling women. In the mid-1800s, a "legion of Yankee women" who were "not fettered by the responsibilities" of household work "imposed" voting rights for women on the nation. Later, Jewish women, after raising funds from "top Jewish financiers," agitated for child labor laws, Rothbard adds with evident disgust. The "dominant tradition" of all these activist women, he suggests, is lesbianism.
Institute scholars also have promoted anti-immigrant views, positively reviewing Peter Brimelow's Alien Nation.
Jared Taylor, the man who heads the New Century Foundation* and edits its allied magazine American Renaissance, is a white nationalist who believes America should be "a self-consciously European, majority-white nation" which he argues was "the original conception of [the U.S.], and one that was almost universally accepted until the 1960s." The foundation and magazine, based in Oakton, Va., tirelessly advance pseudo-scientific theories linking IQ to race.
The foundation also puts on bi-annual conferences; the 2002 event was advertised like this: "In all parts of the world, whites are afraid to speak out in their own interests. The costs of 'diversity,' racial differences in IQ, the threat of non-white immigration — politicians and the media are afraid to discuss what these things mean for whites and their civilization."
Taylor also has noted approvingly that until 1967, "strong opposition to mixed marriage was enshrined in law" in 16 states. In "The Myth of Diversity," Taylor writes that "diversity" has led to civil rights claims by all kinds of groups he doesn't like. "Anyone who opposes the glorification of the alien, the subnormal, and the inferior can be denounced," he complains. "The metastasis of diversity is a fascinating story, but the disease began with race."
After 300 pages of attacking blacks and dismissing white racism, Taylor's 1992 book Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America notes that most Americans would not agree to use sterilization or forced abortion on those whom the society considers less fit. His solution? Make "welfare mothers" accept a "five-year implantable contraceptive."
Taylor is allied with Wayne Lutton, whom he thanks in his book and who is the editor of The Social Contract, a journal published by John Tanton's The Social Contract Press*. Taylor, Lutton and Richard Lynn are on the editorial board of The Occidental Quarterly, a journal where Sam Francis, top editor for the racist Council of Conservative Citizens*, serves as book review editor. The Occidental Quarterly's first issue featured a story by the late Keith Stimely, who was also an editor of the Journal of Historical Review, a notorious Holocaust denial publication.
Founded in 1953 by Illinois industrialist John Merrill Olin, the Olin Foundation funds projects that "strengthen the economic, political and cultural institutions upon which the American heritage of constitutional government and private enterprise is based." Among its grantees over the last 20 years are the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the far-right Free Congress Foundation and the Rockford Institute. Olin plans to spend down its 2001 assets of over $70 million in the next few years.
With an original charter to pursue "race betterment" for those "deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution," the Pioneer Fund was founded in 1937 in New York.
Many involved in the early years of the fund, including its first president Harry H. Laughlin, maintained "contacts with many of the Nazi scientists whose work provided the conceptual template for Hitler's aspiration toward 'racial hygiene' in Germany," according to an Albany Law Review article by Paul Lombardo. In The Funding of Scientific Racism, scholar William Tucker reveals how Pioneer board members and grantees sought to block the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
In recent decades, the Pioneer Fund has funded most American and British race scientists, including a large number cited in The Bell Curve. According to Barry Mehler, the leading academic critic of the fund, these race scientists have included Hans Eysenck, Robert A. Gordon, Linda Gottfredson, Seymour Itzkoff, Arthur Jensen, Michael Levin, Richard Lynn, R. Travis Osborne, Roger Pearson, J. Philippe Rushton, William Shockley and Daniel R. Vining Jr.
Last year, Rushton became the fourth president of the fund. He disavows the terms "inferior" and "superior" but, as psychologist Andrew S. Winston points out, Rushton has produced a chart in which blacks "are said to have, on average, smaller brains, lower intelligence, lower cultural achievements, higher aggressiveness, lower law-abidingness, lower marital stability and less sexual restraint than whites, and the differences are attributed partially to heredity."
Pioneer grantees have also included white supremacist Jared Taylor. According to Hold Your Tongue, a book by education expert James Crawford, the Pioneer Fund also "aided the Institute for Western Values — the same group Cordelia May [Scaife, sister of Richard Mellon Scaife] paid to distribute [the racist book] The Camp of the Saints — in publishing the autobiography of Thomas Dixon," whose racist novels helped spark the Klan's rebirth in 1915.
