One of the really fortunate aspects of the far right in America is that it is constitutionally predisposed to fracturing: the combination of latent paranoid tendencies, controlling personalities and gigantic egos makes it nearly certain that its various components can never form an effective, long-term coalition.
This is why, for instance, the militia/Patriot movement of the 1990s was ultimately so incoherent and impotent. You couldn't have fit the egos of any two of its leaders -- say, John Trochmann, LeRoy Schweitzer, Bo Gritz, Norm Olson, or Mark Koernke -- into a large meeting hall, let alone get them to work in concert for any longer than a few weeks.
The paranoia was especially apparent between the various factions; I think it's fair to say that, at some point or another, I heard it rumored among the rank and file that each of these militia leaders was, in reality, working for the feds or "the other side." And it's probable that nearly all these rumors were being fed by the various leaders about each other.
Now, rather predictably, the same fate is befalling the Minutemen, probably the most successful immanation of the far right into the mainstream since the heyday of the Klan in the 1920s. A rift between the Minuteman Project's cofounders, Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox, has led to a split in the organization, and at the center of it is the Beltway consultancy that brought us the Terri Schiavo controversy -- which, you may recall, was yet another instance of the far right invading the mainstream.
It's already been a bad month for the Minutemen. After their cross-country tour in early May fell flat publicity-wise, so did their fence-building stunt on the Arizona border. On top of that, the fence itself was badly vandalized.
But the bigger problems for the Minutemen are internal, largely because of the apparent rift between Gilchrist and Simcox over their employment of the firm Diener Consulting -- officially based in Lancaster, Pa., but operating mostly within the D.C. area -- for public-relations help.
Though the two men are regularly referred to as "cofounders" of the Minuteman Project, Gilchrist now claims that they only cooperated for a long time. Simcox's group, then called "Civil Homeland Defense," served as support for the larger Minuteman Project, according to this version of events. After their initial public-relations success, though, Simcox and Gilchrist began going off in their own directions; Simcox started up the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps late last year (the Web site appears to have become operational in January of this year); the rift between the two organizations is underscored by the absence of the MMP from the MCDC's links page.
During Gilchrist's ill-fated run for Congress (under the banner, no less, of the far-right Constitution Party) in late 2005, he evidently hired the Diener Consulting team to help run the campaign's public relations. Simcox had reportedly already retained Diener for help as early as spring 2005.
Diener has only a perfunctory Website, but one of its associated operations -- a mailing firm called Response Unlimited -- offers much more. RU is a business that gathers mailing lists of potential "conservative" contributors and distributes them to various right-wing organizations. Its client list is a virtual Who's Who of the American right, including the Republican National Committee.
What this means is that, when someone contributes to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, their name and contact information is then given to a whole host of right-wing groups, depending on who's buying.
You'll also note that "The Spotlight" is on the list. As the Southern Poverty law Center reported this spring, this is part of the way Response Unlimited taps into the far right -- and as a "mainstream" organization, bridges the gap between movement conservatives and right-wing extremists:
- For eight years, a major direct-mail firm "specializing in the Christian and conservative markets" has been selling lists of the readers of America's leading anti-Semitic newspaper and, since about 2001, its successor publication.
Response Unlimited, based in Waynesboro, Va., and headed by Christian Right activist Philip Zodhiates, charges $100 for the rental of every 1,000 names of subscribers to the now-defunct Spotlight newspaper. Founded by veteran anti-Semite Willis Carto, The Spotlight carried anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic and wildly conspiracist articles interspersed with ads for Klan, neo-Nazi and related hate groups.
Zodhiates also peddles lists of subscribers to the American Free Press, which replaced The Spotlight when that tabloid was shut down amid legal and financial troubles surrounding Carto. The Free Press began immediately after The Spotlight fizzled in 2001 and picked up many of its predecessor paper's propagandists. Today, the Free Press carries stories on Zionism, secret "New World Order" conspiracies, American Jews and Israel. Mixed in are advertisements for outfits like Pete Peter's Scriptures for America and Kingdom Identity Ministries -- practitioners of Christian Identity, a theology that claims that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan.
As the piece goes on to explain, RU and Diener played a critical role in the Schiavo matter, with the lead taken by Philip Sheldon, who happens to be the son of the right-wing fundamentalist preacher Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition:
- In March 2005, The New York Times reported that Response Unlimited had cut a deal with Bob Schindler, the father of Terri Schiavo, a woman in a persistent vegetative state who was dying after a court authorized removal of her feeding tube. In return for the list of people who had donated money to Schindler, Zodhiates' firm agreed to send out an E-mail soliciting further donations for the Schindlers, who had battled Schiavo's husband over whether or not to retain the feeding tube.
