Saturday, April 01, 2006
“Watchdog groups”, as they are called, are organizations that devote themselves to monitoring the activities of political extremists. There a quite a few of them currently operating in the U.S., mostly from a liberal or leftist viewpoint. A few, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, are large enough to provide a comfortable living to their owners. While providing a lot of valuable information on the groups they monitor, the activities of watchdog groups raise several troubling ethical questions. One of the greatest of these is the lack of any sort of outreach program directed at the persons they keep tabs on. I don’t know of a single watchdog groups that makes any sort of effort to lure political extremists away from their activities. Given that most people choose their political affiliations based on the perceived social relationships they think they will gain as a result, it stands to reason that an outreach program offering a substitute social network might be quite successful. It seems that for whatever reason, watchdog groups would rather mock and disrupt the extremist movements they monitor rather than try to help their members to quit. Of course, an outreach program would also require quite a bit more work and a true desire to help others.