- Smears conservative individuals and organizations as fascists
- Senior analyst for Political Research Associates
- Member of the National Lawyers Guild
Born in November 1949, Josh Foster Berlet is a senior analyst for Political Research Associates (PRA), which bills itself as a watchdog group that monitors "the threat posed to human rights by oppressive and authoritarian [right-wing] movements and trends in the United States."
Berlet was a student for three years at the University of Denver, majoring in sociology and minoring in journalism. He dropped out in 1971 to pursue a job as an alternative journalist.
Throughout the 1970s, Berlet served on the boards of the Alternative Press Syndicate and the Underground Press Syndicate. He also co-edited a series of books about student activism for the National Student Educational Fund and the National Student Association. In the late 1970s he was bureau chief for the pro-marijuana legalization magazine High Times.
In 1981 Berlet and political scientist Jean Hardisty co-founded PRA. During the early 1980s Berlet also worked as a paralegal investigator at Chicago’s Better Government Association, where he was a research assistant to attorneys representing many different organizations, including the American Friends Service Committee, the Christic Institute, and the Socialist Workers Party. In Chicago he worked on the legal team for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation.
In 1983 Berlet was a founding member of the Chicago Area Friends of Albania, an organization that supported the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, which was then under the political leadership of the Marxist-Leninist dictator Enver Hoxha.
Berlet is a former Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild. He also contributed to the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Intelligence Project" report, which alleged that "hard right" groups had popularized racism and religious bigotry. The report conflated SPLC-designated "hate groups" with respectable conservative organizations that merely did not share Berlet's politics. For example, an opposition to racial preferences for African Americans or other specially designated groups was deemed sufficient grounds for branding a group as "racist" and linking it, by inference, to the Ku Klux Klan.
"Fascist" is a label Berlet commonly affixes to his ideological adversaries. Writing on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild a month before the 1992 presidential election, for instance, Berlet charged that the George H.W. Bush administration had "pursued its agenda … which borrows heavily from the theories of corporatism, authoritarianism, and militarism adopted by Italian fascism." Similarly, Berlet asserted that independent Reform Party candidate Ross Perot "provide[s] us with a contemporary model of the fascist concept of the organic leader ... whose strong egocentric commands are seen as reflecting the will of the people." In 1995 Berlet co-authored a piece suggesting: "There has been much cooperation, competition, and interaction between fascism and other sections of the right" in the U.S. He further asserted that "fascist potentials" and "right-wing populism" are "too close for comfort."
Berlet currently serves on the on the advisory board of the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation, which was founded in 1960 in opposition to the anti-Communist efforts of the House Un-American Activities Committee. He also sits on the board of the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, a Tides Center project formed in 2005 to combat “the growing power of the religious right” and to “fight for the separation of church and state.”
In addition, Berlet is a Vice President of the Defending Dissent Foundation (DDF), whose mission is to "protect and advance the right of dissent in the United States" by "alerting local activists to civil liberties threats" and "educating the public, the press and policymakers as to how dissent is crucial to democracy." Other notabale (past and present) DDF board members include Victor Navasky, Gore Vidal, and Kit Gage.
Berlet is the co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort (2000), and editor of Eyes Right! Challenging the Right Wing Backlash (1995).