Who Wrote the NAACP ‘Racist’ Tea Party Report?

Meredith Jessup, The Blaze, October 21, 2010

Two weeks before a potentially game-changing midterm election, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has given its endorsement to a report labeling the tea party as a self-preserving movement of racist bigots. It’s no wonder given the fact that NAACP’s political agenda conflicts with the vast majority of the tea party platform of smaller government and reduced spending.

With Wednesday’s release of the report, however, the news media is once again dropping the ball, not only by not pointing out the NAACP’s obvious conflict of interest with the tea party movement, but in failing to do their due diligence in reporting on where the report comes from and why it was written.

The Washington Post reports that the NAACP-endorsed “Tea Party Nationalism” was “put together” by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, but doesn’t report further on who the IREHR is. Politico reports that the NAACP “commissioned Leonard Zeskind and Devin Burghart” to write the study, but makes no mention of who Zeskind or Burghart are other than noting their association with the Institute.

The IREHR is a group with “long-held dreams for social and economic justice,” who condemn the “so-called Christian right, paleo-conservatism, and other far-right movements” for their “symbiotic relationship[s] with nativism and white nationalism.”

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But who are Zeskind and Burghart, the two authors the NAACP “commissioned” to write the report? The New York Times reports that Zeskind, a lifetime member of the NAACP, has “written extensively on white nationalism,” a serious understatement. Zeskind’s career has revolved around an obsession of the “abyss of mayhem and murder” America faces at the hands of “white nationalists.” He has worked to establish himself as an “expert on extremist groups” various media outlets routinely rely on for comment, but few have bothered to expose his own extremist past.

Laird Wilcox, a civil rights activists who is known for examining extremists on the right and left ends of the political spectrum, has previously had Zeskind on his radar. Like many notable modern liberals, Zeskind reportedly got his start working with the Sojourner Truth Organization (STO) where his primary role was motivating the working classes “to make a revolution.” The STO’s role model: Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, whose “iron discipline” the STO idolized.

In a 1978 article he wrote for the group’s journal, Urgent Tasks, named after V.I. Lenin. Zeskind wrote about “Workplace Struggles in Kansas City” and discussed the value of a grassroots “school of communism” that would “destroy the marketplace, not sell at it.” In a 1980 article for the same publication, Zeskind denounced the American military “as a tool of U.S. Imperialism.”

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According to reports, Zeskind spent the 1980s as a member of one pro-Stalinist group who worked to provoke the Ku Klux Klan and stir up racial tensions between blacks and whites. In 1986, this National Anti-Klan Network changed its name to a more benevolent-sounding Center for Democratic Renewal. In 1989, with Soviet communism on the way out, Zeskind told the Jewish Chronicle that he was “never the kind of Marxist-Leninist that they think of” and claimed his Stalinist ideology was no longer a “defining feature of my politics.”

At the same time, the CDR and other leftist groups were busy re-branding themselves as well. According to Wilcox, rather than present socialism or Marxism-Leninism as their goal at the time, they chose to change tactics and “piggy-back it onto anti-racism which is far more popular.”

At the same time, Zeskind’s co-author, Burghart, expanded his work studying “white nationalism” to include condemning anti-illegal immigration groups like the Minutemen on the country’s southern border, claiming the group was not patrolling the border to enforce American immigration laws, but only to prevent non-whites from entering. According to Burghart, the Minutemen represented “Klan-style” border patrol.

While working for the Center for New Community, Burghart participated in programs of the Center for Democratic Values, the think-tank arm of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

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During the summer, Zeskind and Burghart turned their focus toward the tea party. On July 11, Zeskind delivered a presentation to the NAACP’s National Convention specifically addressing the “dire threat” of the tea party {snip}

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The IREHR also convened a July meeting in London during which, as Burghart notes, the growing momentum of the tea party was discussed on an international scale {snip}:

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An old Stalinist standby for undermining opposition is “ritual defamation,” as Wilcox has noted, “to call people names in the hope of defaming, discrediting, stigmatizing or neutralizing them.” From decrypted Venona files, we now know that the KGB routinely used race to divide people and British author Mark Shields has observed how the Soviets hoped “to weaken internal cohesion of the United States and undermine its international reputation by inciting race hatred.”

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The NAACP and the report’s authors clearly have a stake in undermining the growing influence of the tea party and it’s hardly coincidental that the report has been unveiled just two weeks from election day.

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