In an earlier piece about Colorado Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, I mentioned that Tancredo had received large sums of money from John Tanton, and referred to Tanton as the ‘Puppet Master.” The Southern Leadership Poverty Center deserves credit for the moniker, “The Puppetmaster.” In an Intelligence Report from 2005, the SLPC catalogued the baker’s dozen anti-immigration organizations under Tanton’s control. Twenty-four years ago Tanton founded FAIR, the Federation for Immigration Reform, and thereby laid the foundation stones of today’s the anti-immigration fervor. How did this liberal proponent of negative population growth, retired ophthalmologist, and bee-keeper create a movement that has been embraced by conservatives and denounced by liberals?
It all began when Tanton read a highly racist book, The Camp of Saints by Jean Raspial and Jeremy Leggatt not long after it was published in the early 1970s. The semi-science fiction novel details a future world where white people have been turned into starving refugees, dominated by brown-skin, foreign speaking illegal immigrants. Tanton embraced the anti-immigration and anti-immigrant theme of the book. He allowed it to transform his life. In turn, he was able to attract the support of decent, conservative minded Americans who are only interested in border security. Unfortunately, while the vast majority of these individuals who have embraced Tanton’s philosophy are completely ignorant of the nefarious and bigoted origin of the anti-immigration movement, a few, more unsavory characters are using it as a way to legitimize their base theology of racial purity.
Raised on the family farm in rural Michigan, ‘mild mannered’ bee-keeper and ophthalmologist, John Tanton lived with his wife, Mary Lou, and family in rural Petosky, Michigan. He became a passionate environmentalist in the 1960s and by the early 1970’s was a leader within the National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club. While in medical school, Tanton attended Earth Day festivities where he met and began associating with Bill Paddock, Paul Ehrlich, and Garrett Hardin, all stalwarts of zero population growth. In 1971 he became the chairman of the Sierra Club’s Population Committee. In 1975 he was on the staff of Zero Population Growth, and became a national force behind Planned Parenthood, especially in Michigan. After encountering The Camp of Saints and securing the English publication rights, Tanton founded The Social Contract Press. Over the years Tanton has used his company to publish a variety of books that are anti-Hispanic, anti-Spanish, and fan the flames of white identity and fears of illegal immigration run amok.