Across the West we see efforts to restrict free expression of political ideas related to immigration. We’re familiar with what’s been happening in Europe: not only the Muhammad-cartoon riots in Denmark, but more recently a court in Holland applying Saudi blasphemy rules to a local politician. There was also a U.N. resolution passed in December prohibiting defamation of Islam with the goal of making such defamation a crime under international law.
Accusations of “Islamophobia” have been used as a cudgel to shut down debate even in Canada, where Islamic groups have used the law to try to silence National Review’s Mark Steyn and others.
We are seeing a similar dynamic here. Obviously, the challenge that immigration-driven multiculturalism poses to free speech here is the decaf, low-calorie version of what Europe and Canada face. The cultural distance between our society and the bulk of our immigrants is much smaller than in Europe, and we have a much stronger sense of ourselves, which has resulted in more success in getting newcomers to assimilate.
But decaf or not, the challenge of multiculturalism is real.
The most recent salvo on this side of the ocean is a report released last week by the Southern Poverty Law Center tarring the three leading groups working to limit immigration–including my own Center for Immigration Studies–as part of a racist conspiracy, supposedly orchestrated by a retired eye doctor in Michigan named John Tanton. The fact that they went after mainstream groups rather than fringe ones shows that the goal is not elevating the tone of public discourse but shutting it down altogether. Perhaps a more honest title for the report would have been “The Protocols of the Elders of Restrictionism.”
A little background on the SPLC. The group is headed by Morris Dees, described even by left-wing writers as a “fraud” and a “millionaire huckster”–essentially a cross between Joseph McCarthy and Tammy Faye Bakker. Exposés on the group have run in the Montgomery Advertiser (which probably would have won a Pulitzer but for the SPLC’s lobbying efforts against it), Harper’s, and The Nation, but the money train continues–the SPLC’s 2007 tax return shows net assets of $219 million.
The report’s section on CIS is not just hackwork, but amateurish hackwork. Much of it dwells on letters written to (not by, but to) one of my board members, misidentified as having been executive director. Our research is described as having been debunked by “mainstream think tanks and organizations,” oddly enough including two of the most strident open-borders advocacy groups in the nation. My tenure there, the majority of the center’s existence, is dismissed briefly at the end as “The Later Years.” And they didn’t even mention my book, which knits together decades of CIS research on the many facets of immigration into a unified theoretical framework–something at least worth touching on when trying to show how naughty CIS is.
What’s more, CIS is an unlikely source of “intolerance.” The chairman is Peter Nuñez, U.S. attorney for San Diego under Reagan; the board includes the president of the Greater Miami Urban League and a former executive director of the National Black Caucus Foundation; the staff includes the former national policy director for the American Jewish Committee; and I didn’t even speak English until I got to kindergarten.
I don’t know much about the details in the other sections (on FAIR and Numbers USA) but I can only assume they’re up to the SPLC’s usual standards.
Now, people call each other names all the time in politics, but this is different. The SPLC purports to play the role of arbiter of rectitude on racial issues, and as such it claims to take no other policy positions. This pose is utterly false; the report was jointly released with America’s Voice, a hard-left open-borders group. And regardless of who’s making it, the charge of racism is the gravest one in our society–not a political one, like an allegation that you failed to pay taxes on your chauffeured limousine, but a moral one, meant to delegitimize you altogether as a participant in civilized society.