[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
We warned this was coming: On Friday, Glenn Beck devoted his entire hour to promoting the conspiracy theories of G. Edward Griffin, a John Bircher and 9/11 truther whose book, The Creature from Jekyll Island, attacks the Federal Reserve as a nefarious cabal intent on enslaving and destroying America.
It was quite a performance: Among other things we learned from Griffin was that he believes there is no actual gold at Fort Knox (maybe Goldfinger rendered it radioactive, eh?) and that there is a real inflation rate of around 20 percent right now.
Well, as we explained already:
Beck, as we all know, has previously demonstrated a fondness for the Birch Society, and this is consistent with that: Griffin, after all, was a close personal friend and longtime associate of Birch Society founder Robert Welch, and wrote a popular Birch book published in 1964, The Fearful Master: A Second Look at the United Nations.[Rough has debunked Griffin further in other essays as well: here, here, and here.]
The Creature from Jekyll Island is in many ways a compendium of previous works claiming that the Federal Reserve is a fundamentally illegitimate -- and therefore deeply nefarious -- organization. Most of these theories were deeply anti-Semitic in nature, since they depicted the Fed's bankers as part of a Jewish cabal intent on destroying white American society. What sets Griffin's work apart is that -- like most Birch texts, which assiduously avoided anti-Semitism -- he manages to scrub out the anti-Semitic elements while keeping the paranoid conspiracist elements intact.
Since its publication in 1994, Griffin's book has become a popular text for a large number of right-wing extremists, particularly tax protesters and Patriot movement believers. Griffin himself was involved in organizing a gathering on Jekyll Island last year that the Southern Poverty Law Center credits with helping revive the militia movement.
It has been debunked thoroughly, of course -- probably most notably by historian Gerry Rough, whose three-part series on the origins of the Fed, "Another Twist on the Jacksonian Bank War," pretty thoroughly reveal just how fraudulent Griffin's text really is. You can read it here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Meanwhile, Media Matters' research team has a complete rundown on Griffin. From an earlier piece:
Griffin, in addition to spinning conspiracy theories about the Fed, is also a 9-11 truther and has written extensively about the U.S. government's "facilitation" of the attacks. In April 2008, Griffin appeared on the radio program of conspiracist Alex Jones and claimed that he predicted just days after 9-11 that "the FBI and the intelligence agencies of the federal government had advance knowledge of this attack but did nothing to stop it," and that he was proven right. He also is -- or, at least, was -- a member of the ultra-right wing John Birch Society. He wrote a 1970 pamphlet entitled "This is the John Birch Society: An Invitation to Join," and a 1975 book entitled The Life and Words of Robert Welch: Founder of the John Birch Society.Another terrific debunking of far-right Federal Reserve theories generally, including Griffin's texts, was provided by Edward Flaherty at Public Eye. From the first part:
Following the near catastrophic financial disaster of 1907, the movement for banking reform picked up steam among Wall Street bankers, Republicans, and eastern Democrats. However, much of the country was still distrustful of bankers and of banking in general, especially after 1907. After two decades of minority status, Democrats regained control of Congress in 1910 and were able to block several Republican attempts at reform, even though they recognized the need for some kind of currency and banking changes. In 1912 Woodrow Wilson won the Democratic party’s nomination for President, and in his populist-friendly acceptance speech he warned against the "money trusts," and advised that "a concentration of the control of credit ... may at any time become infinitely dangerous to free enterprise."3Ben Dimiero at Media Matters observes:
Also in 1910, Senator Nelson Aldrich, Frank Vanderlip of National City (today know as Citibank), Henry Davison of Morgan Bank, and Paul Warburg of the Kuhn, Loeb Investment House met secretly at Jeckyll Island, a resort island off the coast of Georgia, to discuss and formulate banking reform, including plans for a form of central banking.
The meeting was held in secret because the participants knew that any plan they generated would be rejected automatically in the House of Representatives if it were associated with Wall Street. Because it was secret and because it involved Wall Street, the Jekyll Island affair has always been a favorite source of conspiracy theories. However, the movement toward significant banking and monetary reform was well-known.3 It is hardly surprising that given the real possibility of substantial reform, the banking industry would want some sort of input into the nature of the reforms. The Aldrich Plan which the secret meeting produced was even defeated in the House, so even if the Jekyll Island affair was a genuine conspiracy, it clearly failed.
