When I was otherwise occupied in Florida, Ernie Lazar sent me an e-mail alerting me to Rachel Maddow’s December 23rd broadcast. She’d done a segment on the John Birch Society the week before that they had vigorously contested. Utilizing (and giving full credit to) Ernie’s amazing database, she offered a rejoinder to their rejoinder. If you’d like to watch the segment on your computer, click here.
Maddow commented that the John Birch Society’s co-sponsorship of the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference next February speaks volumes about the direction that movement conservatism is heading in. The John Birch Society, after all, has historically staked out a place on the extreme verge of the right. They’d labeled Mandela a “terrorist thug”; called water fluoridation a communist mind control plot; spear-headed a movement to impeach Earl Warren after the Brown v the Board of Education decision; characterized Eisenhower as a “willing agent” of the Communist conspiracy; and fear-mongered about a Communist plot to create a black-separatist Negro Soviet Republic in the South.
The JBS website responded to Maddow’s second broadcast in detail, in a patronizing piece headlined “Rachel Maddow Exposes her Youth, Inexperience, and Political Correctness.” Mandela really was a communist, they patiently explain, committed to the violent overthrow of his country. Case closed. The JBS didn’t target Warren because of his school segregation decision, but because he favored communists and usurped states’ rights; though it fought against forced integration, the JBS was against segregation too. The real scandal that Maddow should have focused on, it slyly added, was that an ex-Klansman, Hugo Black, was sitting on the court (though Black, of course, voted against segregation and mandatory school prayer and in favor of the application of First Amendment rights even to so-called Communist subversives). The JBS never said that water fluoridation was a “mind control” method, but merely the first step down the slippery slope of totalitarian control–a government that uses water to treat its citizens’ teeth will inevitably use it to sterilize them too. Of course Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t a Communist himself, but he did nothing when Hungary and Cuba fell, so he acted as their “agent” by enabling them. Communists really did publish a pamphlet in 1935 calling for a Negro Soviet Republic that would include Memphis, New Orleans, and Richmond as its capitals (not a plot, exactly, but undeniably something that somebody had once bruited as a plan).
Maddow is fully capable of defending herself against the JBS; I’m not going to refute their talking points one by one. But I was struck by their summary treatment of Mandela. Extreme right wing conservatives love that Jefferson quote about how “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Michelle Bachman called on the citizens of her state to take up arms against cap and trade legislation; Catherine Crabill, a candidate for Virginia’s 99th Congressional district, told a crowd of supporters last summer (again speaking of tax legislation), that “We have the chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box….That’s the beauty of our Second Amendment rights … Our Second Amendment rights were to guard against tyranny.” But when it comes to the fundamental human rights of black people, in a foreign country yet, these same rebels get all squeamish–the spectre of the violent overthrow of even an ex-colonial government on the other side of the globe is regarded as fundamentally illegitimate. It’s not race, they’d say, it’s that Mandela sought Communist aid. Communism is much, much worse than Apartheid. As is, apparently, Cap and Trade.
Writing in 1798, John Robison and Augustin Barruel made the case that the French Revolution was almost completely the handiwork of the Illuminati–an elite cabal of anti-Catholic, anti-Monarchist intellectuals. In 1820, in his HISTORY OF THE JACOBINS, Lombard de Langres wrote that “the first events of 1789 were only Masonry in action….All the revolutionaries of the Constituent Assembly were initiated into the third degree.” Nesta Webster revived this line of thinking in the teens and twenties of the last century, in her books about Bolshevism, the French Revolution, and occult and Jewish secret societies. If there was revolution in Russia, she wrote, it must have been imposed on it by its Jews and intellectuals. It was the basis of the domino theory in the 1960s too (with international Communism standing in for Jews or Illuminated Masons)–if there is rebellion somewhere, it must have been fomented by the USSR or one of its clients. It never occurs to these authors that most of the impetus for revolutions boil up from below–that intellectuals and ideologues can no more control the forces that revolutions unleash than they could dam the lava from a volcano (or light its fuse).
To the John Birch Society frame of mind, Communists are so evil that it’s unimaginable that anyone, even a black person in the Jim Crow south–or in an African country that denies them even nominal constitutional rights–could accept their assistance. Though they have no compunctions about threatening armed uprisings against our own elected presidents, Mandela’s disloyalty to the minority-controlled government that was his and his people’s avowed enemy is beyond the pale; his Communist ties trump everything that he ever did or dreamed of. It’s almost as though the Birchers don’t perceive the connection between “freedom” and “civil liberties” when they’re applied to black people. But to call that racist is to expose one’s “youth, inexperience, and political correctness.”