Many found the list deal, made even before Schiavo finally died two days after the Times article appeared on March 29, ghoulish. One unpaid Schindler family spokesman, apparently unaware that Bob Schindler had authorized the deal, even told the paper it was "possibly the most distasteful thing I have ever seen."
According to the Times, Schindler cut his deal with Phil Sheldon, who is an officer of Response Unlimited. Sheldon is the son of the Rev. Lou Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, a group that also sent out appeals for support for Schiavo, who many Christian Right groups mistakenly believed was semi-conscious. Phil Sheldon is also partner with Zodhiates in a Web-based firm called Conservative Petitions that specializes in creating electronic petitions for right-wing causes.
The modus operandi with Sheldon's operations -- Response Unlimited, Diener Consultants, and Conservative Petitions -- is consistently the same: pander to far-right interests, obtain their membership lists, and then funnel them to other, mostly mainstream right-wing interests.
It's hard to tell whether Gilchrist had a bad experience with Diener, but he himself makes it clear that he has no association with them now. As Isis reported earlier, Gilchrist and Simcox apparently parted ways in December, when they met at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee gathering.
Objections to the associations with Diener began surfacing as early as February this year, when an anonymous Townhall commenter posted about the connection. The objection seemed to be that Diener was in bed with the "neoconservatives" against whom they were already arrayed to do battle with.
More recently, similar e-mails have been circulating among Minutemen supporters regarding the role of Diener. The chief source of these appears to be a fellow named Joe McCutchen, an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist about whose activities I've reported previously. (More about McCutchen here and here.) He also was was a speaker at the recent gathering of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens event outside Louisville.
Here's the e-mail McCutchen recently circulated:
June 20, 2006
While we hate to do anything to rain on the Minuteman parade, we also feel it necessary to tell you the truth and let you make your own decisions. This is in reaction to numerous inquiries from across the country.
As of May, 2005, after learning the names of the consulting firm & individuals in total control of the Minuteman organization -- donations, expenditures, P.R., advertising, press releases, databases, websites, etc. -- we immediately started asking questions. How much money is being donated and where is it going? While we believed totally in the concept, we also knew how vulnerable it was to infiltration. Unfortunately most of the MMP insiders had no clue as to the nature & goals of the neoconservatives in control of the Beltway.
Even after Joe and others warned Simcox & others of the dangers of Beltway Barracudas, MMP was signed over lock, stock, and barrel to ... Diener Consultants consisting of a number of individuals, including Mary Parker Lewis (former campaign manager for Alan Keyes, special assistant to Bill Bennett & William Kristol, fundraiser for the Terry Schiavo campaign), Connie Hair (spokesman for Free Republic, advisor to Alan Keyes, P.R. for Bill Bennett who vehemently opposed Calif. Prop 187, 8 yr veteran of military psychological operations), Phil Sheldon (President of multiple fundraisers such as Rightmarch.com, Conservativepetitions.com, Diener, ad infinitum)... fundraisers & neo-cons deluxe who immediately made the MMP a "project of Declaration Alliance"—One of Alan Keyes numerous fundraisers.
These people specialize in patriotic, religious sounding organizations with sound bites they know real Americans want to hear. Masters of Deceit.
What happened? Simcox left the border (his stated goal) and went on the cocktail speaking circuit. Gilchrist left the interior protest movement against employers of illegals (his stated goal) and ran for office….both sidetracked from their original goals.
In our opinion it was a wonderful concept and the last best chance we had to survive as a sovereign nation. We also knew that if April 2005 was a roaring success the enemies would be descending with vigor to cash in and diffuse. That is exactly what happened.
The purpose of this missive is to inform. It is your business who you want to support but at the same time you should know who controls that money and what their disclosure is ... so far none from Diener. We doubt that Simcox or Gilchrist know. We understand that they now have completely separate organizations and that Simcox is still with Diener.
It is with heavy heart that we disclose our findings since we were so 100% behind the concept ... but truth is truth, and so be it. Are we to believe that 1/4 mile or 100 miles of fencing will affect the illegal flow?
Your decision is your own to make ... but don't say you were not warned.
This in no way impugns the real hardworking patriot individuals and independent groups which have given so much of their time, sweat, tears, money, and efforts to stop the illegal invasion, with no compensation ... and there are many…some still working within infiltrated organizations without their knowledge.
Hats off to them and our deepest appreciation!
