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There is a general consensus among observers that over the last thirty years an explosion of interest groups has occurred in America, as more Americans have sought to involve themselves in organized interest groups. Lipset identifies sectarian Protestantism as determinative in the development of the American creed. To put it succinctly, in the American version of Protestantism, individual believers could appeal to God directly for salvation, unmediated by ecclesiastic authorities.

Furthermore, America never established a state church. This greatly influenced the character of the American group structure, as many associations are religious in origin. Unlike Europe, America has no feudal past.

Consequently, America does not have a rigid class system as Europe formerly had. Although there are great inequalities of income, wealth and status, America has an egalitarian ethos and a class system that allows for social mobility. This encourages individual initiative and volunteerism in its interest group structure. Moreover, America has a revolutionary tradition. It was the first colony to wrest itself free from the mother country and establish independence. In fact interest groups often have a negative connotation in American political discourse, conjuring up images of backroom deals that subvert the national interest.

Despite this image, America has not been uncongenial to organized interest groups. First, the American experiment, with its limited government coupled with a strong civil society, has encouraged private initiative on the part of self-help associations and interest groups. This fostered the creation of voluntary association, for in areas in which there is a dearth of state involvement, non-governmental organizations NGOs often tend to fill the void.

Finally, the American system contains many entrance points. If interests are defeated in one branch of government area such as the legislature, they can attempt to press their claims in another branch such as the executive. Taken together, these characteristics and traditions discussed above fostered an interest group system in which organizational initiative was left to private interests and state interference was discouraged.

However, it is not uncommon for NGOs to impinge upon public policy. For example, organizations such as the Who are the watchdogs? In the realm of education, the National Education Association NEA has been effective in shaping policy not only at state and local levels, but at the national level as well. It achieved a major lobbying coup in when then President Jimmy Carter established the Department of Education as a cabinet level department.

Until recently the American Medical Association was virtually an unchallenged authority in the field of health care policy. The involvement of ethnic associations in American foreign policy is yet another case where NGOs impinge greatly on public policy. The Jewish defense organizations The Anti-Defamation League The most important watchdog group involved in countering right-wing extremism is undoubtedly the Anti-Defamation League.

As with virtually all newcomers, the native host population met the Jewish immigrants with some degree of hostility Furthermore, unlike previous Jewish immigrants from the nineteenth century who were primarily German in national origin and well established in their communities, many of the new Jewish immigrants were from Eastern Europe and tended to be economically and socially marginalized in background. They brought with them their own unique dress and customs, which were viewed as peculiar and with suspicion by many Americans.

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Jews quickly became the butt of jokes in vaudeville routines and in the fledgling motion picture industry. These developments coincided with a period of renascent nativism in America.

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Finally, the Leo Frank affair of —15 shocked the Jewish community and added a sense of urgency for the creation of new Jewish defense agencies. This pattern of organizational development fits the previously mentioned disturbance theory of interest group formation as described by Truman and Wilson. In this instance the emergence of Confronting right-wing extremism and terrorism in the USA 14 widespread anti-Semitism for the first time in America impelled the formation of Jewish defense organizations.

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The ADL devoted much of this influence to one of its highest priorities: exposing and countering right-wing extremists. In , then ADL national director Richard Gutstadt founded the fact-finding department, which gathered intelligence on extremist organizations. Rather it has adapted its tactics to meet the changing threat to Jews and other minority groups. The purpose of this is to isolate and marginalize the extremist from the society at large.

Towards this end, the ADL moved its national headquarters from Chicago to New York in in an effort to take better advantage of the mass media of communications.

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In the postwar era there has been an increasing professionalization of its staff as qualified individuals perform specialized tasks. Several departments concentrate on specific issues and areas including fact-finding, civil rights, research, international affairs, government affairs, legal affairs and education.

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Over the years, the ADL has identified several different organizations as a serious threat not only to the American Jewish community, but to the democratic structure of America as well. The ADL released several publications warning Who are the watchdogs? Smith of the Christian National Party. However, neither commanded the resources nor the followers of the Birch Society during that era, which was estimated at its peak to have 50,—60, members. Furthermore, earlier research suggested that that the seemingly innocuous conspiracy theories propounded by the Birch Society could potentially be transformed into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Moreover, to the relief of the ADL, it never transformed itself into an anti-Semitic vehicle.

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In fact, as mentioned earlier, it expelled those members who outspokenly expressed anti-Semitism. In the Lobby began publication of The Liberty Letter, which was a very small publication. However, in this evolved into its weekly newspaper, The Spotlight, which attained a circulation estimated at its peak to be approximately , For these reasons, Willis Carto and the Liberty Lobby were identified as the leading antiSemite and leading anti-Semitic organization respectively throughout the s to the s. For these reasons, the ADL has expressed consternation over the increasing influence of the National Alliance.

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However, Dr Mark Pitcavage, the current chief fact-finder for the ADL, was vague in identifying the threat from the far right: Well, you know, you can measure the threat in all sorts of different ways. The movement that tends to be the most violent is the white supremacist movement. On the other hand, the movement that has given authorities the most problem is the sovereign citizen freemen movement. I really hate to sort of come up with enemy number one. In recent years the ADL has taken the lead in countering the far right through various measures including, inter alia, the promotion of legislation e.

Its current national director, Abraham Foxman, is considered an important public figure with substantial political clout. In the early part of the twentieth century pogroms convulsed Jewish populations in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe. In order to address this crisis several prominent American Jews, including the financier Jacob Schiff, the jurist Oscar Straus and the philanthropist Cyrus L.

Sulzberger, met in New York City in to create an organization to aid their co-religionists overseas.

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During the early part of its history, the AJC proved to be quite adept in lobbying in the field of foreign policy. Many far-right groups sprouted all over the country, drawing inspiration from European fascists in continental Europe. This understandably was a worrisome development for the Jewish community.

To meet this threat, the AJC took various measures. First, it created a Legal and Investigative Department to obtain information on its far-right opponents. Dossiers were made on them and much of this information was provided to government authorities. Inasmuch as the ADL had been ahead of the game in this area, the AJC agreed to coordinate its efforts with the former. That mission, for the most part, returned solely to the ADL. However, the AJC would occasionally issue a report on the topic. It was first devised in the late s to meet the challenge of one Gerald L.

Smith, 44 one of the most notable anti-Semitic far-rightists of the last century. This approach was also refined to counter the antics of George Lincoln Rockwell and his American Nazi Party in the Who are the watchdogs? The first is the coordination among the major American Jewish community organizations to minimize public confrontations between far-right figures and their opponents, in order to deny the former a dramatic event that could generate publicity. The second component is to convince the media that absent a violent confrontation between far-rightists and their opponents, there was little newsworthy about them and thus they should be ignored.

An ADL publication once commented on the approach: At certain points, for certain agitators and groups, silence is the best course. Publicity can sometimes help a demagogue who is not well known; to ignore him is to consign him to limbo. However, new developments such as the emergence of the internet and the medium of popular television talk shows, which provides a means of access for extremists to present their case directly to American public, have made the quarantine approach a bit more problematic to maintain.

In recent years the AJC has demonstrated renewed interest in combating domestic right-wing extremism, primarily by issuing reports on the topic. Its primary researcher on the topic, Kenneth Stern, published a top selling book on the militias in titled A Force upon the Plain. The AJC has also shown renewed interest in tracking developments in Europe as well. In it opened a permanent office in Berlin, Germany, to monitor right-wing extremism in that country. Harris is executive director. However, the leading figure behind the Center is Rabbi Marvin Hier.

The center has its headquarters in Los Angeles, California.