| By Rachel Holt, Gale Primary Sources Acquisitions Editor |
We recently released Far-Right Groups in America, the second installment of the Political Extremism and Radicalism digital archive series. Through rare and unique primary sources, it documents the rise of polarized politics in one of the world’s largest and most influential democracies from a right-wing perspective.
Studying the archives is intended to better our understanding of the past, but Far-Right Groups in America goes beyond that to explain the political and social thinking of the present. With global pandemics, the largest civil rights protests in history, and elections of reality TV stars to the presidency, to say that we’re living through unprecedented times would be an understatement. The following blog will not only provide a sneak peek into the resource but hopefully demonstrate how the materials within can be used to help explain the modern phenomena we are living through. I will be looking at each collection and showing how they can be used to understand the issues of antivaxxers, gun control, gay rights, and racism within the police.
James Aho Collection, Idaho State University
On December 8, 1984, a shoot-out took place between federal marshals and a gang of white supremacists on Whidbey Island, Washington. It ended with the gang’s safe house burning to the ground and the dead body of its leader in a bathtub. The gang called itself the Secret Brotherhood or Order, and had alleged connections to the Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations. Its intent was to ignite a race war by shutting down shipping lanes in Puget Sound. James Aho, a professor emeritus at Idaho State University, was positioned to study this connection more closely; and what began as a simple inquiry eventually turned into an investigation lasting about 10 years. One of the products of that was the James Aho Collection.
A researcher could utilize this collection to investigate multiple aspects of the Far Right, but users might be surprised to find materials concerning antivaccination rhetoric and antivaxxers. The COVID-19 pandemic debates around the newly developed vaccines and people’s right to accept or deny them rages around the world; however, public health debates surrounding government vaccination initiatives aren’t new. Researchers and students can find some fascinating materials on this subject across the collections, but specifically from the James Aho Collection they’ll find materials detailing antivaxxer arguments, such as the following:
Marks of Israel; Proclamation on Vaccinations; Tom Anderson. n.d. TS Box 25 Folder 8, James Aho Collection: Series III: Ephemera. Idaho State University. Political Extremism and Radicalism (accessed June 16, 2021).
McBean, Eleanor. The Poisoned Needle. 1974. MS Box 28 Folder 3, James Aho Collection: Series III: Ephemera. Idaho State University. Political Extremism and Radicalism.
The James Aho Collection also hosts 254 recorded sermons, interviews, and lectures considered to be, or concerning, far-right extremism. There, a user will find a sermon by Pastor Jack Lane, titled, “Consumer Express & Master-Che,” which tells a story of how vaccines lead to colon cancer.
Social Documents Collection, University of Iowa
Established in 1946 by the then library director, Ralph E. Ellsworth, the Social Documents Collection was initially begun to preserve propaganda distributed by foreign governments during World War II, but the collection soon grew to include the publications of domestic groups interested in shaping America’s foreign policy. The collection was originally named the “Tensions File” because it held print materials produced by both left-wing and right-wing groups, and showcased the political and social tensions between the two extremes. In 1960 Ellsworth and his colleague, Dr. Sarah M. Harris, published The American Right Wing: A Report to the Fund for the Republic, Inc. He states in the preface that he felt that the “American Right Wing was not being evaluated accurately by scholars and magazine writers” and that he and Dr. Harris’s aim had been to try “to establish the record so that scholars of the future will have an adequate base from which to start their evaluations.”
Gun control is an important topic in the United States, not only because gun possession is constitutionally protected in America but because of the increasing number of mass shootings over the last four decades. Since the first mass shooting in 1982, such events have seen a steady increase, almost year-on-year—spiking in 2019, with 12 in a single year. Those on the right of the political spectrum tend to be opponents of increased gun control, and scholars can use copies of the Armed Citizen News from the Social Documents Collection to trace their arguments against this from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.
Peters, W. M. Armed Citizen News. March 1989–February 1993. MS Social Documents Collection Box 63 Folder 4. University of Iowa. Political Extremism and Radicalism.
