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FTR #697 Christian Fundamentalism and the Underground Reich

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The FamilyIntro­duc­tion: Recent decades have seen the growth of the Chris­t­ian Right, a major force with­in the Repub­li­can Par­ty and on the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal land­scape itself. The Fam­i­ly, a recent book by Jeff Sharlet has gained con­sid­er­able trac­tion and sets forth the pro­found influ­ence wield­ed with­in U.S. pow­er struc­ture by an orga­ni­za­tion called The Fam­i­ly, found­ed in the 1930’s by a Nor­we­gian immi­grant named Abram Verei­de (usu­al­ly referred to by those famil­iar with him as “Abram.”) Although its pri­ma­ry influ­ence is with­in the GOP, the Fam­i­ly has con­sid­er­able grav­i­tas with­in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty as well.

This pro­gram high­lights the orga­ni­za­tion’s pro­found rela­tion­ship with the Under­ground Reich and the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work. Verei­de and his asso­ciates played a sig­nif­i­cant role in neu­tral­iz­ing the de- Naz­i­fi­ca­tion of Ger­many and the polit­i­cal reha­bil­i­ta­tion of Third Reich alum­ni for ser­vice both in the “New” Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Ger­many and U.S. intel­li­gence. (Verei­de is pic­tured below and at right with then Pres­i­dent Eisen­how­er in 1960.)

Thus: “Between the Cold War estab­lish­ment and the reli­gious fer­vor of Abram and his allies, orga­ni­za­tions that came of age in the post­war era–the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Evan­gel­i­cals, Cam­pus Cru­sade, the Bil­ly Gra­ham Cru­sade, Youth For Christ, the Nav­i­ga­tors, and many more–one finds the unex­plained pres­ence of men such as [Nazi agent Man­fred] Zapp, adapt­able men always ready to serve the pow­ers that be.”

After delin­eat­ing the pre-war and wartime careers in the Unit­ed States of Nazi spies Man­fred Zapp (pic­tured above and at left) and Baron Ulrich von Gien­anth, the pro­gram notes that they were among those who became close asso­ciates of “Abram” in his “sav­ing” of Third Reich alum­ni for duty in the Cold War. They were typ­i­cal and by no means the worst of the Nazis recruit­ed by Verei­de and his asso­ciates.

Pro­gram High­lights Include: Verei­de’s “sav­ing” of Her­mann J. Abs (right), “HItler’s Banker” so that he might become “Ade­nauer’s Banker”. Verei­de’s role in sav­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing plants of top Nazis from seizure by the Allies; Verei­de and his asso­ciates’ suc­cess­ful efforts at aid­ing the rearm­ing of Ger­many for the Cold War; Verei­de’s suc­cess­ful attempt to lift trav­el restric­tions on “for­mer” Gestapo offi­cer von Gien­anth; pro­jec­tions by anti-fas­cists dur­ing the war that the Third Reich’s plans to sur­vive mil­i­tary defeat would involve net­work­ing with reac­tionary U.S. fun­da­men­tal­ists; Nazi gen­er­al Rein­hard Gehlen’s “post-intel­li­gence” career as a reli­gious evan­ge­list.

1. We begin by exam­in­ing the back­ground of Man­fred Zapp, a Nazi spy who became a close evan­gel­i­cal asso­ciate of Abram Verei­de and the Fam­i­ly.

Man­fred Zapp, a native of Dus­sel­dorf by way of Pre­to­ria, mer­it­ed a line in the news when he stepped from an ocean lin­er onto the docks of New York City on Sep­tem­ber 22, 1938, a warm windy day at the edge of a South Atlantic hur­ri­cane. Just a few words in the New York Times’ “Ocean Trav­el­ers” col­umn, a list of the trav­el­ers of note buried in the back of the paper. By the time he left the Unit­ed States, his depar­ture would win head­lines. . . .

The Fam­i­ly by Jeff Sharlet; Harp­er Peren­ni­al (SC); Copy­right 2008 by Jeff Sharlet; ISBN 978–0‑06–056005‑8; p. 144.

2. Zapp ran the Transocean News Agency, a Nazi espi­onage and pro­pa­gan­da out­fit dis­guised as a jour­nal­is­tic oper­a­tion.

. . . Zapp had been giv­en charge of the Amer­i­can offices of the Transocean News Agency, osten­si­bly the cre­ation of a group of unnamed Ger­man financiers. He had recent­ly left a sim­i­lar post in South Africa. “It is of para­mount impor­tance,” the Ger­man charge d’af­faires in Wash­ing­ton had writ­ten Zapp the month before his arrival, “that a cross­ing of wires with the work of the D.N.B.–Deutschland News Bureau–“be absolute­ly avoid­ed.” DNN was trans­par­ent­ly the tool of the Nazi regime and thus under con­stant scruti­ny. Transocean, as an alleged­ly inde­pen­dent agency, might oper­ate more freely. “My task here in Amer­i­ca is so big and so dif­fi­cult,” Zapp wrote the Ger­man ambas­sador to South Africa a month after he arrived, “that it demands all my ener­gies.”

Ibid.; p. 145.

3. Note that Zap­p’s activ­i­ties in the U.S. involved net­work­ing with mem­bers of the New York elite whom he believed (in many cas­es cor­rect­ly) to be sym­pa­thet­ic to fas­cism. Like many Nazi and fas­cist sym­pa­thiz­ers, Zapp dis­dained many of the super­fi­cial trap­pings of fas­cism, while valu­ing the cor­po­ratist phi­los­o­phy at the foun­da­tion of the sys­tem.

What was Zap­p’s task? Dur­ing his Amer­i­can tenure, he flit­ted in black tie and tails from Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue enjoy­ing the hos­pi­tal­i­ty of rich men and beau­ti­ful women–the gos­sip colum­nist Wal­ter Winchell wrote of Zap­p’s “mad­cap girl­friend,” a big-spend­ing soci­ety girl who seemed to con­sume at least as much of Zap­p’s atten­tion as the news. He avoid­ed as much as he could dis­cus­sions of what he con­sid­ered the tedi­um of pol­i­tics. His friends knew he had dined with Cordell Hull, the sec­re­tary of state, and Roo­sevelt him­self, and some must also have known that he had worked quietly–and ille­gal­ly, if one must be technical–against the pres­i­den­t’s reelec­tion. But one did not ask ques­tions. He trav­eled, though no one was quite sure where he went off to. One moment he was hov­er­ing over the tele­type in Man­hat­tan; the next he was to be found in Havana, on the occa­sion of a meet­ing of for­eign min­is­ters. Some might have called him a Nazi agent, there to encour­age Cuba’s inclinations–a pop­u­lar radio pro­gram, trans­mit­ted across the Caribbean, was called The Nazi Hour–but Zapp could truth­ful­ly reply that he rarely stirred from the lob­by of the Hotel Nacional, where he sat sip­ping cock­tails, hap­py to buy drinks for any man–or, prefer­ably, lady–who cared to chat with him. . . .

Ibid.; pp. 145–146.

4. More about Zap­p’s net­work­ing with ele­ments of the Amer­i­can elite who har­bored fas­cist sym­pa­thies.

. . . . To Zapp, total­i­tar­i­an­ism–the term he pre­ferred to fas­cism–was, once pruned of its absur­di­ties, a sen­si­ble and love­ly idea. The torch­es and the “long knives,” the death’s-head and all that red-faced singing and table pound­ing, these activ­i­ties Zapp did not care for. He actu­al­ly pre­ferred life in Amer­i­ca, the canyons of Man­hat­tan and the gin-lit bal­conies of the city’s best peo­ple, con­ver­sa­tions that did not begin with “Heil Hitler!” Zapp signed his let­ters with this invo­ca­tion, and a por­trait of the Fuhrer hung in his office, but Zapp the jour­nal­ist was too sen­si­tive a record­ing device to enjoy all that arm snap­ping. If only Man­hat­tan and Munich, Wash­ing­ton and Berlin, could be merged. It was a mat­ter not of war­fare but of har­mo­ny, democ­ra­cy’s bick­er­ing and bile giv­ing way to the “new con­cep­tion,” in which pow­er and will would be one.

Ibid.; p. 146.

5. Even­tu­al­ly, Zap­p’s espi­onage activ­i­ties caused him to fall afoul of the U.S. author­i­ties.

With­in a year, how­ev­er, Zapp found cause to resist return­ing to that fine new sys­tem. After a series of unsolved mur­ders and per­plex­ing explo­sions and inter­cept­ed trans­mis­sions led the FBI to raid his front orga­ni­za­tions in Boston, Bal­ti­more, Buf­fa­lo, Den­ver, New Orleans, Philadel­phia, Pitts­burgh, and Zap­p’s spar­tan office off Fifth Avenue, where they found what they believed to be evi­dence of the orches­tra­tion of it all, Zapp began to recon­sid­er his enthu­si­asm for Hitler’s new order. He had failed the Fuhrer. How would his will judge him? What pow­er would be exert­ed in the Gestapo “beat­ing rooms” that Transocean employ­ees had once con­sid­ered them­selves priv­i­leged to tour?

The FBI seized him and his chief deputy and whisked them away to cold, bare rooms, on Ellis Island, no less, where not long before, the rab­ble of Europe had been processed into “mon­grel” Amer­i­ca, land of “degen­er­ate democ­ra­cy,” as Roo­sevelt him­self quot­ed Zapp in a speech denounc­ing Ger­many’s “strat­e­gy of ter­ror.” . . .

Ibid.; pp. 146–147.

6. Anoth­er of the Nazi agents with whom Abram Verei­de and the Fam­i­ly would net­work after the war was Baron Ulrich von Gien­anth, the Gestapo chief of the Ger­man embassy in Wash­ing­ton and a mem­ber of the SS.

. . . . On the oth­er were men such as Zapp. Along with a D.C.-based diplo­mat named Ulrich von Gien­anth (whom he would rejoin after the war in Abram’s prayer meet­ings), Zapp con­sid­ered the com­ing con­flict between the Unit­ed States and the Reich one to be resolved through qui­et con­ver­sa­tion, between Ger­man gen­tle­men and Amer­i­can “indus­tri­al­ists and State Depart­ment men.”

Von Gien­anth, a mus­cu­lar, sandy-haired man whose dull expres­sion dis­guised a chilly intel­li­gence, “seems to be a very agree­able fel­low,” Zapp wrote his broth­er, who had stud­ied in Munich with the baron-to-be. Only sec­ond sec­re­tary in the embassy, von Gien­anth main­tained a fright­en­ing grip over his fel­low diplo­mats. He was an under­cov­er SS man, the ears and eyes of the “Reichsmin­istry of Prop­er Enlight­en­ment and Pro­pa­gan­da,” charged with keep­ing watch over its secret Amer­i­can oper­a­tions. He was, in short, the Gestapo chief in Amer­i­ca. While Zapp wor­ried about his legal prospects in the Indi­an Sum­mer of 1940, von Gien­anth was like­ly wait­ing for news of a major oper­a­tion in New Jer­sey: the det­o­na­tion of the Her­cules gun­pow­der plant, an explo­sion that on Sep­tem­ber 12 killed forty-sev­en and sent shock­waves so strong that they snapped wind into the sails of boaters in far-off Long Island Sound. . . .

. . . . Von Gien­an­th’s ini­tia­tives were whim­si­cal by com­par­i­son. Once for instance, he paid a pilot to dump pro-Nazi anti­war fliers on the White House lawn. He devot­ed him­self to chang­ing Goebbels’ gold into dol­lars, and those dol­lars into laun­dered “dona­tions” to the Amer­i­ca First Com­mit­tee, where unwit­ting isolationists–Abram allies such as Sen­a­tor Arthur Van­den­berg and Amer­i­ca First Pres­i­dent Robert M. Hanes among them–stumped for recog­ni­tion of the “fact” on Hitler’s inevitabil­i­ty.

Like Zapp, von Gien­anth con­sid­ered him­self a com­mon­sense man.

And Zapp–Zapp sim­ply report­ed the news and sold it on the wire. Or gave it away. To the papers of Argenti­na, Mex­i­co, Brazil and to the small-town edi­tors of Amer­i­ca’s gullible heart­land, Zapp offered Transocean reports for almost noth­ing. In some South Amer­i­can coun­tries, 30 per­cent or more of for­eign news–the enthu­si­as­tic wel­come giv­en con­quer­ing Ger­man forces, the Jew­ish cabal in Wash­ing­ton, the moral rot of the Amer­i­can people–was pro­duced by or chan­neled through Zap­p’s offices. On the side, he com­piled a report on Sovi­et-inspired “Pol­ish atroc­i­ties” against the long-suf­fer­ing Ger­man peo­ple and dis­trib­uted it to thou­sands of lead­ing Amer­i­cans, the sort sym­pa­thet­ic to the plight of the per­se­cut­ed Chris­t­ian. Zap­p’s sym­pa­thet­ic nature would prove, after the war, to be as gen­uine as his dis­tort­ed sense of his­to­ry’s vic­tims. . . .

Ibid.; pp. 147–148.

7. Next, the broad­cast sets forth Abram [Verei­de] and the Fam­i­ly’s posi­tion­ing as a vehi­cle for the recruit­ment of Nazis to serve both the U.S. and the “New” Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Ger­many. The orga­ni­za­tion involved in this served as a prin­ci­pal moral com­pass for much of the Amer­i­can pow­er elite dur­ing the Cold War and through the present. The orga­ni­za­tions which res­cued and reha­bil­i­tat­ed Third Reich alum­ni are at the foun­da­tion of the con­tem­po­rary evan­gel­i­cal estab­lish­ment.

