The Tanton Files
[Nativist Leader's Racist Past Exposed]
By Heidi Beirich, Director of Research
John Tanton, founder
The Bible speaks of ethnic conflict
as one of the most pointed and distressing signs of those
events leading up to the Tribulation:
"And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the
disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us,
when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign
of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus
answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive
you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ;
and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and
rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all
these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation (ethnos) shall rise against nation
(ethnos), and kingdom against kingdom: and there
shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes,
in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and
shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations
for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended,
and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another."
Then the Bible describes the kind of warfare it has
in mind - "nation shall
rise against nation." We can begin
to appreciate what is meant here by discovering what the
Bible means by "nation" - it's not necessarily
what we, as Americans, mean. The word that the Bible uses
for "nation" is the Greek word ethnos
- which is the root word from which the English language
derives the word "ethnic." The word is better
translated as "tribe" in the English language.
Paul Hockenos, in his book Free to Hate: the Rise of
the Right in Post-Communist Eastern Europe, distinguishes
between ethnos (i.e., "tribe") and what
we as Americans understand as "nation." He writes:
Peter Brimelow, author of Alien Nation, is a journalist and senior
editor at Forbes and National Review. Brimelow argues
that current immigration regulations are part of
a wider trend that seeks to change the face of America
and aims at a radical transformation of American
society from its European mores, folkways, and culture.
Hence, along with the elevation of Third World lifestyles
under the leftist rubric of "multiculturalism,"
current supporters of U.S. immigration laws and
so-called open borders, are buttressing anti-Western
trends by importing masses of largely unassimilable
"In the lively academic discourse that has
grown around nationalism, scholars distinguish two general
concepts of the nation: (1) the civic or democratic,
and (2) the ethnic. The civic definition, with its roots
in the French Revolution, uses "nation" to
refer to a body of citizens whose collective sovereignty
constitutes a state. In other words, it is "nation"
as the term is commonly applied in ... [the United States],
referring to all of the people who live within a state,
regardless of their ethnicity, language, [religion],
or other characteristics. The underlying principle of
the civic nation is citizenship, and all citizens are
afforded equality under the law. The civic nation-state
is thus synonymous with constitutional democracy, the
rule of law, and human rights. In German, the term is
"The ethnic nation, on the other hand, is a
folkish community, bound not by a common legal code
or state [i.e., geographic] borders [so much] ... as
by descent, language, customs ... [religion], and history
[what the Germans call a Volksstaat or Volksgemeinschaft
- meaning ethnic nation [or community] - a nation [community]
based on ethnicity and "group rights" [over
and against "individual rights"]. What defines
membership in this kind of nation is ethnicity. This
nation is a community of "blood"-Germans or
"blood"-French or "blood"-Romanians,
for example, from which all other peoples of different
lineage are excluded. The primacy of blood [and religion]
establishes a racial [and religious] hierarchy of peoples,
particularly when more than one people live in a given
state. Rights and privileges are acquired by birth into
the ethnic nation, and not upon citizenship. For ethnic
nationalists, the [ethnic] nation is a natural unit,
which evolves according to its own biological laws and
inner rhythms. Each nation has its own unique, mystical
destiny towards which it aspires, and which other nations
impede at the cost of war ...
"The ethnic nation is at odds with the premises
of ... [the civic] nation ... and presents a ... recipe
for conflict in the combustible multinational [world
of today] ...
"Where extreme ... [ethnicists] take the logic
of the ethnic nation to its ... conclusion, as in the
former Yugoslavia, the result is the forging of an all-inclusive,
homogeneous ethnic nation-state. The price [of course]
... is war, complete with forcible mass expulsions,
concentration camps, and genocide. In other cases, such
as the Baltics, the Caucasus, Slovakia, Romania, or
Bulgaria, where significant national minorities live,
the majorities have tightened the screws on their co-inhabitants
through cultural repression and restrictive citizenship
laws. Under fire, the minorities react with nationalisms
of their own, which often take the form of separatist
ambitions. In response, the dominant nationalities crack
down all the harder on the "disloyal" minorities.
