Friday, December 11, 2009

Jack McManus: The William F. Buckley of the JBS -- And No, That's Not a Compliment

JBS Hypocrite-in-Chief John F. McManus

"To put it bluntly, if you betray a man, you have no right to complain that he isn't as nice to you as he used to be. That's the special nature of betrayal; it cancels everything in a friendship."

Joseph Sobran

"I wouldn't trust a man who would sell out his friends."

"Dumkopf -- who else can you sell out? You can't double-cross an enemy." --

Maxwell Smart and his arch-rival Siegfried, discussing the ethics of defection.

On the subject of JackMcManus's hypocrisy -- previously discussed in this space, but a topic that could fill a work the size of Newton's Principia -- I should mention the utterly craven and vicious role he played in the JBS's dismissal of Joseph Sobran from The New American several years ago.

In addition to being the finest political and cultural commentator of our time, Mr. Sobran is a traditional Catholic -- a convert as a teenager, I was surprised to learn -- and one of the most principled men I've ever been blessed to meet. He has suffered a great deal for his commitment to the truth as he's been given wisdom to understand it.

In 1993 the execrable William F. Buckley, seeking to appease the neo-Trotskyites who had taken control of the conservative movement, fired Sobran because of his opposition to the first Gulf War. Sobran had publicly disagreed with his employer on a matter of principle about which he was right, and his employer wrong; this was deemed a firing offense.

As a graduate student, Sobran had once put his academic career in jeopardy to defend Buckley's right to speak on campus. Funny how little that courageous act mattered to Buckley when Sobran needed a friend. Sobran was left without a steady job, a man in failing health consigned to eke out a living as a freelancer.

McManus often referred to that episode to demonstrate how evil William F. Buckley truly was. Of course, in October 2006, McManus participated in a decision to do exactly the same thing to a long-time contributor to The New American -- Yours Truly.

Just a year earlier I had actually resigned my job (temporarily, as it happened) to protest the effort to blackmail McManus using the same collection of anti-Jewish statements that Art Thompson had compiled around 2000. This gesture counted for little when Jack had an opportunity to speak in my defense.

As I've previously explained, I thought the statements being used against Jack were pretty loathsome, but I assumed that we were dealing with an isolated episode. I had no idea about the extent to which McManus had made something of a second career out of propounding such nonsense -- and Art Thompson, who did know, was happy to abet my misunderstanding.

My resignation in October 2005 was a gesture of bone-deep disgust over the prospect of working for an organization in which "leadership" positions could be obtained through criminal means, and blackmail is a crime.

It would take a sophist of exceptional skill to identify a substantive difference between Buckley's treatment of Joseph Sobran in 1993, and the treatment I received at the hands of Jack McManus, Art Thompson, Alan Scholl, and Gary Benoit in October 2006. Where Jack is concerned, however, he was simply being true to form, since he had eagerly participated in a similar purge of Joseph Sobran from the TNA masthead several years before.

After being cast aside by National Review, Sobran continued to write and syndicate his column. Among the outlets that bought Joe's column was The Spotlight (now the American Free Press), which was published by a quasi-offshoot of the JBS called the Liberty Lobby.

Worried that any association with the Spotlight and its sponsor would "taint" the Birch Society, Vance Smith decreed that Sobran would have to stop permitting his work to be published in that weekly journal. The problem here, of course, was that although Sobran's name adorned the masthead of The New American, he was not an employee of the JBS.

Unlike Vance or Jack, Sobran had actually suffered for his principles and desperately needed every dollar he could earn as a writer. He didn't enjoy a corner office and a generous salary and benefits package, as Vance did; he wasn't ensconced in a well-compensated sinecure, as Jack was (and is today). Sobran worked hard for everything he earned. By telling him to stop selling his column to a willing customer, Vance was in effect trying to impose a pay cut on someone whom he did not employ.

To the surprise of nobody who knew him, Gary Benoit -- who invariably goes whither the prevailing suck-up wind carries him -- was willing to collaborate in this outrage. (It was Gary's willingness to countenance the effort to blackmail Jack that actually prompted my resignation in 2005.) What I found surprising was Jack's eagerness to act as Vance's hit-man where Joseph Sobran was concerned.