. . . Estab­lish­ment Cold War­riors of [Mar­shall Plan admin­is­tra­tor Don­ald C.] Stone’s ilk dom­i­nate the his­to­ry books. Zapp, the ally with an ugly past, is his dark shad­ow. But Abram and the influ­ence of his fel­low fun­da­men­tal­ists would remain invis­i­ble for decades, their influ­ence unmarked by media and aca­d­e­m­ic estab­lish­ments. The role played by fun­da­men­tal­ists in refash­ion­ing the world’s great­est fas­cist pow­er into a democ­ra­cy would go unno­ticed. So, too, would the role of fascism–or, rather, that of fas­cis­m’s ghost–in shap­ing the new­ly inter­na­tion­al­ist ambi­tion of evan­gel­i­cal con­ser­v­a­tives in the post­war era.

Between the Cold War estab­lish­ment and the reli­gious fer­vor of Abram and his allies, orga­ni­za­tions that came of age in the post­war era–the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Evan­gel­i­cals, Cam­pus Cru­sade, the Bil­ly Gra­ham Cru­sade, Youth For Christ, the Nav­i­ga­tors, and many more–one finds the unex­plained pres­ence of men such as Zapp, adapt­able men always ready to serve the pow­ers that be. From Amer­i­can Chris­ten­dom, Zapp and his ilk took the cloak of redemp­tion, cheap grace, in the words of Diet­rich Bon­ho­ef­fer, one of their most famous vic­tims. To it, they offered some­thing hard­er to define. This is an inves­ti­ga­tion of that trans­mis­sion; the last mes­sage from the Min­istry of Prop­er Enlight­en­ment; the sto­ry of Amer­i­can fun­da­men­tal­is­m’s Ger­man con­nec­tion. . . .

Ibid.; pp. 151–152.

8. When Abram got around to “sav­ing” Third Reich alum­ni for ser­vice to the “New Ger­many,” as well as U.S. intel­li­gence, he select­ed some gen­uine­ly ripe indi­vid­u­als.

Gedat was among the least taint­ed of the men that Abram and Fricke, and lat­er Gedat him­self, gath­ered into prayer cells to help forge the new West Ger­man state. But they were repen­tant men, this they tes­ti­fied to at every ses­sion. Repen­tant for what? It was hard to say. Every one of them claimed to have suf­fered dur­ing the war years. Men such as Her­mann J. Abs, “Hitler’s banker” and a vice pres­i­dent of Abram’s Inter­na­tion­al Chris­t­ian Lead­er­ship (ICL), Ger­man divi­sion; Gus­tav Schmelz, a man­u­fac­tur­er of chem­i­cal weapons; Paul Rohrbach, the hyper­na­tion­al­ist ide­o­logue whose con­fla­tion of Ger­many with Chris­tian­i­ty, and most of Europe with Ger­many, had inspired the Nazis to under­stand their war-hunger as divine; and Gen­er­al Hans Spei­del, who had accept­ed the sur­ren­der of Paris on behalf of the Fuhrer in 1940, insist­ed that he had nev­er believed Hitler, had been forced into his arms by the Red Men­ace, had regret­ted the unfor­tu­nate alliance with such a vul­gar fool, a dis­grace to God’s true plan for Ger­many. They had done noth­ing wrong; they, too, if one gave it some though, were vic­tims.

Per­haps some of them were. That is one of the many clever strate­gies of fas­cism: per­se­cu­tion belongs to the pow­er­ful, accord­ing to its rules, both to dole out and to claim as the hon­or due mar­tyrs. Abram did not ask ques­tions; he sim­ply took out his wash­cloth and got busy with the blood of the lamb. He scrubbed his “new men” clean. Did it work? Abs, “Hitler’s banker,” became “Ade­nauer’s banker,” a key fig­ure in the West Ger­man gov­ern­men­t’s finan­cial res­ur­rec­tion. Schmelz kept his fac­to­ry. Rohrbach wrote on, author­ing trib­utes to Abram’s Inter­na­tion­al Chris­t­ian Lead­er­ship in the Frank­furter All­ge­meine.

And Spei­del? He was a spe­cial case, a co con­spir­a­tor with Rom­mel in the attempt­ed assas­si­na­tion of Hitler, the “July Plot” of 1944. There was some­thing almost Amer­i­can about him; like Buch­man, like Bar­ton, he con­sid­ered Hitler’s racial poli­cies a dis­trac­tion from his real­ly good ideas. For this ambiva­lence, the Allies reward­ed him: he served as com­man­der in chief of NATO ground forces from 1957 to 1963, when Charles de Gaulle, unper­suad­ed of his recon­struc­tion, insist­ed on his ouster.

Such men are only a few of those whom Abram helped, and by no means the worst. There were Zapp and von Gien­anth, there were “lit­tle Nazis” Abram cham­pi­oned for U.S. intel­li­gence posi­tions, and there were big ones: Baron Kon­stan­tin von Neu­rath, Hitler’s first for­eign min­is­ter, and Gen­er­al Oswald Pohl, the last SS com­man­der of the con­cen­tra­tion camps, among them. For those beyond hope of blank-slate rein­ven­tion, Abram and his web of Chris­t­ian cells led med­ical mer­cy (von Neu­rath, sen­tenced to fif­teen years for crimes against human­i­ty, was released ear­ly in 1953; Abram took up his case up his case upon learn­ing from von Neu­rath’s daugh­ter that her father, clas­si­fied as a “major War Crim­i­nal,” was receiv­ing less than exem­plary den­tal care in prison) or expediency(it was unjust, they felt, that Pohl, who while impris­oned by the Allies wrote a mem­oir called Cre­do: My Way to God–a Christ-besot­ted path that did not include acknowl­edg­ing his role in mass murder–should be left won­der­ing when he would be hanged.)

When occu­pa­tion forces charged Abs with war crimes, he offered a nov­el defense. He did not deny what he had done for Hitler; he sim­ply declared that he had done it for mon­ey, fas­cism be damned. He would glad­ly do as much for the Allies. And so he did, a task at which he so excelled that he would come to be known as the wiz­ard of the “Ger­man Mir­a­cle.” His past was forgotten–a phrase that must be writ­ten in pas­sive voice in order to sug­gest the gen­tle eli­sion of his­to­ry in the post­war years, under­tak­enby those eager to see a con­ser­v­a­tive Ger­man state rise from the ash­es, a sober son of Hitler’s father­land that would inher­it the old man’s hatred for one rad­i­cal­ism but not his love of anoth­er. . . .

Ibid.; pp. 165–167.

9.  Sen­a­tor Alexan­der Wiley (R‑Wisconsin) was anoth­er close asso­ciate of Abram’s. Wiley was instru­men­tal in the suc­cess­ful­ly lob­by­ing (along with Abram and his aide Otto Fricke) for the rearm­ing of the Ger­man army against the for­mer Sovi­et Union.

. . . . Sen­a­tor Wiley want­ed total war. Take the men of Hitler’s old panz­er divi­sions, bless ’em under Christ, and point ’em toward Moscow. Abram’s Ger­man point man, Otto Fricke, was­n’t so blood-thirsty; he mere­ly want­ed twen­ty-five rearmed Ger­man divi­sions to slow the Russ­ian inva­sion he saw com­ing. “What Do We Chris­tians Think of Re-Arma­ment?” was the theme of one of Frick­e’s cell meet­ings in 1950. They were con­flict­ed, tempt­ed to take “mali­cious joy that the ‘Allies’ are now forced to emp­ty with spoons the bit­ter soup that has been served by the Rus­sians.” The judg­ments at Nurem­berg had dis­hon­ored the Wer­ma­cht, and the dis­man­tling had insult­ed and robbed Ger­many’s great indus­tri­al­ists, Krupp and Weiza­ck­er and Bosch–all well rep­re­sent­ed in Frick­e’s cells. By all rights they should stand down, refuse to rearm, let the Amer­i­cans defend Chris­ten­dom from the Slavs. But there it was: Chris­ten­dom.  They were Chris­t­ian men, cho­sen not by a nation but by Jesus him­self to lead their peo­ple into the “Order” God revealed to them in their prayers. “To accom­plish these tasks,” the Frank­furt cell con­clud­ed, “the state needs pow­er and this pow­er­ful­ness is indis­pens­able for the sake of love.” . . .

Ibid.; p. 171.

10. Verei­de and the Fam­i­ly were suc­cess­ful in obtain­ing per­mis­sion for for­mer SS/Gestapo offi­cer von Gien­anth to trav­el out­side of Ger­many.

. . . . Von Gien­anth was bound to the Father­land. This, he com­plained to Abram, was an imped­i­ment to recon­struc­tion. He’d want­ed to attend a con­fer­ence in Atlantic City with fur­ther ideas of expan­sion in mind. Would the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary real­ly say that a man of his stature would blem­ish the board­walk? He was on a list of unde­sir­ables, he had learned from cer­tain connections–probably ICL men with­in the occu­pa­tion. This would be “unde­sir­able,” he thought, if he had been a com­mu­nist. “But I don’t see any sense in includ­ing peo­ple of my attitude”–ex-fascists ready to make com­mon cause with the Unit­ed States.

Among the many tes­ti­monies von Gien­anth col­lect­ed on his own behalf was a let­ter from an Amer­i­can diplo­mat’s wife who insist­ed the baron had not been a Nazi so much as an “ide­al­ist.” Even­tu­al­ly, von Gien­anth had believed, “the good and con­ser­v­a­tive ele­ment of the Ger­man peo­ple would gain con­trol.” Fas­cism had been like strong med­i­cine, unpleas­ant but nec­es­sary to what von Gien­anth had always believed would be the reestab­lish­ment of rule by elites like him­self. “In the com­ing years of recon­struc­tion,” his advo­cate wrote, “such men will be need­ed who can be trust­ed.”

Abram con­tact­ed the Com­bined Trav­el Board that decid­ed on which for­mer Nazis could be allowed to leave the coun­try. The baron was need­ed , Abram insist­ed. There were high Chris­t­ian coun­cils to be held in The Hague. “Expe­dite the nec­es­sary per­mit.”

Should that argu­ment prove inad­e­quate, Abram hired von Gien­an­th’s wife, Karein, as a host­ess on call for Amer­i­cans trav­el­ing on Chris­t­ian mis­sions. She was an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, though she’d spent the war with her SS offi­cer hus­band. Now her Amer­i­can pass­port was being threat­ened. Abram saved it. That sum­mer, he sent the baron and his wife a gift of sort: a con­gress­man from Cal­i­for­nia, to be a guest on the baron’s estate. The fol­low­ing win­ter Sen­a­tor Frank Carl­son vis­it­ed. “As you know,” Abram advised Karein, “he is one of the clos­est friends and advis­ers to Eisen­how­er.”

A “serene con­fi­dence has filled me,” she replied, “as to Pres­i­dent Eisen­how­er’s guid­ance by God.” That sum­mer, her hus­band flew with her to Eng­land, his pass­port evi­dent­ly restored.

Ibid.; pp. 173–174.

11. Next, the pro­gram notes a func­tion con­vened at the cas­tle of the Teu­ton­ic Order (Teu­ton­ic Knights) in Bavaria. (For more about the his­to­ry of the Teu­ton­ic Knights, see Paul Win­kler’s The Thou­sand-Year Con­spir­a­cy, avail­able for down­load for free on this web­site.) Note that major play­ers from the Ger­man pow­er elite, busi­ness part­ners with their car­tel asso­ciates in the U.S. and else­where in the West, as well as key polit­i­cal fig­ures, were lec­tured to by Chris­t­ian fun­da­men­tal­ist “converts”–“some of the best minds of the old regime.”

The assem­bled received “a let­ter of repen­tance for the sins of denaz­i­fi­ca­tion signed by more than thir­ty con­gress­men includ­ing Wiley and Cape­hart and a young Richard Nixon.

. . . . The first meet­ing at Cas­tle Main­au had tak­en place in 1949, the same year the Allies allowed Ger­mans to begin gov­ern­ing them­selves again. The 1951 meet­ing was planned to mark what Abram con­sid­ered the com­plete moral rehabilitation–in just two years–of Ger­many. Abram want­ed the Amer­i­cans to go to them, a grand con­tin­gent of sen­a­tors and rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

. . . . Gen­er­al Spei­del was there, as was Rohrbach, the pro­pa­gan­dist: There were rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the major Ger­man banks and from Krupp and Bosch, and there was the pres­i­dent of Stan­dard Oil’s Ger­man divi­sion. There was at least one Ger­man cab­i­net mem­ber, par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, may­ors, a dozen or more judges. A U‑boat com­man­der, famed for tor­pe­do­ing ships off the coast of Vir­ginia, cut a dash­ing fig­ure. A gag­gle of aris­to­crats, minor princes and princess­es, barons and counts and mar­graves were intim­i­dat­ed by some of the best minds of the old regime. There was the finan­cial genius Her­mann J. Abs, and a fas­cist edi­tor who hd once been a com­rade of the rad­i­cal the­o­rist Wal­ter Ben­jamin before throw­ing his lot in with the Nazis.

Wal­lace Haines spoke for Abram. He stayed up all night before his lec­ture, pray­ing for the spir­it that spoke aloud to his men­tor. The Amer­i­cans, God told him to say, were thrilled with the “eager­ness” of the Ger­mans to for­get the war. The Amer­i­cans came to the Ger­mans hum­bled, he told them. Haines brought proof of their new-found wis­dom: a let­ter of repen­tance for the sins of denaz­i­fi­ca­tion signed by more than thir­ty con­gress­men includ­ing Wiley and Cape­hart and a young Richard Nixon. . . .

Ibid.; pp. 175–176.

12. Even­tu­al­ly, Verei­de, the Fam­i­ly and their Nazi and fas­cist asso­ciates (on both sides of the Atlantic) were suc­cess­ful in get­ting the rig­or­ous de-Naz­i­fi­ca­tion pro­gram rescind­ed. Note the ref­er­ence to the “Mor­gen­thau boys.” This is a ref­er­ence to for­mer Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Robert Mor­gen­thau, who favored a rig­or­ous approach to de-Naz­i­fi­ca­tion that includ­ed the de-indus­tri­al­iza­tion of Ger­many. For more about this top­ic, see FTR #578, as well as All Hon­or­able Men, avail­able for down­load for free on this web­site.

