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.


Anonymous said...

Have you ever thought of suing them ? The number of laws they brloke in firing you and the false innuendos it appears the management continus to promote are grounds for compensation. These pricks deserve to have their ass sued back into the stone age.

William N. Grigg said...

Ironically, the possibility of a lawsuit was brought up by Alan Stang back in 2006. He was really outraged over JBS management's abuse of a number of people, particularly the borderline criminal treatment given to Kevin Bearly, Mark Horton, and other victims of the '97 purge.

One abiding source of amazement to me is the idea that the, ahem, legal geniuses in Appleton -- guys who had just lost a lawsuit to Vance Smith, recall -- insisted that I had to be canned because of an imperceptibly dim possibility that at some unspecified future time the JBS mighta, coulda been named in a libel suit against me.

But they were utterly blind to the possibility that I could have found an Equal Employment Opportunity lawyer -- there are tens of thousands of them working for the Feds -- and sued the JBS into oblivion for disparate treatment.

Here's how the case would have played out:

*Jack McManus used his extra-curricular time to promote anti-Semitic views in defiance of long-stated company policy. He's NOT fired, but given a sinecure and eventually returned to his position at full salary.

*Will Grigg, in keeping with a written agreement that he would be permitted to free-lance, used his extra-curricular time to publish a personal blog that promoted controversial views that in no way violated JBS policy. He was fired.

This is clearly a case of disparate treatment.

Where it would get REALLY interesting is when the dispute over immigration policy gets factored into the mix: The JBS fired its most conspicuous (read:only)Mexican-American staff member, in the circumstances described above, following a disagreement over a disputed "nuance" in this matter.

There were people (Mr. Stang was not among them) who suggested to me in late 2006 that I should file a complaint with the EEOC and sue the JBS into oblivion. I suppose I still could. But even attempting to do so would be entirely contrary to my principles.

What I find most interesting here is that my former friends in Appleton never stopped to think this through. They apparently never thought that I would take action of this sort -- and you know why? It's because they recognized my character, even as they were throwing me and my family to the wolves.

Anonymous said...

Hi Will. I've been reading your blog for a few years and I enjoy it. However, I'm not familiar with the '97 purge. What was that?

William N. Grigg said...

Anonymous, thanks for the kind words.

Back in 1997 there was an abortive effort to replace Vance Smith as CEO. It came after the firing of, inter alia, Kevin Bearly (he was, at the time, the top-performing JBS Coordinator in the country) and Mark Horton (who was consistently at the top of the list as well).

Kevin and Mark were seen as sympathetic to Chuck Carlson, a member of the Executive Committee who was asking critical questions about some institutional changes that Mr. Smith was making in the corporate structure of the JBS. Several others became concerned, and questions began to be asked -- and those impertinent enough to ask questions ended up being sent to the gibbet.

The issues that precipitated the criticism of Vance Smith in 1997 were exactly the same as those that led to the October Coup of 2005. Yet Jack and Art, the soi-disant "heroes" of the latter insurrection, made a point of stiff-arming Kevin and Mark and the others who were fired from the staff or cast out from JBS membership.

William N. Grigg said...

Interestingly, Art Thompson was involved in the early stages of the 1997 uprising, in the sense that he was told something was afoot and was happy to applaud it -- behind the lines, well out of harm's way.

During a visit to my home in Spring 1997, Art told me about what was happening but emphasized that he would "deny knowing anything about it" if I told anyone about his peripheral involvement. ("Truth is our only weapon"?)

When the effort failed, and the purge escalated, Art --exhibiting the oddly triumphant contempt often displayed by REMFs everywhere --
responded by disparaging the efforts of those bold enough to risk their jobs for what they regarded as matters of principle.

Having said all of this, I must also admit that I did nothing to distinguish myself in this whole affair. At the time Korrin and I were newlyweds, and we were expecting our first child; for reasons of job security I faltered when I should have stood fast. It really was quite shameful.

ernie1241 said...

WNG: I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that there was no relationship between Robert Welch's "private letter", entitled The Politician, and the Birch Society.

I have in my possession letters written by Robert Welch on American Opinion letterhead in 1959 and 1960 which accompanied copies of The Politician that he was sending to interested parties and in his letters he solicits membership in the JBS based upon the reader accepting the themes, premises, and evidence presented in The Politician. In other words, "read this, then join the JBS to do something about it".

Furthermore, there is nothing contained in The Politician which has not been in some form part of official JBS ideology since its inception.

All U.S. failures and setbacks discussed in early JBS literature are attributed to a cast of characters which could easily and seamlessly incorporated into chapter 17 of The Politician, i.e. "The Word Is Treason".