Back in the days when people believed in witches, there were folks who made a pretty good living by setting themselves up as professional “witch hunters.” They claimed to know all about what witches looked like and how to ferret them out — for a hefty fee, of course. The witch hunters of old were responsible for probably thousands of innocent people being tortured and executed on fake charges of witchcraft. Today, witch hunters are by no means extinct, but the ones in business now make those of the past seem rather attractive.
Today’s witch hunters don’t look for real witches, of course, but for “extremists,” mainly “extremists” on the far right. Though they often dredge up a good many nuts and sometimes even a really dangerous type, much of what they do is as unreliable and preposterous as the accusations against the poor old crones the early witch hunters dragged to the stake.
One hunter who has hunted down the witch hunters themselves is an independent journalist and researcher named Laird Wilcox, who, for decades, has studied both the right and the left, extreme and not-so extreme, simply for the purpose of analyzing it. Unlike the witch hunters, Wilcox doesn’t have a point to push, an agenda to peddle or a buck to snatch out of your pocket. Hence, he needs to be listened to.
Interviewed this week in The Washington Times, Wilcox discusses his recent monograph on witch hunters entitled “The Watchdogs,” (available through Editorial Research Service, P.O. Box 2047, Olathe, KS 66051), a 100-page study of the work and backgrounds of the major organizations that devote themselves to the pursuit of modern “extremism.” The organizations are the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Center for Democratic Renewal, and Political Research Associates.
Most of these groups and the chaps who run them have a political agenda — mainly drawn from the extreme left — though they like to posture as “objective” researchers. The Southern *Poverty Law Center, for example, was founded and continues to be run by Morris Dees, a fund raiser for leftist Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern and for other causes of the left as well.
The Center for Democratic Renewal, Wilcox writes, “has a fascinating history that reaches into the recesses of the American Marxist-Leninist left.” Wilcox identifies several of the staffers and associates of the CDR as having ties to the Communist Party. Yet both groups love to dote on the past “links” of the “right-wing extremists” they’re obsessed with.
The Anti-Defamation League is mainly just liberal in its orientation, but it still tends to blast anyone at all critical of Israel, liberal Jewish causes and organizations and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East as “anti-Semitic.” As ruinous as that charge often is, the ADL isn’t always right about it. Only last month it lost a $10.5 million lawsuit in Colorado for lobbing the “anti-Semitism” charge at a couple who lobbed back — and won.
These groups specialize in drumming the tune that Nazis and Klansmen are on the verge of taking over the country or at least that they’re a growing menace as terrorists. Wilcox says that in fact, there are probably only about 10,000 followers of such fringe groups in the whole country, but by playing on fear and ignorance the witch hunters grotesquely exaggerate their numbers and power.
The Center for Democratic Renewal, for example, claimed a few years ago that “a well-organized white-supremacist movement” was behind a series of black church-burnings. In fact, as responsible reporters and law enforcement officials soon showed, “church-burnings had actually declined, … racism was a motive in less than half of the arsons, and … white churches were more often targeted by arsonists,” as the Times reports. The Southern Poverty Law Center has been faulted by some of its own former employees as “a joke” and “evil,” while black former employees have accused it of racial discrimination against them.
The witch hunters wouldn’t be dangerous except for the fact that they’ve managed to con many in the press and government to take their political propaganda disguised as “research” seriously. An FBI report last year claiming that “right-wing extremists” would commit terrorist violence at the turn of the millennium on Jan. 1 showed the heavy influence of the thinking and writing of these groups. As we now know, the report was without merit.
Instead of simply swallowing whatever these self-appointed watchdogs bark up, the media and serious law enforcement need to take a long look at Wilcox’s valuable study of them and their work. They might find it’s the witch hunters themselves who are the real witches that need to be ferreted out.