The heightened tension can bring in the minorities'
mother states, usually all too willing to come to the
rescue of their national kin, in regions they often
consider their own anyway. The action-reaction spiral
of nationalism plays itself out wherever ethnic nationalism
is the order of the day." [Please see our article,
"Culture Wars and
This is precisely the kind of conflict to which the
Bible has reference! - what Hockenos calls the "action-reaction
spiral" of one ethnic group "raging" against
another; it is exactly this kind of pathology which produces
fascism; and it's out of the fascist
nexus that Antichrist will emerge.
This, of course, is the antithesis for what most Christians
are looking - an antichrist who will emerge out of a multi-cultural
chic. AS A RESULT, ONE WOULD
DO WELL TO KEEP A WARY EYE ON THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT THAT
SARAH PALIN AND HER SUPPORTERS - PEOPLE SUCH AS JOHN
TANTON - ARE BUILDING. And make
no mistake about it, John Tanton
and his ilk have insinuated themselves DEEPLY into the
Tea Party Movement
Arbor, Mich. - The Bentley Historical Library at the University
of Michigan is an unassuming place, more like a small-town library than a
research institute. But hidden away in 17 cardboard boxes deep inside the
simple facility are the papers of John Tanton, the retired Michigan opthamologist
who has been the most important figure in the modern American anti-immigration
movement for three decades. The papers, which include more than 20 years of
letters from the founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform
(FAIR) and a batch of other nativist groups, contain explosive material about
Tanton's beliefs. They also show that FAIR, on whose board of directors Tanton
still sits, has been well aware of Tanton's views and activities for years.
Tanton has long claimed that he is no racist - that, in fact,
he came to his immigration restrictionism through progressive concerns for
population control and the environment, not disdain for the foreign born.
He characterizes himself as a "fair person," and on his website
he condemns the "unsavory characters whose views can easily be characterized
as anti-American, anti-Semitic and outright racist."
Fair enough. But what do Tanton's letters have to say?
As it turns out, quite a lot. Although Tanton has been linked to racist ideas
in the past - fretting about the "educability" of
Latinos, warning of whites being out-bred by others, and publishing
a number of white nationalist authors - the papers in the Bentley
Library show that Tanton has for decades been at the heart of
the white nationalist scene. He has corresponded with Holocaust
deniers, former Klan lawyers and the leading white nationalist
thinkers of the era. He introduced key FAIR leaders to the president
of the Pioneer Fund, a white supremacist group set up to encourage
"race betterment," at a 1997 meeting at a private
club. He wrote a major funder to encourage her to read the work
of a radical anti-Semitic professor - to "give you a new
understanding of the Jewish outlook on life" - and suggested
that the entire FAIR board discuss the professor's theories
on the Jews. He practically worshipped a principal architect
of the Immigration Act of 1924 (instituting a national origin
quota system and barring Asian immigration), a rabid anti-Semite
whose pro-Nazi American Coalition of Patriotic Societies was
indicted for sedition in 1942. [Please see our article, "The
As early as 1969, Tanton showed a sharp interest in eugenics,
the "science" of breeding a better human race that was utterly discredited
by the Nazis, trying to find out if Michigan had laws allowing forced sterilization.
His interest stemmed, he wrote in a letter of inquiry that year, from "a
local pair of sisters who have nine illegitimate children between them."
Some 30 years later, he was still worrying about "less intelligent"
people being allowed children, saying that "modern medicine and social
programs are eroding the human gene pool."
Throughout, FAIR - which, along with Tanton,
refused repeated requests for comment for this story - has stood by its man.
Its 2004 annual report praised him for "visionary qualities that have
not waned one bit." Around the same time, Dan Stein, who has led FAIR
since 1988 as executive director or president and who was copied on scores
of Tanton's letters, insisted FAIR's founder had "never asserted the
inferiority or superiority of any racial, ethnic, or religious group. Never."
