Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Alan Stang: "He Never Stopped Punching"

I first met Alan in 1964, shortly after the Goldwater defeat, and my initial impression held throughout the years: he was a fighter. He even looked and moved a little like a fighter, a bantamweight, and he never stopped punching. What a spirit he had. May he rest now in peace.

-- Lew Rockwell, commenting on the passing of Alan Stang, 77.

Alan Stang, who left us bereft of his company on July 19 to be with God, was a pugilistic patriot. His was the battered but unbowed determination of an underdog who knew that the only causes worth contending for are those considered "lost" by people who prefer comfortable servility to painful independence, and transient "respectability" over the honestly earned obloquy that is the inevitable -- albeit temporary -- reward of honest men in a consummately dishonest time.

As a bumper for his radio program "The Sting of Stang," Alan chose the theme from Rocky, which he regarded to be "among the greatest movies ever made." (I share that opinion, and would add that the final installment of that much-derided saga, Rocky Balboa, deserves mention on that list as well.) It was my privilege to guest host his program for a week about a year and a half ago.

Less than two weeks ago Alan called me and asked if I could substitute for him again while he traveled to California for a family gathering. With sincere regret I had to decline, because -- I believed -- my schedule simply wouldn't allow it. I now deeply regret not taking the opportunity to help Alan amid what he must have known to be the painful, dwindling final days of a well-lived life. Assuming that those now in God's company can be made aware of our doings, I wish to apologize.

Alan, please forgive me. I should have made the time to help you.

Alan, who had been the most prolific contributor to the JBS publications
American Opinion and Review of the News before being cast down the organization's Memory Hole, was among the first to call me after I was cast off by the organization in October 2006.

"This is going to be a very challenging time for you," he said with the authority of someone who knows from experience. "It's very common for people who have worked for the Society for a long time to discover that it has a very well-earned reputation for treating ex-employees very badly. And of course long-term employees who are suddenly ex-employees find it difficult, even in good times, to parlay
that line on a resume into a decent job."

Alan's words rang in my memory as I read a reply to a job inquiry -- one of scores of similar replies to scores of inquiries I made immediately after being kicked to the curb by Appleton -- that said, in essence, that while I was obviously a capable writer, my JBS background had left me "radioactive."

Alan likewise pointed out, long before I had the honor of speaking with him directly, that the people running the JBS seem to take a perverse pride in abandoning their wounded. This ignoble trait was also described in William Murray's memoir
The Belmont Syndrome, his unpublished by vital memoir of working as a JBS coordinator in the 1970s.

"There are probably more former JBS coordinators than current ones," Murray wrote in 1979. "These wounded soldiers certainly don't want your pity, but have you really ever stopped to contemplate the magnitude of their plight? Many gave up promising careers to serve as coordinators, and their sacrifices were made consciously and willingly. When they leave the JBS staff, they enter the civilian job market with the equivalent of a military occupation stats as a machine-gunner. They're qualified for better things, of course, but their former occupation listed on their resume allows them to be night watchmen, night managers at the Holiday Inn, toll booth collectors on the parkway, or straight commission salesmen. Talk about burning your bridges!"

After he was cut loose by the JBS, Alan explained to me, he spent a lot of time "selling a lot of things" on straight commission. He had a gift for that profession -- it kept his family fed and clothed, after all -- but it was a scandalous waste of one of the larger writing and broadcasting talents of our time.

Murray, in
The Belmont Syndrome, writes sympathetically of those disillusioned JBS employees who remain on staff out of a "rational fear of the predictale consequences of leaving" and seeking other employment with the three-letter Acronym of Doom on their resumes. That fear helps explain the emasculated behavior of people in JBS upper management: Their idea of boldness consists of ganging up to stab people in the back, rather than standing alone, when necessary, on matters of principle. In this they're quite typical of the corporate culture of modern collectivist America that is so perceptively satirized in Dilbert. But the JBS is supposed to represent something much better.

(Click to enlarge.)

Murray also referred to "tragic cases" of former JBS employees who can be found "attempting to rebuild their lives, while living with a deep sense of betrayal and grief."

