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The Social Contract Publishes its Last Tract

The Social Contract, a long-running quarterly journal founded by John Tanton, ran its final issue in Fall 2019.

For nearly 30 years, the journal was a clearinghouse for anti-immigrant and white nationalist writers. From its launch in 1990, the quarterly provided space for established anti-immigrant figures with mainstream clout as well as notorious racist thinkers. Over the years, it churned out articles fearmongering about demographic shifts, hyping the supposed criminality of immigrants, stoking population alarmism and smearing migrants as being disease-ridden.

The Social Contract was founded by John Tanton, a eugenics advocate and the architect of the modern-day anti-immigrant movement. Tanton died in July 2019, but his legacy lives on through a constellation of groups he helped pave the way for. Tanton served as editor from 1990 to 1998 before moving to a publisher role.

The journal’s editors announced the latest issue would also be the last, and it would die with its founder.

“The recent passing of John Tanton, the founding publisher and editor, brings to an abrupt end a journal which highlighted some of the most pressing issues confronting the United States and other Western nations,” the editors wrote.

Wayne Lutton, an anti-immigrant writer and contributor to The Social Contract, took over as the editor of the journal in 1998. “It has been my privilege to have worked with John and Mary Lou Tanton over the past twenty-seven years,” Lutton wrote in his final Note from the Editor. Lutton has connections to other hate groups, including the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens, whose website played a role in radicalizing Dylann Roof.

On top of its usual anti-immigrant posturing, the final issue was a tribute to Tanton and featured articles dedicated to him from a medley of anti-immigrant, white nationalist and far-right figures.

One of those published was Peter Brimelow, founder and editor of the white nationalist hate site VDARE. Tanton and Brimelow had a history of corresponding and collaborating, as revealed by a cache of Tanton’s private memos lodged at the University of Michigan.

“John Tanton, though not, like Robert E. Lee, a professional soldier, was, in Lee’s wonderful phrase, a citizen who took up arms for his country,” Brimelow wrote in his article.

Brimelow pushed back on accusations of Tanton himself being a white nationalist. “I (no doubt unlike many readers of Social Contract) am prepared to acknowledge that I know ‘white nationalists,” Brimelow wrote.

Tanton’s white nationalist views were revealed in his memos. Within them, Tanton warned of an “Latin onslaught” and the need for the United States to remain “a European-American majority.” In one 1996 memo to Roy Beck, founder and president of NumbersUSA, a grassroots arm for the anti-immigrant movement, Tanton wondered “whether the minorities who are going to inherit California (85% of the lower-grade school children are now ‘minorities’ – demography is destiny) can run an advanced society?” Beck previously served as The Social Contract’s Washington editor.

The final issue of The Social Contract published remarks given by Beck at Tanton’s memorial service in August 2019. During the service, Beck reflected on meeting Tanton as a reporter before joining the anti-immigration scene full-time.

Tanton’s letters also revealed he corresponded with white nationalists such as Brimelow and Jared Taylor of the white nationalist hate group American Renaissance. American Renaissance’s Chris Roberts published an article on Jan. 4 remembering The Social Contract. The article stated that while the group does not review magazines, “TSC was impressive enough to have two different issues make exceptions of that rule.”

“The AmRen newsfeed also regularly drew from TSC for original reporting on immigration, crime, and media bias,” Roberts added.

Hatewatch recently revealed that “James Kirkpatrick,” a frequent contributor to The Social Contract and VDARE, is the pen name of prolific alt-right propagandist Kevin DeAnna. Using his Kirkpatrick pseudonym, DeAnna also paid tribute to Tanton in the final issue of The Social Contract. DeAnna founded the now-defunct Youth for Western Civilization and has opposed all aspects of immigration because, according to him, “it’s about our dispossession as a people.”

DeAnna wrote of Tanton, “His legacy should be honored and his example followed.”

The Social Contract Press, the publishing house that spawned out of The Social Contract, did not return requests for comment from Hatewatch about DeAnna.

Tanton and his network founded or laid the groundwork for dozens of groups, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Center for Immigration Studies. His ideas, like repealing birthright citizenship, a right guaranteed under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, are being discussed by the Trump administration today.