Blood and Soil
Blood and Soil (German: Blut und Boden) refers to an ideology
that focuses on ethnicity based on two factors, descent
(Blood (of a folk)) and homeland/Heimat (Soil). It celebrates
the relationship of a people to the land they occupy
and cultivate, and it places a high value on the virtues
of rural living. The German expression was coined in
the late 19th century, in tracts espousing racialism
and national romanticism. Richard Walther Darré popularized
the phrase at the time of the rise of Nazi Germany;
he wrote a book called Neuadel aus Blut und Boden ("A
New Aristocracy Based On Blood And Soil") in 1930, which
proposed a systemic eugenics program, arguing for breeding
as a cure-all for all the problems plaguing the state.
Darré was an influential member of the Nazi party and
a noted race theorist who assisted the party greatly
in gaining support among common Germans outside the
In the world view of John Tanton, successful societies are
not based on a mere sharing of territory, values and political systems. Nations
and their cultures, he has suggested on numerous occasions, are largely determined
by biology - race.
In a Nov. 13, 1994, letter to white nationalist columnist
Lawrence Auster, a regular correspondent, Tanton suggested that the Declaration
of Independence was actually a document based on the "bond of blood
and ethnicity - nationhood." Almost a year earlier, in a Dec. 10, 1993,
letter to Garrett Hardin, a controversial ecology professor, he said: "I've
come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to
persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that."
On Jan. 26, 1996, he wrote Roy Beck, head of the immigration restrictionist
group NumbersUSA (and then an employee of Tanton's foundation U.S. Inc.),
questioning whether Latinos were capable of governing California.
"I have no doubt that individual minority persons can
assimilate to the culture necessary to run an advanced society," Tanton
said in his letter to Beck, "but if through mass migration, the culture
of the homeland is transplanted from Latin America to California, then my
guess is we will see the same degree of success with governmental and social
institutions that we have seen in Latin America." Referring to the changing
California public schools, Tanton wondered "whether the minorities who
are going to inherit California (85% of the lower-grade school children are
now 'minorities' - demography is destiny) can run an advanced society?"
For Tanton, the question was entirely rhetorical.
"The situation then is that the people who have been the
carriers of Western Civilization are well on the way toward resigning their
commission to carry the culture into the future," he wrote in an Aug.
8, 1997, letter to Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, a fellow immigration
critic. "When this decline in numbers is coupled with an aging of the
core population ... it begins to look as if the chances of Western Civilization
passing into the history books are very good indeed."
This kind of thinking led Tanton to defend racial quotas imposed
on immigrants. In a Nov. 3, 1995, memo to FAIR boss Dan Stein and the entire
FAIR board of advisers, Tanton defended the infamous "White Australia"
policy that restricted non-white immigration into that country from 1901
to 1973, saying it was not racist, but intended to protect native-born labor
(the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act outlawed racial quotas in Australia).
Tanton also mocked the idea that the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, banning Chinese
immigration to the U.S., was racist.
Similarly, Tanton has defended America's Immigration Act of
1924, which formalized a racial quota system that was only dismantled in 1965.
In fact, as shown in his correspondence, Tanton has long lionized a principal
architect of the act, John B. Trevor Sr. (In addition to founding the American
Coalition of Patriotic Societies, Trevor was an adviser to the extreme-right,
anti-Catholic Christian Crusade of Billy James Hargis, who regularly referred
to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as Communist documents.)
Tanton arranged for the Bentley Library to house the papers of both Trevor
and his son, long a Pioneer Fund board member and a close friend of Tanton's
until his 2006 death.
Despite the elder Trevor's extremely unsavory past, Tanton
has sent his unpublished autobiography to numerous friends, including, on
Nov. 21, 2001, FAIR board member Donald Collins. In a cover letter, Tanton
told Collins that the work of Trevor - who distributed pro-Nazi propaganda,
drew up plans to crush uprisings of "Jewish subversives," and warned
shrilly of "diabolical Jewish control" of America - should serve
FAIR as "a guidepost to what we must follow again this time."