Christian Identity and Far Right-Wing Politics, University of California, Santa Barbara
Although the compilation of this collection has no specific backstory of which we’re aware, the materials within make for fascinating reading. The collection includes several radical Right periodicals that detail the fundamentals of far-right thinking, but a topic that deserves particular focus is gay rights.
LGBTQ social movements have gained greater visibility in the public eye in recent years, but many issues surrounding gay rights have been debated since the early 1960s—such as the right to serve in the military, to marry, to adopt, regular representation in popular culture, and more. Many far-right ideologies often center around an idea of “traditional Christian family values”; thus radical Right groups are largely in fierce opposition to communities that don’t adhere to what they consider to be the sexual or gender norms. Of particular interest is this article from The Truth at Last, attacking the Clinton presidency for their “White House Lesbian Liaison.”
The Truth at Last, Volumes 388–390. n.d. MS Christian Identity and Far-Right Wing Politics. University of California, Santa Barbara. Political Extremism and Radicalism (accessed June 16, 2021).
Walter Goldwater Radical Pamphlet Collection, University of California, Davis
The Library at the University of California, Davis, established the Radical Pamphlet Collection in 1966 with a collection of pamphlets purchased from Walter Goldwater, a book dealer who specialized in radical politics and who was also one of the first book dealers to specialize in African American studies. Through the material in this collection, researchers can explore the role that the Far Right plays in the United States, with titles authored by both those in support of and criticizing far-right viewpoints.
Unsurprisingly, racism is a topic covered by all the collections in Far-Right Groups in America in great depth. A researcher of African American history, as well as those studying discrimination against various minority groups—for example, Asian hate, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, etc.—will find a wealth of primary sources to aid their research. An instance where we can draw a parallel between the past and the present using the archives is police brutality toward African Americans.
The murder of George Floyd in 2020 by police officer Derek Chauvin resulted in mass protests over police brutality, which not only escalated to be the largest in U.S. history, but spread around the world. Floyd’s death was a tipping point after decades and centuries of racial tension; but has the endemic racism within the police in the United States—and the resulting violence—been allowed to endure because of America’s fear of Black aggression? A scholar investigating such a question could use multiple primary sources from the Goldwater collection to explore that, as can be seen below:
Smith, Gerald Lyman Kenneth. Guerilla Warfare in Los Angeles: Black Revolution Launched: 21,000 Troops and Officers Required to Save
Whites from Wholesale Slaughter. Los Angeles, Calif: [G. L. K. Smith], . Political Extremism and Radicalism (accessed June 16, 2021).
Westchester County Support Your Local Police Committee. Policemen. Valhalla, N.Y.: Westchester County Support Your Local Police Committee, [1969?]. Political Extremism and Radicalism (accessed 16 June 2021).
Alabama Committee to Support Your Local Police. Alabama Committee to Support Your Local Police Presents the Attack on Our Local Police. [Alabama Committee to Support Your Local Police], [ca. 1966]. Political Extremism and Radicalism (accessed June 16, 2021).
Walker, Marion E. Black Rebellion: edited by Marion E. Walker. Columbia, S.C.: National Graphics, Inc., 1968. Political Extremism and Radicalism (accessed June 16, 2021).
This blog is only intended as a sneak peek. The topics of antivaxxers, gun control, gay rights, and racism within the police can be researched using primary sources from across all four of these collections, as well as the FBI files held alongside them. Far-Right Groups in America coverage also encompasses a plethora of topics that impact modern society, such as the pro-life movement, media bias and fake news, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, presidential electoral campaigns, government monitoring, domestic terrorism, and more.
To anyone wanting to explore the origins and development of present-day issues and research the nature of radical political thought, I strongly urge you to dive into Far-Right Groups in America! For more information and to request a trial, visit the webpage.
. Ralph E. Ellsworth and Sarah M. Harris. The American Right Wing: A Report to the Fund for the Republic, Inc. University of Illinois Library School Occasional Papers, no. 59 (1960): 1–50.