He also found it tragically ironic that "the bad guys protect those who serve them well by rewarding themwith security and prestige in some CFR-dominated corporation, while the good guys unmercifully burn out their most talented soldiers, punishing them for their long years of loyal service by never attempting to salvage or rehabilitate them for an eventual returnto the fight" by helping them find suitable post-staff employment.

"At least the enemy retrieves its wounded," observed Murray.

The JBS, which boasts of being a beacon of truth and decency in a decadent world, is more inclined to shoot its own wounded and then to scrub them from its institutional memory or to demonize them outright. JBS management tried both approaches to Alan. At one time a decade ago, Appleton cultivated among membership the idea that he was,
in the words of Erik Jay (nee Erik Johnson), former editor of The New American, "the devil incarnate." This was because he was publishing a website devoted to exposing precisely the institutional and managerial problems that eventually led to the "coup" of 2005.

Once the coup organizers were in place, they continued to treat Alan as a pariah, and dished out the same treatment to Kevin Bearly, Mark Horton, and others who had lost their JBS jobs trying to reform the organization.

a scandalously terse and artfully buried obituary to Stang, JBS management correctly notes that he "never pulled his punches." More importantly, he never stopped fighting as long as God gave him breath, and according to his son Jay -- a former U.S. Marine who is a member of the Oath Keepers -- Alan surrendered that final breath with his hands lifted up to heaven, reaching out to embrace the Lord in whose firm and loving grasp, I'm confident, Alan's wonderfully pugnacious soul will eternally reside.

On the subject of the Memory Hole....

If you go to
this page on the official website, you will read a brief profile of John Birch, the "Patriotic Exemplar" from whom the organization takes its name.

As I recall, that essay was originally published in a December 1993 issue of The New American as a sidebar to this lengthier profile of Robert Welch, which was written by the estimable (and much-missed) Father James Thornton.

In the version on the website, Fr. Thornton's authorship of that profile is acknowledged.

Oddly enough, there is no attributed author to for the brief profile of John Birch, which would leave the impression that it was an unsigned "house" or staff composition. It wasn't. It was written by Yours Truly, a fact that any honest organization would admit.

Perhaps the problem here is the prominence of this article as a brief introduction to John Birch and his remarkable life.

The folks in charge in Appleton really should either put my name on the piece, or replace it with one written by someone they're not so determined to airbrush out of the organization's history, ala The Commissar Vanishes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Of Conscience and Cowardice

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with a pale cast of thought....

Hamlet, Act III scene one.

The McManus Cover-Up

Shortly before he created the John Birch Society, Robert Welch wrote a manuscript -- a huge document that grew out of a privately circulated letter to some select friends -- documenting the troubling political and military career of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

At the time, Ike was a Republican icon and a popular second-term president. He was regarded by most people as a conservative, albeit not a particularly rigid one, and a genial leader of no remarkable intellect or ambition. So it was shocking to many of those who received Welch's manuscript to read his description of avuncular Ike as someone likely to have been a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist conspiracy." Not necessarily a Communist, mind you, but rather someone who had knowingly aided the cause of Marxist collectivism both at home and abroad.

As I pointed out many times in radio interviews and other settings as a JBS representative, Ike's role in Operation Keelhaul -- the forcible repatriation of millions from the West back to Soviet Russia, where most of them were sent to the gulag, or summarily murdered -- was sufficient justification for Welch's characterization of Ike. Someone who helped the Nazis round up Jews for deportation to the east could properly be called a "conscious, dedicated agent" of the Nazi conspiracy to commit genocide; why shouldn't the equivalent be said of someone who participated in Operation Keelhaul?

The private letter about Eisenhower became a matter of some controversy after Welch created the JBS. So Welch did what his honesty -- an attribute recognized even by most of his enemies -- dictated: He published that letter, along with scores of pages of detailed source notes, under the title The Politician. Rather than trying to cover up what many called an embarassment, Welch stood boldly by his personal opinions -- which were not the institutional view of the JBS -- and made them available for public examination and criticism.

That's how an honest man deals with a "problem" of this kind.

It is emphatically not how the truth-aversive people currently running the JBS deal with a remarkably similar problem -- namely, the notorious extracurricular speeches of JBS President John F. McManus.