Communing with the Movement
John Tanton has not merely flirted with and adopted many of
the core ideas of white nationalism over the past three decades. He has carried
on correspondences with some of the key leaders of the white nationalist movement,
meeting and even vacationing with some of them, and pushing many of their
Over the years, his closest friend on the white nationalist
scene seems to have been Jared Taylor, the man who began publishing American
Renaissance, a racist, pseudo-scientific magazine focusing on race, intelligence
and eugenics, in 1990. ("When blacks are left entirely to their own devices,"
Taylor wrote in its pages a few years ago, "Western civilization - any
kind of civilization - disappears.")
Tanton, who met Taylor shortly after American Renaissance
began publication, seems to have been particularly taken with Taylor's angry
opposition to affirmative action, spelled out in Taylor's 1992 book, Paved
With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America.
On Nov. 12, 1993, Tanton wrote Taylor and three of his American Renaissance
colleagues - Wayne Lutton, who would later work for Tanton; Sam Francis,
a white nationalist ideologue then working as a Washington Times columnist;
and Jerry Woodruff, who wrote for the nativist publication Middle American
News - suggesting that their new journal take on literary critic Stanley
Fish, who had defended affirmative action in an article for The Atlantic.
Tanton enclosed "a little something" for Taylor's "start-up
Tanton promoted Taylor's efforts repeatedly.
On Dec. 15, 1994, he wrote a friend to suggest that he read Taylor's 1992
book. More remarkably, on Jan. 24, 1991, he wrote to the then-president of
the Pioneer Fund, Harry Weyher, about Taylor's American Renaissance
effort. And as recently as April 20, 1998, Tanton wrote to several FAIR employees,
including Dan Stein, to ensure that they were receiving American Renaissance
mailings: "I write to encourage keeping track of those on our same side
of the issue, but who are nonetheless our competitors for dollars and members."
(The underlining was in Tanton's original letter.)
Tanton also corresponded for years with
the late Sam Francis, a one-time Washington Times columnist who was
fired after details of a racist speech he gave at an American Renaissance
conference became public. From 1999 until his death in 2005, Francis edited
the crudely racist and nativist Citizens Informer, the tabloid published
by the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), an organization
that says it "oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind."
What may have been most remarkable of all was Tanton's endorsement
of a proposal from another friend - Peter Brimelow, who would later start
a racist anti-immigration website - that FAIR hire Sam Francis to edit its
newsletter. That proposal, which Tanton sent to FAIR's Dan Stein on Nov. 3,
1995, was made two months after The Washington Times fired Francis
Tanton's contacts with other white nationalists also are instructive:
Beginning in the late 1980s, Tanton corresponded regularly
with Virginia Abernethy, now a professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University.
Abernethy is a member of the CCC and recently described herself as a "white
On June 26, 1996, Tanton wrote to Sam Dickson - a Georgia lawyer
who has represented the Ku Klux Klan, written for and been on the editorial
advisory board of Holocaust denial publications, and spoken at several of
the biannual conferences put on by American Renaissance - to thank
him for a good time during a visit by Tanton and his wife. "The next
time I'm in Atlanta," Tanton wrote Dickson, "I hope to take one
of your 'politically incorrect' tours."
In a Dec. 23, 1996, letter, Tanton complained that it was hard
to write checks for Theodore O'Keefe, who was involved for years in the Holocaust-denying
Institute for Historical Review, because O'Keefe would only use a pen name.
It was not clear from the letter what O'Keefe had written for Tanton.
On June 17, 1998, Tanton wrote to Stan Hess, who was then a
member of the CCC, about Hess' proposal to open a FAIR office in California
(the letter was copied to Stein). The letter recounted how Tanton had "presented"
Hess' idea to the FAIR board. Hess was arrested later that year for burning
a Mexican flag at an Alabama CCC rally that was attended by an unrobed Klansman.
Hess would go on in 1999 to help form the neofascist American Friends of the
British National Party and, later, to become California state leader of a
group headed by neo-Nazi and former Klan leader David Duke.
Tanton on 'the Jews'
In some ways, given his ideas, it's not surprising that John
Tanton would cozy up to white nationalists and their fellow travelers. What
is unexpected, even among long-time observers of the FAIR founder, is his
attitude toward "the Jews."