Pioneer also has given grants to the American Immigration Control Foundation*, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Roger Pearson's Institute for the Study of Man, Jared Taylor's New Century Foundation* and Project USA, an anti-immigration group run by a FAIR board member.
Based in Rockford, Ill., the Rockford Institute was founded in 1976 and is today best known for Chronicles, a magazine edited by institute president Thomas Fleming that white nationalist Patrick Buchanan has described as "the toughest, best-written, and most profoundly insightful journal in America."
An early sign of the institute's intolerance came in 1989, when New York branch head and theologian Richard John Neuhaus wrote a memo to the institute's then-president, Richard Carlson. The memo cautioned that some institute publications contained attacks on "rootless, deracinated and cosmopolitan elites" that recalled "the classic language of anti-Semitism." As a result, Rockford sent a squad from Illinois to evict Neuhaus from his Manhattan office and literally toss his belongings into the street.
Over the years, Chronicles has featured articles by Buchanan, Sam Francis and Wayne Lutton, and the late Murray Rothbard. It has praised anti-immigrant ethnic nationalist groups such as Jörg Haider's Austrian Freedom Party and the Italian Lombardy League.
Fleming himself seems to yearn for the days of the pre-Civil War South, writing in the November 2001 issue, "The agrarian republic of Washington and Jefferson had been overthrown by Lincoln and replaced by an imperial republic, which was in turn replaced by the warm-and-fuzzy national socialism imposed by FDR."
He added, "The new wave of mass immigration ... reinforced the leftist campaign to destroy Christendom, and there is absolutely no chance that ordinary Americans will ever retake power long enough to reverse multiculturalism, affirmative-action policies, or the compulsory bigotry represented by … call[s] for apologies and reparations."
This February, in an online Chronicles article titled "Was There a Civil-Rights Revolution?" Paul Gottfried attacked Martin Luther King Jr., saying King had pushed the nation onto a path that "had more to do with political coercion and relentless indoctrination than with appeals to conscience."
Pittsburgh billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife and his family, whose fortune derives from his great-grandfather's control of the Mellon Bank and other investments, control four foundations that have helped shift the U.S. political scene significantly to the right with donations of over $350 million since the early 1960s. They are the Allegheny Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation.
Richard Mellon Scaife, described by The Washington Post as having "a penchant for conspiracy theories," worked hard to discredit the Clinton Administration, spending more than million to pursue allegations of illegal Clinton acts that later turned out be baseless. This included sponsoring reporter Christopher Ruddy to investigate theories that former White House Deputy Counsel Vince Foster's death was not the suicide it appeared to be.
Between them, the Scaife foundations have also helped fund the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Free Congress Foundation and the Rockford Institute.
Founded in 1982 as an anti-immigrant umbrella group by Michigan ophthalmologist John H. Tanton, U.S. Inc. operates most publicly through three projects — NumbersUSA, ProEnglish and The Social Contract Press*, which publishes the journal The Social Contract. Tanton and his wife, Mary Lou Tanton, have been chair and vice chair from the start.
Tanton, who has done more to build the anti-immigration movement than any other person, founded the nation's best-known immigration restriction group — the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) — as well as U.S. English and the highly influential Center for Immigration Studies. Tanton also has helped fund the anti-Hispanic groups American Patrol* and the California Coalition for Immigration Reform*.
His Social Contract Press*, coordinated by himself, Robert Kyser and Wayne Lutton publishes a number of anti-immigrant tracts, chief among them the racist French novel The Camp of the Saints.
Tanton and Lutton also are co-authors of The Immigration Invasion, an anti-immigrant scare book published by the American Immigration Control Foundation*. One typically lurid chapter warns that "criminal activities" by illegal aliens are "escalating" into a "crime wave."
In a private 1986 memo leaked to the press, Tanton suggested racial Balkanization was under way, and warned, among other things, that Hispanics were out-breeding whites: "On the demographic point: perhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!" The memo contained such incendiary language that U.S. English executive director Linda Chavez quit, as did advisory board member Walter Cronkite.
Chip Berlet is senior analyst at Political Research Associates, a small think tank near Boston. He is co-author, with Matthew N. Lyons, of Right Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort.