Friday, July 27, 2007

The return of the 'New World Order'

As remarkable as it might be that a leading pundit for a major news organization like Glenn Beck of CNN can broadcast to the nation recycled far-right "New World Order" conspiracy theories, it's even more remarkable that he can do so without any consequence whatsoever.

Outside of the eyebrows raised in the blogosphere and at Media Matters, you won't find anyone -- least of all, any of his fellow members of the pundit class (Keith Olbermann notwithstanding) -- pointing out how his credulousness on these matters renders his journalistic credibility nothing but a negative. The silence has been deafening.

And of course, for people like Beck, it is a green light to ratchet it all up even farther rightward. Alex Koppelman at Salon notes that Beck has again topped himself by hosting a spokesman for the John Birch Society and portraying him as an enlightened thinker:
Beck himself referred to the group's reputation, introducing his guest, JBS spokesman Sam Antonio, by saying, "Sam, I have to tell you, when I was growing up, the John Birch Society, I thought they were a bunch of nuts." But Beck's views on that score seem to have changed -- "You guys are starting to make more and more sense to me," Beck told Antonio.

Naturally, Antonio -- who was there to talk about immigration issues and the controversial prosecution of two former Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting an unarmed man, not to mention some conservatives' conspiracy theory that the prosecution is part of a breaking down of U.S. borders into a "North American Union" -- agreed.

"Yes, we at the John Birch Society are not nuts," Antonio said. "We are just exposing the truth that's been out there for many, many years."

Here's the transcript:
BECK: Congressman, thank you. I appreciate it. And keep up the good work. We'll continue to follow it.

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 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.

You contend that the information that we're sharing has -- has allowed the Mexican government to get a hold on our enforcement of laws here in America. What do you mean by that?

ANTONIO: That is correct. Again, your viewers, if they go to the web site,, it talks about exchanges of information between our governments.

Now in this case with Ramos and Compean, it was the Mexican government that really drove this agenda to get these innocent Border Patrol agents convicted and sent to jail for these terms.

Now, since this exchange of information, under the Department of Homeland Security, we're going to see more and more and more of this. And what this is going to lead to, Glenn, is really a demoralization of our men and women on the Border Patrol. And it's happening now.

BECK: Right.

ANTONIO: I live here in San Diego, Glenn. I'm 15 minutes away from the border. I've spoken with Border Patrol agents, you know, active and retired, and I'm telling you, this case has really demoralized them.

BECK: I have to tell you, Sam, that you know, whether you want to believe in the black helicopters or not, America, you should look into this. And this is the warning to the Bush administration, by not releasing the documents. And this is the stuff they're holding back.

Well, the people want to know what was the communication between our government and the Mexican government? Give us those records. They will not release them. And by not releasing them, they further these conspiracy theories of black helicopters and all kinds of things.

Sam, thank you very much.

Think Progress has the video.

As Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report points out, the whole episode reflects the extent to which the national political center has shifted to the right. Tristero at Hullabaloo also notes that this has certainly been the Birchers' agenda all along.

Beck is hardly the only "New World Order" conspiracist out there making gains in recent months. GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul has similarly been improving his mainstream profile, though notably, he hasn't been pushing his old NWO theories to the fore, either.

We've primarily been hearing it, however, from the nativist anti-immigrant bloc, particularly the Minutemen -- which makes sense, considering that they are themselves directly descended from the militia movement. When they held a rally in Everett a couple of weeks ago, the North American Union theory was one of the prominent talking points, and Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist in particular was promoting it, as Michael Hood at The Stranger reported:
"The Great Gringo awakens from siesta..." the event's promos read, but the number of gringos wasn't all that great -- about 100 newly awakened patriots were gathered while a dozen chanting protesters (whom Gilchrist called "anarchists") paraded outside on Rucker Avenue.

The destruction of our peace and civil order, according to Gilchrist, will be accomplished via the same lawless chaos and "soft immigration laws," that brought down the Roman Empire. He predicted the national U.S. language will be Spanish by 2030.

"What's the solution?" he shouted. "Deportation!" roared the crowd.

Disparate statistics were thrown around: Gilchrist alternately said 12 million and 20 million illegals are in the country, but at one point, he claimed there are "over 33 million" hiding in the shadows, propagating so-called "anchor babies," kids born in the U.S. of illegal parents who get automatic citizenship as granted by the 14th Amendment. (The Pew Hispanic Center estimates a current total of 11.5 million to 12 million illegal immigrants.)

