This chapter introduces the reader to some of the prominent organizations that compose the watchdog community. The number of so-called watchdog groups, which monitor the activities of the extreme right, has grown considerably over the past two decades. In fact, a recent study estimates that there are now approximately 300 such groups nationwide. 1 Consistent with the disturbance theory of interest group formation, many of these organizations were created in response to some crisis or disturbance. 2 Once a threatening environment or conflict emerges, individuals are more willing to join groups. Often there is some precipitating event or condition, which serves as a catalyst for group formation.
Like its far-right opponents, the watchdog community is a variegated combination of groups. It is far from monolithic, as there is a great degree of nuance among the various organizations. There seems to be a good deal of variation in the staff compositions and orientations of the various watchdog groups. For example, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is concerned mostly with Jewish issues including countering anti-Semitism and building support for the state of Israel. The members of ADL’s uppermanagement are primarily Jewish in ethnic background and their political orientations appear to be for the most part generally liberal. By contrast, groups such as the Center for Democratic Renewal and Political Research Associates are concerned with a much broader range of so-called progressive issues such as environmentalism, women’s rights, affirmative action and economic rights, in addition to countering the far right. This is understandable insofar as many of the staff members of these groups had sojourned in left-wing and progressive organizations prior to their involvement in the watchdog movement. Despite these differences, however, there remains a good deal of cooperation between these groups.
Although the various organizations which compose the watchdog community may generally agree on certain issues, such as opposition to the far right, white racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia, there is a considerable difference of opinion on other issues. The most salient disagreement is on the