Writing Conspiracy History: Lists Are Not Enough

Bright lights attract large bugs ~ Old Chinese proverb (circa 1983)

The Web is a great tool. It opens the door to everyone with a few bucks to run a Web site. But this low-cost entry also makes possible the spread of really uninformed material. A recent example is Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s influence inside the American Right. This is the journalistic equivalent of “Ariel Sharon found to have links to Zionist movement.”

Well over two decades ago, Rev. Moon put up millions of dollars to launch The Washington Times, the conservative alternative to The Washington Post. On the whole, it’s a pretty good newspaper. It has maintained a conservative bias. But if anyone in the conservative movement today is unaware of the Moon connection, he must have joined up very late in the game.

Of course, old-timers have a common affliction: “I remember that as if it were yesterday!” — except that we have trouble remembering yesterday. A recent example: On February 27, I went looking for an article that I had recalled as having been published around 1990. Later in the day, the editor of the sequel to the long-defunct magazine which had published that article told me that it had been published in 1979. I had lost track of eleven years. This is a common complaint among researchers who have been at it too long.

This “hot off the digital press” report on Rev. Moon made other astounding connections: from Moon to the Council on Foreign Relations to the Bilderbergers and to Freemasonry. It seems that the entire American Right wing is part of this secret cabal. And it all centers around the secretive Council for National Policy.

I am listed among the hundreds of people associated with the cabal.

Let me tell you that I feel as though I have been violated — not by the article, but by Rev. Moon. Where was my money? For a decade, 1981-91, Moon made me pay my own air fare, hotel lodging, and dues to go to meetings of the Council for National Policy.

There is no justice. When a man sells out, he deserves to be paid. But Moon made me pay my own sell-out fees!

The author of the report is Eric Jewel. I came into the conservative movement in 1956. I have been writing full-time since 1967. I have never heard of Eric Jewel. Google lists a lot of people named Eric Jewel, but none of them seems to be a researcher or newsletter publisher.

Who is Eric Jewel, and how did he get his “inside information”? Enquiring minds want to know.

What I find curious about Mr. Jewel’s “shocking exposé” is that it contains a total of two footnotes, and these support minor accusations, one against Jerry Falwell. There were two click-through links. There ought to have been click-through links galore. This is usually a tip-off to looming problems, or as I call it, a nut-case alert.

Just about every shocking accusation that he makes is prefaced either by “alleged” or “it is reported.” Alleged by whom? Reported by whom? Where are the footnotes? That the American religious Right has taken money from Moon is an old story, and not an illustrious one. There comes a time in every large non-profit ministry which reaches a large audience when someone whose money you had better not accept comes knocking at the door. He offers money. Don’t take the money. A lot of prominent conservatives took Moon’s money. I opposed this at the time, and I still do.

Over a decade ago, a Christian conservative former friend of mine was offered a job at The Washington Times. He asked me if I thought he should take the job. I told him no. He took it anyway. I think this was one factor in the subsequent destruction of his career. He got fired anyway, but this had nothing to do with Moon or his cult. The problem was, he knew better, theologically speaking. The conservative evangelicals who have taken Moon’s money are not noted for their precise theology. They are noted more for their large mailing lists and even larger debts. Their mailing lists made them a target for Moon, and their debts made them susceptible to the offer.

The question is: Who was buying whom? And what was being bought?

The Rockefeller Foundation gives an occasional $50,000 donation to large Right-wing organizations. Neither side publicizes this. The money is chump change for David Rockefeller, but it’s big money for the recipients. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. started doing this at least 75 years ago. His lawyer, official biographer, and full-time bag man, Raymond Fosdick (Harry Emerson’s brother), recognized early that academics are low-paid and easily bought off. Through research grants, Fosdick bought silence from would-be academic critics, mainly on the left. (For the story of this strategy, see Don Fisher: Fundamental Development of the Social Sciences: Rockefeller Philanthropy and the United States Social Science Research Council.) This strategy has worked flawlessly ever since. It is why you rarely see frontal assaults on the Rockefeller Foundation’s influence published by conservative think-tanks.

I think silence was what Moon was buying.

He was also buying support for jointly shared ideas. He was an anti-Communist. As a South Korean, this was to be expected. (See recent remarks about the Axis of Evil.) The American conservative movement in 1979-91 was anti-Communist. Moon’s payments, as far as I ever heard, went mostly for anti-Communist causes or pro-family causes.

Any suggestion that Moon’s theological ideas in any way filtered down through the Christian organizations that took his money is ludicrous. It cannot be proven. No one has tried to prove it. Mr. Jewel is either blowing smoke, chasing it, or inhaling it.