Of par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance is the fact that Verei­de was able to inter­cede on behalf of indus­tri­al plants to pre­vent their de-Nazification.In this regard, Verei­de was doing the work not of the Lord, but of the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work.

. . . . For years, Man­fred Zapp had been Abram’s harsh­est cor­re­spon­dent, con­stant­ly warn­ing that the “man on the street” with whom he seemed to spend a great deal of time had had enough of Amer­i­ca’s emp­ty promis­es. Amer­i­ca had com­mit­ted “men­tal cru­el­ty,” he charged, hold­ing “so-called war crim­i­nals” in red coats–the uni­forms of the Lands­berg Prison–awaiting exe­cu­tion indef­i­nite­ly.

Abram agreed, and sent to the occu­pa­tion gov­ern­ment let­ters signed by dozens of con­gress­men demand­ing action.

Amer­i­ca pre­vent­ed Ger­man indus­try from feed­ing the nation, Zapp argued.

Abram agreed, and inter­vened time and again on behalf of Ger­man fac­to­ries. He saved as many as he could, though a steel foundry named for Her­mann Goer­ing was beyond even his pow­ers of redemp­tion.

Amer­i­ca had put left­ists and trade union­ists and Bol­she­viks in pow­er, Zapp com­plained.

Abram agreed. The cleans­ing of the Amer­i­can occu­pa­tion gov­ern­ment became an obses­sion, the sub­ject of his meet­ings with the Amer­i­can high com­mis­sion­er John J. McCloy and his week­ly prayer meet­ings with con­gress­men.

“Ide­al­ists” were pre­vent­ed from serv­ing their peo­ple, said Zapp. The man on the street was los­ing faith in the Amer­i­can reli­gion. “Free­dom in their inter­pre­ta­tion is the ide­al for which we shall fight and die but the real­i­ty is noth­ing else but a beau­ti­ful word for ser­vices for West­ern pow­ers . . . The word free­dom is not tak­en seri­ous­ly any­more.”

With­in a few years, nobody cared. The “Mor­gen­thau Boys” were as much a part of the past as the his­to­ry no Ger­man cared to speak of. . . .

Ibid.; pp. 177–178.

13. Pub­lished before the 1944 Nor­mandy inva­sion, Curt Riess’ The Nazis Go Under­ground fore­cast that the Third Reich’s strat­e­gy for going under­ground would involve liai­son with Amer­i­can Protes­tant fun­da­men­tal­ists.

Also of inter­est to Berlin—particularly in view of the com­ing under­ground fight of the Nazis—must be the Fun­da­men­tal­ist Protes­tants, who have a con­sid­er­able fol­low­ing in Michi­gan, Kansas, Col­orado, and Min­neso­ta. To be sure, some of the Fun­da­men­tal­ists are among the most coura­geous fight­ers for democ­ra­cy, but a great many of them are def­i­nite­ly pro-Hitler. Their rea­son for this stand is that Fun­da­men­tal­ists do not believe in free­dom of reli­gion, and they do believe that the Jews should be pun­ished because they killed Christ. They say that Hitler has been sent by God to ‘save Chris­tian­i­ty and destroy athe­is­tic Com­mu­nism.’ To many of them Japan is the ‘ori­en­tal out­post of Chris­tian­i­ty’ des­tined to save Asia from the dan­ger of a ‘Com­mu­nis­tic Chi­na.’

The Nazis Go Under­ground; by Curt Riess; Copy­right 1944 by Curt Riess; Dou­ble­day, Doran and Co., Inc. [HC]; pp. 125–126. Library of Con­gress Con­trol Num­ber: 44007162.

14. In the con­text of this dis­cus­sion, it should be recalled that Nazi spy chief Rein­hard Gehlen became an evan­ge­list after his for­mal retire­ment from being the head of the Ger­man intel­li­gence ser­vice. [Chief of Hitler’s intel­li­gence appa­ra­tus for the East­ern front in World War II, Gehlen jumped to the CIA with his entire orga­ni­za­tion which became: the CIA’s depart­ment of Russ­ian and East­ern Euro­pean affairs, the de-fac­to NATO intel­li­gence orga­ni­za­tion and final­ly the BND, the intel­li­gence ser­vice of the Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Ger­many.]

In this con­text, it should be remem­bered that Gehlen report­ed to Bormann’s secu­ri­ty chief, Hein­rich Muller and that he was clear­ing his post­war actions tak­en in con­junc­tion with US intel­li­gence with Admi­ral von Doenitz (Hitler’s nom­i­nal suc­ces­sor as head of state) and Gen­er­al Franz Halder, his for­mer chief-of-staff. In his oper­a­tions, Gehlen was oper­at­ing as part of the Under­ground Reich.

Today, on the thresh­old of three score years and ten, Gen­er­al Rein­hard Gehlen has found a sur­pris­ing new field of activ­i­ties. He has become an evan­ge­list. With still unim­paired ener­gy he has tak­en over the direc­tion of a cam­paign for build­ing new church­es and schools for the Evan­gel­i­cal Church in Catholic Bavaria. After a life of seclu­sion he fre­quent­ly attends meet­ings all over the province at which appeals for new funds are launched; on occa­sion he does not dis­dain to vis­it mem­bers of his reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty in order to encour­age the enter­prise and to pass the beg­ging bowl. . .

Gehlen: Spy of the Cen­tu­ry; by E.H. Cookridge; 1973 [SC] Pyra­mid Books; Copy­right 1971 by Euro­pean Copy­right Com­pa­ny Lim­it­ed; ISBN 0–515-03154–2; p. 450.

Discussion

9 comments for “FTR #697 Christian Fundamentalism and the Underground Reich”

  1. This piece by Ed Kil­go­re uses a great term for the theocrats mas­querad­ing as “Con­sti­tu­tion­al Con­ser­v­a­tives”: “Con-Cons”:

    TPM Cafe: Opin­ion
    The So-Called ‘Lib­er­tar­i­an Moment’ Is Engi­neered By The Chris­t­ian Right

    By Ed Kil­go­re
    Pub­lished August 13, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

    There’s been quite the buzz in the chat­ter­ing class­es this week over Robert Draper’s sug­ges­tion in the New York Times Mag­a­zine that the Repub­li­can Par­ty, and per­haps even the nation, may final­ly pre­pared for a “lib­er­tar­i­an moment,” like­ly through the agency of the shrewd and flex­i­ble politi­cian Rand Paul. It’s obvi­ous, in fact, that some of the aging hip­sters Drap­er talks to who have been labor­ing in the lib­er­tar­i­an fields for decades glimpse over the hori­zon a recon­struct­ed GOP that can reverse the instinc­tive loathing of mil­len­ni­als for the Old Folks’ Par­ty.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, to the extent there is some­thing that can be called a “lib­er­tar­i­an moment” in the Repub­li­can Par­ty and the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment, it owes less to the work of the Cato Insti­tute than to a force gen­uine lib­er­tar­i­ans clutch­ing their copies of Atlas Shrugged are typ­i­cal­ly hor­ri­fied by: the Chris­t­ian Right. In the emerg­ing ide­o­log­i­cal enter­prise of “con­sti­tu­tion­al con­ser­vatism,” theocrats are the senior part­ners, just as they have large­ly been in the Tea Par­ty Move­ment, even though lib­er­tar­i­ans often get more atten­tion.

    There’s no uni­ver­sal def­i­n­i­tion of “con­sti­tu­tion­al con­ser­vatism.” The appar­ent coin­er of the term, the Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz, used it to argue for a tem­per­ate approach to polit­i­cal con­tro­ver­sy that’s large­ly alien to those who have embraced the “brand.” Indeed, it’s most often become a sort of dog whis­tle scat­tered through speech­es, slo­gans and bios on var­i­ous cam­paign trails to sig­ni­fy that the bear­er is hos­tile to com­pro­mise and faith­ful to fixed con­ser­v­a­tive prin­ci­ples, unlike the Repub­li­cans who have been so prone to trim and pre­var­i­cate since Bar­ry Gold­wa­ter proud­ly went down in flames. The most active ear­ly Con-Con was Michele Bach­mann, who rarely went more than a few min­utes dur­ing her 2012 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign with­out utter­ing it. It’s now very promi­nent­ly asso­ci­at­ed with Ted Cruz, who, accord­ing to Glenn Beck’s The Blaze has emerged as “the new stan­dard-bear­er for con­sti­tu­tion­al con­ser­vatism.” And it’s the pre­ferred self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for Rand Paul as well.

    What Con-Con most often seems to con­note beyond an uncom­pro­mis­ing atti­tude on spe­cif­ic issues is the belief that strict lim­i­ta­tions on the size, scope and cost of gov­ern­ment are eter­nal­ly cor­rect for this coun­try, regard­less of pub­lic opin­ion or cir­cum­stances. Thus vio­la­tions of this “con­sti­tu­tion­al” order are eter­nal­ly ille­git­i­mate, no mat­ter what the Supreme Court says or who has won the last elec­tion.

    More com­mon­ly, Con-Cons rein­force this idea of a semi-divine con­sti­tu­tion­al order by endow­ing it with — quite lit­er­al­ly — divine ori­gins. This is why David Barton’s large­ly dis­cred­it­ed “Chris­t­ian Nation” revi­sion­ist his­to­ries of the Founders remain so high­ly influ­en­tial in con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles, and why Bar­ton him­self is wel­come com­pa­ny in the camps of Con-Con pols rang­ing from Cruz and Bach­mann to Rick Per­ry and Mike Huck­abee. This is why vir­tu­al­ly all Con-Cons con­flate the Con­sti­tu­tion with the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence, which enabled them to sneak both Nat­ur­al and Divine Law (includ­ing most con­spic­u­ous­ly a pre-natal Right to Life) into the nation’s organ­ic gov­ern­ing struc­ture.

    What a lot of those who instinc­tive­ly think of con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians as hos­tile to lib­er­tar­i­an ideas of strict gov­ern­ment per­sis­tent­ly miss is that diviniz­ing untram­meled cap­i­tal­ism has been a grow­ing habit on the Chris­t­ian Right for decades. Per­haps more impor­tant­ly, the idea of the “sec­u­lar-social­ist gov­ern­ment” being an oppres­sor of reli­gious lib­er­ty, whether it’s by main­tain­ing pub­lic schools that teach “rel­a­tivism” and evo­lu­tion, or by enforc­ing the “Holo­caust” of legal­ized abor­tion, or by insist­ing on anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion rules that dis­com­fit “Chris­t­ian busi­ness­es,” has made Chris­t­ian con­ser­v­a­tives high­ly prone to, and actu­al­ly a major par­tic­i­pant in, the anti-gov­ern­ment rhetoric of the Tea Par­ty. Beyond that, the essen­tial tea par­ty view of Amer­i­ca as “excep­tion­al” in eschew­ing the bad polit­i­cal habits of the rest of the world is high­ly con­gru­ent with, and actu­al­ly owes a lot to, the old Protes­tant notion of the Unit­ed States as a glob­al Redeemer Nation and a “shin­ing city on a hill.”

    So per­haps the ques­tion we should be ask­ing is not whether the Chris­t­ian Right and oth­er “tra­di­tion­al” con­ser­v­a­tives can accept a Rand Paul-led “lib­er­tar­i­an” takeover of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment and the GOP, but whether “lib­er­tar­i­ans” are an inde­pen­dent fac­tor in con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics to begin with. After all, most of the Repub­li­can politi­cians we think of as “libertarian”–whether it’s Rand Paul or Justin Amash or Mike Lee–are also paid-up cul­ture-war oppo­nents of legal­ized abor­tion, Com­mon Core, and oth­er hea­then­ish prac­tices. As Heather Dig­by Par­ton not­ed tart­ly ear­li­er this week:

    [T]he line between theocrats and lib­er­tar­i­an Repub­li­cans is very, very faint. Why do you think they’ve bas­tardized the con­cept of “Reli­gious Lib­er­ty” to mean the right to inflict your reli­gion on oth­ers? It appeals to peo­ple who fash­ion them­selves as lib­er­tar­i­ans but real­ly only care about their tax­es, guns and weed. Those are the non-nego­tiable items. Every­thing else is on offer.

    And then there’s the well-known but under-report­ed long-term rela­tion­ship of Ron and Rand Paul with the open­ly theo­crat­ic U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion Par­ty, a Con-Con inspi­ra­tional font that no Repub­li­can politi­cian is like­ly to embrace these days.

    ...

    Part of what makes the courtship and fos­ter­ing of the Con-Con strain of pol­i­tics so fas­ci­nat­ing is that it clear­ly involves plu­to­crats that aren’t, them­selves, theocrats but are more than will­ing to get into under the theo­crat­ic sheets if it suits them and are also run­ning empires seem­ing­ly bent on bring­ing about envi­ron­men­tal, finan­cial, and socioe­co­nom­ic apoc­a­lypses. So you have to won­der how much the var­i­ous pseu­do-theo-pow­er-bro­ker plu­to­crats are won­der­ing about what it will take to keep the luna­cy under wraps after their theoc­ra­cy takes con­trol. Take the Koch broth­ers. Sure­ly they real­ize that, should the theo­crat­ic plu­to­crats ever suc­cess­ful­ly lead a “grass roots” “small gov­ern­ment” revolt that turns soci­ety into a Hand­maid­’s Tale, the Koch broth­ers are one of the default tar­gets for the next rev­o­lu­tion after the Con-Con agen­da trash­es soci­ety. What on earth is going stop the “base” from revolt­ing against the new theo-plu­to­crats? It’s not like there isn’t plen­ty of ‘torch­es and pitch­forks’ sen­ti­ment amongst the Con-Con base direct­ed towards the GOP elites too.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 14, 2014, 3:51 pm
  2. Tele­ven­gal­ist linked to Mus­lim Broth­er­hood fronts-

    Accord­ing to files com­piled by the Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion, the founder of the world’s largest Chris­t­ian tele­vi­sion net­work financed his endeav­or with the assis­tance of numer­ous inter­na­tion­al crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions.