A June 25 press release from Appleton, prepared (most likely) in anticipation of a New York Times "hit piece" and released after the surprisingly mild article was published, bears the unwieldly title, "Jewish members of The John Birch Society clear record of anti-Semitism charge of Society's President in The New York Times."

The substance of the release is composed of quotes attributed to (and most likely not actually spoken by) two exceptionally decent and worthy men I was privileged to know as a speaker and representative of the JBS. Both are devout, practicing religious Jews and wonderful patriots. They both insist (correctly) that the JBS has no institutional tolerance for anti-Jewish bigotry. They also claim (incorrectly) that Jack's speeches were devoid of anti-Semitism, and that Jack's critics have taken his remarks "out of context."

I want to emphasize the fact that these are genuinely decent men.

One of them endeared himself to me forever when we met about fourteen years ago: He mentioned that he had assumed I was of Arab extraction, and I replied with some smart-aleck comment to the effect of, "That what you infidels always think!" Thereafter, each time I would see this gentleman at a Council Dinner or similar function I would greet him by exclaiming, "How's my favorite infidel?" -- and usually be rewarded with a warm bear hug.

The other gentleman has a large and beautiful family. After being knifed in the back by JBS management in October 2006, I received several calls from him inquiring about our family. His concern for Korrin's health and the welfare of my family were genuine and are much appreciated.

Those men are long-time JBS members who have devoted a lot of time and money to the cause, and they obviously believe that they are doing the right thing by allowing Jack to cower behind them, rather than dealing candidly with JBS members and the interested public, whoever that may be.

I don't know if they have actually read Jack's speeches; I sincerely doubt that they have, but I could be wrong. But that question is immaterial here, given the example of Robert Welch in dealing with a controversy over his non-Birch activities.

Simply put, the only honest way for Jack to deal with all of this is to publish the unexpurgated text of the two controversial speeches, and to make the recordings of the same available as well -- and let the public decide. Anything less than this amounts to an admission that Jack's critics -- who at one time included current JBS CEO Art Thompson -- are right: Jack's speeches were peddling classic, unalloyed anti-Semitism.

One of the Jewish members pressed into service as a human shield for Jack is quoted as saying that Jack's speeches deal strictly with theological questions regarding the origins of Christianity. This is emphatically not the case. I read those speeches in October 2005. They describe a millennia-old conspiracy against God and Man, as represented (in Jack's view) by the Roman Catholic Church, that is led by revanchist Jews who seek to destroy the Church and Christian civilization. To that end, as Jack tells the story, Jews created Freemasonry as a vehicle to enlist non-Jews in the effort to undermine Catholicism and promote the establishment of Judaism as the dominant world religious and political force.

There's nothing new or original here. These are Jack's views, and he is entitled to them. They are emphatically not the views of Robert Welch or the JBS. But then again -- and this is important to remember -- Robert Welch's view of Eisenhower was not the official JBS position, either; in fact, it was rejected rather brusquely by several of the men Welch appointed to the JBS Council.

Art Thompson's initial reaction, after examining Jack's speeches in detail, was to conclude that Jack's religion -- that is, his proprietary brand of Catholicism -- was "to be anti-Semitic and anti-Mason." Thompson likewise said that Jack's diligent part-time promotion of those views had "probably been a problem for us for years and we didn't know it." That's why Art took the initiative in obtaining the incriminating material on Jack.

It was Art who assembled a "greatest hits" video reel focusing precisely on those damning quotes that Appleton's press release denigrates as "cherry-picked" and "out-of-context": It was Art who picked those "cherries" in the first place.

And then, five years later, Art decided that Jack's earnest efforts to cultivate anti-Semitism were something he could live with after all. Why? Because Art -- who, at the time, had been fired by Vance Smith -- needed Jack's help to oust Vance and take his job. A guy's got to have his priorities, I suppose.

Interestingly, when the matter of Jack's speeches surfaced in 2000, the late Tom Hill offered exactly the right advice: "
I think it comes down to you fellows determining if the matter [with Jack] is at that point where the what-you-call-it has to hit the fan, then it has to hit the fan."