Sobran considered Jack a friend, and -- like myself and others who made the same mistake -- he soon discovered that dorsal knife wounds are the stigmata of that status. Jack met with Joe several times in an effort to convince him to knuckle under to Vance's presumptuous and unjust demands. But Joe wouldn't budge, any more that I would later be willing to put up with similarly improper and dictatorial demands made by Jack and his cohorts.

So Sobran's name was stripped from TNA's masthead, and another paying outlet was closed off to a brave and principled man who was, by at least an order of magnitude, the finest writer ever published in that journal.

Now, there are many -- including some people whose views I respect and whose friendship I cherish -- who believe that Mr. Sobran is an anti-Semite. I am emphatically not of that opinion. He is a critic of the Israeli government, just as he is a critic of every version of the institutionalized affliction called "government." He is also a critic of the Zionist movement, in both political and theological terms.

Whatever one thinks of his opinions, Joseph Sobran has never endorsed any act of violence, hatred, or bigotry committed against any Jewish individual anytime by anybody, and he never will. He has not called for Jews to be shackled by civic restrictions or subject to punitive government policies. He is consistently opposed to government violations of individual rights irrespective of the race or religion of the victims.

In this respect Sobran is entirely different from Fr. Leonard Feeney, Jack McManus's religious guide and model, who insisted that "the Jews" are always and everywhere the enemies of Christian civilization, and called for government to impose legal "curbs" on Jews because they are Jews.

While Jack McManus was collaborating in the purge of Sobran from The New American, he was speaking and writing on behalf of his little Feeneyite sect. In fact, as I recall the chronology, within a few weeks of Sobran's dismissal, Jack was giving the very speeches that were later used in an attempt to blackmail him.

Even those who disagree with Sobran's views about the Israeli government, the Zionist movement, or the value of historical revisionism cannot deny this: There is something exceptionally nasty about the hypocrisy Jack displayed in his treatment of Sobran.

The most remarkable decorative filigree in this portrait of self-serving duplicity is this:

Before being kicked aside by JBS management, Joseph Sobran had written a typically elegant foreword to Jack's silly little book about William F. Buckley, a project that began sometime in the early 1990s and consumed most of Jack's time until it finally wheezed into life in 2002. Joe did this as a personal favor to Jack, knowing that the foreword -- for which Joe received no compensation -- would enhance the book's market value.

The long-gestating product of an institutional grudge against Buckley, Jack's book fell stillborn from the press: By the time it was available, Buckley was no longer a consequential figure, even among people old enough to remember a time when he was considered the voice of "respectable" conservatism.

Sobran's foreword was the only element of the manuscript that offered fresh insights and elegance of expression. When he was designated an un-person by JBS upper management, however, Sobran's foreword had to go, and with it went the only selling point for Jack's derivative, tedious, thinly researched tome, which was essentially a monograph fed steroids to inflate it to a size justifying a hardcover format.

Jack is either too dim or too arrogant to see that what he did to Sobran was exactly like the treatment Buckley gave to Robert Welch, and later to Sobran as well. I'm sure that point wasn't lost on Sobran.

Writing a few years after being fired by National Review, Joseph Sobran described the Buckley modus operandi in words that apply just as well to McManus and the other invertebrates currently running the JBS:

"[T]he people Bill has broken with have consistently been more principled than he is -- Randians, Birchers, Murray Rothbard, Wilmoore Kendall, Brent Bozell, Gary Wills, and others of lesser renown. His only recourse is to imply that they are fanatical, extreme, obsessive...."

Buckley sold out better men as the price of fame and wealth. McManus, on the other hand, is like the Hobo who puts a knife in a friend's back in order to steal his blanket on a chilly night.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

They Don't Know Jack -- And If They Did, They Wouldn't Admit It (Updated, 12/11)

"I don't expect Will to take this [i.e., being fired for no definable, let alone defensible, reason] lying down.... 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).

Weeks have passed since Jack McManus's latest -- and by no means only -- constitutional atrocity: Endorsing, in comments published by The Hill, the trial of civilian terrorist suspects before military tribunals as a proper "wartime" measure, despite the fact that Congress has not declared war.