In the late 1990s, Kevin MacDonald, a California State University,
Long Beach, professor, was finishing up a trilogy of books that purported
to show that Jews collectively work to undermine the dominant majorities
in the host countries in which they live, including the United States. MacDonald
said that Jews pursue these tactics - including promoting non-white immigration
into white-dominated nations - in order to weaken the majority culture in
a bid to enhance their own standing. He would later go on to speak and write
for white nationalist groups across America.
Tanton liked what he read. On Dec. 28, 1998 - the same year
that the last two books of MacDonald's trilogy were published - he wrote MacDonald,
saying, "I hope we can meet some day." On that same date, Tanton
sent a memo to Dan Stein and the FAIR board of directors about a MacDonald
paper "on the segment of the Jewish community that has an open borders
mentality." The paper, Tanton said, "would be fertile for group
discussion at the forthcoming board meeting."
Earlier that month, on Dec. 10, 1998, Tanton also sent MacDonald's
work to Cordelia May Scaife, a now-deceased millionaire philanthropist who
gave regularly to far-right causes and was a close Tanton friend. "I'm
sure [MacDonald's article] will give you a new understanding of the Jewish
outlook on life, which explains a large part of the Jewish opposition to
immigration reform," he wrote.
Tanton's criticism of religious groups wasn't limited to Jews,
however. Over the years, he - like some principals of FAIR - lashed out at
a variety of religious denominations, especially Catholics, for their welcoming
attitude toward immigrants coming to America from the Third World. In his
letter to the FAIR board suggesting a discussion of Kevin MacDonald's theories,
for instance, he described "the Roman Catholic Church [and] several
of the Protestant denominations, the Lutheran Church in particular,"
as being among "our opponents." In an earlier, May 24, 1994, letter
to Roy Beck of NumbersUSA, he said that "one of the problems with churches
is that they see themselves as universal, and as transcending national boundaries."
For years, FAIR President Dan Stein has hotly denied that his
organization had anything to do with eugenics. "Eugenics," he wrote
in a 2004 op-ed in the Kansas City Star, "is pure junk science,
and it is utterly unrelated to FAIR's efforts to bring order to immigration
in America." Two months later, in a press release attacking the Southern
Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for suggesting otherwise, the group called SPLC's
reporting "utterly specious" and "McCarthyist."
The press release went on to accuse the SPLC of unfairly linking
FAIR to "a long discredited pseudo-science of eugenics" by noting
the group had accepted $1.2 million from the eugenicist Pioneer Fund, ending
in 1994. The release also claimed that the idea that FAIR had an interest
in eugenics had been disproven. Apparently, John Tanton failed to get that
On Dec. 30, 1994 - at the end of the year that FAIR finally
stopped soliciting Pioneer donations (after negative publicity) and issued
its denunciation of eugenics - Tanton wrote to German academic Wolfgang Bosswick
to defend the Pioneer Fund, saying its critics were the "hard (Marxist)
left in the United States."
On Sept. 18, 1996, he wrote to now-deceased California multimillionaire
Robert K. Graham, a eugenicist who started a sperm bank to collect the semen
of Nobel Prize-winning scientists: "Do we leave it to individuals to
decide that they are the intelligent ones who should have more kids? And more
troublesome, what about the less intelligent, who logically should have less?
Who is going to break the bad news [to less intelligent individuals], and
how will it be implemented?"
On May 21, 1997, Tanton wrote to Richard Lynn - a race "scientist"
who claims that black people "are more psychopathic than whites"
and suffer from a "personality disorder" characterized by a poverty
of feeling and lack of shame - to congratulate Lynn on his book, Dysgenics,
on how less intelligent individuals are outbreeding the intelligent. The next
year, on Feb. 9, 1998, he wrote to Pioneer Fund President Harry Weyher to
propose that Weyher hire Lynn to write "a study of Barry Mehler."
