Wilcox Laird - The watchdogs

Author : Wilcox Laird
Title : The watchdogs A close look at Anti-Racist “Watchdog” Groups
Year : 1998

Link download : Wilcox_Laird_-_The_watchdogs.zip

Any criticism of so-called anti-racist “Watchdog” organizations and activists is not without its perils. In the “either/or” and “good guys versus bad guys” mentality that characterizes the moral absolutism of the anti-racist milieu it’s easy to be misunderstood. Most people, unaware of the ideological roots of many anti-racist activists or their general disdain for the civil liberties of their critics, regard them as reasonable response to legitimate grievances - which in certain cases they may be. Watchdog groups do some laudable things, particularly in the area of promoting bona fide inter-group harmony. We all have to get along together, regardless of race, religion or anything else. Unjustified hatred based on racial, ethnic, religious or other differences is demeaning to both the perpetrator and the subject. It places burdens on our ability to govern ourselves, to remain a free people, and to provide the stability and civil liberties of a genuinely democratic republic. To the extent that Watchdog groups help that, they are a valuable and important part of our society. This report is not a criticism of genuine efforts to improve relationships between people. “Anti-racism” as used here generally refers to the complex network of assumptions, prejudices, modus operandi, rhetorical style and ideological biases that tends to characterize the militant anti-racist movement, including the Watchdog organizations mentioned. It does not refer to the practice of or belief in opposing genuine racism per se, which I applaud. Like most liberals of my era, I have always had a strong sympathy for the underdog. I first joined the NAACP when I was 17, in Baltimore, MD. At the University of Kansas I was active in the Civil Rights Council, an official student organization, and served a term as vice-chair of the Lawrence, KS, chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). I marched in the picket lines during the early civil rights movement and was on the board of the local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter. I have remained an ACLU member for almost 40 years. I am a member of Amnesty International and work with them against capital punishment, which I oppose. I come from a large multicultural family and we make no distinctions with respect to race, ethnicity or religion. What I objected to about racism was the treatment of individual members of a class (in this case racial minorities) as if they were responsible for all other members of that class, that because they were alike in some respects they were alike in all respects, and that race or ethnic identity was a basis for the granting or denying of rights and privileges. For me the central issue in the civil rights movement was freedom - freedom in the sense of nonconstraint, of having choices, and of being able to speak one’s mind. There is a humanist anti-racism that focuses on reconciliation and healing, that works to bring people together, that functions openly and honestly....this I support and always have. What I did not realize at that time was the peculiar attraction of “anti-racism” as an ideology that could be adapted to explain all things and justify almost any course of action. Simply said, there are careers, status, jobs, and influence to be had as long as racism exists. There is also the peculiar utility of anti-racism to function as a carrier for extreme ideologies, which without such cover would be instantly exposed. As specific problems are solved new problems are defined and created to keep the movement alive. Indeed, there is an anti-racist industry entrenched in the United States that has attracted bullying, moralizing fanatics, whose identity and livelihood depend upon growth and expansion of their particular kind of victimization. In certain respects the anti-racist movement has become a massive extortion racket, as lawyers have used every nuance of civil rights and equal opportunity laws to extract massive judgments for objectively lesser offenses, and anti-racist street fanatics have attacked and vilified individuals for their values, opinions and beliefs. This is not what the civil rights movement was originally about. The simple fact is there are money and careers to be made. The classic case of this is Morris Dees’ Southern Poverty Law Center, which now (1998) has reserves approaching 100 million dollars acquired from donors. Even smaller anti-racist groups often find themselves awash in donations, government and private grants. In June 1998, for example, Leonard Zeskind, President of his self-created “Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights” was the recipient of a $295,000 award from the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation. Anti-racism can be molded and shaped to serve other interests. Activists with a hidden radical agenda find anti-racist organizations very amenable to manipulation. Almost no one buys into traditional class struggle Marxism anymore. Democratic capitalism has produced the highest standard of living and most individual freedom the world has ever seen. In rational terms, class struggle Marxism is a hard sell. However, when it’s reframed as anti-racism and anti-fascism, much of the onus is gone. There is a humanist anti-racism that focuses on reconciliation and healing, that works to bring people together, that functions openly and honestly without the use of dossiers, spies, specious lawsuits, disinformation, and that recognizes the rights of individuals whether they agree with one another or not. This is the anti-racism of good neighbors, of people helping people, of community goodwill, and of the realization that we are all human beings. This I support and always have. On the other hand there is a vindictive and corrupt anti-racism that focuses on paybacks and punishment, that demonizes and degrades its critics, that attempts to carve out special rights for its constituency, that opposes free and open discussion of ideas, that attempts to silence, censor and stifle its opposition through intimidation and harassment, and encourages law enforcement scrutiny of opponents because of their alleged values, opinions and beliefs. This kind of anti-racism is more dangerous than the problem it purports to remedy, and this is the anti-racism that tends to characterize the Watchdog organizations. This is doctrinal and ideological anti-racism, a mindless fanaticism and extremism, more akin to a cult than a brotherhood and sisterhood of people accepting one another, freely and honestly, as the fallible imperfect human beings that we all are. Extremist behavior is characterized by a “style” that transcends content. Even a good cause may be compromised by a shrill, intolerant and vindictive advocacy. There is a great deal at stake in how we handle society’s rebels and discontents that bodes good or ill depending on the way the issue is addressed. The old saying about “burning down the barn to catch the rat” is very appropriate to this issue. Unless even the most unpopular and outcast members of society, including those who dissent on racial, ethnic, religious or historical issues, receive the same protections and consideration as the rest of us, we are all in serious trouble. Organizing for or against specific causes is an American tradition, and the right to organize, agitate, and propagandize is part of our constitutional heritage. Watchdog groups, of course, should enjoy these protections, too. Virtually all political organizations have some kind of “watchdog” function. The right of Watchdog organizations to investigate, publish, make public policy proposals, and so on is not an issue here. It would be nice if they would recognize the same rights of their opponents and critics. Rather, the issue is the abominable record of these organizations with respect to individual rights and civil liberties, their misrepresentations and lies, their exploita- tion of normal human sympathy for the underdog, their flagrant double standards, their hidden agendas, their unprincipled methods, and their unconscionable use of law enforcement to advance their own ends. These are serious issues that need careful examination. A couple of points need to be made here. My criticisms of the Anti-Defamation League have nothing to do with the fact that it is a Jewish organization. The ADL behavior that I document in this report would be equally susceptible to criticism if they were Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or any other religion or, for that matter, if they were not identified by religion. Throughout this report it is behaviors and not ethnic, racial, or religious identity that I am addressing. In point of fact, many of the greatest civil libertarians have been Jewish, including a number of my personal heroes. This report on the “dark side” of the Watchdog organizations is intended to focus on these abuses and to make a case for correction. It is also a plea for journalists to take their selfimposed blinders off and give these organizations the same scrutiny they would from any other agenda-driven special interest group. Laird Wilcox. ...

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