Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Orwell in Appleton

Down the Memory Hole: Meet "Scrubby," the JBS management's new unofficial mascot. (No, not really.)

"I've often wondered what happened to you," commented a Midwestern academic listed as a member of the American Opinion Speaker's Bureau in a recent e-mail. "The New American seems to have expunged every trace of you. I don't understand."

I met this fellow several years ago on a speaking tour, and was immensely impressed with him. A small, wiry man with a wit like a freshly whetted razor, this guy has enough intelligence and talent to fill several people my size or larger.

In preparing for a speech he is to give at a conference in California, this estimable gentleman was trying to find a TNA piece I wrote in 1996 and that was widely redistributed through the Web -- but learned, to his dismay, that "all internet links have been disconnected."

This doesn't surprise me at all. Immediately after I was fired in 2006, I predicted that JBS management would undertake an Orwellian "rectification" of recent institutional history where I'm concerned. This means that they would try, as far as it would be possible, to airbrush me from the archives. That's one reason I started this blog, incidentally.

Unfortunately, Appleton's decision to strike my name from ever obelisk and pylon means that some of their customers -- and even people in their Speaker's Bureau - will occasionally find it difficult to locate the materials they need. But, hey, the folks in charge have their own priorities, and from where they sit it's worth stiffing the customers in order to maintain the pretense that William Norman Grigg never really existed.

I'm not suggesting that I'm so important that my name should be enshrined and cherished forever. I'm pointing out that the petty, dishonest actions of JBS management create some unnecessary customer service problems.

Here's a recently discovered irony: While Appleton labors to remove every trace of my existence as a JBS employee, a pretty decent write-up is available from an on-line academic dictionary in Russia. Granted, it's cribbed from Wikipedia, but I think the point still stands, and needs no elaboration.

Wave-Riding, "Surging," and other Delusions

Three years ago, the mantra in Appleton was that the JBS was going to "ride the wave" -- meaning that it was hoping to be pulled to some kind of dramatic demographic breakthrough by surfing in the Republican Party's wake.

As it happened, the GOP was clobbered in the mid-term elections, and since then has become a toxic "brand," particularly among young, idealistic Americans.

So by the end of 2007, the Republican "wave" proved to be little more than an undertow created by a good, strong flush. The highly paid PR consultants hired by Alan Scholl to "revive" the JBS were both gone. And the Society was visibly floundering, its upper management creatively bankrupt and strategically paralyzed.

Then the Ron Paul campaign materialized.

The effect was a bit like the scene in Braveheart in which the English-appointed Scottish lords -- a dithering, doddering clique of opportunists who would be very much at home in upper JBS management today -- were desperately trying to find some way to parlay their appearance at Falkirk into a more secure position for themselves. To do so, they needed an "army" at their backs as a negotiating asset.

Wallace and his little army of "extremists" showed up and disrupted this little charade by forcing the issue: They weren't content to accept a negotiated deal that left the Upper Man -- er, make that the Scottish lords better off, and their country no closer to freedom. So Wallace, hot-headed, irrational sort that he was, went and picked a fight. And he won it. And in the very next scene, the Scottish lords are seeking to co-opt Wallace.

Something a bit like that happened with Ron Paul, who -- in his quiet, unassuming way -- picked a fight with the Power Elite on all of the most important issues: The Iraq war, the emerging doctrine of pre-emptive nuclear warfare (may God forgive us), the evisceration of the Bill of Rights, torture, the Fed -- and, most remarkably, the corruption and derangement of the Republican Party itself. Appleton, in its determination to avoid offending the powerful, had shoved these matters aside, choosing instead to focus monomaniacally on the Brown Peril: Illegal immigration from Mexico.

Even today, the people running the JBS claim the title of "Leader of the Freedom Fight." Well, as Wallace put it, men don't follow titles -- they follow courage. To be specific, they followed Ron Paul. So the lords of Appleton did what their Scottish equivalents did in the film: They attempted to poach the glory that accrued to the guy who had the man-tackle to fight the battles they avoided.

This presumption was on display in Jack McManus's brazenly self-serving speech at Ron Paul's "Rally for the Republic" in St. Paul Minnesota last year. One of the organizers of that event, an individual with some history in the Welch-era JBS, commented to me that Jack's speech -- which, admittedly, was well-received to the extent it focused on the Federal Reserve -- was seen as a self-indulgent advertisement for the JBS (which is to say, for the management thereof).

Jack's oblique but obvious attempt to position himself and his cohorts as the "leaders" of a movement that materialized completely independent of them "offended" other speakers, I was told, because there was an understanding that the event was not to be used for self-promotion of that kind.

This dishonesty grew to a crescendo in the celebratory video "Experience the Surge," the title of which bears eloquent witness of the intractable creative poverty of the people in charge:



Note carefully that there are at least two documentable lies told by both Art Thompson and Jack McManus in this video -- or, better put, two instances involving the same documentable lie.

