A Case Study in Disinformation - Attacking John Tanton

John H. Tanton, M.D. grew up on a family farm where he developed a deep understanding of our relationship to the natural world. He chose a career as an Opthalmologist in order to help others as best he could. As a passionate conservationist, he has been very active in over a dozen environmental organizations. Realizing the connection between immigration-driven US population growth and the issues of conservation and sustainability, he also focused on the immigration-population connection and the responsibility that we have to future generations.  

Personal Attacks Against John Tanton

It would be hard to find a man who is more concerned and dedicated to the future in which our children will live than John Tanton. Yet in perusing the internet, one quickly discovers a plethora of copy-cat articles and blog entries that attack not the issues of mass immigration, overpopulation, and societal responsibility, but rather attack as an individual. (Read more about John Tanton.)

Radical open borders zealots have realized that in the current economic and political climate, they will be hard pressed to convince the American public to support a blanket amnesty for illegal aliens, which is integral to their desire for an expanded constituency and the ultimate goal of the unrestricted flow of people into the USA. The special interest open borders lobby can not argue for more cheap labor for corporate interests when Americans are out of work. They can not argue for free health care for illegal aliens when Americans already can not afford the high cost of health care. Their arguments fall short, so they fall back to the name calling - an orchestrated strategy of personal attacks against the personal integrity of John Tanton.

Some of these special interest organizations - such as La Raza (The Race) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) - are extremely well funded and undoubtedly have invested substantial amounts in market research which has told them that name calling is the best strategy they have right now.  

Indeed, in his widely published book Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky urges activists to personify the argument by attacking a specific person, not the issue.1 Clearly, the amnesty crowd has taken his recommendation to heart. Yet ad hominem attack (an attack against the person) is a formal logical fallacy2, and the astute reader will instantly recognize it as such. The purpose of such an attack is to discredit a person's position by attacking the person himself.

In the Summer of 2002, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published a hit piece on John Tanton in its Intelligence Report, claiming that "The organized anti-immigration 'movement,' increasingly in bed with racist hate groups, is dominated by one man, John Tanton."3  Not only does this claim rely upon a personal attack, but also upon another logical fallacy: the Big Lie.   

The Big Lie is a lie so colossal that many people could not imagine anyone as having the audacity to say it if it were not true. In order for the Big Lie to be truly successful, it should appeal to some emotional need. It also helps to repeat the lie frequently, lest the audience be given time to think."4

In another recent hit piece typical of the ongoing orchestrated attack, the extremist left-wing Center for New Community wrote: "As the debate for immigration reform heats up, affiliates of the John Tanton Network, FAIR's founder, will continue to dodge public concerns of its close and ongoing connection with white nationalist leaders and organizations."4 This is reminiscent of asking "do you still beat your wife?"  

Note that two additional logical fallacies are invoked in this attack: The first is Begging the Question, "a fallacy in which the premises include the claim that the conclusion is true or (directly or indirectly) assume that the conclusion is true".2 In other words, the hit piece presumes that immigration reformists are connected with racists and then justifies the premise by alleging that they can not defend themselves against the accusation.

Another is the Guilt by Association fallacy, where a person's position is attacked based upon the (alleged) company they keep.2,7

John Tanton has openly responded to these false accusations in his powerful article "The Puppeteer Replies" and has even challenged the SPLC to a debate on their race-based accusations.6 The SPLC has declined to respond.

Why has the SPLC embarked a campaign of such vitriol against such a compassionate man? As they say, "follow the money."  

Read more about John Tanton



[1] Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky; Vintage Books, ISBN 0-679-72113-4 (1989)

[2] "Logical Fallacies" - the Nizkor Project
(website visited July, 2009)

[3] "The Puppeteer" article referenced in "Answering My Critics", John Tanton 

[4] "The Big Lie", Skeptic Wiki
(website visited July, 2009)

[5] "FAIR Exposed: The Face of the Anti-Immigrant Movement", Center for New Community (June 18, 2009), published on GALEO.org

[6] "Answering My Critics", John Tanton 

[7] "Guilt by Association", Fallacy Files
(website visited July, 2009)