Absent a declaration of war, and with the civilian court system in operation, it is constitutionally impermissible to try civilians before military tribunals.

The best and most concise examination of this issue from a constitutional perspective was offered by former federal Judge Andrew Napolitano in an essay originally published in the Los Angeles Times -- that's right, an organ of the much-derided MSM.

Robert Welch explained that of the original purposes in creating the John Birch Society fifty-one years ago today was to provide patriotic Americans with vital information that wasn't available through the controlled media. Yet on this extremely vital issue -- one on which principled leadership is indispensable, given the eagerness of the talk radio-fueled right wing to tear down the constitutional court system and replace it with lynch mob rule -- the public was better served by a mainstream news organ than by the President of the JBS, the individual who is supposed to be the most reliable arbiter of constitutional and ideological matters.

Yes-suh -- that's leadership!

I am informed that Appleton had an opportunity to publish an essay by another writer that would have corrected Jack's statement without mentioning him by name. That essay was never published, which means that Jack's endorsement of the military tribunals, and his equivocal position regarding the constitutional requirement of a congressional declaration of war, are now de facto positions of the John Birch Society. That will remain the case until somebody -- anybody -- in Appleton compels Jack to overcome his petulant intransigence and admit that he was wrong.

This is what can be expected of an organization presided over by a management caste more concerned about image-making and ego maintenance than defense of principle. If the current JBS upper management were committed to the proposition that "truth is our only weapon," they wouldn't hesitate to retract Jack's statement -- at whatever cost in terms of PR and despite the injury it might do to Jack's ego.

If Art Thompson were actually a leader, rather than a shill, he would demand that Jack do the right thing for the organization. After all, Art is supposed to be Jack's boss, and Art has famously made it a policy to fire people over matters of "nuance." Of course, that policy appears to be a bill of attainder directed at one person -- Yours Truly -- and Jack's error in this instance deals with a basic constitutional principle, not a matter of "nuance."

Duplicity and hypocrisy come as easily as breathing to Art and Jack. It should be remembered that it was Art, many years ago, who first made an issue out of Jack's extra-curricular activism in propagating anti-Semitic notions before gatherings of schismatic Catholic groups. Art went so far as to map out an entire campaign to isolate, neutralize, and expel Jack from his post as JBS president.

A few years later, when it suited his interests to do so, Art allied himself with Jack, dismissing concerns about what he had called Jack's "anti-Semitic dialog." By the time Art had been appointed CEO of the JBS, Jack had been exposed as a liability to the organization by being targeted for blackmail. Those who targeted Jack made use of the very same anti-Jewish statements that Art had assembled years earlier.

More recently, when it appeared likely that Jack's career as a part-time anti-Jewish demagogue would be examined by the New York Times, Art and the JBS PR department enlisted a couple of Jewish JBS members to act as a human shield for Jack.

I suppose this is the current Appleton regime's idea of "putting the members first."

Prior to his "promotion" to the JBS Council several years ago -- an arrangement in which he resigned as president and took a pay cut in order to minimize the damage he was doing to the Society -- Jack had been urged to discontinue his involvement with the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire, where he (and other speakers) had unbosomed themselves of anti-Jewish sentiments.

What is genuinely amazing here is this: Jack has never stopped attending programs sponsored by that group. In fact, he was a featured speaker at an SBC function just weeks ago. This isn't surprising, once one understands the fact that Jack's religious obligations to the SBC are more important to him than his professional obligations to the JBS. Art Thompson pointed out as much in 2000: This is Jack's religion -- and the anti-Jewish nonsense is a central tenet therein.

It is not my intention to disparage or mock Jack's beliefs as I describe them below. I think he is in grave theological error, and I find much of what his sub-sect of Catholicism teaches to be not only wrong but offensive. I can appreciate and respect his deep and serious commitment to his faith. What I cannot countenance, of course, is hypocrisy, in this case the protracted, ongoing pretense that someone can be as deeply involved in this particular sect as Jack has been without it creating a conflict of interest where the JBS is concerned.

Jack is a "Third Order member" of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was organized by a controversial excommunicated priest named Leonard Feeney sixty years ago.

