Hate Campaign’s Anti-Climax
‘We spent $100 million to demonize restrictionists and all we got was a lousy T-shirt.’


Mark Krikorian

On Sunday, the New York Times published a 3,000-word, front-page, above-the-fold piece on the various thoughtcrimes of John Tanton, a retired eye doctor in rural Michigan who was important in creating the modern immigration-reduction movement.

This was the culmination of a three-and-a-half-year Alinskyite project by the pro-amnesty groups to “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it” — to turn Tanton into a hate figure as a way of demonizing all critics of open immigration. Finally reaching the top of the media food chain should have been the crowning glory of the smear campaign, the formal anathema finally excommunicating the immigration heretics and banishing them from polite society.

But it was a dud.

It had the makings of a real tour de force for the pro-amnesty crowd, especially because it followed their preferred narrative, focusing on the diabolical ophthalmologist rather than on, say, the details of the coordinated hate campaign they’d launched against him. But you can only imagine their disappointment as they read through the piece hungry for red meat, and finding only tofu. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the hilariously misnamed forerunner to Media Matters, ran an angry blog post the next day criticizing reporter Jason DeParle and the “corporate media” for giving “a pass” to the devilish restrictionist devils.

And they’re right to be disappointed because, once you get past the “when did you stop being a racist?” framing, the article isn’t too bad. The central (and absurd) claim of the hate campaign has always been that Tanton was the “puppeteer” of a racist, anti-immigrant movement that ostensibly had many faces but was really run as a single enterprise, animated by the will (and views) of a single man. Tanton was supposed to be, like Conan Doyle’s Moriarty, the Napoleon of Restrictionism, sitting motionless at the center of a vast web.

No thinking person can read DeParle’s piece and believe any of that. The article describes a restless and energetic man who served as a kind of Johnny Appleseed of immigration reduction. (To be parochial for a moment, seed money was the extent of Tanton’s role at my group, the Center for Immigration Studies; as he’s written at his website, “I also helped raise a grant in 1985 for the [CIS], but I have played no role in the Center’s growth or development.)