The Public Eye

Article excerpt

Political Research Associates packets: Minister Farrakhan, The Nation of Islam, Historic Conspiracy Theories, and Anti-Jewish Rhetoric. Racial Nationalism and the Third Position; Traditional Values, Racism and Christian Theocracy; Constructing Homophobia: How the Right Wing Defines Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals as a Threat to Civilization, part III.

The political and religious right wing has a centuries-old tradition of publishing its propaganda in tracts, newspapers, and books. In the United States and abroad, hundreds of right-wing groups continue this legacy along with other sordid traditions, such as violent attacks against immigrants, people of color, and lesbians and gays. Political Research Associates (PRA) in Cambridge, MA tracks many of these hate groups through media produced by and about them. After reading a few topical packets prepared by PRA, people turning a novice eye to the realm of right-wing activity can begin to see how political and religious right-wingers continue to exist by re-inventing their ideologies of hate to frame contemporary debates.

PRA's quarterly newsletter, The Public Eye, as well as progressive and right-wing publications are excerpted in PRA's topical research packets. Much of the early 1980s content in these packets is dated, but while we anticipate comprehensive anthologies with diverse progressive perspectives on the right wing, these research packets are helpful. It's interesting to delve into these readings and marvel at odd couplings of groups espousing racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and anti-semitic rhetoric, to see the real political power these groups have asserted, and to see how progressive individuals and organizations like PRA fight back.

In 1985, the conservative National Democratic Party Committee predicted in a report, "AIDS Is More Deadly Than Nuclear War," that an AIDS pandemic would wipe out the entire U.S. population by January 1993. A copy of the report in Constructing Homophobia: How the Right Wing Defines Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals as a Threat to Civilization (part III) claims that such annihilation would be the "fault" of homosexuals. Constructing Homophobia (part III) is one segment of an 11-part collection focusing on anti-gay legislation, namely Colorado's Amendment 2 and Oregon's Measure 9. Scapegoating of gays and lesbians is part of the anti-government rhetoric of much of the right wing, which frames gay and lesbian rights, civil rights, affirmative action, and multiculturalism as a projection of private concerns into the public arena of big-government policy making. The right fears that government policy promoting these rights and what they call "untraditional" lifestyles will trample their individual freedoms and particular traditions by introducing moral, religious, and democratic diversity. Such fear motivated groups like Colorado for Family Values, Eagle Forum, and Christian Coalition to rally in favor of the discriminatory legislation proposed in Colorado and Oregon. Gays, lesbians, and their supporters struck back and took their fight to court. Legislation in both states was defeated even after many people had voted in favor of them. Much of this debate is documented in Constructing Homophobia, along with lists exposing right-wing groups who fought for the legislation.

When right-wingers rally around particular issues like family values or abortion, their alliances can exert great pressure on government. Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders was pushed out of office after her comments on masturbation were publicized out of context. Long before Elders's hurried exit, right-wing organizations like John W. Whitehead's The Rutherford Institute urged readers of its newsletter and direct-mail letters to lobby their politicians in opposition to Elders's forthright opinions on sexuality and safe sex. They viewed her as a threat to so-called traditional family values. Copies of letters from The Rutherford Institute's campaign are included in Traditional Values, Racism, and Christian Theocracy, another PRA packet. …