Feeney's detractors considered him an heretic, a lunatic, or some combination of the two. His followers regard him as a vessel of truth in a world incurably corrupted by apostasy. To them, Feeney was, quite literally, more Catholic than the Pope.

The "Third Order" to which Jack belongs involves quasi-monastic discipline: Although they are not cloistered or required to take vows of celibacy or poverty, members are under the strict authority of their superiors and required to sustain and carry out the tenets of the Order. Obviously, those who adhere to the Order that Feeney founded are expected to treat his teachings as authoritative.

One of the central pillars of Feeney's teachings -- something that Jack is literally under covenant to believe and promote as truth -- is this:

"Essential to the understanding of our chaotic times is the knowledge that the Jewish race constitutes a united anti-Christian bloc within Christian society, and is working for the overthrow of that society by every means at its disposal."

According to a man esteemed by Jack as at least a quasi-prophetic figure, "the Jews" are a monolithic force for evil. That would include the two exceptionally decent Jewish men whom Jack and Art pressed into service as "character" witnesses for Jack earlier this year.

Here's Feeney, writing in the January 1959 issue of his journal The Point, at his most candid regarding what he considered to be the paramount enemy of Christian civilization (emphases added):

"...[O]ne topic especially has occupied The Point ’s attention during the past seven years: the problem, in its many aspects, of the Jews.

Why this emphasis? Because we think it is imperative that American Catholics wake up to the fact that the Jews, as an organized force, are the implacable, declared enemies of Christianity — of its tenets, its traditions, its moral code, its very culture. We think it is vital, too, for American Catholics to realize that the Church has always known this fact about the Jews, and, to the extent of her influence, has counseled and decreed regulations for curbing their malice. And since American Catholic publications, in general, seem determined to say little about these basic matters, we have tried to make up for their negligence by our own insistence.

Our solution to the Jewish problem, however, is not merely a series of warnings and exposures to let American Catholics know what their enemies are up to. For we will be able to withstand no enemy, however well informed we are, if we are not strong from within. The ultimate point of The Point is therefore to inject American Catholics with a crusading zeal for the truths and traditions of their Faith, and thus to foster in America a strong, militant Catholicism, worthy of a country that is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception."

As I noted above, I vehemently disagree with Jack's theology. This is the most important consideration in an ultimate sense, but it's not the most important objection in an immediate sense. My chief concern here deals with the notion of imposing "curbs" on what Feeney calls the "malice" of Jewish people, and also his endorsement of a "militant Catholicism" in the context of civic affairs.

Feeney was mortified that nominally Christian countries in Europe extended citizenship rights to Jews. In a Catholic polity, Jews would not be granted citizenship, and be subject to various other civic handicaps. The same most likely would be true of non-Catholic Christians.

From my exposure to the literature and rhetoric of this strain of Catholicism, I think it's fair to say that they see Torquemada as a misunderstood humanitarian (he was devoted to purging heresy through pain), the Holy Office of the Inquisition as a good idea that was poorly implemented, and the rack, thumbscrews, and stake as implements of a severe but necessary mercy, rather than instruments of diabolical torment.

If they were in control of the state it's likely that heresy would be considered a capital offense.

One political prescription endorsed by Father Feeney was found in a 1957 pastoral letter issued by Bishop de Castro Meyer of Brazil, which Feeney described as "A Sure Defence Against the Jews."

"We do not know how many Jews there are in the diocese of Campos, nor what Judaic inroads have been made into Catholic life there, but the things Bishop de Castro Mayer says in his Pastoral Letter ... are, pre-eminently, the sort of thing that needs to be said in the U. S.," insisted Feeney.

The most important of those recommendations, at least in my view, was that the Roman Catholic Church be made the state religion (in Brazil, but also in the United States), and that freedom of religion be abolished (emphasis added):

“The Church ... has the right to see her laws and doctrines respected by temporal public powers. The State must declare itself officially Catholic; it must offer all its resources for the preservation and expansion of the Faith. "

Toward the end of creating an authoritarian Catholic state, some limited collaboration with infidels is permissible, albeit as a temporary and most unpleasant expedient (once again, any emphasis is mine):

“Collaboration of the faithful with non-Catholics so as to attain common objectives is only occasionally allowed by the Church ... The Church looks at these associations with apprehension, and bans them. When, under some exceptional circumstances, she feels as if she were forced to tolerate such collaborations, so as to prevent greater evils, she does it fearfully and full of sorrow."

