Chip Berlet, co-author of Right Wing Populism in America: Too Close to Home, will speak on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 7pm in the UW-M union Fireside Lounge, 2200 E. Kenwood Ave. The event is free and open to the public.
The right-wing populists who spawned the “Tea Party” and town hall protests against expanding health coverage are a growing force and working to take over the Republican Party. Meanwhile, centrist Democrats are dominating the Obama Administration and dismissing populist anger at government bailouts for corporations while poverty soars and millions remain unemployed.
Now, ultra-right activists are recruiting from among the angry “Tea Party” populists and targeting immigrants, people of color, Muslims, Arabs, reproductive rights activists, and LGBT persons. And they are spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about economic woes & foreign policy.
Chip Berlet, senior analyst at Political Research Associates (PRA), has spent over 25 years studying prejudice, demonization, and scapegoating. A lively speaker defending democracy and diversity, he has investigated far right hate groups, reactionary backlash movements and theocratic fundamentalism, as well as civil liberties violations by government agencies and police misconduct. Berlet wrote the the cover story in the Progressive Magazine last year on why to take the Tea Party movement seriously, and recently co–authored the award-winning book Right- Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. He has appeared on many national TV & radio programs including NBC, ABC, and NPR, and he has been quoted as an authority in dozens of major papers and magazines, including the NY Times.
Berlet warned reporters about the armed militia movement prior to the right–wing terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, and was interviewed widely and retained by CNN as an on–camera expert. He also urged restraint and respect for civil liberties by government agencies monitoring the very real threats posed by the militias and related movements.
He regularly reviews a large amount of material from these movements, and has attended meetings held by extremeright groups of all types. Berlet has also confronted leaders of these groups on radio and television talk shows, including a memorable exchange with the late white nationalist minister Bob Miles on Oprah Winfrey’s show.
Berlet and his family lived for ten years in a Southwest– side Chicago neighborhood, where a white racist coalition sought to inflame existing tensions over integration into racial violence. He and his wife were part of a multi–racial community group combating hate crimes including physical assaults and firebombings of Black families’ homes. While monitoring Klan/Nazi rallies in his neighborhood, Berlet was injured twice: while helping rescue a Black youth being beaten by racist thugs, and while photographing an attack on anti-racist protesters.
Berlet has served as vice president the National Lawyers Guild, and co–chaired its Civil Liberties Committee. He has also assisted lawsuits against governmental agencies’ infringement of civil liberties, including an ACLU lawsuit against illegal surveillance by the Chicago Police Intelligence Unit, dubbed the “Red Squad.”
Political Research Associates (PRA) is an independent, nonprofit research center that unmasks the US political right, collecting and analyzing information on all ultra-right movements and serves as a one–stop information resource for activists, organizers, educators, and others seeking to understand and counter right–wing campaigns, and for journalists needing accurate, up–to–date information and analysis. For more info, and to see Chip Berlet’s full biography, visit www.publiceye.org. Sponsored by Progressive Students of Milwaukee; National Lawyers Guild – Milwaukee Chapter; and Peace Action Wisconsin.