    Doc­u­ments obtained by Muck­Rock show that the FBI was inves­ti­gat­ing Trin­i­ty Broad­cast­ing Net­work and its founder, Paul Crouch, for being in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the infa­mous Bronx mafia fig­ure, Vin­cent Gigante, with regards to a “nar­cotics trans­fer of funds,” which is how the FBI clas­si­fies mon­ey-laun­der­ing.

    In anoth­er doc­u­ment, Crouch is list­ed along­side Rev­erend Earl Paulk and Oral Roberts as “anti-Semit­ic white suprema­cists [who] were sup­pos­ed­ly receiv­ing funds from the [Pales­tin­ian Lib­er­a­tion Orga­ni­za­tion] to ‘run guns’” via an “Islam­ic Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter” in Bal­ti­more, Mary­land. Both of these inves­ti­ga­tions were tagged as relat­ing to “finan­cial flow” involv­ing nar­cotics.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/27/fbi-files-link-christian-tvs-paul-crouch-to-italian-mob-palestinian-gun-trafficking/

    Posted by Dada | August 27, 2014, 8:53 am
  3. Dear Sir,
    I would like to know if the above men­tioned pic, show­ing Man­fred Zapp, was tak­en from Jeff Sharlet’s book. I’m inves­ti­gat­ing Zapps car­ri­er in South Africa and I did not find any pics there.
    Thanks so much for your atten­tion.
    Regards, Michael

    Posted by Michael | February 23, 2015, 1:19 am
  4. Here’s a great overview of how the Mil­i­tary Indus­tri­al Com­plex found God. Or, rather, how the same folks that brought us fun stuff like the Mil­i­tary Indus­tri­al Com­plex rede­fined God in their own image:

    The New York Times
    Sun­day Review
    A Chris­t­ian Nation? Since When?

    By KEVIN M. KRUSE
    MARCH 14, 2015

    AMERICA may be a nation of believ­ers, but when it comes to this country’s iden­ti­ty as a “Chris­t­ian nation,” our beliefs are all over the map.

    Just a few weeks ago, Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling report­ed that 57 per­cent of Repub­li­cans favored offi­cial­ly mak­ing the Unit­ed States a Chris­t­ian nation. But in 2007, a sur­vey by the First Amend­ment Cen­ter showed that 55 per­cent of Amer­i­cans believed it already was one.

    The con­fu­sion is under­stand­able. For all our talk about sep­a­ra­tion of church and state, reli­gious lan­guage has been writ­ten into our polit­i­cal cul­ture in count­less ways. It is inscribed in our pledge of patri­o­tism, marked on our mon­ey, carved into the walls of our courts and our Capi­tol. Per­haps because it is every­where, we assume it has been from the begin­ning.

    But the found­ing fathers didn’t cre­ate the cer­e­monies and slo­gans that come to mind when we con­sid­er whether this is a Chris­t­ian nation. Our grand­fa­thers did.

    Back in the 1930s, busi­ness lead­ers found them­selves on the defen­sive. Their pub­lic pres­tige had plum­met­ed with the Great Crash; their pri­vate busi­ness­es were under attack by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal from above and labor from below. To regain the upper hand, cor­po­rate lead­ers fought back on all fronts. They waged a fig­u­ra­tive war in state­hous­es and, occa­sion­al­ly, a lit­er­al one in the streets; their cam­paigns extend­ed from courts of law to the court of pub­lic opin­ion. But noth­ing worked par­tic­u­lar­ly well until they began an inspired pub­li­cr rela­tions offen­sive that cast cap­i­tal­ism as the hand­maid­en of Chris­tian­i­ty.

    The two had been described as soul mates before, but in this cam­paign they were wed­ded in point­ed oppo­si­tion to the “creep­ing social­ism” of the New Deal. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment had nev­er real­ly fac­tored into Amer­i­cans’ think­ing about the rela­tion­ship between faith and free enter­prise, most­ly because it had nev­er loomed that large over busi­ness inter­ests. But now it cast a long and omi­nous shad­ow.

    Accord­ing­ly, through­out the 1930s and ’40s, cor­po­rate lead­ers mar­ket­ed a new ide­ol­o­gy that com­bined ele­ments of Chris­tian­i­ty with an anti-fed­er­al lib­er­tar­i­an­ism. Pow­er­ful busi­ness lob­bies like the Unit­ed States Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers led the way, pro­mot­ing this ideology’s appeal in con­fer­ences and P.R. cam­paigns. Gen­er­ous fund­ing came from promi­nent busi­ness­men, from house­hold names like Har­vey Fire­stone, Con­rad Hilton, E. F. Hut­ton, Fred May­tag and Hen­ry R. Luce to less­er-known lead­ers at U.S. Steel, Gen­er­al Motors and DuPont.

    In a shrewd deci­sion, these exec­u­tives made cler­gy­men their spokes­men. As Sun Oil’s J. Howard Pew not­ed, polls proved that min­is­ters could mold pub­lic opin­ion more than any oth­er pro­fes­sion. And so these busi­ness­men worked to recruit cler­gy through pri­vate meet­ings and pub­lic appeals. Many answered the call, but three deserve spe­cial atten­tion.

    The Rev. James W. Fifield — known as “the 13th Apos­tle of Big Busi­ness” and “Saint Paul of the Pros­per­ous” — emerged as an ear­ly evan­ge­list for the cause. Preach­ing to pews of mil­lion­aires at the elite First Con­gre­ga­tion­al Church in Los Ange­les, Mr. Fifield said read­ing the Bible was “like eat­ing fish — we take the bones out to enjoy the meat. All parts are not of equal val­ue.” He dis­missed New Tes­ta­ment warn­ings about the cor­rupt­ing nature of wealth. Instead, he paired Chris­tian­i­ty and cap­i­tal­ism against the New Deal’s “pagan sta­tism.”

    Through his nation­al orga­ni­za­tion, Spir­i­tu­al Mobi­liza­tion, found­ed in 1935, Mr. Fifield pro­mot­ed “free­dom under God.” By the late 1940s, his group was spread­ing the gospel of faith and free enter­prise in a mass-cir­cu­lat­ed month­ly mag­a­zine and a week­ly radio pro­gram that even­tu­al­ly aired on more than 800 sta­tions nation­wide. It even encour­aged min­is­ters to preach ser­mons on its themes in com­pe­ti­tions for cash prizes. Lib­er­als howled at the group’s con­fla­tion of God and greed; in 1948, the rad­i­cal jour­nal­ist Carey McWilliams denounced it in a with­er­ing exposé. But Mr. Fifield exploit­ed such crit­i­cism to raise more funds and redou­ble his efforts.

    Mean­while, the Rev. Abra­ham Verei­de advanced the Chris­t­ian lib­er­tar­i­an cause with a nation­al net­work of prayer groups. After min­is­ter­ing to indus­tri­al­ists fac­ing huge labor strikes in Seat­tle and San Fran­cis­co in the mid-1930s, Mr. Verei­de began build­ing prayer break­fast groups in cities across Amer­i­ca to bring busi­ness and polit­i­cal elites togeth­er in com­mon cause. “The big men and the real lead­ers in New York and Chica­go,” he wrote his wife, “look up to me in an embar­rass­ing way.” In Man­hat­tan alone, James Cash Pen­ney, I.B.M.’s Thomas Wat­son, Nor­man Vin­cent Peale and May­or Fiorel­lo H. La Guardia all sought audi­ences with him.

    In 1942, Mr. Vereide’s influ­ence spread to Wash­ing­ton. He per­suad­ed the House and Sen­ate to start week­ly prayer meet­ings “in order that we might be a God-direct­ed and God-con­trolled nation.” Mr. Verei­de opened head­quar­ters in Wash­ing­ton — “God’s Embassy,” he called it — and became a pow­er­ful force in its pre­vi­ous­ly sec­u­lar insti­tu­tions. Among oth­er activ­i­ties, he held “ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­monies” for sev­er­al jus­tices of the Supreme Court. “No coun­try or civ­i­liza­tion can last,” Jus­tice Tom C. Clark announced at his 1949 con­se­cra­tion, “unless it is found­ed on Chris­t­ian val­ues.”

    The most impor­tant cler­gy­man for Chris­t­ian lib­er­tar­i­an­ism, though, was the Rev. Bil­ly Gra­ham. In his ini­tial min­istry, in the ear­ly 1950s, Mr. Gra­ham sup­port­ed cor­po­rate inter­ests so zeal­ous­ly that a Lon­don paper called him “the Big Busi­ness evan­ge­list.” The Gar­den of Eden, he informed revival atten­dees, was a par­adise with “no union dues, no labor lead­ers, no snakes, no dis­ease.” In the same spir­it, he denounced all “gov­ern­ment restric­tions” in eco­nom­ic affairs, which he invari­ably attacked as “social­ism.”

    In 1952, Mr. Gra­ham went to Wash­ing­ton and made Con­gress his con­gre­ga­tion. He recruit­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives to serve as ush­ers at packed revival meet­ings and staged the first for­mal reli­gious ser­vice held on the Capi­tol steps. That year, at his urg­ing, Con­gress estab­lished an annu­al Nation­al Day of Prayer. “If I would run for pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States today on a plat­form of call­ing peo­ple back to God, back to Christ, back to the Bible,” he pre­dict­ed, “I’d be elect­ed.”

    Dwight D. Eisen­how­er ful­filled that pre­dic­tion. With Mr. Gra­ham offer­ing Scrip­ture for Ike’s speech­es, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee cam­paigned in what he called a “great cru­sade for free­dom.” His mil­i­tary record made the gen­er­al a for­mi­da­ble can­di­date, but on the trail he empha­sized spir­i­tu­al issues over world­ly con­cerns. As the jour­nal­ist John Tem­ple Graves observed: “Amer­i­ca isn’t just a land of the free in Eisenhower’s con­cep­tion. It is a land of free­dom under God.” Elect­ed in a land­slide, Eisen­how­er told Mr. Gra­ham that he had a man­date for a “spir­i­tu­al renew­al.”

    Although Eisen­how­er relied on Chris­t­ian lib­er­tar­i­an groups in the cam­paign, he part­ed ways with their agen­da once elect­ed. The movement’s cor­po­rate spon­sors had seen reli­gious rhetoric as a way to dis­man­tle the New Deal state. But the new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent thought that a fool’s errand. “Should any polit­i­cal par­ty attempt to abol­ish Social Secu­ri­ty, unem­ploy­ment insur­ance, and elim­i­nate labor laws and farm pro­grams,” he not­ed pri­vate­ly, “you would not hear of that par­ty again in our polit­i­cal his­to­ry.” Unlike those who held pub­lic spir­i­tu­al­i­ty as a means to an end, Eisen­how­er embraced it as an end unto itself.

    ...

    Well, it sounds like the Mil­i­tary Indus­tri­al Com­plex isn’t the only thing Eisen­how­er should have warned us about, although he may have gen­uine­ly believed that “should any polit­i­cal par­ty attempt to abol­ish Social Secu­ri­ty, unem­ploy­ment insur­ance, and elim­i­nate labor laws and farm programs,...you would not hear of that par­ty again in our polit­i­cal his­to­ry,” so maybe the mod­ern day GOP and its ongo­ing attempt to elim­i­nate the New Deal is some­thing he just could­n’t imag­ine. After all, who could imag­ine that a move­ment of cor­po­ratist Chris­t­ian min­is­ters that appar­ent­ly “encour­aged min­is­ters to preach ser­mons on its themes in com­pe­ti­tions for cash prizes” would actu­al­ly suc­ceed in trans­form­ing soci­ety?!

    Then again, giv­en the scope of this “Chris­t­ian lib­er­tar­i­an” move­ment in the ’50s and the fact that the very same groups behind the Mil­i­tary Indus­tri­al Com­plex Eisen­how­er warned us about were also financ­ing sort of hor­ri­ble Christian/Mammon hybrid, per­haps the threat of this move­ment should have been clear even back then. 17,000 “min­is­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives” is one hell of a “Com­plex” too:

    NPR
    How ‘One Nation’ Did­n’t Become ‘Under God’ Until The ’50s Reli­gious Revival
    MARCH 30, 2015 3:29 PM ET

    The words “under God” in the Pledge of Alle­giance and the phrase “In God we trust” on the back of a dol­lar bill haven’t been there as long as most Amer­i­cans might think. Those ref­er­ences were insert­ed in the 1950s dur­ing the Eisen­how­er admin­is­tra­tion, the same decade that the Nation­al Prayer Break­fast was launched, accord­ing to writer Kevin Kruse. His new book is One Nation Under God.

    In the orig­i­nal Pledge of Alle­giance, Fran­cis Bel­lamy made no men­tion of God, Kruse says. Bel­lamy was Chris­t­ian social­ist, a Bap­tist who believed in the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state.

    “As this new reli­gious revival is sweep­ing the coun­try and tak­ing on new polit­i­cal tones, the phrase ‘one nation under God’ seizes the nation­al imag­i­na­tion,” Kruse tells Fresh Air’s Ter­ry Gross. “It starts with a pro­pos­al by the Knights of Colum­bus, the Catholic lay orga­ni­za­tion, to add the phrase ‘under God’ to the Pledge of Alle­giance. Their ini­tial cam­paign does­n’t go any­where but once Eisen­how­er’s own pas­tor endors­es it ... it catch­es fire.”

