Laird M. Wilcox

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Laird Maurice Wilcox (born November 28, 1942 in San Francisco, California) is an American researcher specializing in the study of political fringe movements. He is the founder of the "Wilcox Collection on Contemporary Political Movements,"[1] said to be one of the largest collections of American political material in the United States. It is housed in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas.[2] Wilcox worked as carpenter, investigator and writer while living in Olathe, Kansas.[3]

In 1968, Wilcox signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[4]

Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements

The Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, housed in the Kansas Collection of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas, includes coverage of "more than 10,000 individuals and organizations. The bulk of the collection covers 1960 to the present and comprises nearly 10,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals, 800 audio tapes, 73 ft of manuscript materials and more than 100,000 pieces of ephemera including flyers, brochures, mailings, clippings and bumper stickers." Wilcox continues to make regular donations.[5]

The collection began in 1963-1964 when Wilcox, then a student at the University of Kansas, kept a scrapbook while he was chair of the Student Union Association Minority Opinions Forum. According to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library website, the forum was very active that year, with speakers invited to discuss civil liberties, freedom of expression, apartheid, communism, the American Nazi Party, and the Socialist Labor Party. In 1965, the university purchased a number of books, serials, and pamphlets from Wilcox, and the Wilcox Collection began.[2]

In 1989 Wilcox received the "Kansas City Area Archivists Award of Excellence" in 1989 for his role in founding and maintaining the Wilcox Collection.[6] In 1993 he was awarded the Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in the United States. In 1994 he was awarded the Freedom of Information Award of the Kansas Library Association/SIRS "For outstanding commitment to intellectual freedom." In 1995 he received the Mencken Award of the Free Press Association "For outstanding journalism in defense of liberty."[citation needed] In 2005 the University of Kansas honored Wilcox, then 63, in the Spencer library's North Gallery for his role in founding the collection.[3] He has been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union since 1961 and a member of Amnesty International since 1970.[citation needed]

Criticism of "Watchdog" groups

In his 1997 self-published book The Watchdogs[7] Wilcox criticized and "industry" of such groups "whose identity and livelihood depend upon growth and expansion of their particular kind of victimization." He holds such groups use "links and ties" to imply connections between individuals and groups. And they collect millions of dollars by greatly exaggerating the size and danger of such groups, becoming "a massive extortion racket." He names groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, Political Research Associates and the Center for Democratic Renewal. Mark Potok of Southern Poverty Law Center told a reporter that Wilcox "had an ax to grind for a great many years," and engaged in name calling against others doing anti-racist work. Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates told a reporter that "Laird Wilcox is not an accurate or ethical reporter...He simply can't tolerate people who are his competition in this field."[8][9]


  • Be Reasonable: Selected Quotations for Inquiring Minds, by Laird Wilcox and John George, 1995. It is a large collection of quotations on twenty topics, including civil liberties, Freedom of Speech and of Press, Ideologies and Ideologues, Propaganda, and Public Opinion and Mass Media. "This is a unique reference work consisting of provocative quotations meant to challenge tendencies toward censorship an supression of ideas as well as the stifling effects of 'politically correct' behavior."[11]
  • The Watchdogs: A Close Look At Anti-Racist "Watchdog" Groups, self-published by Laird Wilcox, 1997. "Included are documented instances of illegal spying, theft of police files, fund-raising irregularities, questionable "hate crime" statistics, irresponsible and fraudulent claims, perjury, harassment and stalking, violence, and deep and longstanding involvements with Marxist-Leninist extremists."[7]


  1. Voluntaryist article What Is Political "Extremism"? by Laird Wilcox From Issue 27 - Aug. 1987
  2. 2.0 2.1 Free Speech and the Wilcox Collection: Forty Years of Collecting Political Documents Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.
  3. 3.0 3.1 KU News Release article Wilcox Collection of political literature to celebrate 40 years at KU by University of Kansas published October 12, 2005.
  4. “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  5. University of Kansas Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas
  6. KCAA Award of Excellence Recipient.
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Watchdogs], self-published through "Editorial Research Service," available at; extensively footnoted. A downloadable PDF version of the book is available here. (ISBN 0-933592-89-2)
  8. McCain, Robert Stacy. "Researcher Says 'Watchdogs' Exaggerate Hate Group Threat", The Washington Times, May 9, 2000.
  9. William Norman Grigg, formerly a senior editor of the conservative John Birch Society publication "The New American," writes that Wilcox is "considered by many academics to be one of the nation’s foremost experts on 'fringe' political movements," as well as "a forthright critic of professional anti-right activists ..." "Propagandizing the Police", The New American, published by The John Birch Society, Vol. 15, No. 23, November 8, 1999.
  10. Published by Prometheus Books (Buffalo, New York) in 1992 as a 523-page hardcover (ISBN 0-87975-680-2). In 1996, Prometheus Books (Amherst, New York) republished it as the paperback American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists and Others, (Paperback), 443 pps. (ISBN 1-57392-058-4)
  11. Be Reasonable: Selected Quotations for Inquiring Minds,, Prometheus Books, 1995, 361 pps. (ISBN 0-87975-867-8).

See also

Further reading

External links

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