Joe & Barb
In short order, Gilchrist fired off a couple of missives. One was a disclaimer making clear that he was no longer associated with Simcox:
Sometimes You Stand Alone
From time to time the media has confused The Minuteman Project, Inc. with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. This confusion has lead to hard feelings and misrepresentations. Therefore we would like to set the record straight.
Over a year ago Mr. Jim Gilchrist led almost 1,000 volunteers to the U.S. and Mexico border in southeast Arizona and successfully conducted the largest minuteman campaign since the Revolutionary War. The Minuteman Project also proved beyond a doubt that U.S. borders can be protected if our political leaders merely have the will to do so. Jim Gilchrist's Minuteman Project brought national awareness to the illegal alien invasion of the United States and embarrassed both the U.S. Congress and the White House. When asked by the media about The Minuteman Project, the president went on record as saying Mr. Jim Gilchrist and the volunteers of The Minuteman Project were "vigilantes".
Jim Gilchrist is the 21st century Minuteman. On October 1, 2004 he founded The Minuteman Project, Inc. as a stand alone organization that is in no part related to, or has any business dealing with, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, whose President is Chris Simcox.
While The Minuteman Project, Inc. and Mr. Jim Gilchrist recognize the work of Chris Simcox and his Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, there is no business relationship with either Chris Simcox or his organization. The Minuteman Project, Inc., and Mr. Jim Gilchrist will always applaud the work of any patriot who believes in the sovereignty and security of the United States of America. The Minuteman Project, Inc. is directed solely by Mr. Jim Gilchrist and his board of Directors, and no one else.
This message, incidentally, was widely forwarded by "white separatist" Virginia Abernethy, who attached this note:
This is an important message from Jim Gilchrist of the Minuteman Project, definitely to be distinguished from the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps [MCDC] under the direction of Chris Simcox.
THe MCDC is associated with fund-raising in connection with the Diener Group, a Washington D.C. enterprise that is said to have virtually no history with the grassroots or interest in reducing mass immigration.
Gilchrist also sent out the following direct response to McCutchen's accusations:
Date sent: Thu, 22 Jun 2006 07:59:52 -0700
The Minuteman Project board of directors and volunteers have never received any compensation for their services during the past two years of The Minuteman Project's existence.
Joe and Barbara McCutcheon, and a couple other individuals, are determined to bring hell and havoc to any attempt by The Minuteman Project, or any other immigration law enforcement advocacy group, in our efforts to stop the chaotic lack of enforcement of US immigration laws.
If this movement fails, ladies and gentlemen, it will be because of the likes of people like Joe McCutcheon...and a handful of others, who continue sending out these ugly emails around the world.
The Minuteman Project has no affiliation with Deiner Consultants or Phil Sheldon, etc. That relationship was terminated right after the Gilchrist for Congress campaign was over. The consultants were paid to manage that campaign. No one else stepped up to accept that challenge. I did not feel it appropriate to hire paid consultants to carry out The Minuteman Project, and there was no money available to pay them from the MMProject. By the way, that political race was part of the MM movement, and it worked exceptionally well in waking up the US House of Representatives.
My run in that election literally turned the US House of Reps around and got their attention. Since that election, the House has introduced bill after bill defeating President Bush's "no border, no sovereignty" agenda. Please bear with us, folks. This effort takes a lot of time and there is much more to do. It cannot be done with the waving of a magic wand. Thanks for your understanding.
I invite Joe and Barbara McCutcheon to spend several years of their lives, without pay, and with absolutely no appreciation or help from federal, state, and city bureaucrats, in a tireless attempt to bring the USA back under the rule of law so that the illegal alien invasion can be "stopped" and "reversed".
The McCutcheon's continue to set the Minuteman/Woman movement back every time they broadcast their "hate the minutemen and women" tirades.
Hey, folks, I am not perfect...I am just trying to do the best I can to resolve this national calamity with the limited resources available to me. I invite all Americans to follow my lead...especially before engaging in merciless, destructive criticism, slander and libel, or any other jealous attempts to disrupt the MM movement.
Jim Gilchrist, Founder - The Minuteman Project (Laguna Hills, Ca.)
Barbara Coe, another far-right anti-immigration extremist who heads the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, was in on the thread and offered her own comments:
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Sent: Thursday, June 22, 2006 12:45 AM
To: Subscribers Only
Subject: (Fwd) buyER BEWARE
For purposes of clarification, below are CCIR comments on the below message by the McCutchens:
JIM GILCHRIST is the founder of the MINUTEMAN PROJECT (MMP). He is nationally and and internationally recognized as the 21st Century "Minuteman" and he did NOT abandon either his border security nor his employer sanctions efforts. CCIR can attest to the fact that MMP is an independent organization, all donations fund the needs of the MMP volunteers physically on the border (food, equipment, etc.), interior enforcement efforts and both his and MMP's expenses (printing, travel, etc.) Neither Jim nor MMP volunteers receive any salary.