    ...

    “Accord­ing to the con­ven­tion­al nar­ra­tive, the Sovi­et Union dis­cov­ered the bomb and the Unit­ed States redis­cov­ered God,” Kruse says. “In order to push back against the athe­is­tic com­mu­nism of the Sovi­et Union, Amer­i­cans re-embraced a reli­gious iden­ti­ty. That plays a small role here, but ... there’s actu­al­ly a longer arc. That Cold War con­sen­sus actu­al­ly helps to paper over a cou­ple decades of inter­nal polit­i­cal strug­gles in the Unit­ed States. If you look at the archi­tects of this lan­guage ... the state pow­er that they’re wor­ried most about is not the Sovi­et regime in Moscow, but rather the New Deal and Fair Deal admin­is­tra­tions in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

    Inter­view High­lights

    On how cor­po­ra­tions hired min­is­ters to spread “free enter­prise”

    The New Deal had passed a large num­ber of mea­sures that were reg­u­lat­ing busi­ness in some ways for the first time, and it [had] empow­ered labor unions and giv­en them a voice in the affairs of busi­ness. Cor­po­rate lead­ers resent­ed both of these moves and so they launched a mas­sive cam­paign of pub­lic rela­tions designed to sell the val­ues of free enter­prise. The prob­lem was that their naked appeals to the mer­its of cap­i­tal­ism were large­ly dis­missed by the pub­lic.

    The most famous of these orga­ni­za­tions was called The Amer­i­can Lib­er­ty League and it was heav­i­ly financed by lead­ers at DuPont, Gen­er­al Motors and oth­er cor­po­ra­tions. The prob­lem was that it seemed like very obvi­ous cor­po­rate pro­pa­gan­da. As Jim Far­ley, the head of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty at the time, said: “They ought to call it The Amer­i­can Cel­lo­phane League, because No. 1: It’s a DuPont prod­uct, and No. 2: You can see right through it.”

    So when they real­ized that mak­ing this direct case for free enter­prise was inef­fec­tive, they decid­ed to find anoth­er way to do it. They decid­ed to out­source the job. As they not­ed in their pri­vate cor­re­spon­dence, min­is­ters were the most trust­ed men in Amer­i­ca at the time, so who bet­ter to make the case to the Amer­i­can peo­ple than min­is­ters?

    On the mes­sage the min­is­ters con­veyed

    They use these min­is­ters to make the case that Chris­tian­i­ty and cap­i­tal­ism were soul mates. This case had been made before, but in the con­text of the New Deal it takes on a sharp new polit­i­cal mean­ing. Essen­tial­ly they argue that Chris­tian­i­ty and cap­i­tal­ism are both sys­tems in which indi­vid­u­als rise and fall accord­ing to their own mer­its. So in Chris­tian­i­ty, if you’re good you go to heav­en, if you’re bad you go to hell. In cap­i­tal­ism if you’re good you make a prof­it and you suc­ceed, if you’re bad you fail.

    The New Deal, they argue, vio­lates this nat­ur­al order. In fact, they argue that the New Deal and the reg­u­la­to­ry state vio­late the Ten Com­mand­ments. It makes a false idol of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and encour­ages Amer­i­cans to wor­ship it rather than the Almighty. It encour­ages Amer­i­cans to cov­et what the wealthy have; it encour­ages them to steal from the wealthy in the forms of tax­a­tion; and, most impor­tant­ly, it bears false wit­ness against the wealthy by telling lies about them. So they argue that the New Deal is not a man­i­fes­ta­tion of God’s will, but rather, a form of pagan stateism and is inher­ent­ly sin­ful.

    On the Rev. James Fifield

    He takes over the pas­torate at the First Con­gre­ga­tion­al Church in Los Ange­les, an elite church, lit­er­al­ly min­is­ter­ing to mil­lion­aires in his pews. It’s got some of the town’s most wealthy cit­i­zens — the may­or attends ser­vice there, [Hol­ly­wood film­mak­er] Cecil B. DeMille. He tells these mil­lion­aires what they want to hear, which is that their world­ly suc­cess is a sign of heav­en­ly bless­ing. He has a very loose approach to the Bible. He says that read­ing the Bible should be like eat­ing fish: We take out the bones to enjoy the meat; all parts are not of equal val­ue. Accord­ing­ly, he dis­re­gard­ed Christ’s many injunc­tions about the dan­gers of wealth, and instead preached a phi­los­o­phy that wed­ded cap­i­tal­ism to Chris­tian­i­ty.

    On Fifield­’s “spir­i­tu­al mobi­liza­tion”

    “Spir­i­tu­al mobi­liza­tion” is his effort to recruit oth­er min­is­ters to the cause. So he is serv­ing, in many ways, as a front­man for a num­ber of cor­po­rate lead­ers. His main spon­sors are Sun Oil Pres­i­dent J. Howard Pew, Alfred Sloan of Gen­er­al Motors, the heads of the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers, they all heav­i­ly fund this orga­ni­za­tion. But what Fifield sets out to do is recruit oth­er min­is­ters to his cause. With­in the span of just a decade’s time, he has about 17,000 so-called min­is­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives who belong to the orga­ni­za­tion who are lit­er­al­ly preach­ing ser­mons on its Chris­t­ian lib­er­tar­i­an mes­sage to their con­gre­ga­tions, who are com­pet­ing in ser­mon contest[s] for cash prizes and they’re doing all they can in their local com­mu­ni­ties to spread this mes­sage that the New Deal is essen­tial­ly evil, it’s a man­i­fes­ta­tion of creep­ing social­ism that is rot­ting away the coun­try from with­in. Instead they need to ral­ly around busi­ness lead­ers and make com­mon cause with them to defend what they call “the Amer­i­can way of life.”

    ...

    Yep:

    With­in the span of just a decade’s time, he has about 17,000 so-called min­is­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives who belong to the orga­ni­za­tion who are lit­er­al­ly preach­ing ser­mons on its Chris­t­ian lib­er­tar­i­an mes­sage to their con­gre­ga­tions, who are com­pet­ing in ser­mon contest[s] for cash prizes and they’re doing all they can in their local com­mu­ni­ties to spread this mes­sage that the New Deal is essen­tial­ly evil, it’s a man­i­fes­ta­tion of creep­ing social­ism that is rot­ting away the coun­try from with­in.

    So that was a hor­ri­bly review of a par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant chap­ter of 20th cen­tu­ry his­to­ry that rais­es num­ber of ques­tions. But it’s espe­cial­ly depress­ing since the most sig­nif­i­cant ques­tion rais­es by this is what’s changed?

    Well, the cor­po­ratists are just as awful as before but decades of the main­stream­ing of this stuff has appar­ent­ly giv­en their polit­i­cal pup­pets license to not even both­er hid­ing their theo­crat­ic mad­ness. So that’s changed.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 3, 2015, 6:38 pm
  5. Here’s a sto­ry that’s dis­turb­ing on the sur­face and far more dis­turb­ing when you fac­tor in the propen­si­ty of right-wing politi­cians to employ pro­jec­tion as a rhetor­i­cal tool: Pres­i­dent Trump and a closed-door meet­ing with a num­ber of evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers recent­ly, dur­ing which he framed the 2018 midterms as “a ref­er­en­dum on not only me, it’s a ref­er­en­dum on your reli­gion, it’s a ref­er­en­dum on free speech and the First Amend­ment.” He then pre­dict­ed that if the “GOP los­es” the midterms, the Democ­rats will “vio­lent­ly” reverse all the gains he’s made for the con­ser­v­a­tive evan­gel­i­cal move­ment, say, “they will over­turn every­thing that we’ve done and they’ll do it quick­ly and vio­lent­ly, and vio­lent­ly. There’s vio­lence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are vio­lent peo­ple.”

    Trump also fix­at­ed on his claim that he got “rid of” the John­son Amend­ment, a 1954 law for­bid­ding church­es and char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tions from endors­ing polit­i­cal can­di­dates. Except he did­n’t actu­al­ly get rid of that law because only Con­gress can do that. Trump did sign an exec­u­tive order that instructs the Trea­sury Depart­ment not to “take any adverse action against any indi­vid­ual, house of wor­ship, or oth­er reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion on the basis that such indi­vid­ual or orga­ni­za­tion speaks or has spo­ken about moral or polit­i­cal issues from a reli­gious per­spec­tive, where speech of sim­i­lar char­ac­ter has, con­sis­tent with law, not ordi­nar­i­ly been treat­ed as par­tic­i­pa­tion or inter­ven­tion in a polit­i­cal cam­paign on behalf of (or in oppo­si­tion to) a can­di­date for pub­lic office.” But as the arti­cle points out, this exec­u­tive order changed noth­ing. Reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions can express their reli­gious views, as they always could — but still can­not for­mal­ly par­tic­i­pate in polit­i­cal cam­paigns.

    But even if reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions do decide to for­mal­ly par­tic­i­pate in polit­i­cal cam­paigns, there’s basi­cal­ly been no enforce­ment of the John­son Amend­ment under Demo­c­ra­t­ic or Repub­li­can admin­is­tra­tions and evan­gel­i­cal church­es have been open­ly vio­lat­ing it since 2008 with no pun­ish­ment from the IRS. So we have Trump brag­ging about a ‘gain’ he grant­ed to evan­gel­i­cals that he did­n’t actu­al­ly grant about a law that’s not real­ly enforced, while warn­ing that if the Democ­rats win in the midterms that they will “vio­lent­ly” reverse these alleged gains:

    NBC News

    In closed-door meet­ing, Trump told Chris­t­ian lead­ers he got rid of a law. He did­n’t.
    Accord­ing to record­ed excerpts of pri­vate remarks, he said evan­gel­i­cals were “one elec­tion away from los­ing every­thing.”

    by Aliza Nadi and Ken Dilan­ian
    Aug.28.2018 / 3:00 PM ET

    In a closed-door meet­ing with evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers Mon­day night, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump repeat­ed his debunked claim that he had got­ten “rid of” a law for­bid­ding church­es and char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tions from endors­ing polit­i­cal can­di­dates, accord­ing to record­ed excerpts reviewed by NBC News.

    In fact, the law remains on the books, after efforts to kill it in Con­gress last year failed.

    But Trump cit­ed this alleged accom­plish­ment as one in a series of gains he has made for his con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian sup­port­ers, as he warned, “You’re one elec­tion away from los­ing every­thing that you’ve got,” and said their oppo­nents were “vio­lent peo­ple” who would over­turn these gains “vio­lent­ly.”

    Trump addressed the law and the upcom­ing midterms in pri­vate remarks Mon­day dur­ing a a din­ner with evan­gel­i­cal sup­port­ers at the White House after the press had left.

    At stake in the Novem­ber midterms, Trump told the audi­ence, are all the gains he has made for con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians.

    “The lev­el of hatred, the lev­el of anger is unbe­liev­able,” he said. “Part of it is because of some of the things I’ve done for you and for me and for my fam­i­ly, but I’ve done them. … This Nov. 6 elec­tion is very much a ref­er­en­dum on not only me, it’s a ref­er­en­dum on your reli­gion, it’s a ref­er­en­dum on free speech and the First Amend­ment.”

    If the GOP los­es, he said, “they will over­turn every­thing that we’ve done and they’ll do it quick­ly and vio­lent­ly, and vio­lent­ly. There’s vio­lence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are vio­lent peo­ple.”

    The law that Trump says he got rid of is the so-called John­son Amend­ment, a pro­vi­sion insert­ed into law in 1954 by then-sen­a­tor and future Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son of Texas, who was miffed that a con­ser­v­a­tive non­prof­it group was help­ing his oppo­nent.

    The law says church­es and char­i­ties “are absolute­ly pro­hib­it­ed from direct­ly or indi­rect­ly par­tic­i­pat­ing in, or inter­ven­ing in, any polit­i­cal cam­paign on behalf of (or in oppo­si­tion to) any can­di­date for elec­tive pub­lic office.”

    “Now one of the things I’m most proud of is get­ting rid of the John­son Amend­ment,” the pres­i­dent said. “That was a dis­as­ter for you.”

    The pres­i­dent does­n’t have the pow­er to repeal a law — only Con­gress can do that. The Supreme Court can also rule a law uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, but that has not hap­pened in this case.

    In May 2017, Trump signed an exec­u­tive order that pur­port­ed to ease enforce­ment of the John­son Amend­ment. But experts — and the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union, which oppos­es repeal of the pro­vi­sion — say the Trump order was basi­cal­ly tooth­less.

    “It does almost noth­ing,” Gre­go­ry Mag­a­r­i­an, a con­sti­tu­tion­al law pro­fes­sor at Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Law School.

    Poli­ti­fact, the non­par­ti­san fact-check­ing orga­ni­za­tion, rat­ed Trump’s claim that he had got­ten rid of the John­son Amend­ment “most­ly false” when he first made it pub­licly in July 2017.

    The law for­bids reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions and oth­er char­i­ties from for­mal­ly endors­ing can­di­dates if they want to retain their fed­er­al tax exemp­tion.

    Trump’s exec­u­tive order instructs the Trea­sury Depart­ment not to “take any adverse action against any indi­vid­ual, house of wor­ship, or oth­er reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion on the basis that such indi­vid­ual or orga­ni­za­tion speaks or has spo­ken about moral or polit­i­cal issues from a reli­gious per­spec­tive, where speech of sim­i­lar char­ac­ter has, con­sis­tent with law, not ordi­nar­i­ly been treat­ed as par­tic­i­pa­tion or inter­ven­tion in a polit­i­cal cam­paign on behalf of (or in oppo­si­tion to) a can­di­date for pub­lic office … ”

    In oth­er words, reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions can express their reli­gious views, as they always could — but still can­not for­mal­ly par­tic­i­pate in polit­i­cal cam­paigns.