Think of this directive in light of Jack's involvement with non-Catholics, including Jews, in the John Birch Society. At best, according to this perspective (given the unqualified endorsement of Father Feeney), that collaboration is a source of sorrow and apprehension for the Church, and can only be justified as a means of pursuing the eventual creation of a Catholic state.

The Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire is the focal point of Feeneyite efforts to claim the U.S. on behalf of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. Jack lectures at the SBC at least once every year, and that's where he's delivered most of his anti-Semitic harangues. His most recent speech to the SBC took place on October 7 during the group's fall conference.

Once again, Jack's attachment to this organization is a matter of covenant; it's a religious obligation. This explains why Jack wouldn't desist from giving speeches before those groups. Perhaps the assumption that collaboration with non-Catholics is permissible on a limited basis explains why he refuses to admit that Feeneyite teachings and political ambitions are incompatible with the JBS's values and perspective.

What's really disturbing here is that the JBS can't, or at least won't, be rid of him. Jack spent spent years, or perhaps decades, agitating on behalf of his cult on company time, defiantly indifferent to the damage he was doing to the organization. Not even Vance Smith (who wanted to get rid of Jack) was willing to cast him aside completely, despite the fact that he was audio-and video-taped giving speeches to the SBC and related groups while identified by name as JBS President.

At one point, Appleton literally went so far as to pay for Jack to make a bogus "business trip" to Canada to give him a cover story so he could back out of a speech at the St. Benedict Center. That strikes me as a species of fraud and failure to carry out fiduciary responsibilities on behalf of JBS management. This was as much Jack's fault as Vance's, I suppose. In any case it still strikes me as amazing that nobody in Appleton had the dangling anatomy to force Jack to choose between the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and serving as President of the JBS.

I wasn't aware of Jack's irrepressible conflict of interest when I, along with the rest of the editorial staff, was called into a meeting with Jack a couple of years before Appleton threw me under the bus. Jack held forth at length -- probably about two and a half hours or more -- about what he called the "Masonic infiltration" of the Catholic church, as well as sharing faith-promoting fables about nuns who were able to be in two places at once through "miraculous bi-location" or somesuch.

That lecture was interesting, but it struck me as an odd use of company time -- not only Jack's, but of several other people who, like myself, were required to do actual work in order to produce a magazine.

Shortly after I joined the staff of the JBS in October 1993, I asked Jack about Robert Welch's reported deathbed conversion to Catholicism. Jack proudly confirmed that he had supervised that event, describing it in some detail. On the strength of Jack's confirmation, I'll share the late Gary Allen's description of that event from an August 19, 1985 letter (scroll down to the bottom of the page here), which is somewhat less than complimentary:

"About the lowest, most vulgar stunt I've ever heard of was when John McManus slithered into Mrs. Welch's office just two days after Mr. Welch’s death to gloat to her that her husband had converted to Feeneyite Catholicism on his deathbed, after having taken instructions in the faith. This is a damnable lie. During the last months of his life he didn't even recognize his wife most of the time. He couldn't take instructions in anything. You may think this stunt is beneath contempt, but I have a lot of contempt for it.

The Feeneyites believe the Pope, whom the KGB tried to assassinate, is a Communist and that all non-Feeneyites are going to Hell.... [T]his cult virtually runs Belmont [Massachusetts, at the time the site of the JBS home office]. If the general membership ever found out about Feeneyite control of the Belmont bureaucracy, there would be revolt in the ranks. …"

Not all of the traditional Catholics in Appleton are Feeneyites. In fact, I think Jack is the only significant figure on the JBS staff to adhere to that group. So Allen's despairing description of Belmont two decades ago isn't an accurate description of Appleton today.

But Jack's behavior remains at the center of the problems afflicting JBS upper management. And it helps explain why, after he and three other upper management castratti knifed me in the back, Jack was so concerned that I "go quietly."