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.


Anonymous said...

The way they treat the "banished" is eerily similar to the treatment of those Commissars who fell out of favor with the party during the reign of Stalin. How ironic - the professed fighters of the Red menace acting like communists themselves.

Anonymous said...

I just referred back to that lengthier article December 1993 New American. The full length article in that issue has Fr. James Thornton as the byline...


William N. Grigg said...

The way they treat the "banished" is eerily similar to the treatment of those Commissars who fell out of favor with the party during the reign of Stalin. How ironic - the professed fighters of the Red menace acting like communists themselves.

Interestingly, a very similar observation was made to me by Dan Berry from the New York Times as we discussed my experience.

I just referred back to that lengthier article December 1993 New American. The full length article in that issue has Fr. James Thornton as the byline...

Yes -- my point was that he likewise was credited in the version posted on-line. The shorter profile of John Birch from the '93 issue had my by-line; the version on the Web does not.

It's possible that my essay was a sidebar to Jack McManus's "Front Page" article rather than Fr. Thornton's "American Opinion" essay. I haven't seen that issue in about a decade and a half.

Jay Stang said...

I posted a caustic comment on the JBS obituary of my dad just for some catharsis; it was aimed squarely at McManus. As I expected, it was removed shortly. Oh well, a few people did get to see it before it was scrubbed.

My two bosses are JBS members, but it actually helped get me hired. My dad was thankful that his name helped me instead of hurt me. I went with them to the local JBS meeting in Houston, chaired by Ken Hoover. He was overjoyed to see me. I guess the indoctrination isn't totally pervasive.

Jay Stang