In panning Glenn Beck's "hysteria" over the Egypt protests, the Weekly Standard's William Kristol recently wrote that Beck "brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society." Beck has many ties to the fringe right-wing anti-communist group, and the John Birch Society has praised Beck's rhetoric.
The John Birch Society: On The Fringe
Extreme Anti-Communism. Businessman Robert Welch founded the John Birch Society in 1958. A rabid anti-communist, Welch accused several prominent government officials of being communists, and once described Dwight Eisenhower as a "dedicated agent of the Communist conspiracy." [Media Matters, 12/16/09]
Rampant Conspiracy Theorism. A 2009 New York Times profile of the group noted the various conspiracies it subscribes to, including "a conspiracy to merge Mexico, Canada and the United States" into the "North American Union," and "a larger plot by an amorphous, amoral group of powerful elite [...] to take over planet Earth," both of which are the doings of "a secret, insidious brotherhood called the Illuminati, and with most American presidents among its many dupes and abettors."
The Times also noted that in 2005, former John Birch Society members released "recorded snippets" of President John McManus "lecturing to Catholic groups that Judaism became a dead and deadly religion after the establishment of the Catholic Church," adding: "Mr. McManus is also heard to say that militant Jews have influenced the Freemasons, who are 'Satan's agents,' 'the enemies of Christ Church' -- and, in the view of the John Birch Society, part of the Illuminati conspiracy to cause world upheaval."
The Times noted that the group's chief executive "said the John Birch Society has Jewish and black members and has never tolerated anti-Semitism or racism, notwithstanding its notorious opposition to much of the civil rights movement." [New York Times, 6/25/09]
Beck's Guru: Bircher Defender W. Cleon Skousen
"The Man Who Changed Glenn Beck's Life." In a September 2009 Salon.com article, Alexander Zaitchik documented Beck's connections to W. Cleon Skousen, a '60s radical anti-communist who is "Beck's favorite writer and the author of the bible of the 9/12 movement, 'The 5,000 Year Leap.' " According to Zaitchik, Skousen "was too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era, but Glenn Beck has now rescued him from the remainder pile of history, and introduced him to a receptive new audience." [Salon.com, 9/16/09]
A promoter of New World Order conspiracy theories, Skousen claimed that there "exists a relatively small but powerful group which has succeeded in acquiring a choke-hold on the affairs of practically the entire human race." Skousen also published an American history book, The Making Of America, which presented a "story of slavery in America" that cast slaveowners as the "worst victims of the system." [Media Matters, 10/16/09, 9/30/09]
Skousen Heavily Influences Beck's Thinking. Beck frequently promotes Skousen's books on his television and radio programs, as well on his website. He authored the foreword to the 30th anniversary edition of The 5,000 Year Leap, in which Beck wrote, "I beg you to read this book filled with words of wisdom which I can only describe as divinely inspired." The 5,000 Year Leap was an integral part of the launch of Beck's 9-12 Project. Announcing the project on the March 13, 2009, edition of his Fox News show, Beck gave away free copies of the book to his studio audience, telling them: "It is fantastic. [...] The 5,000-Year Leap -- it is the 29 principles that our founders put together, and how they put this genius country together." [Media Matters, 9/30/09]
Skousen Closely Tied To Birchers, Welch. Skousen was a staunch defender of the John Birch Society. He authored a 1963 pamphlet titled "The Communist Attack on the John Birch Society," in which he alleged that people who criticized the group "usually did so without realizing they were promoting the official Communist Party line." ["The Communist Attack on the John Birch Society, 1963] In his September 2009 Salon.com article, Zaitchick wrote that Skousen "aligned himself" with Welch's accusation that Eisenhower was a "dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy."
Beck Defends, Channels Birchers
John Birch Society: Beck Presents History "In The Way That The John Birch Society Has Been Doing It For Over 50 Years." In a June 25, 2010, article for the John Birch Society website, member Larry Greenley praised Beck's treatment of American history, writing: "I've been fascinated to see how Beck has been getting progressively (sorry for the bad word choice) closer to presenting American history in the way that The John Birch Society has been doing it for over 50 years."
Greenley focused specifically on Beck's June 24, 2010, program, which he claimed "was the ultimate in complete agreement between the Beck and JBS presentations of American history." As Media Matters documented, Beck's June 24 program was devoted to red-baiting, communist fearmongering, and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whom Beck had previously claimed was "absolutely right." [Media Matters, 6/24/10]
From Greenley's article, titled "Glenn Beck Recapitulates The John Birch Society":
As a longtime member of The John Birch Society (JBS), I've been watching the Glenn Beck TV Show closely since he moved over to Fox News in 2008. I've been fascinated to see how Beck has been getting progressively (sorry for the bad word choice) closer to presenting American history in the way that The John Birch Society has been doing it for over 50 years.
Last night's show, June 24, which was an overview of communism in America, was the ultimate in complete agreement between the Beck and JBS presentations of American history.
There's so much that could be said, but I'll settle for just a couple of the most interesting bits of Beck/JBS overlap from last night's show.
