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John Foster "Chip" Berlet
Born November 22, 1949 (1949-11-22) (age 60)
Other names Chip Berlet
Occupation Policy analyst, investigative journalist, photojournalist
Known for Study of right-wing movements and conspiracy theories

John Foster "Chip" Berlet (born November 22, 1949) is an American investigative journalist, and photojournalist activist specializing in the study of right-wing movements in the United States, particularly the religious right, white supremacists, homophobic groups, and paramilitary organizations. He also studies the spread of conspiracy theories in the media and on the Internet, and political cults on both the right and left of the political spectrum.

He is the senior analyst at Political Research Associates (PRA), a non-profit group that tracks right-wing networks,[1] and is known as one of the first researchers[2] to have drawn attention to the efforts by white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups to recruit farmers in the Midwestern United States in the 1970s and 1980s. He is the co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort and editor of Eyes Right! Challenging the Right Wing Backlash.

Berlet, a paralegal, was a vice-president of the National Lawyers Guild. He has served on the advisory board of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, and currently sits on the advisory board of the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation. In 1982, he was a Mencken Awards finalist in the best news story category for "War on Drugs: The Strange Story of Lyndon LaRouche," which was published in High Times. He served on the advisory board of the Campaign to Defend the Constitution. He was affiliated with Chicago Area Friends of Albania.[3]

Contents

Background

Berlet attended the University of Denver for three years, where he majored in sociology with a journalism minor. He dropped out of the university in 1971 to work as an alternative journalist. Berlet did not complete his degree. In the mid-1970s, he went on to co-edit a series of books on student activism for the National Student Association and National Student Educational Fund. He also became an active shop steward with the National Lawyers' Guild.

During the late 1970s, he became the Washington, D.C., bureau chief of High Times magazine, and in 1979, he helped to organize citizens' hearings on FBI surveillance practices. From then until 1982, he worked as a paralegal investigator at the Better Government Association in Chicago, conducting research for an American Civil Liberties Union case, involving police surveillance by the Chicago police (which became known as the "Chicago Red Squad" case[4]). He also worked on cases filed against the FBI or police on behalf of the Spanish Action Committee of Chicago, the National Lawyers' Guild, the American Indian Movement, Socialist Workers Party, the Christic Institute, and the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker group).

In 1982, Berlet joined Political Research Associates, and in 1985, he founded the Public Eye BBS, the first computer bulletin board aimed at challenging the spread of white-supremacist and neo-Nazi material through electronic media, and the first to provide an online application kit for requesting information under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.[5]

Berlet was originally on the board of advisers of Public Information Research, founded by Daniel Brandt. Between 1990 and 1992, three members of Brandt's PIR advisory board, including Berlet, resigned over issues concerning another board member, L. Fletcher Prouty and Prouty's book The Secret Team.[6][7]

In 1996, he acted as an adviser on the Public Broadcasting Service documentary mini-series With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America, which was later published as a book by William Martin.[8][9]

Photojournalism

Berlet is also a photojournalist. His photographs, particularly of Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi rallies, have been carried on the Associated Press wire, have appeared on book and magazine covers, album covers and posters, and have been published in The Denver Post, The Washington Star, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.[10]

Books and other writings

The most recent of Berlet's three books, co-authored with Matthew N. Lyons, is Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, published in 2000 by The Guilford Press. It is a broad historical overview of right-wing populism in the United States.

The book received generally favorable reviews. Library Journal said it was a "detailed historical examination" that "strikes an excellent balance between narrative and theory." The New York Review of Books described it as an excellent account describing the outermost fringes of American conservatism. [11] A review by Jerome Himmelstein in the journal Contemporary Sociology said that "it offers more than a scholarly treatise on the activities of the Third Reich", that it provides a background to help the reader understand the Holocaust and that it "merits close attention from scholars of the political right in America and of social movements generally." [12]

Robert H. Churchill of the University of Hartford criticized Berlet and other authors writing about the right wing as lacking breadth and depth in their analysis. [13]

