Chip Berlet is hailed by left-wingers as their preeminent hunter of fascists, extremists and hatemongers; however, this leftist muckraker hides a history of political extremism and yellow journalism. For example, Berlet has recently turned his poison pen on such dubious "anti-Semites" as David Horowitz. That's because Chip Berlet practices a strain of the leftist faith so vile that even some of his fellow ideologues have disavowed him. Berlet, in turn, has targeted those not sufficiently left-wing for him.
Antiwar.com (certainly no friends of Horowitz) warned of Berlet and friends, “These guys are killers: they will do anything to destroy those they perceive as enemies.” [Emphasis in original.]
Chip Berlet broke onto the scene as a defender of Communist repression in Albania. Berlet was a founding member of the "Chicago Area Friends of Albania," which formed in 1983 to aid the Stalinist leader of Albania, Enver Hoxha. To this end, Berlet sought to coordinate the activities of people who “are friendly and supportive of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania.”
Under Hoxha, Albania was a paragon of repression and isolation that billed itself as the one true socialist state. Thousands perished, torture flourished, and the secret police menaced the masses. In Berlet’s mind, North Korea on the Adriatic was paradise.
His genuine affection for Stalinism might also explain Berlet’s longstanding passion for agitating against our intelligence services, a cause that some experts believe aided the 9/11 hijackers. That Morris Dees' Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other mainstream entities portray Berlet as a scourge of extremism represents profound ignorance, or malice.
Most recently, Berlet contributed to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s ironically titled “Intelligence Project.” SPLC shamefully prostituted its legacy of confronting the neo-Nazis and the KKK by promoting Berlet’s attempt to smear various non-leftist groups, including the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.
As demonstrated in his smear of the CSPC, Berlet’s favored technique is to describe fascist and/or hate movements in detail and then brazenly link them to anyone who does not tow his party line.
Because Berlet impugned the integrity of the CSPC (among many others), David Horowitz thoroughly rebutted Berlet’s bile. Undeterred as ever by reality, Berlet repeated his distortions and SPLC endorsed and defended his misconduct.
Berlet opened his original SPLC smear by alleging that “hard right” groups have popularized racism and religious bigotry, the lack of Klansmen in Congress notwithstanding. He then listed SPLC-designated “hate groups” together with organizations that merely do not share Berlet’s ideology, such as the CSPC.
By falsely insinuating CSPC's devotion to bigotry and hatred (a devotion belied by David Horowitz's multiple decades in the Civil Rights movement), Berlet created the false illusion that conservatism and racism walk hand-in-hand. His dearth of evidence for such a connection -- the utter lack of bigotry by CSPC -- did not dampen the zest of Berlet's attack.
Not content to demonize non-leftist organizations, Berlet condemns so-called right-wing foundations and think tanks. Berlet claims these foundations' funds are fueling an alleged renaissance of bigotry and hate. He cites the Scaife Foundations as a primary culprit; Michigan State University, Tufts University, and Boston University are among the numerous hate groups that benefit from Scaife’s generosity.
Examination of Berlet’s career reveals that his despicable SPLC-backed denunciations are consistent with other methods that have frightened even fellow members of the radical Left. Reviewing one of Berlet’s screeds, one leftist writer mentions Berlet’s “crusade” against Progressives who stray from Berlet's ideological fever swamps by working with non-leftist groups. In a fascinating conclusion, the leftist commentator warns that Berlet “may try to undermine your work and isolate you. In my book, that’s very suggestive of the ‘neo-fascism’" that Berlet purports to detest. Even The Nation has printed criticisms of Berlet’s venomous proclivities.
Berlet enjoys targeting modern fascists, even if he has to invent or inflate their significance. His Potemkin credibility rests more on the receptiveness of his hard Left audience than on the accuracy of his output.
Typical of this technique, Berlet co-authored a piece suggesting, “There has been much cooperation, competition, and interaction between fascism and other sections of the right” in the U.S. Even the title asserts that “fascist potentials” and “right-wing populism” are “too close for comfort.” His vague description of “other sections of the right” not only smears many of his opponents but also allows the extreme Left to defame any conservative as a crypto-fascist.
Vigorous dissent, cultural diversity, and representative government continue unabated despite the ascendancy of a political party that Berlet frequently likens to a fascist adjunct. Because Berlet arbitrarily redefines words such as “fascist” to fit his delusions, he need not confront a reality that lays waste to his worldview.
Writing on behalf of the Communist-affiliated National Lawyers Guild the month before the 1992 Presidential Election, Berlet charged that the first “Bush Administration pursued its agenda . . . which borrows heavily from the theories of corporatism, authoritarianism, and militarism adopted by Italian fascism.” Remarkably, Berlet was not attempting satire.
Looking at Ross Perot, the sometimes forgotten key to Bill Clinton’s electoral victory, Berlet opines that the Texas electronics tycoon “provided us with a contemporary model of the fascist concept of the organic leader . . . whose strong egocentric commands are seen as reflecting the will of the people.” Under Berlet’s definition, any popular, egocentric politician—the redundancy of that formulation notwithstanding—is a potential fascist. Berlet’s unstated litmus test for "fascists" is deviation from his far-Left political views.