Follow the money, yes; then follow the ideas. If there is no trace of the ideas alongside the flow of funds, then we aren’t talking about buying influence. The money is buying something else. My guess is that it was buying self-imposed silence. Nobody mentioned this nature of this arrangement. No one had to.

Just for the record, the main source for information on the Moon-conservative connection is www.pir.org, which is an anti-CIA, left-wing outfit that has a remarkable data base. Check here for a long list of Rev. Moon’s connections. PIR has a very impressive Web site in terms of raw data, but you have to verify everything you read after you discover a supposed connection. It’s not Reagan’s “trust, but verify.” It’s more like “verify, then trust . . . this time only.”

THE COUNCIL FOR NATIONAL POLICY

It gets worse, says Jewel. Lots worse. There is the sinister Council for National Policy (CNP). He writes:

Looking into some of the CNP officers we find not only a just a strong association with Moon, but also powerful ties with the CIA and the Council on Foreign Relations, not to mention association with high level Freemasonry for which many conspiracy theorists have more than a mere elementary knowledge related to the NWO. Another past President of CNP is Rich DeVoss [misspelled], co-founder of Amway (and 33rd degree Mason).

It is time for me to fess up. I was present at the creation of the CNP. That was in 1981. Reagan had just been elected. It was euphoria time on the Right. The honeymoon had barely begun.

Rev. Tim LaHaye was the visible organizer. This was in the middle phase of LaHaye’s career: after his televangelism-pastoral career had ended, but before his $45 million author’s career writing dispensationalist science fiction novels (Left Behind). This was the “Mr. Beverly LaHaye” phase of his career. His wife was building what became a mailing list of over 400,000 conservative Christian women. I am happy to report that he played his role well; he never complained.

That first meeting was a mess. Nobody had a clue as to what was going on, who was in charge, what the CNP was supposed to become.

That first meeting was saved by a man nobody knew anything about, except for me. His name was Terry Jeffers. He worked for Howard Ruff, who never did attend a CNP meeting, as far as I recall, but who had been invited to join. Ruff wrote a newsletter with 200,000 subscribers, which then shrank. I was probably the only person in the room who knew Jeffers. He had been my boss at Ruff’s organization, 1977-79. He was an affable fellow who hadn’t a political or economic idea in his head, as far as I ever knew. He was a business manager. He once wrote a school song for Brigham Young University.

After an hour of floundering, the group was in big trouble. Nobody knew what it should be or do. Then Terry persuaded someone to bring in a flip chart. He took over the meeting. He got everyone who had an idea to contribute to say what was on his mind. He himself made no suggestions, except this one, over and over: “Let’s keep on track.” It was the best advice the organization ever had. He kept flipping the pages. After about an hour, an outline of CNP’s goals took shape. Jeffers and his flip chart brought together the American conservative movement in a Washington hotel room in early 1981. I am not exaggerating. He never attended again. Of such are “revolutions” made!

Nobody quite knew what CNP should be. Finally, someone said it said it should be like a conservative Council of Foreign Relations. Then J. Terry Dolan, head of NICPAC (National Conservative Political Action Committee), said that if it was to have the influence of the CFR, it would have to charge a lot of money to join. He suggested $5,000 a year. The motion passed.

That was Dolan’s last major contribution to the American Right. He turned out to be a closet homosexual, dying of AIDS. The family-values members remained discretely silent about this embarrassing development.

Let me assure you that 75% of the people in that room didn’t have even $500 a year to pay, unless it was with their 501(c)(3) organizations’ money. So, we exempted ourselves from the rule. It was only Johnny-Come-Latelies who would be asked to pay $5,000 a year.

What was the CNP revolution all about? It was a revolution of conservative money-absorption. The CNP launched the greatest roving conference inside the American Right. Every attendee paid $500 per conference, plus travel, plus a hotel room at the swankiest hotels that I have ever been in, before or after. That was what was required for a CFR wanna-be organization. The attendees had to think they were participating in The Big Time.

Despite $5,000 a year plus $500 per conference, three or four times a year, the CNP always seemed to be short of money. How, I cannot imagine. The directors could profitably have taken budget-estimation lessons from a Chicago alderman.

What did we do at those meetings, 1981-1991 (when I finally stopped attending)? In the early years, we listened to excruciatingly boring lectures given by White House mid-level flaks. The top-level White House people were mostly Bush’s cronies by way of James Baker, so, year by year, we got speeches from flaks who moved ever-lower on the White House totem pole. We heard from Ambassadors to Romania and similar exotic nations. In Reagan’s second term, they became former Ambassadors. The main exception was Ed Meese. He was high level. But Ed never said anything worth hearing.