    Trump said to the reli­gious lead­ers at the White House: “Now you’re not silenced any­more. It’s gone and there’s no penal­ty any­more and if you like some­body or if you don’t like some­body you can go out and say, ‘This man is going to be great for evan­gel­i­cals, or for Chris­tian­i­ty or for anoth­er reli­gion. This per­son is some­body that I like and I’m going to talk about it on Sun­day.”

    In prac­tice, there has been noth­ing stop­ping any­one from doing that. The John­son Amend­ment does­n’t pro­hib­it indi­vid­ual speech, and it has rarely been enforced.

    More than 2,000 main­ly evan­gel­i­cal Chris­t­ian cler­gy have delib­er­ate­ly vio­lat­ed the law since 2008 as a form of protest against it, but only one has been audit­ed by the IRS, and none pun­ished, accord­ing to the Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom, a pro-reli­gious group.

    A pro­vi­sion to over­turn the amend­ment was includ­ed in last year’s tax cut bill, but it was ulti­mate­ly removed for pro­ce­dur­al rea­sons.

    Trump “does­n’t have the legal author­i­ty to over­turn the John­son Amend­ment,” Mag­a­r­i­an said.

    “You would think,” Mag­a­r­i­an added, “that the con­ser­v­a­tive reli­gious lead­ers would get impa­tient at the con­tin­ued rep­e­ti­tion of that claim” that Trump has repealed it.

    In the begin­ning of his pri­vate remarks to the evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers, Trump cit­ed a com­ment he said was made by Robert Jef­fress, a South­ern Bap­tist leader who is one of his reli­gious allies

    “I had the great Robert Jef­fress back there. Hel­lo, Robert. Who said about me: He may not be the per­fect human being, but he is the great­est leader for Chris­tian­i­ty,” Trump said to applause and laugh­ter.

    He added: “Hope­ful­ly I’ve proven that to be a fact in terms of the sec­ond part. Not the first part.”

    ...

    ———-

    “In closed-door meet­ing, Trump told Chris­t­ian lead­ers he got rid of a law. He did­n’t.” by Aliza Nadi and Ken Dilan­ian; NBC News; 08/28/2018

    “But Trump cit­ed this alleged accom­plish­ment as one in a series of gains he has made for his con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian sup­port­ers, as he warned, “You’re one elec­tion away from los­ing every­thing that you’ve got,” and said their oppo­nents were “vio­lent peo­ple” who would over­turn these gains “vio­lent­ly.”

    A warn­ing that all the ‘gains’ for evan­gel­i­cals will be vio­lent­ly swept away by the Democ­rats. It’s unclear why exact­ly Democ­rats in con­trol of the House would use vio­lence to reverse Trump’s poli­cies, but he said it any­way, with a ref­er­ence to Antifa. This is how Trump is deal­ing with the prospect of a bruis­ing midterm:

    ...
    Trump addressed the law and the upcom­ing midterms in pri­vate remarks Mon­day dur­ing a a din­ner with evan­gel­i­cal sup­port­ers at the White House after the press had left.

    At stake in the Novem­ber midterms, Trump told the audi­ence, are all the gains he has made for con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians.

    “The lev­el of hatred, the lev­el of anger is unbe­liev­able,” he said. “Part of it is because of some of the things I’ve done for you and for me and for my fam­i­ly, but I’ve done them. … This Nov. 6 elec­tion is very much a ref­er­en­dum on not only me, it’s a ref­er­en­dum on your reli­gion, it’s a ref­er­en­dum on free speech and the First Amend­ment.”

    If the GOP los­es, he said, “they will over­turn every­thing that we’ve done and they’ll do it quick­ly and vio­lent­ly, and vio­lent­ly. There’s vio­lence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are vio­lent peo­ple.”
    ...

    And, of course, Trump’s self-adu­la­tion about how he got rid of the John­son Amend­ment was delu­sion­al since the pres­i­dent does­n’t actu­al­ly have the pow­er to repeal a law:

    ...
    The law that Trump says he got rid of is the so-called John­son Amend­ment, a pro­vi­sion insert­ed into law in 1954 by then-sen­a­tor and future Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son of Texas, who was miffed that a con­ser­v­a­tive non­prof­it group was help­ing his oppo­nent.

    The law says church­es and char­i­ties “are absolute­ly pro­hib­it­ed from direct­ly or indi­rect­ly par­tic­i­pat­ing in, or inter­ven­ing in, any polit­i­cal cam­paign on behalf of (or in oppo­si­tion to) any can­di­date for elec­tive pub­lic office.”

    “Now one of the things I’m most proud of is get­ting rid of the John­son Amend­ment,” the pres­i­dent said. “That was a dis­as­ter for you.”

    The pres­i­dent does­n’t have the pow­er to repeal a law — only Con­gress can do that. The Supreme Court can also rule a law uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, but that has not hap­pened in this case.
    ...

    Trump did sign an exec­u­tive order that pur­port­ed­ly weak­ened fed­er­al enforce­ment of the John­son Amend­ment, but the order did almost noth­ing. It did­n’t sud­den­ly allow reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions to direct­ly par­tic­i­pate in cam­paigns. And while weak­en­ing enforce­ment of the law might be seen as effec­tive­ly get­ting rid of it, it’s not like the law is almost ever actu­al­ly enforced:

    ...
    In May 2017, Trump signed an exec­u­tive order that pur­port­ed to ease enforce­ment of the John­son Amend­ment. But experts — and the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union, which oppos­es repeal of the pro­vi­sion — say the Trump order was basi­cal­ly tooth­less.

    “It does almost noth­ing,” Gre­go­ry Mag­a­r­i­an, a con­sti­tu­tion­al law pro­fes­sor at Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Law School.

    Poli­ti­fact, the non­par­ti­san fact-check­ing orga­ni­za­tion, rat­ed Trump’s claim that he had got­ten rid of the John­son Amend­ment “most­ly false” when he first made it pub­licly in July 2017.

    The law for­bids reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions and oth­er char­i­ties from for­mal­ly endors­ing can­di­dates if they want to retain their fed­er­al tax exemp­tion.

    Trump’s exec­u­tive order instructs the Trea­sury Depart­ment not to “take any adverse action against any indi­vid­ual, house of wor­ship, or oth­er reli­gious orga­ni­za­tion on the basis that such indi­vid­ual or orga­ni­za­tion speaks or has spo­ken about moral or polit­i­cal issues from a reli­gious per­spec­tive, where speech of sim­i­lar char­ac­ter has, con­sis­tent with law, not ordi­nar­i­ly been treat­ed as par­tic­i­pa­tion or inter­ven­tion in a polit­i­cal cam­paign on behalf of (or in oppo­si­tion to) a can­di­date for pub­lic office … ”

    In oth­er words, reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions can express their reli­gious views, as they always could — but still can­not for­mal­ly par­tic­i­pate in polit­i­cal cam­paigns.

    Trump said to the reli­gious lead­ers at the White House: “Now you’re not silenced any­more. It’s gone and there’s no penal­ty any­more and if you like some­body or if you don’t like some­body you can go out and say, ‘This man is going to be great for evan­gel­i­cals, or for Chris­tian­i­ty or for anoth­er reli­gion. This per­son is some­body that I like and I’m going to talk about it on Sun­day.”

    In prac­tice, there has been noth­ing stop­ping any­one from doing that. The John­son Amend­ment does­n’t pro­hib­it indi­vid­ual speech, and it has rarely been enforced.

    More than 2,000 main­ly evan­gel­i­cal Chris­t­ian cler­gy have delib­er­ate­ly vio­lat­ed the law since 2008 as a form of protest against it, but only one has been audit­ed by the IRS, and none pun­ished, accord­ing to the Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom, a pro-reli­gious group.

    A pro­vi­sion to over­turn the amend­ment was includ­ed in last year’s tax cut bill, but it was ulti­mate­ly removed for pro­ce­dur­al rea­sons.

    Trump “does­n’t have the legal author­i­ty to over­turn the John­son Amend­ment,” Mag­a­r­i­an said.

    “You would think,” Mag­a­r­i­an added, “that the con­ser­v­a­tive reli­gious lead­ers would get impa­tient at the con­tin­ued rep­e­ti­tion of that claim” that Trump has repealed it.
    ...

    And notice how evan­gel­i­cal church­es have been open­ly and delib­er­ate­ly vio­lat­ing the John­son Amend­ment since 2008, with no IRS pun­ish­ment:

    ...
    More than 2,000 main­ly evan­gel­i­cal Chris­t­ian cler­gy have delib­er­ate­ly vio­lat­ed the law since 2008 as a form of protest against it, but only one has been audit­ed by the IRS, and none pun­ished, accord­ing to the Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom, a pro-reli­gious group.
    ...

    Also note that we Trump specif­i­cal­ly calls out to Robert Jef­fress, one of his spir­i­tu­al advi­sors, and touts how Jef­fress told him he was “the great­est leader for Chris­tian­i­ty”, this is one of those instances where he may not have been mak­ing stuff up. Recall how Jef­fress is one of the pro­mot­ers of the “Cyrus” meme that says Trump is like the Bib­li­cal fig­ure Cyrus who was­n’t a Chris­t­ian but was still divine­ly led by God, thus allow­ing Trump to act as un-Chris­t­ian as pos­si­ble while still being ele­vat­ed to ‘ves­sel of God’s work’ sta­tus by Chris­t­ian lead­ers. That’s pre­sum­ably what Trump was refer­ring to here:

    ...
    In the begin­ning of his pri­vate remarks to the evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers, Trump cit­ed a com­ment he said was made by Robert Jef­fress, a South­ern Bap­tist leader who is one of his reli­gious allies

    “I had the great Robert Jef­fress back there. Hel­lo, Robert. Who said about me: He may not be the per­fect human being, but he is the great­est leader for Chris­tian­i­ty,” Trump said to applause and laugh­ter.

    He added: “Hope­ful­ly I’ve proven that to be a fact in terms of the sec­ond part. Not the first part.”
    ...

    “I had the great Robert Jef­fress back there. Hel­lo, Robert. Who said about me: He may not be the per­fect human being, but he is the great­est leader for Chris­tian­i­ty,” Trump said to applause and laugh­ter. Yep, refer­ring to him­self as the great­est leader for Chris­tian­i­ty got applause from this audi­ence.

    So that’s how Trump’s close-door meet­ing with this audi­ence of evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers went.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 29, 2018, 3:44 pm
  6. When Brett Kavanaugh replaced Antho­ny Kennedy on the US Supreme Court it was pret­ty clear that abor­tion oppo­nents in the US were going to be mak­ing a renewed push to get a legal case before the Supreme Court that could over­turn Roe vs Wade and return the ques­tion of legal sta­tus of abor­tion in Amer­i­ca to the state-lev­el. So it should come as no sur­prise that a num­ber of states just passed some of the most restrict­ed abor­tion laws ever fol­low­ing Roe v Wade. Geor­gia’s gov­er­nor signed into law a bill that could make the women who receive abor­tions after six weeks sub­ject to life in prison or even the death penal­ty. Alaba­ma’s leg­is­la­ture fol­lowed with the pas­sage of a bill that would ban abor­tions after six weeks with no excep­tions in cas­es of rape and incest and would pun­ish doc­tors who per­form abor­tions with up to 99 year prison sen­tences. Giv­en that a large num­ber of preg­nant women have no idea they are preg­nant at six weeks, espe­cial­ly if it was an unplanned preg­nan­cy, the bills would effec­tive­ly imme­di­ate­ly ban abor­tion in those states if Roe v Wade ends up get­ting over­turned. And Alaba­ma and Geor­gia are just two of the numer­ous states that either passed or attempt­ed to pass sim­i­lar laws in 2019.

    So it seems like a pret­ty good bet that abor­tion rights is going to be a major issue in the upcom­ing 2020 US elec­tion cycle. After all, when Pres­i­dent Trump was a can­di­date in 2016 in infa­mous­ly advo­cat­ed for pun­ish­ing doc­tors who per­form abor­tions and the women who received them dur­ing an inter­view when he said “some form of pun­ish­ment” must exist for the women if abor­tion is out­lawed. This led to such an out­cry that the Trump cam­paign walked back his com­ments the next day and said only the doc­tors should be pun­ished. The ques­tion of who would be pun­ished and how severe those pun­ish­ments would be have long been an open ques­tion that the abor­tion oppo­nents have strate­gi­cal­ly avoid­ed for decades. But it’s going to be a lot hard­er for Trump and the Repub­li­cans to argue that the loom­ing over­turn­ing of Roe v Wade isn’t going to result in doc­tors and women going to prison now.

    But while it’s more or less guar­an­teed that future of abor­tion rights and the com­po­si­tion of the Supreme Court will play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the US 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, it’s not at all clear that broad­er issue of the pro­found and grow­ing influ­ence of reli­gious extrem­ists (the ‘Amer­i­can Tal­iban’ like Opus Dei) with­in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion will be a major issue. Which is too bad because it’s hard to come up with a top­ic more illus­tra­tive of how pow­er is cor­rupt­ly held and wield­ed in the mod­ern world and moral­i­ty is sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly turned on its head than the study of the con­nec­tions between Amer­i­can reli­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism, pol­i­tics, and big mon­ey.

