The civil rights organization Center for New Community announced in the most recent edition of its e-bulletin “FAIR Exposed” that the Tanton Network has launched a front group called Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). PFIR is the latest cell to emerge from a self-multiplying, umbrella coalition of anti-immigrant groups named after its founder and ideological figurehead, rank white nationalist John Tanton.
Rarely meeting with even token successes, those steering the Tanton Network have nonetheless repeatedly attempted to recruit within progressive circles by targeting environmentalists, labor rights groups, and black civil rights organizations. However, with immigration debate is once again drawing national attention, the Tanton network is viewing progressives at-large as the torpedo drawing nearest to the rhetoric spinning the propellers driving their fleet. PFIR, of course, is the Network’s new torpedo decoy system.
To understand this decoy system, one needs to understand that those within the Tanton Network use their coalition as the Wizard of Oz used his curtain and screen, as a power ploy to project their anti-immigrant movement as being “bigger” – i.e. more legitimate – than onlookers may at first glimpse realize. Real progressives would do well to recognize their dime store illusions, PFIR among them, and to prepare themselves for the fresh tidal wave of backwash rhetoric bearing down on them.
Rolling this wave for decades has been, of course, the man himself, John Tanton, who has long been regarded as a controversial figure. Tanton founded and is a current board member of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Network’s flagship amongst said fleet, which marauds together at the epicenter of the contemporary anti-immigrant movement. To solidify his flotilla, Tanton helped solicit well over a million dollars in funding from the Pioneer Fund, a racist foundation that funds and peddles the pseudo-science of eugenics as a basis for claiming that blacks are genetically inferior to whites.
In the 1930s the Pioneer Fund distributed to public schools propaganda films developed by the Nazis. Disturbingly, Tanton has apparently come to terms with the Pioneer Fund’s anti-democratic history of bigotry, but he’s probably having more trouble reconciling the well documented historical failings of reactionary right-left alliances.
Investigative journalist Chip Berlet authored a groundbreaking memo on such attempts by far right organizations to influence the anti-war movement by highlighting the suicidal willingness of some left leaders who have worked alongside quasi neo-Nazi institutions. Released in 1990, “Right Woos Left” remains the quintessential essay chronicling how and why so-called “Red-Brown” alliances accomplish nothing more than the nihilistic assassination of any political left that is committed to safeguarding economic, political, and social rights.
He opens the essay by quoting journalist George Seldes, who in 1938 wrote that:
“Fascism and Reaction inevitably attack. They have won against disunion. They will fail if we unite.”
During the summer of 2008, Tanton associate Roy Beck of NumbersUSA began circulating a job posting that would launch the Tanton Network’s recent attempt at such an alliance, the executive director position at Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR).
Unsurprisingly, the position was given to Leah Durant, yet another Tanton insider. It’s worth noting, however bizarrely it reads, that when Leah Durant was first joining Tanton’s FAIR as legal counsel, Tanton himself was busy exploring avenues of anti-Asian racism via the selling of aphrodisiacs, writing that “It seems that the main market is in the orient [sic] – very interesting, considering that [sic] in general, male Orientals [sic] are less well equipped than those of some other groups.”
In his epic mission to denigrate immigrants and non-whites, it seems Taton will leave no waters unexplored, with progressives and love drugs apparently falling onto the same pirate map; therefore, as the debate surrounding immigration reignites, progressives should remain vigilant against the bigotry emanating from behind Tanton’s myriad screens and cloaks.
Across history progressives have always held much more in common with emerging immigrant and refugee communities than with white supremacy that is disguised as the logic of anti-immigrants. Therefore, in the coming months, as Tanton’s tidal wave threatens to crest and break, we should remember the words of George Seldes while also never forgetting to examine the deeds behind the names of groups seeking both our blessings and company.
And as progressives we should respond to their bigotry as we always have–with one voice: the time has come to sink the Tanton Network and its peddlers of hate.