In articles, Berlet has argued that the United States is currently undergoing a right-wing backlash that is the most sustained of its kind in U.S. history. He argues that although 95% of the US's hate crimes are committed by people not affiliated with any group, they have nevertheless internalized a narrative developed and promoted by the right wing that demonizes certain groups, including blacks and gays. He argues that the left must develop coalitions to find a way to counter-balance these narratives, instead of becoming isolated as another side of the "lunatic fringe".[14]

In ZOG Ate My Brains, Berlet warned of a "troubling resurgence on the political Left" of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that undermines the effort of progressives to bring about social change.[15]

Berlet has provided "research assistance" to a campaign run by the mother of Jeremiah Duggan[16] to reopen the investigation into his death. The British student died in disputed circumstances near Wiesbaden, Germany. Berlet's statement suggests that the LaRouche movement bears responsibility. [17]

US Intelligence policy

In 1991, Berlet wrote a report entitled "Right Woos Left," which was critical of a number of critics of U.S. intelligence policy including Prouty, Mark Lane, Dick Gregory, Craig B. Hulet, and Victor Marchetti for being willing to work with groups on the right such as the John Birch Society and Liberty Lobby.

Allegations by Berlet of neofascism

Berlet has made allegations that various public figures are tainted by Neofascism. Berlet writes that "In the United States, the 1992 presidential campaigns of David Duke, Patrick Buchanan, and H. Ross Perot echoed different elements of historic fascism... In his Republican convention speech, Buchanan eerily invoked Nazi symbols of blood, soil and honor... Perot's candidacy provided us with a contemporary model of the fascist concept of the organic leader, the "Man on a White Horse" whose strong egocentric commands are seen as reflecting the will of the people."[18]

Ralph Nader

Berlet criticized Ralph Nader and his associates for a close working relationship with Republican textile magnate Roger Milliken, erstwhile major backer of the 1996 presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan, and anti-unionization stalwart. [19][20]

Center for the Study of Popular Culture

In 2003 the Southern Poverty Law Center published "Into the Mainstream," in which Berlet named conservative activist David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture (CSPC) as one of an "array of right-wing foundations and think tanks support[ing] efforts to make bigoted and discredited ideas respectable." Berlet accused Horowitz of blaming slavery on "'black Africans ... abetted by dark-skinned Arabs'" and of "attack[ing] minority 'demands for special treatment' as 'only necessary because some blacks can't seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within reach of others,' rejecting the idea that they could be the victims of lingering racism."[21]

Lyndon H. LaRouche

Berlet described a worldwide network that he claims is controlled by Lyndon LaRouche, as having a long history of violence, physical assaults, intimidation, psychological manipulation, emotional blackmail, and harassment.[22] He further asserts that the LaRouche network is "a totalitarian political organization that operates through a variety of front groups, with detailed reports from the field constantly being sent back to the worldwide headquarters in the United States." [17]

Alleges 'Leaderless Jihad' plagiarism

In an article in Public Eye, Berlet made allegations against Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century. Marc Sageman, the author of the book, argues that there is an excessive focus on al Qaeda, and that terrorism has become decentralized. Berlet stated that passages had been taken from works by Richard Hofstadter and Simson Garfinkel. The director of the University of Pennsylvania Press, publisher of the book, described Berlet's article as "hyperbolic" and called the charges overblown. The publisher promised to add citations in future editions.[23]

The religious right

In a July 2008 article in The Progressive coauthored with the Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, Berlet argued that the religious right has maintained its staying power despite predictions of its demise. Berlet predicted that, despite predictions of their demise, "On the day after the election, you will not see millions of Christian Right activists raptured off planet Earth. They will be left behind to continue more than thirty years of political activism from within the largest organized social movement in the United States today."[24]