    So, along those lines, it’s worth not­ing that the same forces financ­ing the fusion of far right pol­i­tics and reli­gion are doing the same thing in Europe. Those were the find­ings of a recent study by open­Democ­ra­cy that con­duct­ed the first even analy­sis of the finan­cial flows from US Chris­t­ian fun­da­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions into a Europe over the last decade. What they found was an explo­sion of spend­ing over the last five years, along with exten­sive coor­di­na­tion with Europe’s far right par­ties. There’s also quite a bit of coor­di­na­tion with Steve Ban­non’s ongo­ing efforts to pro­mote the far right in Europe. It under­scores the key point that the assault on abor­tion rights in the Unit­ed States should be viewed in the con­text of a much larg­er far right assault designed to return the West to a time with reli­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism and far right pow­er pol­i­tics joint­ly reigned supreme:

    Open Democ­ra­cy

    Revealed: Trump-linked US Chris­t­ian ‘fun­da­men­tal­ists’ pour mil­lions of ‘dark mon­ey’ into Europe, boost­ing the far right

    MEPs call for action as open­Democ­ra­cy analy­sis reveals ‘shock­ing’ flows of cash cross­ing the Atlantic to push ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive agen­das.

    Claire Provost and Adam Ram­say
    27 March 2019

    US Chris­t­ian right ‘fun­da­men­tal­ists’ linked to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and Steve Ban­non are among a dozen Amer­i­can groups that have poured at least $50 mil­lion of ‘dark mon­ey’ into Europe over the last decade, open­Democ­ra­cy can reveal today.

    Between them, these groups have backed ‘armies’ of ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive lawyers and polit­i­cal activists, as well as ‘fam­i­ly val­ues’ cam­paigns against LGBT rights, sex edu­ca­tion and abor­tion – and a num­ber appear to have increas­ing links with Europe’s far right.

    They are spend­ing mon­ey on a scale “not pre­vi­ous­ly imag­ined”, accord­ing to law­mak­ers and human rights advo­cates, who have called our find­ings “shock­ing”. React­ing to openDemocracy’s find­ings, a cross-par­ty group of more than 40 MEPs has called on the EU’s trans­paren­cy tsar Frans Tim­mer­mans to look into the influ­ence of “US Chris­t­ian fun­da­men­tal­ists… with the great­est urgency” ahead of May’s Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions.

    Among the biggest spenders is a group whose chief coun­sel is also Don­ald Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, Jay Seku­low. Anoth­er organ­i­sa­tion has col­lab­o­rat­ed with a con­tro­ver­sial Rome-based ‘insti­tute’ backed by Steve Ban­non. And a num­ber of the groups are con­nect­ed to the World Con­gress of Fam­i­lies: a net­work of ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive activists which has links to far-right politi­cians and move­ments in sev­er­al Euro­pean coun­tries, includ­ing Italy, Hun­gary, Poland, Spain and Ser­bia.

    None of these Amer­i­can groups dis­clos­es who its donors are – though at least two have links to famous con­ser­v­a­tive bil­lion­aires, such as the Koch broth­ers (who helped bankroll the Tea Par­ty Move­ment) and the fam­i­ly of Trump’s edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary.

    The increas­ing ties between some of these US Chris­t­ian con­ser­v­a­tive groups and the Euro­pean far right will be on dis­play this week­end at a sum­mit of the World Con­gress of Fam­i­lies (WCF) in Verona, Italy.

    Right-wing politi­cians and their sup­port­ers from across the con­ti­nent are expect­ed to attend – includ­ing the Ital­ian deputy prime min­is­ter, Mat­teo Salvi­ni, who has described the WCF as a show­case for “the Europe that we like.

    In a let­ter copied to the pres­i­dents of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, the cross-par­ty group of MEPs has demand­ed action to pro­tect Euro­pean democ­ra­cy “against nefar­i­ous out­side influ­ences”.

    Scot­tish Nation­al Par­ty MEP Alyn Smith, who sits on the Euro­pean Parliament’s for­eign affairs com­mit­tee and signed the let­ter, today said: “This inves­ti­ga­tion by open­Democ­ra­cy is extreme­ly time­ly and shines a light on a major chal­lenge fac­ing democ­ra­cy in Europe.”

    Our find­ings “are high­ly alarm­ing and nobody should be in any doubt as to the insid­i­ous nature of these fun­da­men­tal­ist groups”, he con­tin­ued. “No group of any kind should be able to use dark mon­ey to dis­tort debate and to sub­vert democ­ra­cy in Europe, least of all group such as these whose caus­es are deeply regres­sive”.

    ‘The Europe we like’

    In the first analy­sis of its kind, open­Democ­ra­cy has exam­ined a decade of US Chris­t­ian organ­i­sa­tions’ finan­cial accounts and found that sev­er­al of them appear to have sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased their spend­ing in Europe over the past five years.

    Our find­ings come as far-right par­ties aim for big wins in the upcom­ing Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in May, and show how large amounts of for­eign mon­ey have sup­port­ed the spread of their ‘tra­di­tion­al val­ues’ mes­sages.

    open­Democ­ra­cy has reviewed hun­dreds of pages of finan­cial fil­ings for a dozen reli­gious con­ser­v­a­tive groups that are reg­is­tered in the US as tax-exempt non-prof­it organ­i­sa­tions, and thus are required to dis­close some infor­ma­tion about their for­eign spend­ing.

    Some of these groups have been pre­vi­ous­ly accused of sup­port­ing cam­paigns to crim­i­nalise homo­sex­u­al­i­ty in Africa, “dra­con­ian” anti-abor­tion laws in Latin Amer­i­ca and con­tro­ver­sial projects to encour­age gay peo­ple in the US to “leave homo­sex­u­al­i­ty”.

    But the extent of their Euro­pean activ­i­ty has – until now – received lit­tle scruti­ny. Our inves­ti­ga­tion reveals that some of these groups have:

    * Sent teams of lob­by­ists to Brus­sels to influ­ence EU offi­cials
    * Chal­lenged laws against dis­crim­i­na­tion and hate speech in Euro­pean courts
    * Sup­port­ed cam­paigns against LGBT rights in the Czech Repub­lic and Roma­nia
    * Fund­ed a net­work of ‘grass­roots’ anti-abor­tion cam­paigns in Italy and Spain
    * Deployed ‘ambu­lance-chas­ing’ evan­ge­lists after tragedies such as the Gren­fell Tow­er fire, and in the wake of ter­ror­ist attacks

    Five of the con­ser­v­a­tive groups have pre­vi­ous­ly been list­ed part­ners of the World Con­gress of Fam­i­lies (WCF) net­work, which is meet­ing in Verona this week.

    It’s not just Euro­pean politi­cians who are con­cerned about them: these groups are con­tro­ver­sial in Amer­i­ca too. The WCF itself has been described as an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter (SPLC), which mon­i­tors extrem­ist move­ments and tracks this network’s increas­ing con­nec­tions with the far right.

    The SPLC explains that “view­ing homo­sex­u­al­i­ty as unbib­li­cal or sim­ply oppos­ing same-sex mar­riage” is not enough to be cat­e­gorised as a “hate group”. Groups on this list go fur­ther – claim­ing that homo­sex­u­al­i­ty is dan­ger­ous, linked to pae­dophil­ia and should be crim­i­nalised, dis­sem­i­nat­ing “dis­parag­ing ‘facts’ about LGBT peo­ple that are sim­ply untrue”.

    This is, says SPLC, “no dif­fer­ent to how white suprema­cists and nativist extrem­ists prop­a­gate lies about black peo­ple and immi­grants to make these com­mu­ni­ties seem like a dan­ger to soci­ety”.

    Joseph Grabows­ki, a WCF spokesper­son, told open­Democ­ra­cy: “We dis­pute entire­ly the premise [of the ‘hate group’ des­ig­na­tion]... It’s an unfor­tu­nate slight for the count­less Amer­i­cans and the peo­ple around the world who hold the same views as we do on mar­riage, the nature of fam­i­ly and the right to life, that are part of the fab­ric of Chris­tian­i­ty and also oth­er tra­di­tion­al points of view,” he said.

    The WCF is a project of the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for the Fam­i­ly and the Illi­nois-based Howard Cen­ter for Fam­i­ly, Reli­gion and Soci­ety, whose direc­tors include an ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Span­ish activist linked to the leader of the far-right Vox par­ty.

    Oth­er direc­tors include a close asso­ciate of a Russ­ian oli­garch who spon­sored a 2014 ‘‘secret meet­ing’’ in Vien­na with key French and Aus­tri­an far-right lead­ers – and an Ital­ian politi­cian fac­ing cor­rup­tion charges in his coun­try.

    Over the last decade, the WCF has host­ed at least sev­en major meet­ings in Europe, attend­ed by hun­dreds of reli­gious right activists and a grow­ing list of far-right politi­cians. Its 2017 meet­ing in Budapest was opened by Hun­gar­i­an prime min­is­ter Vic­tor Orbán.

    Among the con­ven­ers of this week’s event in Verona is an Ital­ian anti-abor­tion group linked to the neo-fas­cist Forza Nuo­va par­ty, whose leader is also expect­ed to attend the WCF.

    Trump, the far right and the Chris­t­ian ‘legal army’

    Two of the Trump-linked Amer­i­can groups exam­ined by open­Democ­ra­cy are Chris­t­ian right legal pow­er­hous­es: Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom (ADF) and the Amer­i­can Cen­ter for Law and Jus­tice. Togeth­er, they have spent more than $20 mil­lion in Europe since 2008.

    They don’t dis­close their fun­ders, but US jour­nal­ists have pre­vi­ous­ly traced at least $1 mil­lion in grants to ADF from a foun­da­tion con­trolled by the bil­lion­aire fam­i­ly of Bet­sy DeVos, Trump’s edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary, and Erik Prince, founder of the Black­wa­ter mer­ce­nary firm.

    ADF was co-found­ed by Alan Sears, a US Chris­t­ian right leader who co-authored a book against “the homo­sex­u­al agen­da”. It is increas­ing­ly active inter­na­tion­al­ly, includ­ing in Latin Amer­i­ca. It sup­port­ed a 2016 law in Belize mak­ing gay sex pun­ish­able with 10 years in jail.

    This group tripled its annu­al spend­ing in Europe between 2012 and 2016, to more than $2.6 mil­lion a year. It now has offices in Bel­gium, France, Aus­tria, Switzer­land and the UK, and spends hun­dreds of thou­sands of euros lob­by­ing EU offi­cials, accord­ing to sep­a­rate trans­paren­cy data.

    Among its Euro­pean projects, the group has sup­port­ed the defence of a noto­ri­ous Ger­man activist who com­pared abor­tion to the Holo­caust and accused spe­cif­ic doc­tors of mur­der.

    This year, ADF Inter­na­tion­al also co-host­ed an event with the French group La Manif Pour Tous, which has been pre­vi­ous­ly been linked to the far-right par­ty Front Nation­al.

    Ahead of the last Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in 2014, La Manif Pour Tous launched a ‘Europe for Fam­i­ly’ cam­paign which got 230 French can­di­dates to sign a pledge oppos­ing mar­riage equal­i­ty, trans rights and sex edu­ca­tion.

    Speak­ing to open­Democ­ra­cy, a spokesper­son for ADF Inter­na­tion­al said they are “exclu­sive­ly pri­vate­ly fund­ed by peo­ple from all over the world, who care about human rights” and that its activ­i­ties include “advo­cat­ing for free­dom of speech in Europe”.

    Asked for more detail about who the group gives its mon­ey to, they said: “Since our advo­ca­cy involves court cas­es in coun­tries where peo­ple are harassed, stig­ma­tised, and even killed because of their reli­gious con­vic­tions, it is our gen­er­al pol­i­cy not to dis­close any recip­i­ents of fund­ing in order to pro­tect their per­son­al safe­ty and liveli­hoods”.

    The sec­ond of the two Trump-linked groups, the Amer­i­can Cen­ter for Law and Jus­tice (ACLJ), also oper­ates through the courts. It was found­ed in 1990 by Amer­i­can tel­e­van­ge­list Pat Robert­son to oppose the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union.

    The group’s cur­rent chief coun­sel is Jay Seku­low, a con­ser­v­a­tive talk-show host who has been described as “the top lawyer” on Don­ald Trump’s legal team in the Mueller inquiry.

    For more than 20 years, this group has had an office in Stras­bourg, France – home of the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights – from where it inter­vened in numer­ous cas­es on issues includ­ing same-sex mar­riage, abor­tion rights and arti­fi­cial insem­i­na­tion.

    The direc­tor of its Stras­bourg out­fit has also rep­re­sent­ed the Holy See at the Coun­cil of Europe, while its Moscow cen­tre has praised Putin’s laws ban­ning “gay pro­pa­gan­da”.

    Trump, Franklin Gra­ham and US-sanc­tioned Krem­lin offi­cials

    The Bil­ly Gra­ham Evan­ge­lis­tic Asso­ci­a­tion is anoth­er major spender. It is led by the famous US evan­gel­i­cal preacher’s son, Franklin Gra­ham, who said Satan is the archi­tect of same-sex mar­riage and described Islam as an “evil and very wicked reli­gion”.

    Franklin Gra­ham, who has sup­port­ed Trump as some­one who “defends the faith”, was in Rus­sia ear­li­er this month meet­ing Krem­lin offi­cials who are under US sanc­tions, on a trip that he said was per­son­al­ly signed off by Vice Pres­i­dent Michael Pence.

    In 2018, his group organ­ised fes­ti­vals in Eng­land and Scot­land amid protests from Mus­lim and LGBT rights groups. It also sup­ports “rapid response chap­lains” that tar­get crises and have been accused in the US of “chas­ing ambu­lances” and “exploit­ing tragedy”.

    Its fil­ings dis­close more than $23 mil­lion spent in Europe through two dif­fer­ent US enti­ties between 2008 and 2014 – mak­ing it the largest spender in this region, of the Amer­i­can groups analysed by open­Democ­ra­cy.

    How­ev­er, 2014 is the lat­est year for which we were able to find pub­lic doc­u­ments for this group, which has offices in the UK, Ger­many, France and Spain, so the true extent of its influ­ence in the region is not yet known.