Right-wing firebrand Michelle Malkin was featured in the final issue. The journal included an excerpt from Malkin’s 2019 book Open Borders Inc. defending Tanton’s decision to republish an English translation of The Camp of the Saints, a racist dystopian novel by French author Jean Raspail. The novel depicts France being overrun by non-white migrants and refugees. It is popular among white nationalist and anti-immigrant circles. In November 2019, Hatewatch reported that White House senior adviser Stephen Miller referenced the book in a 2015 email exchange with a former employee of the conservative news website Breitbart. Miller was working as an aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, at the time.

In a 1994 memo, Tanton called Raspail’s novel an “underground classic.” Malkin notes that Tanton bought the rights to the “long-forgotten but prophetic work.” She added Tanton “sounded the alarm over the demographic and cultural consequences of uncontrolled migrant waves hitting our shores.”

The Camp of the Saints was republished in 1994 by The Social Contract Press. The Social Contract Press is responsible for publishing, distributing and selling anti-immigrant literature, including The Social Contract. Brimelow’s 1995 book Alien Nation, which has been a foundational text for numerous anti-immigration activists, was also available for sale on the Social Contract Press’s website. Tanton encouraged Brimelow to write the book and helped secure funding for it, according to a 1995 memo. He also helped edit Brimelow’s manuscript. The Winter 2006-2007 and Spring 2008 issues of The Social Contract were dedicated to reprinting articles originally published at VDARE.

It’s unclear whether the Social Contract Press will continue despite the journal’s cancellation. The publishing operation is housed under Tanton’s foundation, U.S. Inc. The Social Contract Press also puts on an annual Writers' Workshop seminar. The future of the workshop also remains unknown.

U.S. Inc. did not return Hatewatch’s requests for comment.

The yearly writers’ workshop brings together speakers spanning the white nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim movements, as well as government and law enforcement officials. In 2015, then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has ties to anti-immigrant hate groups like the Immigration Reform Law Institute, spoke at the event. Sheriff Chuck Jenkins of Frederick County, Maryland, appeared at the 2019 event, as first reported by the civil rights research organization Political Research Associates.

In his Jan. 4 article for American Renaissance, Chris Roberts wrote, “From what I gather, the organization behind the magazine isn’t going anywhere, which is welcome news, as they publish valuable books.” At the time of this article’s publication, however, the Social Contract Press’s online bookstore was listed as closed.

The goal of The Social Contract, as outlined by Tanton, was never to be a large-scale publication.

“Having a big circulation was not our idea; we wanted rather, to reach the small coterie of people who make a difference in immigration policy, and give them another useful tool,” Tanton wrote in a 1990 review of the publication’s first year. He also stressed the need to include a host of issues within the so-called immigration restrictionism scene.

“A Journal that embraces the population, immigration, and language/assimilation/national unity topics could help make the point that all of these are interrelated rather than distinct and separable problems,” Tanton wrote in the same review.

The journal’s nearly 30-year run featured an expansive cast of anti-immigrant and white nationalist writers. Samuel Francis, a prolific white nationalist writer and thought leader who also had ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens, was published multiple times throughout the years. In a 1994 article, Francis wrote, “The immigration of large numbers of non-European peoples must be seen as incompatible with the fundamental cultural and political identity of the United States.”

In that same article, Francis lamented slogans like the United States being “a nation of immigrants” and “taking in the teeming masses,” saying, “As long as these are the terms that frame the immigration debate, it will remain a battle lost before it is even fought.” In 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is housed under the Department of Homeland Security, removed the passage calling the country a “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement. The new slogan claims the agency fairly adjudicates immigration requests “while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”

Steve Sailer, another anti-immigrant writer known for peddling discredited race science, has also contributed articles over the years. Pat Buchanan, a longtime far-right figure and former presidential candidate, has featured in the publication as well. In one 1991 article, Buchanan lamented the alleged balkanization happening in the United States, stating, “The demand for group entitlements, for quotas, for racial set-asides, is a demand to alter forever the character of our country. The battle against these elements is a battle to preserve the republic.”

Other established figures belonging to anti-immigrant groups have appeared in The Social Contract over the years. David Simcox, former executive director and board member of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), has been published numerous times. Mark Krikorian, CIS’s current executive director, has also written for the journal and spoke at the writers' workshop in 2015. In 1999, The Social Contract republished congressional testimony given by Steve Camarota, CIS’s director of research. Dan Stein and Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform have also penned articles for the journal.

While The Social Contract may have died with its founder, John Tanton, the anti-immigrant ideas prevalent in the journal live on today through the movement he set in motion. And its contributors continue to have a voice in immigration policy.

Photo illustration by SPLC

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