Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Character will out

-- by Dave

We've known for a long time that the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- a favorite "think tank" for right-wing nativists, who find their endless churn of often dubious statistics grist for their own anti-immigrant mills (Lou Dobbs in particular has a penchant for citing them) -- has a background that is, to put it kindly, a bit sketchy.

It is, after all, a leading component in the organizational network of "academic" nativists cobbled together by the white eugenicist John Tanton, exposed five years ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Despite its pedigree, it's always managed to avoid being designated a bona-fide "hate group," in large part because such a designation typically goes to groups that devote their energies to the xenophobic denigration of target groups. FAIR, with its focus on "statistical studies" (such as they are), has typically managed to eschew such rhetoric -- though the frequently inflammatory twist it gave to its studies meant that often danced at the edge.

Today the SPLC announced that it was finally designating FAIR a "hate group", due to a recent ratcheting rightward of its rhetoric and its activities, far enough that it was clear the mask was coming off:
At the center of the Tanton web is the nonprofit Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the most important organization fueling the backlash against immigration. Founded by Tanton in 1979, FAIR has long been marked by anti-Latino and anti-Catholic attitudes. It has mixed this bigotry with a fondness for eugenics, the idea of breeding better humans discredited by its Nazi associations. It has accepted $1.2 million from an infamous, racist eugenics foundation. It has employed officials in key positions who are also members of white supremacist groups. Recently, it has promoted racist conspiracy theories about Mexico's secret designs on the American Southwest and an alternative theory alleging secret plans to merge the United States, Mexico and Canada. Just last February, FAIR President Dan Stein sought "advice" from the leaders of a racist Belgian political party.

As Mark Potok explained it at the Hatewatch blog:
Much of this has been known for years. But last February, underlining the way that FAIR does business, its leaders met with the leaders of Vlaams Belang — a hastily renamed Belgian party that under a prior appellation, Vlaams Blok, was officially banned by the Belgian Supreme Court as a racist and xenophobic group. It was, for some, a final straw — the Rubicon of hate, as it were. When FAIR officials met with Vlaams Belang leaders to seek their “advice” on immigration, we decided to take another look at FAIR. When our work was done, it was obvious that FAIR qualified as a hate group. Early next year, when the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual hate group list is published, FAIR will be on the list.

The contacts with Vlaams Belang reflect part of a larger trend of the internationalization of white nationalism, including recent electoral gains for white supremacist factions in Germany, and the export of far-right gay-bashing radicals from Eastern Europe to America in the form of the Watchmen on the Walls. You may also recall Vlaams Belang as the recent implosion in the wingnutosphere over the group's American outreach efforts -- reported in some glorious detail on the pages of another SPLC-designated hate group, VDare.

Funny how that works.

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