The Aldrich Plan called for a system of fifteen regional central banks, called National Reserve Associations, whose actions would be coordinated by a national board of commercial bankers. The Reserve Association would make emergency loans to member banks, create money to provide an elastic currency that could be exchanged equally for demand deposits, and would act as a fiscal agent for the federal government. Although it was defeated, the Aldrich Plan served as an outline for the bill that eventually was adopted. 5
The problem with the Aldrich Plan was that the regional banks would be controlled individually and nationally by bankers, a prospect that did not sit well with the populist Democratic party or with Wilson. As the debate began to take shape in the spring of 1913, Congressman Arsene Pujo provided good evidence that the nation’s credit markets were under the tight control of a handful of banks – the "money trusts" against which Wilson warned.1 Wilson and the Democrats wanted a reform measure which would decentralize control away from the money trusts.
The legislation that eventually emerged was the Federal Reserve Act, also known at the time as the Currency Bill, or the Owen-Glass Act. The bill called for a system of eight to twelve mostly autonomous regional Reserve Banks that would be owned by the banks in their region and whose actions would be coordinated by a Federal Reserve Board appointed by the President. The Board’s members originally included the Secretary of the Treasury, the Comptroller of the Currency, and other officials appointed by the President to represent public interests. The proposed Federal Reserve System would therefore be privately owned, but publicly controlled. Wilson signed the bill on December 23, 1913 and the Federal Reserve System was born.6
Conspiracy theorists have long viewed the Federal Reserve Act as a means of giving control of the banking system to the money trusts, when in reality the intent and effect was to wrestle control away from them. History clearly demonstrates that in the decades prior to the Federal Reserve Act the decisions of a few large New York banks had, at times, enormous repercussions for banks throughout the country and the economy in general. Following the return to central banking, at least some measure of control was removed from them and placed with the Federal Reserve.
Among many, many other bizarre conspiracies, Griffin has written a book alleging that cancer can be cured by the B-17 vitamin, but this has been covered up due to "the hidden economic and power agenda of those who dominate the medical establishment."Yet as you can see, Beck practically scrapes at Griffin's feet, treating each of his words as golden nuggets of truth:
Oh, and according to Griffin's website, Glenn Beck's dismissal of birthers is evidence that Beck's "role as a controlled opposition leader is becoming more obvious."
Griffin is a clever hoaxter, in large part because he's able to tap into the circular far-right informational bubble, wherein conspiracy theorists cite each other endlessly as "evidence" of their own outlandish ideas. Gerry Rough has an interesting essay explaining how this works:
What happens with conspiracy theories is that author "A" will write a passage in his text, place a footnote or endnote as a reference source for the passage, then move on with the conspiratorial narrative. This is no different than any other work of non-fiction: this is merely standard operating procedure. Author "B" on the other hand, will assume that the passage is correct, cite the same passage, and never bother to check to see if the passage had anything at all to do with a verifiable conspiracy. It is here where conspiracy theories are patently different than other works of non-fiction. *At no point ever* do conspiracy theorists verify the authenticity of the original passage, nor is there any attempt to verify context. So, if a passage turns out to be fabricated or grossly distorted, precisely as *all three examples* in part 3 of this debate, no conspiracy theorist will ever likely have knowledge of it.In other words, they breathe their own exhaust and convince each other it's fresh air. And as Rough explains, Griffin is noted for playing a key role in this circle-jerk by giving other conspiracy theorists "authoritative" quotations that in fact are bogus in nature:
This is much more likely the scenario that happened with Flynn’s research. In point of fact, G. Edward Griffin, a well known author and editor of John Birch Society publications, deliberately lied about the passage in question, then Flynn simply passed on the lie all too willingly while citing Griffin as the original source. In the case of Griffin’s research, there are no other options: Griffin did not cite another author as the source for the passage that his text quoted. In failing to do so, the ultimate responsibility for lying stops at the desk of Griffin alone. But lets not let Flynn and other conspiracy theorists off the hook so easily either. All who write this conspiracy theory nonsense had at one point a responsibility to verify any given passage in question. They willingly shunned that public responsibility and aided a lie by way of omission. If this were an intellectual crime it would be likely classified as criminal negligence.And then when you have a popular TV host with an audience of millions treating this kind of fraud as a factual representation of history ... well, it's no wonder people can't pass a damned citizenship exam.