Rather than doing so back then, JBS management "retired" Jack and promoted him to the Council, keeping him on at a reduced salary.

Rather than letting the emunctory residue hit the fan now, current JBS management is treating it the way a cat treats a particularly large deposit in an over-filled litter box -- and then dishonestly brow-beating decent men into shielding Jack from criticism, even as the stench of his bigotry continues to fester.

It's really this simple: If Appleton (meaning JBS upper management) doesn't emulate the example of Robert Welch by putting Jack's material, in unedited form, before the public, their persistence in covering up this matter is prima facie proof of the fact that they are liars. This is old news to me, but I can think of several thousand people who would benefit from the revelation.

The Birch Curtain Descends

How does the JBS maintain its "monolithic structure" in the age of internet-based "social networking"? Apparently, one method is to use "gatekeeper" software to block access to the organization's public website by "unwanted visitors."

Bear in mind that I'm talking about publicly accessible articles on the website, not members-only discussion forums. From time to time, and as time permits, I've visited to read and comment on various articles. Yes, my comments were occasionally barbed, but never profane or otherwise abusive. What must surely rankle the, ahem, heroes in charge of the JBS is the fact that my comments would regularly prompt favorable reactions -- and, sometimes, uncomfortable questions -- from other readers, including JBS members and TNA subscribers.

A few days ago I visited the site and left a few brief comments in reaction to some of the articles posted therein. Suddenly the server seized up. I exited the site and tried to re-enter it, only to be greeted with a screen that displayed a padlock and the announcement: "NO ACCESS -- Access has been denied by the administrator."

A hyperlink on the "NO ACCESS" page took me to the website of "JD Gatekeeper," a filtering program that can "easily block unwanted visitors."

Getting around this blockage is as simple as changing one's IP address (which can be done by unplugging a modem). I did so and found that my comments had been wiped, and that any attempt to re-post them was deflected with the notice that "Your user name has been blocked." Entering another user name and posting comments simply started the cycle again: The comments were wiped, the IP filter was re-set, and access was once again denied.

All of this was done, mind you, to prevent me from posting polite, family-appropriate comments on articles available to the public.

This ban -- so redolent of either the cliquishness of a children's club, the insular arrogance of a cult, the lust for control of a totalitarian government, or some combination thereof -- was produced by petulance of uncommon purity. Think, for just a second, of how this fills in critical details about the corporate character -- such as it is -- of the people running the JBS.

These are the folks who fired me for no reason they can define, much less defend, and then began immediately to make derogatory comments about my character and quality of my work.

They are the people determined to cover up the actions of the current JBS President, whose irresponsible commitment to propagating anti-Jewish prejudice actually left the organization vulnerable to blackmail.

This is the gang that appears determined to expunge from their websites, inventories, and available records all evidence that someone named William Norman Grigg once wrote for, and spoke on behalf of, the John Birch Society.

And now they have thrown up a barricade intended to keep me from so much as writing brief remarks in public comment threads on their websites, and -- to the extent possible -- impede access to their main website altogether.

"Well, you really can't expect them to let you insult them on their own website!" someone might object. To which I reply: Why not? Some posters have left very critical remarks about the JBS, some of which are unabashedly vulgar, as mine never were.

Furthermore, it should be noted that on my blogs I do not winnow out negative or insulting comments directed at me. I do moderate comments in order to weed out robo-posts and other spam. I will occasionally reject a post if the language is simply unconscionable (I'm much more zealous to protect the name of my Lord than my own, quite frankly). But I've eagerly published very critical comments -- including, ironically, those accusing me of censoring the blog because I moderate comments submitted to it.

I'm not afraid of my critics. The, ahem, heroes who run the JBS are afraid of theirs, and one critic in particular. In fact, fear is the salient trait they consistently display. These are the people who are supposed to lead the charge against the "Insiders"?

The efforts they undertake to keep me out of their main webpage bear eloquent testimony to the depth of the fear I inspire in them, and with good reason: If our positions were reversed, I'd be afraid of me, too.

One thing I've learned from observing the behavior of Thompson, et. al is that Hamlet's soliloquy really should be revised: Some cowards have no conscience at all.