I recall a speech by Jeane Kirkpatrick, the neo-conservative Democrat who for years successfully passed herself off as a conservative. One time, they gave her the topic of discussing the New World Order. Larry Abraham and I had a few chuckles in advance. “That’ll be the day!” At the speech, she began, “I don’t even know what the New World Order is,” and proceeded to give us a canned speech on something or other. For this, conservatives paid $500 per conference, plus expenses.

After 1985, we got Ollie North’s speeches. Ollie was always interesting. What I didn’t know then was that Abu Nidal — I was unfamiliar with Mr. Nidal — had Ollie on an assassination hit list, or so Ollie said years later. (The supposed Osama bin Laden assassination threat is an invention of the Internet.) So, Ollie would register under an assumed name. But, out of the loop, I knew nothing of all this. So, I used my own name. Years later, I had visions of some of Ann Coulter’s “swarthy men” bursting into my hotel room with Uzis, and either spraying the room with lead or else taking me captive.

I have a recurring nightmare about Nidal’s reaction when they bring me in. “Who is this flabby infidel? You brought me who? Gary North? Take him outside, and cut off his. . . .” What, I’m not sure; I always wake up at this point.

When the CNP was founded, people would ask Ollie’s wife if she was Gary North’s wife. No one had heard of Ollie. I was far more famous at the time.

That’s how insignificant the CNP was.

Occasionally, there was a good speech. If I were not a Calvinist, I would say that this was entirely random. The speaker was never a politician. It would be someone like Otto Scott — someone obscure who had something important to say, but without any power or money.

The CNP was basically a quarterly get-together of the Good Old Boys (and Phyllis Schafly, unquestionably the toughest of the whole bunch) in the American mailing-list Right. The CNP might well have been called “Richard Viguerie’s Spear-Carriers.” But that would have applied only to the middle-level organizations. I was too low, and Rich DeVos, owner of the Amway mailing list, was too high. According to our place in the organizational pecking order, we would meet together and talk in the halls or in our rooms. Larry Abraham and I would meet, or Larry Pratt and I. I used CNP mainly to get interviews for my FireStorm Chats audiotapes. For that, CNP was great.

Those of us on the far Right were never invited to speak. Among these fringe people were ex-John Birch Society officials (Scott Stanley, Larry McDonald), Christian Reconstructionists (R. J. Rushdoony, who rarely attended, and I), and Austrian School economists.

Mark Skousen was invited once to debate George Gilder, but that was it. Gilder kept referring to him as “Mr. Skoosen.” After the debate, Stanley came up to me and said, “I really wanted to hear Gilder. He writes well. But his speaking style reminds me of Daffy Duck.” Stanley was a great editor (American Opinion) and a great public speaker. He had Gilder to a T.

Then there were the workshops. These were basically “crying in our beer” sessions, except for the Moral Majority people, for whom these were “crying in our O’Doul’s.” There were sessions on foreign policy, labor unions, military affairs, etc. At these little break-out sessions, someone who was in the business of raising money for that particular cause would probably chair it. The meetings were all alike: “What can we do? We’re losing!”

The master of this was Reed Larson of the National Right to Work Committee. He told us, meeting after meeting, year after year, how the unions were involved in political skulduggery. Of course they were. They always have been. But, decade after decade, their membership has shrunk along with American manufacturing. Unions find it hard to organize white collar workers, except for government employees. The free market has been grinding the unions into dust since about 1950. You really want to know what killed trade unions? Air conditioning. As J. Frank Dobie, the great Texas historian, once remarked: “Air conditioning ruined Texas. It made it possible for Yankees to live down here.” (American Heritage [Dec. 1984], p. 13). The South had cheap labor and right-to-work laws. Industry headed south. This was an old story in 1985. But Larson never mentioned any of this. It was always a new disaster looming just around the corner. He had specialized in fighting unions for too long. He knew only one song: “We’re up against a giant.”

Rich DeVos, we are told by Mr. Jewel, is a 33rd degree mason. Bad news if true, but irrelevant politically. So was J. Edgar Hoover. So are lots of high-level people, going back over two centuries. But, other than its goofy unitarian theology and its bloody self-maledictory oaths, does American Freemasonry make any difference? Does it exercise power the way that, say, the New York Times does? Yes, it used to. Read Steven Bullock’s masterful history, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order. Without the Freemasons, there probably would have been no American Revolution. That was my contention in Part 3 of my 1989 book, Political Polytheism. The famous Green Dragon Inn, from which the Boston Tea Party’s “indians” went forth, was a Freemasonic tavern. But you don’t read about that in the history textbooks, and conservatives don’t want to hear it. George Washington had served as Grand Master of Alexandria’s Lodge 22, and he brought in the brothers to lay the foundation stones of the Capitol building on September 18, 1793. He came down from New York City, the nation’s capital, to participate. The U.S. Senate featured a painting of the ceremony in its 1993 calendar.