The first occurs just a few seconds into the video, as Thompson boldly claims: "In just the last six months, our Society has experienced a surge in membership...."

At around 2:40 into the video, McManus makes the same claim in even more explicit terms: "We are enjoying our own surge in membership growth."

Unfortunately, as Jack himself was forced to admit during an interview published in the April 26 Appleton Post-Crescent, this simply isn't true.

"When we say `growing influence,' we'd like to say that it is all translating into a strong growth in membership, but it's not," Jack admitted, not mentioning that he and Art Thompson were both on record making exactly that claim. The story went on to say that McManus said that "Cost cuts are `more than likely,' ... [and] layoffs are possible."

When the layoffs come -- assuming that they haven't started already -- they will most likely begin with the over-worked, under-paid field staff, who always suffer as a result of Appleton's capriciousness. The home office staff will be pruned of salaried people in productive positions -- the talent, in other words, not the managerial caste.

The very last to go, if they ever do, will be the people at the top of the pyramid whose ineptitude and dishonesty are leading the organization into oblivion. Sure, the unfolding depression isn't helping matters, but there's no reason the organization should survive a correction if the best it can offer is the current vision of "Victory through Timidity and Compromise."

Once again, the temptation to quote -- or at least to paraphrase -- the cinematic William Wallace is irresistible: Art Thompson, Jack McManus, and Alan Scholl are the kind of people who think that the JBS exists to provide them with positions; the organization desperately needs leaders who understand that their positions exist to help provide the American people with freedom. There are people currently on the payroll -- albeit perhaps not for much longer -- who do understand this.


Robert Fort said...

A fun to read article, Will, albeit one that raised my ire a bit thinking back on the Society. The JBS has been sentencing ex-employees down the memory hole for a number of years.

When I quit working as a coordinator in November of '93, I told my two supervisors that I wished to work in the world of electronics again, and that the heavy travel was wearing on me. I didn't cause a stink with the members or anything, and I had worked the JBS for better than a year--so I had given the job a good shot.

After a while several people told me about visits and phone calls from more senior members of the field staff that tried to cast my resignation in a negative or scandalous light. Obviously they were trying to head off any future problems by assasinating my character before I could create any problems.

At the JBS Council dinner held in Dallas in May of '96 (where you and I rode to the hotel in the same van), McManus and Vance Smith wouldn't even look at me. In 1998, I was in a position in which I needed to attend a speech in Dallas in which McManus was speaking. McManus and I were forced together, and as means of courtesy I extended my hand and said, "Hello, Jack." I can't remember if he extended his hand or not, but I do remember that he would not look at me, nor would he speak to me. Instead he kept looking around and muttering about finding the major coordinator so he could be taken back to the hotel.

Obviously my experiences pale in comparison to yours, or those of Mark Horton and the "Gang of 1996/7" that were fired in one of the big purges. But I thought it might be worth mentioning so as to point out that this has been the JBS's modus operandi for better than fifteen years.


William N. Grigg said...

Robert, I vividly remember that Council Dinner, as well as our ride to the hotel. I wasn't aware that you were treated with such unwarranted, frigid disdain, or that your name and reputation came under assault after you resigned. Knowing what I do now, I'm not surprised.

What utterly gratuitous nastiness! Why inflict such treatment on an employee who left on apparently amicable terms? After all, you were still on board as a member, paying your dues and your own freight to travel to Dallas. You'd think they would have gone out of their way to be at least a little nice to you, now that you were a "customer," as it were.

I recall that there was a Council Dinner shortly after I was canned (I think it was in South Carolina)
some members offered to pay for my travel to the event. I was really moved by the gesture, but I didn't want to be a disruptive influence at the event.

One of them -- a really great guy -- suggested that I should go anyway, just to "show that I was still "on board" with the Society. That was just as problematic: I'd just been stabbed in the back by people I thought were friends, thrown under the bus with my family for no reason, and I was supposed to show that I supported the supposed leadership that did this to me?

Judging from your experience, even if I had shown up exuding nothing but good will and docility, Thompson and McManus would have reacted by calling security and having me ejected.

You are very correct to point out that Kevin Bearly, Mark Horton, and the other "dissidents" of 97/98 were treated much worse than either of us.

Anonymous said...

Yea it looks like the leadership in Appleton has resorted to burning the furniture to keep the house warm - how pathetic!

William N. Grigg said...

What's really strange is that they're burning the furniture to keep warm ... in May.

Seriously, though, it can't be insignificant that the most recent re-re-re-re-design of entirely omits the home office personnel roster.

Back in 2006, the Madison Avenue Boyz who ran the JBS for about a year made a big deal about doing a splashy web-page featuring the home office staff. As late as last year, listed them. Now ... well, unless you happen to know who's been on staff until recently, there's no way of knowing if they're still on the payroll.