Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Ducking the Freedom Fight

"I don't expect Will to take this [i.e., being fired for no definable, let alone defensible, reason] lying down. I'm sorry he knows that finances are such that pay checks are being held back.... If he would go quietly and pursue his own interests, I would think better of the man."

Jack McManus e-mail to Art Thompson, October 3, 2006 (mistakenly cc'd to me).

Sorry to disappoint you, Jack, but my "interests" aren't strictly mercenary. I'm sure that you'd prefer that I remain quiet, but since you and your comrades have effectively muzzled yourselves on the subject of freedom, somebody has to make a fuss about the subject.

There was a time, not so very long ago, when The New American and The John Birch Society didn't shrink from calling things by their proper names.

Witness the cover of TNA's April 5, 1993 theme issue, "The New Fascism." Scott Alberts, the exceptionally gifted illustrator who was TNA's Art Director at the time, produced a brilliant satire of the mock-heroic style (heavily influenced by "socialist realism") that characterizes official Fascist propaganda art.

This was a case of the cover telling the story even better than the editorial content. That's not to say that the articles contained in this issue were in any way deficient; it's just that the totalitarian aesthetic captured in that cover conveys a timely message in a chillingly effective fashion.

And that TNA cover, like so much of what the JBS did before it was emasculated by its current management, was prescient.

To the right we see a "public service" poster from the Department of Homeland Security that was displayed in the Washington, D.C. Metro. The tableau is literally the mirror image of Scott's masterful illustration -- the color scheme that blends revolutionary red and burnished gold; the slightly elevated gaze of the subjects as they look heroically into the middle distance, envisioning a bold new tomorrow; the politically correct distribution of our proletarian heroes -- one white male, one white female, one black male (albeit in slightly different configurations).

This federal propaganda poster was created roughly a decade after Scott composed his TNA cover. In 1993, the JBS and TNA were warning of the impending arrival of an Americanized version of Fascism, which at the time was a cloud on the horizon the size of a man's hand.

Today, we're dealing with a torrential onslaught of unabashedly Fascist policies:

*Abolition of Habeas Corpus, the foundational due process guarantee;

*Dramatic changes to the Insurrection Act that would permit this president (or a successor) to seize control of the National Guard and use it as his/her Praetorian Guard;

*The creation of a specialized court system akin to the Nazi "People's Court," or "Blood Tribunal";

*The institutionalization of torture -- not only by security and counter-terrorism personnel, but also by "local" police -- and on that subject:

*Federalization of what remained of locally accountable police -- folks, it's a done deal, which is not to say that it's irreversible;

*An accelerating merger of our unitary regime with politically favored mega-corporations;

*Preparation of detention facilities -- supposedly for the purpose of detaining illegal immigrants, of course, but well-suited to the detention of anyone the Regime considers troublesome;

*Repeated and explicit statements that our public priorities, and private lives, will be shaped from now until the indefinite future by an open-ended "war" against ... well, anybody Washington doesn't happen to like;

*Emergence of an all-encompassing surveillance state based on "human inventory control."

The final point in this by-no-means exhaustive list deserves just a little fleshing out. The Nazis tattooed death camp inmates (and SS cadres), and any State -- including the one that rules us -- presuming to brand its subjects is setting up a death camp dynamic that will eventually claim countless lives.

"To protect and serve" -- or "To intimidate and suppress"? Are these the local police the JBS insists its members have to "support"?

When the prospect of a Fascist America was still largely theoretical, the JBS boldly and explicitly condemned it. Now that it is taking palpable form all around us, what is the Birch Society's highest priority?


Which makes sense ... for someone caught in a multi-parallel space-time inversion and thus trapped, ala Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day," in 1993.

Why focus on NAFTA? This is an outgrowth of the campaign to stop the North American Union, which was difficult to sustain because there isn't a specific treaty or legislative initiative to focus on. The NAU (officially called the Security and Prosperity Partnership) would build and expand on NAFTA; accordingly, the JBS management insists that the way to defeat the NAU is to bring about the repeal of NAFTA.

Which is a whole lot of ain't-gonna-happen, at least for right now. And even if it could be done, why should this be the focus of the Society's efforts, when the Bush Regime has all but strung up the razor wire and started culling out refractories for detention?



I can't say it any plainer than that. Now that our freedom is in immediate peril, the people running the JBS have no appetite for a real fight.

I hasten to say that this is not true of the people who have been volunteers and volunteer leaders, often for decades, nor is it true of those who have toiled in the field as Coordinators, nor is it true of the people who actually do the creative work that gets the magazine out the door every two weeks. But it is manifestly true of the people who are setting the Society's priorities.

They know what's going on. They know how terrifyingly close we are to living in a literal Reich. It's just that they're convinced they can't -- to use an obnoxious term of art I heard so often while in Appleton -- "grow the organization" by actually naming our enemies and condemning, by name, the system they are inflicting on our country.

To paraphrase Samuel Adams: These people love job security more than liberty.

My priorities were the opposite. Which is why I'm unemployed.

A little more than a year ago, JBS CEO Art Thompson sent a voice mail out to the entire office and field staff commending the following soliloquy from Boston Legal in which Alan Shore (James Spader, whose speaking cadence, hand gestures, and incredibly well-educated snarkiness remind me more than a little of Steve Bonta) condemned the Bush Regime's assault on the Bill of Rights:

As I recall, Art said that he was amazed that James Spader, "a man of the Hollywood left," had so capably delivered a defense of the Constitution and denunciation of the Power Elite's assault on it "that could have been written by a Bircher."

There was the real opportunity for meaningful growth: Speaking the truth, without fear or favor, about the onslaught against our God-given rights, and finding allies of any political persuasion willing to unite with us to defend our Constitution.

A year ago, the JBS could have exercised leadership on this issue. But instead, it decided to out-source its agenda to two highly paid advertising hacks who took freedom off the organization's agenda and diluted the primary colors of its convictions into the insipid pastels of marketing slogans.


Scott Alberts said...

Will, THANKS for the kind words. I didn't know I had the gift of Prophetic Cartoonances. I thought I operated more in Pathetic Utterances! [Ow, I can't believe how high I lobbed that one.]

This issue of TNA, which by the way sold out quickly, was controversial only WITHIN the Home Office. Since the CEO did not understand it and wanted to be told whether he liked it or not, he ran it by everyone in the office, inaugurating an internal "market research" process that would continue thenceforth and thereafter, effective immediately, so let it be written so let it be done. Every cover idea would from that day forth be circulated to The Suits (and the gals in Membership and the maintenance guy and Nicky the Intern and the copier guy if he stopped by) for the democratic process of arriving at a collective opinion [ambiguity in original].

Sadly -- no, OTHER sadly -- most companies with in-house art services frustrate their artists in the same manner. UNLESS they spend a lot on a Consultant, whose advice is taken immediately lest his fee be considered wasted.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading this blog more than a year late, but the first thing I thought when I saw the TNA cover was, "Clinton, Obama, & McCain".