CHRIS SIMCOX is the founder of the CIVIL HOMELAND DEFENSE CORPS. He is now with Diener Consultants, representing the MINUTEMAN CIVIL DEFENSE CORPS (MCDC). It is unknown to CCIR if donations to MCDC are used to fund border security efforts or disseminated to chosen candidates, projects, etc. as Diener Consultants see fit.
Again, to avoid confusion, be aware that MMP and MCDC are two separate organizations.
One follower named "Liz DeMarco" offered something of a counterpoint:
- It is with heavy heart that I jump into this fray, which probably should have remained private communication. However a "partial post" has been circulating on our sites, and, from appearances, it originates with someone in close contact with Barbara Coe. I will paste the "public information" under this email. This concerns communication between Jim Gilchrist and Joe and Barb McCutcheon, with comments from Barbara.
The McCutcheons were at the border for the month of April, and Simcox became disenchanted with them because they warned him, prior to his signing the marketing contract, about Diener Consultants. Simcox then "banned" or "fired" them because of their efforts to help him stayed informed and make appropriate decisions. As you know, this is what happens to anyone who asks Simcox a question he does not like, or cannot answer. They also warned Jim Gilchrist about Diener. This effort was to protect the movement.
Joe and Barb are unafraid to reveal the results of their research, and repercussions be damned. They recognized Diener for the neoconservative marketing group that they are, and have done their best to thwart the diversion of money donated by activists to reduce/stop illegal immigration.
As you know, this is not a popular effort because most people cannot handle the truth. Many people think they can throw money at the problem and it will go away - they can just write a check, and keep watching television.
The McCutcheons have been fighting this battle for 25 - 30 years already - before we even knew it was a battle. They are not afraid to call a spade a spade, and if you will re-read the email from Joe and Barb, and proceed onto Gilchrist's response, and so on, you will clearly see that no aspersions were cast on Jim Gilchrist at all. There was only an expression of disappointment regarding the period in which Jim's focus was diverted from the Minuteman Project while he was running for office.
Jim chose to respond in an unprofessional, unfounded accusational tone, which he has partially amended in additional emails (not yet made public), but a sincere apology would probably be appreciated.
... If this movement fails, and it has been severely weakened, it will be because of the Simcox involvement with Diener Consultants, and the resulting diversion of funds to the various groups, (for example RightMarch), with which Diener is affiliated. Your money is not necessarily being used in an appropriate manner -- to directly benefit the cause of immigration reduction. Many activists have requested an accounting of expenditures on the part of MCDC and Diener Consultants; no information is forthcoming.
This is separate and apart from Jim Gilchrist's activities to the best of my knowledge.
The original information provided to Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist regarding Diener Consultants was factual and timely, and, as you know, in the recent "Fencegate," Diener was traced even farther - right into the bowels of Mexico. They are a company working both sides of this, and other issues - that's what marketing companies do.
I suspect Jim Gilchrist learned that during or after his campaign. It is rumored that Jim did not benefit from his association with Diener, but that he ended up owing them money. I do not know this for a fact, but I believe Jim has severed relations with Diener Consultants, as he writes.
And the McCutchens fired back as well:
If I read one more instance you impugning my and Barbara's character I will have no choice but to institute legal action. You know very well that no one has defended the MMP more than us and you know our objections have always been toward the use & abuse of the MMP by Washington fundraisers.
We've never had anything but the utmost respect for the volunteers, hence our efforts, and you know it. Stop blaming us for your mistakes.
We have said time and again the MMP was the best chance the country has had in our lifetimes.
Jim it was only yesterday that I again congratulated you for your MM idea which was America's finest hour re our sovereignty and you emailed back asking us to join you in Texas in Sept.
I stand by all my positions and statements and offer again the opportunity to discuss them with you by any device objectively.
We stated in our last missive that it was our understanding that you were no longer affiliated with Simcox or Diener. What is going on here?
No need to worry, Joe. It's just the usual right-wing paranoid control freaks stomping out their turf and ensuring their purity of essence through better conspiracy theories. Right?
At least it will keep them distracted, for the nonce, from whatever else it is they might be up to.
I'll have more on this rift -- which may actually be breaking down along some interesting lines -- in the coming days.