First of all, there was Beck's wholehearted endorsement of Senator Joe McCarthy's crusade to expose Communists in government in the 1950s. Beck's featured guest was M. Stanton Evans, who published the definitive book vindicating McCarthy, Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies, in 2007. At one point Beck held the book up and said that his viewers must read it. And we all know that this endorsement will automatically make this book skyrocket up in sales. [John Birch Society Website, 6/25/10]
Beck To John Birch Society Spokesman: "You Guys Are Starting To Make More And More Sense To Me." On the July 25, 2007, edition of his CNN Headline News program, Beck hosted John Birch Society spokesman Sam Antonio to discuss the Security and Prosperity Partnership, an economic and security initiative of the United States, Canada, and Mexico that the John Birch Society believes is a vehicle "to stealthily merge the three North American nations." [John Birch Society press release, 8/7/09]
Introducing the interview, Beck said to Antonio: "Sam, I have to tell you, when I was growing up, the John Birch Society, I thought they were a bunch of nuts, however, you guys are starting to make more and more sense to me. There is something dirty in this -- in this whole thing. I happen to believe it`s connected to the SPP":
BECK: I want to turn now to Sam Antonio. He`s a national spokesperson on immigration for the John Birch Society.
Sam, I have to tell you, when I was growing up, the John Birch Society, I thought they were a bunch of nuts, however, you guys are starting to make more and more sense to me. There is something dirty in this -- in this whole thing. I happen to believe it`s connected to the SPP.
Can you float some of the theories here by the American -- by the American public?
SAM ANTONIO, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY: Well, first and foremost, Glenn, it`s great to be on your program. And yes, we at the John Birch Society are not nuts. We are just exposing the truth that`s been out there for many, many years.
Now this news that just came from Congressman Rohrabacher has been very shocking, but at the same time is not shocking. And as you just mentioned in your segue, it is part of the bigger picture of the Security and Prosperity Partnership that was signed by the Bush administration in 2005.
What this all means to me, just taking in all this information, leads to me again, that it`s the breakdown of our law enforcement, the breakdown of our men and women at the border, to prepare our country for an opening of our borders for Canada and Mexico and eventually all throughout the Americas.
BECK: OK. The SPP -- in case somebody doesn`t know, you should go and look at this at SPP.gov. It`s a government web site and it`s -- you have to read between the lines. And a lot of people say that you`re a conspiracy freak if you believe any of this stuff.
But if you really think about it is the one answer that makes sense, that we want to share trade. We want to share workers. We want to have an open border. We want to have one border around Canada, Mexico and the United States. And we share everything including information. [CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, 7/25/07]
Wilentz: Beck's Rhetoric "A Revival Of Ideas That Circulated On The Extremist Right Half A Century Ago." In an October 2010 New Yorker article, historian Sean Wilentz examined how the John Birch Society and Skousen form the intellectual foundation for Glenn Beck's worldview:
The popularity of Beck's broadcasts, which now reach two million viewers each day, has brought neo-Birchite ideas to an audience beyond any that Welch or Skousen might have dreamed of. Several times a week, Beck informs his audience that socialists (whom he also sometimes calls Fascists or Communists) led by Obama have seized power, and that patriotic Americans must take their country back. His TV show for some time featured "Comrade Updates," in which Beck described perfidy while the Soviet anthem played in the background. He attacks all the familiar bogeymen: the Federal Reserve System (which he asserts is a private conglomerate, unaccountable to the public); the Council on Foreign Relations (born of a "progressive idea" to manipulate the media in order to "let the masses know what should be done"); and a historical procession of evildoers, including Skousen's old target Colonel House and Welch's old target Woodrow Wilson. His sources on these matters, quite apart from Skousen's books, can be unreliable. On September 22nd, amid a diatribe about House, Beck cited a passage from "Secrets of the Federal Reserve," by Eustace Mullins. The book, commissioned in 1948 by Ezra Pound, is a startlingly anti-Semitic fantasy of how a Jewish-led conspiracy of all-powerful bankers established the Federal Reserve in service of their plot to dominate the world. [The New Yorker, 10/18/10]
Kristol: Beck's "Rants" Reminiscent Of Welch, Birchers. In a column for the February 14 edition of The Weekly Standard, William Kristol wrote:
Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish that democratic end. And it's a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.
But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He's marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s. [The Weekly Standard, retrieved 2/9/11]
Continetti: Beck "Reintroducing Old Ideas" Promulgated By Birchers. In an article for the June 28, 2010, edition of The Weekly Standard, writer Matthew Continetti noted Beck's connections to Skousen and wrote that Beck's "conspiracy theories" are drawn from John Birch Society ideas:
Read and watch enough Glenn Beck, and you realize that he is not only introducing new authors and ideas into public life, he is reintroducing old ideas. Some very old ideas. The notion that America's leaders are indistinguishable from America's enemies has a long and sorry history. In the 1950s it led Robert Welch, the head of the John Birch Society, to proclaim that President Dwight Eisenhower was a Communist sympathizer. For this, William F. Buckley Jr. famously denounced Welch and severed the Birchers' ties to mainstream conservatism. The group was ostracized for decades.
But not everyone denounced Welch. One author, the Mormon autodidact W. Cleon Skousen, continued to support the Birchers as he penned books on politics and the American founding. And Skousen continued to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that American political, social, and economic elites were working with the Communists to foist a world government on the United States. [The Weekly Standard, 6/28/10]