Saturday, November 10, 2012

Speak the Truth and Shame the Devil: Appleton's Overdue Accountability Moment

Last week I was approached by a contributor to the Intelligence Report, which is published by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This gentleman explained that he is working on a profile of the John Birch Society and would like to interview me about my life "in and out of the JBS."
"I would certainly be interested in speaking with you about my experiences with the JBS," I replied. "The treatment I received from the organization's upper management has become a matter of public record, and since my position is that I will talk with anyone, anytime about practically anything, I would be willing to discuss this matter with you, just as I would with anybody else. (I'm of the opinion that we spend too much time talking about each other, and far too little trying to talk with each other.)"
Before answering any of this gentleman's questions, I wanted him to understand my opinion of the SPLC:

Since you've read my material ... you've probably noticed that I'm not exactly bent beneath the weight of my admiration for the SPLC, or for Mr. Dees. My view is that the organization is mining a profitable alarmist niche in a process I've called "police state profiteering." If the organization were genuinely concerned about defending the civil liberties of poor minorities, its silence regarding the unalloyed evil of Drug Prohibition -- which has effectively criminalized generations of young African-American men -- would be inexplicable. Rather than compiling the nasty things that are said (and occasionally done) by isolated and nearly powerless cliques of white supremacists, the SPLC -- if it takes its mandate seriously -- should be focusing on the hideous injustices being done to the rights of minorities through the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. That being said, I should also note that I appreciate the fact that the SPLC has filed suits on behalf of children being channeled into the "school-to-prison pipeline," and the abuses routinely inflicted on immigrants.

In recent weeks I've been covering an incident in a small farming community near my home in which a perfectly innocent and harmless couple was assaulted by sheriff's deputies who mounted a paramilitary raid on their home -- guns drawn, fingers tickling the triggers of AR-15s. The wife was brutally dragged out of the house, the husband was forced to his knees with the muzzle of an assault rifle jammed to the back of his skull. After being cuffed he was yanked to his feet and then dropped on his tailbone, which resulted in severe -- and possibly irreversible -- injury. Their home was searched illegally on the pretext of a "domestic violence" call. The deputies eventually wrote the husband a ticket for possession of "paraphernalia," and then dismissed the matter without so much as an apology.

All of this happened because the Gem County Sheriff's Office, acting on material provided by the SPLC, have profiled the husband, Michael "Bear" Gibbons, as a "constitutionalist."

Here's a link to the piece I wrote about the episode:

When Michael Gibbons was thrown to the ground and put in the
coup de grace position, he honestly thought he was going to be executed -- and that fear was justified. The police video of the incident captured the deputies gleefully snickering after one of them said, "Let's go hunt some Bear."

Mr. Dees and his associates often -- and properly -- condemn public figures who traffic in bigotry and engage in "eliminationist" rhetoric intended to incite violence against innocent people. Michael Gibbons and his wife Marcela were brutalized by law enforcement agents who have been exposed to rhetoric from the SPLC that does roughly the same thing to peaceful, law-abiding people who hold political opinions the group finds eccentric or "extreme."

A few weeks ago I wrote an essay that touched on the SPLC's treatment of the "sovereign citizens" movement --

That article concluded as follows:
“Sovereign citizens” supposedly believe that acts of force and fraud are transmuted into justice when accompanied with the proper conjurations. How would that differ, in principle, from the behavior of the governing “officials” on whose behalf the SPLC labors? If "officials" can commit acts of aggressive violence, on what moral basis do we condemn similar behavior on the part of private individuals who declare themselves "Sovereign" as well?

When a “Sovereign” kills a police officer, the SPLC – speaking on behalf of the entire police state apparatus – commands us to mourn and rend our garments. When Officer Erik Sammis guns down a 12-year-old African-American, or Barack Obama slaughters a Yemeni-American teenager with a drone-fired missile, the SPLC maintains a reverent silence in the face of what it must regard as the sacramental exercise of the government’s transcendent authority – while it quietly adds names to its ever-expanding roster of dissidents and heretics.

I agreed to participate in an interview via e-mail. I also let JBS management know about the SPLC interview request. Since Appleton now treats me as an unperson, this contact was made indirectly through mutual friends. Although nobody in JBS management acknowledged my note. I did get a cordial note from the Society's PR director thanking me for letting Appleton know about the forthcoming SPLC profile.

The interview has been lengthy, extensive, and detailed. I have told the truth as I experienced it and have sufficient wisdom to explain it. If my answers are reported accurately the article will not treat Thompson and McManus kindly. 

Some of my friends in the JBS have urged me not to speak with the SPLC out of understandable concern over the damage that could result. In answering the SPLC's questions, I've said exactly the same things about my experiences, and my opinion of the current JBS management, that I have shared here and in private correspondence. 

In brief, I've done exactly the opposite of what Art Thompson did twelve years ago when he collaborated with Vance Smith to remove Jack McManus as JBS President.

Amid growing concern over Jack's long-time hobby as an exponent of anti-Semitic nonsense, Art put together a detailed dossier, including the "sizzle reel" that would later be shown to me during the October 2005 leadership struggle. Both Vance and Art clearly saw Jack as a potentially lethal liability to the organization -- as demonstrated by Art's detailed memo describing some of the ways the SPLC could exploit the damage that Jack had done (see the excerpt below):


As I've pointed out before: In 2000, Art collaborated with Vance to remove Jack; five years later, Art and Jack teamed up to pitch Vance overboard. 

In 2000, Art depicted Jack as at best a huge liability for the JBS -- and, at worst, a potential collaborator with the enemy:

This is why Thompson insisted that McManus had to be removed. He was the one who put together the material that would eventually be used by Smith in 2005 in an attempt to blackmail McManus:

Is there any reason not rooted in Art Thompson's self-interested calculations why Jack McManus would be reinstated as JBS President in 2005?

For at least seven years, the people running things in Appleton have been playing the same kind of corrupt, cynical games that are commonplace in the political and financial institutions they despise -- concealment, dilatory tactics, artful non-disclosure. They have known since no later than 2000 that McManus was a liability -- that he was "SPLC bait," as it were. The truth is irrepressible. It's going to come out, and the results will be ugly.

My sentiments regarding the JBS -- as opposed to the craven people currently in charge of it -- are best captured in the answer I gave when asked if I still believed in Robert Welch's "vision":

Anybody who has spent any time in the JBS will recite Mr. Welch's credo: "Less government, more responsibility, and --with God's help -- a better world." Although I have come to disagree with some elements of Welch's analysis -- and am disgusted by the behavior of the people presently running the JBS -- I remain passionately devoted to that vision.

Unlike the reflexively bellicose people who call themselves Conservatives today, Mr. Welch was never a militarist; in one commencement address he gave in the mid-1950s he pointed out that there was no reason why the American people and the people of the USSR would consider themselves enemies if it weren't for the behavior of the governments presuming to rule them. 

In matters of social policy, Welch opposed abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide, like most conservatives, but also opposed the death penalty (as do I) and condemned torture. In the speech he gave at the founding of the JBS, Welch described pious Muslims as allies in the struggle against the lawless state. He was not preoccupied by the supposed threat of immigration, and didn't believe in enlisting the government in crusades to purify people's moral behavior through the righteous application of coercion. In a remarkable speech he gave in 1979 -- when most conservatives were worried about the Soviets -- Welch predicted that the U.S. would become universally hated for the government's practice of "imperialism by the dollar, as a substitute for the sword."

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