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Population and Fake Progressives


Rebecca Poswolsky • May 13, 2010

blog for populationWilliam Ryerson, president of Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), wrote a response to Julia Whitty’s recent article on population in Mother Jones magazine. Whitty’s piece, “Population the last Taboo: What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives, environmentalists, and scientists in a conspiracy of silence? Population” explores population growth, consumption and the connection between the two on a global scale. She delves into the “taboo” issue of population, including the rather controversial anti-immigrant history within US environmental constituencies namely the Sierra Club.

Ryerson responds to Whitty to set the record straight. It seems he and many others online don’t find the topic taboo, rather they are happy to speak up to defend their territory around population, especially in regards to underlying questions of racism. Ryerson adamantly protects the right and urgency to discuss population as long as nativists and racists are not at the table, “There are, of course, some racists involved in population and immigration debates. However, their racist arguments are not condoned or supported by the mainstream population stabilization movement. Nor should they be.” I’m glad we are on the same page with Ryerson. Or are we?

Last summer The Social Contract circulated a special issue for PFIR. The Social Contract Press is a quarterly white nationalist journal founded by John Tanton. This special issue covered PIFR’s resources and data available on PFIR’s website, including its stance on immigration and population, “The results of a national poll of self-identified liberals and progressives which underscores the broad range of political constituencies involved in and the non-ideological concerns about the current levels of immigration into the United States and the harmful effect that current immigration policies are having on U.S. population growth, the environment, and the availability of jobs.”

Maybe we need to look a little closer as to why Ryerson wants to come off as “progressive” while at the same time circulating his work in white nationalist networks. Something isn’t adding up. I wrote in my blog on sustainable hate that PFIR was a front group for Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Whether it be the Tanton film exposing the racist roots of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 or the Rachel Maddow investigation into the group, there are many signs that we should be concerned with the hate group FAIR.

Check out Imagine 2050 for more information on PFIR, including the fact that John Tanton’s colleague Roy Beck (and former consultant and editor of Tanton’s Social Contract Press) helped staff PFIR by circulating an employment letter for PFIR’s executive director in June 2008. It’s not clear how Ryerson got tangled in Tanton’s nasty web of anti-immigrant front groups, but he remains intertwined with those crafting today’s most overtly anti-immigrant, racist bills.

Ryerson is right; racists should not be allowed to participate in the population debate. The deep-seated racism that makes up FAIR and those involved in the Tanton Network guides their interest in population debates that took place at the Sierra Club previously and they are trying to gain traction yet again. Thanks to Maddow, this has been brought to the forefront. Ryerson has a choice: either remove himself from the debate on population or from his white nationalist connections. The choice is his. As someone who believes population shouldn’t be a taboo topic either, I hope that we are able to spot a racist in progressive drag and take a stand.

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