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
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
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
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
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.
Back to Lamb Amongst
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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