Does Freemasonry have that kind of power today? It is highly doubtful.

As far as I could figure out, the CNP was basically a way to attract rich conservative businessmen who wanted to imagine that they were participating on the inside track of high-level politics. CNP provided that illusion. At CNP meetings, they could meet the leaders of the conservative movement, who had one thing in common: they all ran organizations that were short of money. There may not have been a meeting of the minds at CNP meetings, but there were meetings of potential donors and full-time money-absorbers. I don’t think much money passed hands at the meetings, but there was a CNP members-only address book, with direct phone numbers. That, in my view, was the key to understanding the CNP, 1981-91. After that, I don’t know. Most of those of us who were hard-core Right-wingers, pre-Reagan, stopped attending.

THE COUNCIL OF 56

Mr. Jewel says that I belonged to the Council of 56 of the Religious Roundtable. If I did, I don’t recall. I don’t even remember a newsletter, although there must have been one: “No newsletter — no organization.” It was something that Ed McAteer put together. Ed was a nice guy, a travelling salesman. He knew all of the evangelical leaders. Everyone trusted him because he wasn’t a threat to anyone. He probably asked me to let him put my name on the letterhead. I haven’t heard from him in 15 years.

Of Ed, I will tell one story. It is one of my favorites. He has never heard it. I hope he is still alive. If he is, he will like this story.

I was at the really crucial meeting in the history of the post-War American Right, one that nobody, Right or Left, writes about, other than me: the National Affairs Briefing Conference, held at Reunion Arena in Dallas in early September, 1980. There is a Ph.D. dissertation or two tied just to the audiotapes of that meeting. I have lost my set, for which I am profoundly sorry. I was a speaker, one among dozens. Reagan spoke on the final night. It was at that conference that the New Christian Right (RIP) was born.

I was outside one afternoon, talking with Howard Phillips. Howard was not yet a Christian, yet he told me, “The Holy Spirit has put this meeting together.” I was amazed at his theological language. I asked him why he thought so. I will never forget his answer. “Because Ed McAteer officially organized it, and it is inconceivable that anything like this could have been organized by Ed.”

CONCLUSION

When you look into anything relating to American national politics, you can follow streams of money flowing into the Washington Beltway. There are only so many players: big donors and money-absorbing recipients. There are overlapping connections and networks. “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” A classic example: Terry Dolan and the New Christian Right.

There are Freemasons everywhere, including inside the churches. This does not make the churches captive agencies of the Freemasons. (This assumes that Malachi Martin’s novels on the Vatican are mostly fiction.) There are secret societies of all sorts with members on all sides of the big debates of any era. There are money trails to the Rockefellers and the big foundations. When outfits give away money, there are many takers. Money flows in. The question is: What flows out? To study inputs is only step one. The key to understanding is the existence of a persistent pattern of the output.

People who like power, and who are on the fringes of it, are tempted to get close to “the inner ring,” as C. S. Lewis titled a great essay in his collection, The Weight of Glory. Lewis warned: choose good friends over powerful associates.

There are many levels of association, dependence, and interaction among political groups and activist organizations. What matters most is shared confessions, not shared money. Shared ideas, not a long list of names on the yellowing letterhead stationery of a short-lived, peripheral, one-man organization like the Religious Roundtable, are what matter.

Serious historical research involves more than collecting membership lists and letterhead lists from old archives or Web-based data bases. The researcher must ask himself: “So what?” He must show that the connections have to do with a shared worldview and shared sources of funding, especially funding by an organization or a family with an identifiable agenda that stretches across two generations or more.

Men in politics join many organizations. A politician never knows where the next donation may come from. A donor never knows which politician will be in a position to stop or promote a piece of legislation. A researcher must ask of the membership commitments of any individual: “Is there a pattern here? Is one of these organizations the clearing house for this man’s personal and organizational connections? Is one of them giving him his marching orders? Can one of them force him to resign from any or all of the others?” You cannot answer such questions by means of compiled lists alone.

Mr. Jewel did not understand any of this. Newcomers rarely do. But he got into “print.” The Web provides exposure for the writings of people without much experience. It is a very bright light.

March 1, 2002

Gary North is the author of Conspiracy: A Biblical View (1987), which is now available on-line free of charge. To subscribe to his free investment letter (e-mail), click here.