Laird Maurice Wilcox is an American researcher specializing in the study of political fringe movements. He is the founder of the "Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements," 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. Wilcox worked as carpenter, investigator and writer while living in Olathe, Kansas.
Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements
The Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, 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 feet (22 m) 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.
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 its 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.
In 1989, Wilcox received the "Kansas City Area Archivists Award of Excellence" for his role in founding and maintaining the Wilcox Collection. 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." In 2005, the University of Kansas honored Wilcox, then 63, in the Spencer library's North Gallery for his role in founding the collection. He has been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union since 1961 and a member of Amnesty International since 1970.
Criticism of "Watchdog" groups
In his 1997 self-published book, The Watchdogs, Wilcox criticized an "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."
- Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe, by John George (professor of political science and sociology at the University of Central Oklahoma) and Laird Wilcox, 1992. It is an examination of political extremism of both the far left and far right in the United States.
- Crying Wolf: Hate Crime Hoaxes in America, 1994.
- 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."
- 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."
- Voluntaryist article What Is Political "Extremism"? by Laird Wilcox From Issue 27 - Aug. 1987
- 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.
- KU News Release article Wilcox Collection of political literature to celebrate 40 years at KU by University of Kansas published October 12, 2005.
- “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
- University of Kansas Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas
- KCAA Award of Excellence Recipient.
- The Watchdogs], self-published through "Editorial Research Service," available at lairdwilcox.com; extensively footnoted. (ISBN 0-933592-89-2)
- McCain, Robert Stacy. "Researcher Says 'Watchdogs' Exaggerate Hate Group Threat", The Washington Times, May 9, 2000.
- 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)
- Be Reasonable: Selected Quotations for Inquiring Minds,, Prometheus Books, 1995, 361 pps. (ISBN 0-87975-867-8).
- Wilcox, Laird. "What Is Political Extremism?," Free Inquiry, Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism. Fall 1990, Vol. 10, No. 4., pp. 13–16. A more recent (2005?) and shortened version of this essay appears here
- "Far Left and Far Right Meet in a Midwest Library ," Education Section, New York Times (12 August 1992) .
- Farney, Dennis. "Emergence of Extremist Groups Reflects Changing U. S. Society, Researcher Says." Wall Street Journal (27 April 1995).
- Wilcox, Laird. "Who Watches The Watchmen?," in The Cultic Milieu: Oppositional Subcultures in an Age of Globalization, Edited by Jeffrey Kaplan and Helene Loow, Alta Mira Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-7591-0204-0
- Wilcox, Laird. The Protocols of Ritual Defamation: How Values, Opinions and Beliefs Are Controlled in Democratic Societies. Essay written in 2002.
- Wilcox, Laird. The Writer's Rights: Over 1,600 Selected Quotations on Freedom of Expression, Civil Liberties and Individual Rights. 136 pp. ISBN 0-9761337-4-1. 2005.
- Wilcox, Laird. Propaganda, Persuasion & Deception: Over 1,125 Selected Quotations for the Ideological Skeptic. 124 pp. ISBN 0-9761337-0-9. 2005.
- Wilcox, Laird. Rationality, Rhetoric, Skepticism & Logic: Over 835 Selected Quotations for the Ideological Skeptic. 80 pp. ISBN 0-9761337-3-3. 2005.
- Wilcox, Laird. Fanaticism, Dogmatism & Ideological Thinking: Over 1,050 Selected Quotations for the Ideological Skeptic. 95 pp. ISBN 0-9761337-1-7. 2005.
- Wilcox, Laird. Political & Social Psychology & Behavior: Over 1,250 Selected Quotations for the Ideological Skeptic. Compiled by Laird Wilcox. 121 pp. ISBN 0-9761337-2-5. 2005.