A bipartisan Bush bill defeated last week would have called for a program to grant temporary-worker status to illegal immigrants already here. That was "shamnesty," to the Minutemen conferees. Gilchrist said he's baffled by Bush's role. "I think he wants to go down in history as the father of the North American Union, the George Washington of the United States of North America."

Gilchrist was referring to a conspiracy theory bouncing around on talk radio and right-wing websites that says Bush and globalists have secretly negotiated creation of the North American Union, a megastate created by erasing the borders between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Say goodbye to U.S. sovereignty, as well as the greenback currency soon to be replaced by the "Amero," modeled after the Euro, or so goes the theory.

Fortunately, Heidi Beirich at the Intelligence Report has the rundown for all this. As she explains, this is all simply a regurgitation of 1990s-style Patriot paranoia:
Since 2005, the dominant conspiracy theory animating the anti-immigration movement has been the so-called "North American Union," described as a plot to surrender American sovereignty in a planned merger with Canada and Mexico. The plotters are typically said to be various foreign leaders, President George W. Bush and his "neo-conservative" allies, and an array of leading American liberals.
If the John Birch Society (JBS) and others pushing this theory are to be believed, President Bush began ceding American sovereignty on March 23, 2005, at a meeting in Waco, Texas, with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox. The meeting ended with the signing of what was called the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), which set up a series of working groups to study cooperation in transportation, energy, aviation, the environment and more.

Most people familiar with the SPP understand that it is a benign and slow-moving attempt to coordinate trade and security policies in a bid to improve the lives of citizens in all three countries. But to the conspiracy theorists, it is a plot that will end with Mexico sending millions more of its citizens to the United States, international courts that overrule American justice, hate crime laws that will send anti-gay Christian preachers to prison, and more. The plotters are said to include the militia bogeyman of the Council of Foreign Relations and are supposedly directed by American University Professor Robert Pastor.

Lately, the paranoia about the SPP process has become so intense that a proposed highway linking Canada, Mexico and the United States is seen as part of evil machinations that will end with the Mexican government seizing control of the key Missouri River port in Kansas City. Other conspiracy theorists fear that a new currency, the "Amero," will displace good, old-fashioned American dollars.

The leader in "educating" the public about the North American Union (NAU) plot has been the JBS, which says "politicians and internationalists" in America are "effectively destroying the United States." In fact, the long dormant group has been reanimated by the theory, assigning writer Mary Benoit to cover it relentlessly in the JBS magazine The New American. JBS has allied itself on this issue with Howard Phillips, leader of the anti-immigrant Constitution Party, and added nativist leader Chris Simcox of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps to its speakers bureau.

And as Beirich notes, the theory is getting a lot of mainstream play, both from politicians and from ostensible journalists:
The theory has made its way into the mainstream. U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) has demanded an end to the SPP and insisted that the NAU theory is not limited to "right-wing kooks." Other congressional conservatives have joined a "Coalition to Block the NAU" headed by U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.). CNN anchor Lou Dobbs has devoted several segments to the issue, telling listeners that the NAU is a "shadow government" that should concern all Americans. Most remarkably, the theory has enjoyed widespread legislative endorsement. At press time, the houses of representatives of 18 states had passed resolutions opposing the alleged NAU plan. In Idaho and Montana, the state senates have added their voice, resulting in official legislative resolutions.

Be sure to also check out Heidi's careful debunking of numerous false "facts" that form the core of the nativists' positions. Not that they'll really help anyone dealing with the Glenn Becks of the world, because they have a gift for tuning out anything that contradicts their pet narratives.

And Beck is busy building a narrative that not only opens the Pandora's Box of mass public consumption of far-right conspiracism, it also portrays the most hateful and paranoid and poisonous bloc of American politics as credible and normative.

In the 1990s, the main reason that most "New World Order" theories gained little traction was that mainstream journalists understood that they were sheer crackpottery and refused to treat them seriously. Now, in the name of "pushing the envelope" and garnering ratings by courting controversy, we're witnessing mainstream pundits report them to the public as credible.

Evidently, this sort of thing not only doesn't hurt Glenn Beck's career, we've now entered the realm where it positively helps it. It's not only a journalistic travesty, it's a cultural one. Glenn Beck may gain, but the rest of us, within the next few years, will wind up paying the price.

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