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Lamb Amongst Wolves
April 16, 2008

A Look at Willis Carto and the Far Right
by Kevin Lamb

For one who has spent a considerable amount of time over the years working for various right-wing publications (serving as managing editor of Human Events and as founding editor of the Occidental Quarterly), a perplexing question has often come to mind: Why has the Far Right over the years accomplished so little and remained so marginalized in relative political obscurity?

The answer to this question is contained in a new biography of Willis Carto, arguably the most influential American figure on the Far Right in the post-World War II era. For anyone interested in understanding this political figure and ideological genre, George Michael's Willis Carto and the American Far Right (University Press of Florida, 348 pp.,$45) is essential reading.

Michael, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Virginia's College at Wise and the recipient of an Outstanding Research Award as a faculty member who has contributed significantly to published research in his discipline, is refining his scholarly focus as a chronicler of the Far Right. His detailed scrutiny of the World Church of the Creator and its controversial founder Ben Klassen will be published next year.

Carto and America's post-war Far Right serve as case studies. On the one hand, they show the diligent efforts of a pivotal individual who shaped the political landscape of a fringe ideological movement. On the other hand, they reveal the inherent limitations that distinguish and continue to isolate the Right edge of the ideological spectrum. Michael's biopic sheds much-needed light on a fledging ideological movement struggling to define itself as a contemporary political force.

Villain or Patriot?
Carto, a native Hoosier born in Fort Wayne and a veteran of World War II, has been described by his adversaries as an arch-villain-a dangerous, shadowy figure who has allied himself with fascists and assorted political extremists. To Carto's supporters he remains a genuine patriot for his commitment to right-wing causes, setting up Liberty Lobby in the late 1950s in an attempt to unite the various movements on the political Right. Carto has succeeded in establishing a variety of groups and publications over the years where others have failed.

Michael quotes John George and Laird Wilcox, two authorities on fringe political movements, as noting:

"[W]hatever else one can say of Willis Carto, it is clear that he, more than any individual, has been responsible for giving form to the ragtag band of citizens who make up the [R]ightist fringe. Carto has attempted to ride herd on a very difficult and contentious band of rugged individualists, prima donnas, loners, and nut cases with predictably marginal results. Some critics on the [R]ight say that Carto's failures have been caused by his autocratic personality, but it's doubtful anyone else could have done better."

Over the course of his political activism Carto has endured several lawsuits and has likewise filed suit against others. Some of these litigants have included former associates and allies. Despite a number of challenges and obstacles, some of them quite formidable, Carto has persevered and overshadows many of his political rivals in competing for the wing nuts in the fever swamps."

Symbol of Limitations
As Michael points out, Carto is symbolic of the political limitations that have defined America's right-wing fringe. "Indeed, the principal weakness of the American [F]ar [R]ight has arguably been its lack of ideological coherence." This is perhaps the single greatest deficiency, for not only Carto but the various political, racial, and educational groups that are to the Right of mainstream conservatism. Defining one's purpose, goals, outreach, constituency, program, and activities to cultivate a larger impact on American society and on our pluralistic political culture have been problematic obstacles for the Far Right.

The failures and limitations of the various groups that presently inhabit the rightward fringe of the political spectrum are considerable. Chief among them is the lack of a broader appeal (widespread support at the grassroots level) that other movements-from mainstream conservative and liberal causes to the far-Left end of the political spectrum-readily attract. This fundamental lack of support from the ranks of the Far Right's natural constituency-middle- to upper-class whites-has generated dismal financial support for Far Right ventures.

All too often various enterprises to the Right of the conservative establishment have tried to make a difference but have come up short of their expected goals for numerous reasons: inept leadership, internal strife, indecision on fundamental organizational matters, gross incompetence and lack of experience in fund raising, business acumen, and corporate matters.

The further one wades into the fever swamps of the Far Right, the more one encounters a fantasy world of assorted kooks and cranks. It has become the Rest Stop for the deranged-adherents of far-fetched conspiracy theories that drive rational, normal Middle Americans right back to mainstream conservative groups for the lack of an ideologically sane, politically sound alternative.

One problem in the past (although less of an issue with the Internet as an alternative communications medium) has been the blackout of media censorship. Conventional channels of print and broadcast media have been off-limits to the Far Right, and current attempts to stifle dissident political commentary on the Right will only intensive efforts to label such commentary as hate speech. Carto and his supporters, as well as others along the political spectrum, deserve to be heard in a free society without reprisal of losing one's job or being blacklisted in one's career field.

Challenge of Credibility
The hurdle to overcome is not establishing respectability among managerial elites; fringe organizations spend too much wasted energy trying to influence political and media elites. Rather, the challenge is cultivating credibility with one's base constituency and developing a reasonable approach that will appeal to grassroots Middle America. Most individuals shun the political arena and are not ideologues. Tapping into the real concerns of Middle Americans-family cohesion, crime, jobs, better schools, community stability-and relating these to larger demographic trends-connecting the dots to national, racial, and cultural developments-should be the goal of any political operation to the Right of mainstream conservatism. Endless esoteric discussions on the diabolical plots of the Illuminati, or the fraudulent Protocols of Zion will continue to marginalize the Far Right.

Patriotic Americans once embraced populist causes en masse, such as the America First Committee, by turning out tens of thousands of supporters at rallies to hear Charles Lindbergh speak in opposition to American involvement in World War II. For a variety of reasons, this post-war era populist support for nativist causes and patriotic movements has shriveled up to a few hundred supporters at best turning out for Far Right gatherings.

The political culture has obviously shifted considerably to the Left in the decades that followed World War II, but the real blame lies inward. One reaps what one sows — a point that does not seem lost on Willis Carto.

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Lamb Amongst Wolves column by Kevin Lamb is copyright © 2008 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfbooks.com.
All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reprint if credit is given to the author and the Foundation.

Kevin Lamb is managing editor of The Social Contract magazine. His articles have appeared on VDARE.com and in National Review, Human Events, Chronicles, Middle American News, and the Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies.

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