Discussing Pat Buchanan, an ideological maverick but also a veteran of the White House and CNN, Berlet sinks further into a morass of absurdity. Not content to blast Buchanan for alleged “xenophobia” and “isolationism” that “hearkens back to the proto-fascist ideas of the 1930s,” Berlet argues that Buchanan’s 1992 GOP convention speech “eerily invoked Nazi symbols of blood, soil, and honor.”
Come, come. Buchanan is no open borders conservative, and years after the '92 speech one could argue he strayed badly in his analysis of World War II, but intimating he was a Nazi for giving a speech most network anchors initially dubbed a success is a deliberate and malicious distortion of reality.
Naturally, the lunacy inherent in Berlet’s writing attracts many a scion of the angry Left. Institute for Public Accuracy head Norman Solomon, erstwhile friend of Saddam and Sean Penn’s acting Iraq travel agent, recently derided the California Recall as an example of what Berlet and a co-author have described as “’repressive populist movements’” that “deflect popular discontent away from positive social change” in part by “channeling most anger against oppressed or marginalized groups that offer more vulnerable targets.”
According to Solomon, then, a popular, Constitutional method for increasing the accountability of a politician is actually a nefarious scheme to deprive the oppressed of social justice. (Forget the fact that Gray Davis managed to extend economic oppression to virtually all of his constituents!) Nevertheless, Berlet’s pseudo-scholarship lends an air of credibility to Solomon’s contempt for the state constitution, and the electorate, of California.
While Berlet spreads his vitriolic seeds across the left-wing landscape, he operates from a home base at Political Research Associates, where he is the Senior Analyst and driving force. PRA bills itself as a watchdog group that monitors right-wing extremism. Consistent with Berlet’s aforementioned SPLC smear and pro-Albanian credentials, however, PRA endeavors to advance a hard-left agenda and to marginalize all of its non-leftist opponents as “extremists” by perverting the definitions of terms such as “fascist.”
At its website, PRA displays an “ism” ticker, which includes novel evils such as “ableism” and “producerism.” To aid the radical Left, PRA identifies three primary tasks: boosting “dialectical materialism” to combat “conspiracism,” continuing to support Palestinian anti-Semitism, and promoting “progressive internationalism” to thwart the successes of capitalism. Echoing its master, PRA warns against any leftist cooperation with non-leftists, regardless of the underlying cause.
As a self-appointed protector of the oppressed, PRA accuses the “right” of “scapegoating” the poor and hails PRA’s “activist kits,” which bolster programs detrimental to those in need. “Defending Public Education” amounts to a defense of the teacher unions that exact such a pernicious toll on their often disadvantaged wards. In an interesting slip, PRA also directs site visitors to BuidingEquality.us [sic.]. For another example, “Defending Immigrant Rights” emphasizes defense of failed bilingual education programs that isolate children and frustrate their development.
On September 19, 2001 -- just over a week after 9/11 -- PRA followed its obligatory expression of dismay by announcing, “We are concerned that in several areas, the aftermath of the attacks will turn this country even further to the right.” Berlet also notes with approval the bigotry accusations against Daniel Pipes, even though the charges arose because Pipes had the courage to warn of the Islamofascist threat before and after 9/11.
Like many leftist progressive groups, PRA relies for much of its funding on small numbers of wealthy individuals and foundation operatives. Richard Dennis, a Chicago hundred-millionaire and noted Democrat donor, is also a major patron of Berlet and PRA. During the past decade, Berlet’s PRA has received approximately $200,000 from the Public Welfare Foundation. Veteran leftist Peter Edelman, one of Hillary Clinton’s political mentors, is an influential member of PWF’s Board. Limousine liberal laureate Barbra Streisand, who loves the poor so long as they refrain from sullying her beachfront, is another of PRA’s benefactors.
Befitting the characteristically immodest leftist revolutionary, Berlet’s PRA website maintains an excruciatingly comprehensive 2,200+ word biographical statement. No event is too mundane to merit inclusion. In revealing tones, the biography recounts his ascension to an elected Vice-Presidency of the Communist-affiliated National Lawyers Guild.
Including precious vignettes such as Berlet’s affinity for outdoor goldfish, the profile details virtually every step of Berlet’s stroll down the left but misspells the title of Berlet’s seminal piece, "Eye’s [sic] Right!: Challenging the Rightwing Backlash," a deservedly obscure tome that Berlet edited (hopefully more carefully than his biography).
Known for its extremism even within the Left, South End Press published Eyes Right! South End’s roster of writers includes anti-American icon Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy, who recently declared, “Democracy is the Free World’s Whore.”
Berlet is also on the roster of "Speak Out Now!" a left-wing speakers bureau that features such luminaries as veteran Communist miscreant Angela Davis. She is available to discuss “Radical Frameworks for Social Justice.” "Speak Out Now!" contends that Davis “was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List on false charges,” as if the government had picked her name out of the phone book.
Chip Berlet has a demonstrated record of intolerance, inaccuracy, and distortion. His radical leftist ideology has caused him to lessen true fascism by smearing every non-Stalinist with totalitarian motivations. His attacks of fellow left-wingers has squashed vigorous debate and discourse. Thus, the SPLC smear against the CPSC can be seen as just another salvo in a continuing barrage of meaningless hate speech. Fortunately, as knowledge of his radicalism spreads, the influence of Chip Berlet will continue to decline to the level he deserves: zero.