9/11 conspiracy theories

Berlet is a critic of the The New Pearl Harbor: A Debate On A New Book That Alleges The Bush Administration Was Behind The 9/11 Attacks book, which alleges that the 9/11 conspiracy theories are true; Berlet debated prominent conspiracy theorists such as David Ray Griffin. [25]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "About PRA". http://www.publiceye.org/about.html.  
  2. ^ Jason Berry (1993-08-22). "Bridging chasms of race and hate". St. Petersburg Times (Florida) (Times Publishing Company): p. 6D.  
  3. ^ Michael, George. "Confronting Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism in the United States" (2003).
  4. ^ "Bibliography: Chicago Police Department's Red Squad's Involvement In Social Protest" (PDF). http://www.chicagohistory.org/static_media/pdf/historyfair/chicago_police_depts_red_squad.pdf.  
  5. ^ Berlet, Chip. "History of the Public Eye Electronic Forums". http://www.publiceye.org/aboutpra/pe_bbshist.html.  
  6. ^ Daniel Brandt, "An Incorrect Political Memoir," Lobster, No. 24 (December 1992)
  7. ^ Chip Berlet, "Right Woos Left: Populist Party, LaRouchite, and Other Neo-fascist Overtures To Progressives, And Why They Must Be Rejected," Cambridge, MA: Political Research Associates, 1991.
  8. ^ With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ Martin, William (1996). With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. Broadway. ISBN 0-553-06749-4.  
  10. ^ Grant Kester (Feb-March, 1995). "Net profits: Chip Berlet tracks computer networks of the religious right - interview with Political Research Associates analyst - Special Issue: Fundamentalist Media - Interview". Afterimage (Visual Studies Workshop). http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2479/is_n7-8_v22/ai_17195110. Retrieved 2007-04-11.  
  11. ^ "The New York Review of Books". http://www.nybooks.com/archives/htsearch. Retrieved 2008-07-26.  
  12. ^ Himmelstein, Jerome L., Review of book Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Jan., 2002), pp. 76-77, American Sociological Association
  13. ^ Churchill, Robert H. "Beyond the Narrative of 1995 - Recent Examinations of the American Far Right." Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Winter 2001), pp.125–136.
  14. ^ "Race, Class, and Gender: Justice in the Intersections". 1999. http://www.uua.org/ga/ga99/418.html.  
  15. ^ Berlet, Chip. "Zog ate my brains", New Internationalist, October 2004.
  16. ^ "PublicEye.org". http://www.publiceye.org/press/releases/2007/3/27/Berlet_LaRouche.html.  
  17. ^ a b "PublicEye.org - Statement Presented to British Coroner's Inquiry". http://www.publiceye.org/larouche/Duggancoroner.html. Retrieved 2008-07-26.  
  18. ^ Berlet, Chip, "Right Woos Left," Political Research Associates, 1991
  19. ^ Right-Wing Populism in America by Chip Berlet, pp. 338-344
  20. ^ Hawkins, Howie (2000). "A Green Perspective on Ralph Nader And Independent Political Action (from New Politics, vol. 8, no. 1 (new series), whole no. 29, Summer 2000)". http://www.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue29/hawkin29.htm.  
  21. ^ Berlet, Chip (2003). "Into the Mainstream". Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center. http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=105. Retrieved 2006-04-23.  
  22. ^ Berlet, Chip and Lyons,Matthew N., Right-Wing Populism in America Too Close for Comfort (2000), New York: Guilford Press, pp. 273-276,
  23. ^ "Missing Attribution in Controversial Book". Inside Higher Ed. http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/07/28/leaderless. Retrieved 2008-08-14.  
  24. ^ "The Christian Right’s Staying Power". The Progressive. http://www.progressive.org/mag/berlet0708.html. Retrieved 2008-09-03.  
  25. ^ http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/05/26/150221

Further reading


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Chip Berlet (born November 22, 1949) is an American political writer.

Sourced

  • Today, there are still political and social networks that seek to undermine full equality for all Americans. Their messages are spread using the standard tools: prejudice, fear, disdain, misinformation, trivialization, patronizing stereotypes, demonization and even scare-mongering conspiracy theories. While many of the groups within these networks describe themselves as mainstream — and many disagree with one another — they all have helped spread bigoted ideas into American life.
    • "Into the Mainstream" in Intelligence Report (Summer 2003) at the Southern Poverty Law Center

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