Mehler, the Ferris State University professor who founded the Institute for
the Study of Academic Racism, is a harsh critic of race science and eugenics.
FAIR officials may not have known of these contacts, but they
certainly knew of others. On Oct. 29, 1998, for instance, Tanton wrote a memo
for his file on Harry Weyher discussing the Pioneer Fund's new website and
a paper on "sub-replacement fertility" by Roger Pearson, a notorious
race scientist who heads the Institute for the Study of Man. The memo was
copied to FAIR's Dan Stein and K.C. McAlpin, the executive director of ProEnglish,
a group on whose board Tanton now sits.
Most remarkable of all, however, was the Feb. 13, 1997, gathering
organized by Tanton at the New York Racquet and Tennis Club. Three years after
FAIR had stopped taking Pioneer Fund money, Tanton brought FAIR board members
Henry Buhl, Sharon Barnes and Alan Weeden - along with Peter Brimelow, future
founder of the VDARE.com hate site - to a meeting with Pioneer Fund President
Harry Weyher. The meeting, held expressly to discuss fundraising efforts to
benefit FAIR, was memorialized in a Feb. 17, 1997, memo that Tanton wrote
for his "FAIR Fund-Raising File." A year later, on Jan. 5, 1998,
Tanton wrote to John Trevor, a Pioneer Fund board member and the son of the
notorious pro-Nazi eugenicist John Trevor Sr., to thank him for his personal
"handsome contribution" to FAIR.
It's not that Tanton didn't understand, just as well as Stein
and the other leaders of FAIR, exactly how controversial eugenics was. After
starting his own eugenicist group, the Society for Genetic Education in 1996,
he wrote to Graham, the California eugenicist, to discuss public relations
strategies. In a Sept. 18, 1996, letter, Tanton explained how his new group's
website "emphasized mankind's use of eugenic principles on plants and
the lower animals as a way to condition the public to the idea of genetic
manipulation, and raise the question of its application to the human race."
Elaborating, he added: "We report ways [eugenics] is currently being
done, but under the term genetics rather than eugenics."
Immigration and Race
Throughout its history, the United States has been subjected
to periodic outbreaks of xenophobic nativism, angry reactions to waves of
immigrants who are seen as somehow different than "real" Americans.
These movements, directed at different times at Germans, Catholics, Jews,
Asians, southern Europeans, blacks and others, have typically been undergirded
by racist stereotyping. Again and again, the new immigrants are described
as stupid, ugly, disloyal, diseased and more.
Today, no one disputes the vulgar racism of the 1920s Ku Klux
Klan, which grew to nearly 4 million members on the strength of hating Catholics
and Jews. And much the same can be said of nativist movements from the Know-Nothings
of the 1840s, who saw German Catholics as dangerous subverters of American
democracy, to the racist demonization of Mexican "wetbacks" during
the 20th century.
But John Tanton and his Federation for American Immigration
Reform have repeatedly claimed that they are different, that FAIR and its
founder are not linked to the irrational fears and hatreds of the past. Their
critics, they say angrily, are simply tarring them with the brush of racism
to unfairly denigrate their arguments.
As the Bentley Library files show, that is far from true.
We need your help to spread the word concerning Antipas Ministries and the
eschatological viewpoint it represents; WE NEED YOUR
HELP BECAUSE WE DO NOT "LINK" WITH OTHER SO-CALLED "CHRISTIAN"
WEBSITES which are, for the most part, "in the tank"
insofar as their loyalty to the United States is concerned
- a loyalty that has made them partners in the BLOODY
trail the American military has left in its TERROR-RIDDEN
rampage throughout the world, as well as making them partners
in the abject poverty that American corporations have
imposed on the peoples and nations the American military
machine has ravaged - A BLOODY, TERROR-RIDDEN RAMPAGE
THAT HAS TO A LARGE DEGREE BEEN CARRIED OUT IN THE NAME
OF THE "PRINCE OF PEACE." [Please see our articles,
"The Third World
as a Model for the New World Order," Inside
the American New World Order System" and "The
American Empire: The Corporate / Pentagon / CIA / Missionary
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