    Train­ing Euro­peans, on the ‘front lines of the Cul­ture War’

    A num­ber of groups spend­ing small­er amounts of mon­ey appear to have increased their activ­i­ties in Europe in recent years.

    The Acton Insti­tute for the Study of Reli­gion and Lib­er­ty, which com­bines a con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian world­view with free-mar­ket eco­nom­ics, has received hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars from the Koch fam­i­ly foun­da­tions

    This group spent more than $1.7 mil­lion in Europe since 2008, with its spend­ing in the region ris­ing in recent years (from around $166,000 in 2008 to almost $240,000 in 2017).

    In Italy, it has col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Dig­ni­tatis Humanae Insti­tute – of which Steve Ban­non is a trustee – that has local­ly con­tro­ver­sial plans to use a monastery out­side Rome as a “glad­i­a­tor school for cul­ture war­riors”.

    Also on the list is the US branch of the Tra­di­tion, Fam­i­ly and Prop­er­ty (TFP), an ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive transna­tion­al Catholic move­ment that says it’s “on the front lines of the Cul­ture War, peace­ful­ly defend­ing the val­ues of tra­di­tion, fam­i­ly and pri­vate own­er­ship”.

    This group said it spent about $100,000 in Europe since 2010. Its fil­ings don’t detail where this mon­ey went but the TFP has been linked to a con­tro­ver­sial ‘think tank’ in Poland that has helped devel­op pol­i­cy for far-right Law and Jus­tice (PiS) politi­cians.

    A ‘wake-up call’ to pre­vent ‘for­eign inter­fer­ence’

    Under US law, the groups analysed by open­Democ­ra­cy are required to pub­licly dis­close some infor­ma­tion about their for­eign spend­ing, but not the names of their over­seas recip­i­ents, details of what activ­i­ties they fund – or the iden­ti­ties of their own fun­ders.

    The $50 mil­lion fig­ure drawn from openDemocracy’s analy­sis is also a like­ly under­es­ti­mate of the resources that US con­ser­v­a­tives have chan­nelled into Europe in recent years.

    Data for 2018 is not yet avail­able; mean­while there are some impor­tant loop­holes. Reli­gious organ­i­sa­tions reg­is­tered as church­es, for exam­ple, don’t need to file the same dis­clo­sures.

    A num­ber of oth­er US Chris­t­ian con­ser­v­a­tive groups appear to be spend­ing mon­ey in Europe, but do not dis­close this on their US fil­ings – includ­ing the Howard Cen­ter for Fam­i­ly, Reli­gion and Soci­ety, which has coor­di­nat­ed the WCF net­work.

    ...

    Car­o­line Hick­son, region­al direc­tor of the Inter­na­tion­al Planned Par­ent­hood Federation’s Euro­pean Net­work, said: “The scale of this med­dling by US extrem­ists is shock­ing, but sad­ly no sur­prise to us. Every day Euro­pean soci­eties face con­cert­ed attacks by out­side forces seek­ing to impose repro­duc­tive coer­cion… This is utter­ly at odds with the Euro­pean val­ues of democ­ra­cy and human rights.”

    “This is dark mon­ey com­ing into Europe to threat­en human rights, and we’re not doing any­thing about it”, warned Neil Dat­ta, sec­re­tary of the Euro­pean Par­lia­men­tary Forum on Pop­u­la­tion and Devel­op­ment, describ­ing the amounts of mon­ey involved as “stag­ger­ing”.

    “It took the Chris­t­ian right 30 years to get to where they are now in the White House,” he said. “We knew a sim­i­lar effort was hap­pen­ing in Europe, but this should be a wake-up call that this is hap­pen­ing even faster and on a grander scale than many experts could have ever imag­ined.”

    ———-

    “Revealed: Trump-linked US Chris­t­ian ‘fun­da­men­tal­ists’ pour mil­lions of ‘dark mon­ey’ into Europe, boost­ing the far right” by Claire Provost and Adam Ram­say; Open Democ­ra­cy; 03/27/2019

    ““It took the Chris­t­ian right 30 years to get to where they are now in the White House,” he said. “We knew a sim­i­lar effort was hap­pen­ing in Europe, but this should be a wake-up call that this is hap­pen­ing even faster and on a grander scale than many experts could have ever imag­ined.””

    Yep, the rise of the Euro­pean reli­gious far right isn’t a new trend. But the pace and scale of that rise does appear to have been under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed, due in part to a lack of aware­ness of how much mon­ey was flow­ing from the US into these Euro­pean far right reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions. A lack of aware­ness that the dark mon­ey laws in the US strong­ly pro­mote. And accord­ing to open­Democ­ra­cy’s new analy­sis, the first of its kind, US Chris­t­ian orga­ni­za­tions have sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased their spend­ing in Europe over the past five years. This includes activ­i­ties like financ­ing lob­by­ist in Brus­sels for financ­ing ‘grass roots’ anti-abor­tion cam­paigns. And also just sup­port­ing the Euro­pean far right, which is viewed by these US orga­ni­za­tions as a tra­di­tion­al­ist ally:

    ...
    ‘The Europe we like’

    In the first analy­sis of its kind, open­Democ­ra­cy has exam­ined a decade of US Chris­t­ian organ­i­sa­tions’ finan­cial accounts and found that sev­er­al of them appear to have sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased their spend­ing in Europe over the past five years.

    Our find­ings come as far-right par­ties aim for big wins in the upcom­ing Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in May, and show how large amounts of for­eign mon­ey have sup­port­ed the spread of their ‘tra­di­tion­al val­ues’ mes­sages.

    open­Democ­ra­cy has reviewed hun­dreds of pages of finan­cial fil­ings for a dozen reli­gious con­ser­v­a­tive groups that are reg­is­tered in the US as tax-exempt non-prof­it organ­i­sa­tions, and thus are required to dis­close some infor­ma­tion about their for­eign spend­ing.

    Some of these groups have been pre­vi­ous­ly accused of sup­port­ing cam­paigns to crim­i­nalise homo­sex­u­al­i­ty in Africa, “dra­con­ian” anti-abor­tion laws in Latin Amer­i­ca and con­tro­ver­sial projects to encour­age gay peo­ple in the US to “leave homo­sex­u­al­i­ty”.

    But the extent of their Euro­pean activ­i­ty has – until now – received lit­tle scruti­ny. Our inves­ti­ga­tion reveals that some of these groups have:

    * Sent teams of lob­by­ists to Brus­sels to influ­ence EU offi­cials
    * Chal­lenged laws against dis­crim­i­na­tion and hate speech in Euro­pean courts
    * Sup­port­ed cam­paigns against LGBT rights in the Czech Repub­lic and Roma­nia
    * Fund­ed a net­work of ‘grass­roots’ anti-abor­tion cam­paigns in Italy and Spain
    * Deployed ‘ambu­lance-chas­ing’ evan­ge­lists after tragedies such as the Gren­fell Tow­er fire, and in the wake of ter­ror­ist attacks

    Five of the con­ser­v­a­tive groups have pre­vi­ous­ly been list­ed part­ners of the World Con­gress of Fam­i­lies (WCF) net­work, which is meet­ing in Verona this week.
    ...

    Five of the groups ana­lyzed by open­Democ­ra­cy have pre­vi­ous­ly been list­ed as part­ners of the US-based World Con­gress of Fam­i­lies (WCF) net­work, which appears to be one of the key orga­ni­za­tions for facil­i­tat­ing this trans-Atlantic far right reli­gious orga­niz­ing. WCF had a sum­mit in Verona, Italy back in March attend­ed by far right Ital­ian deputy prime min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvi­ni. Note that Verona recent­ly decid­ed to use pub­lic fund to finance anti-abor­tion groups and has become a focal point for Ital­ian far right pol­i­tics. Also recall how Mat­teo Salvi­ni has been work­ing close­ly with Steve Ban­non to cre­ate a pan-Euro­pean far right umbrel­la par­ty. So in many respects Verona was the per­fect loca­tion for a WCF con­fer­ence:

    ...
    The increas­ing ties between some of these US Chris­t­ian con­ser­v­a­tive groups and the Euro­pean far right will be on dis­play this week­end at a sum­mit of the World Con­gress of Fam­i­lies (WCF) in Verona, Italy.

    Right-wing politi­cians and their sup­port­ers from across the con­ti­nent are expect­ed to attend – includ­ing the Ital­ian deputy prime min­is­ter, Mat­teo Salvi­ni, who has described the WCF as a show­case for “the Europe that we like.

    ...

    Over the last decade, the WCF has host­ed at least sev­en major meet­ings in Europe, attend­ed by hun­dreds of reli­gious right activists and a grow­ing list of far-right politi­cians. Its 2017 meet­ing in Budapest was opened by Hun­gar­i­an prime min­is­ter Vic­tor Orbán.

    Among the con­ven­ers of this week’s event in Verona is an Ital­ian anti-abor­tion group linked to the neo-fas­cist Forza Nuo­va par­ty, whose leader is also expect­ed to attend the WCF.
    ...

    And note how the WCF is so extreme it calls for the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, earn­ing the group a ‘hate group’ label by the SPLC:

    ...
    It’s not just Euro­pean politi­cians who are con­cerned about them: these groups are con­tro­ver­sial in Amer­i­ca too. The WCF itself has been described as an “anti-LGBT hate group” by the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter (SPLC), which mon­i­tors extrem­ist move­ments and tracks this network’s increas­ing con­nec­tions with the far right.

    The SPLC explains that “view­ing homo­sex­u­al­i­ty as unbib­li­cal or sim­ply oppos­ing same-sex mar­riage” is not enough to be cat­e­gorised as a “hate group”. Groups on this list go fur­ther – claim­ing that homo­sex­u­al­i­ty is dan­ger­ous, linked to pae­dophil­ia and should be crim­i­nalised, dis­sem­i­nat­ing “dis­parag­ing ‘facts’ about LGBT peo­ple that are sim­ply untrue”.

    This is, says SPLC, “no dif­fer­ent to how white suprema­cists and nativist extrem­ists prop­a­gate lies about black peo­ple and immi­grants to make these com­mu­ni­ties seem like a dan­ger to soci­ety”.
    ...

    The WCF itself is a project of the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for the Fam­i­ly and the Illi­nois-based Howard Cen­ter for Fam­i­ly, Reli­gion and Soci­ety. In addi­tion to the Howard Cen­ter hav­ing a direc­tor with ties to the far right Span­ish Vox par­ty, the Howard Cen­ter also has a Russ­ian oli­garch, Kon­stan­tin Mal­ofeev. Note that Mal­ofeev is close to the White Russ­ian emi­gre com­mu­ni­ty and has close ties to the Romanov fam­i­ly and is an advo­cate a return­ing the monar­chy to Rus­sia so he’s a good fit for this kind of inter­na­tion­al fas­cist net­work:

    ...
    The WCF is a project of the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for the Fam­i­ly and the Illi­nois-based Howard Cen­ter for Fam­i­ly, Reli­gion and Soci­ety, whose direc­tors include an ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Span­ish activist linked to the leader of the far-right Vox par­ty.

    Oth­er direc­tors include a close asso­ciate of a Russ­ian oli­garch who spon­sored a 2014 ‘‘secret meet­ing’’ in Vien­na with key French and Aus­tri­an far-right lead­ers – and an Ital­ian politi­cian fac­ing cor­rup­tion charges in his coun­try.
    ...

    But the World Con­gress of Fam­i­lies is only one of the vehi­cles for this trans-Atlantic far right finan­cial flow. Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom was co-found­ed by Alan Sears, a man who sup­port­ed a 2016 law in Belize mak­ing gay sex pun­ish­able with jail time. Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom is heav­i­ly fund­ed by Trump’s Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVoss and her broth­er Erik Prince. Keep in mind Erik Prince’s exten­sive ties to the gov­ern­ments of UAE, Sau­di Ara­bia, and Chi­na. So it’s orga­ni­za­tions like Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom that are the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the wealth Prince has obtained from sell­ing mer­ce­nary ser­vices to these gov­ern­ments:

    ...
    Trump, the far right and the Chris­t­ian ‘legal army’

    Two of the Trump-linked Amer­i­can groups exam­ined by open­Democ­ra­cy are Chris­t­ian right legal pow­er­hous­es: Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom (ADF) and the Amer­i­can Cen­ter for Law and Jus­tice. Togeth­er, they have spent more than $20 mil­lion in Europe since 2008.

    They don’t dis­close their fun­ders, but US jour­nal­ists have pre­vi­ous­ly traced at least $1 mil­lion in grants to ADF from a foun­da­tion con­trolled by the bil­lion­aire fam­i­ly of Bet­sy DeVos, Trump’s edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary, and Erik Prince, founder of the Black­wa­ter mer­ce­nary firm.

    ADF was co-found­ed by Alan Sears, a US Chris­t­ian right leader who co-authored a book against “the homo­sex­u­al agen­da”. It is increas­ing­ly active inter­na­tion­al­ly, includ­ing in Latin Amer­i­ca. It sup­port­ed a 2016 law in Belize mak­ing gay sex pun­ish­able with 10 years in jail.

    This group tripled its annu­al spend­ing in Europe between 2012 and 2016, to more than $2.6 mil­lion a year. It now has offices in Bel­gium, France, Aus­tria, Switzer­land and the UK, and spends hun­dreds of thou­sands of euros lob­by­ing EU offi­cials, accord­ing to sep­a­rate trans­paren­cy data.

    Among its Euro­pean projects, the group has sup­port­ed the defence of a noto­ri­ous Ger­man activist who com­pared abor­tion to the Holo­caust and accused spe­cif­ic doc­tors of mur­der.

    This year, ADF Inter­na­tion­al also co-host­ed an event with the French group La Manif Pour Tous, which has been pre­vi­ous­ly been linked to the far-right par­ty Front Nation­al.

    Ahead of the last Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions in 2014, La Manif Pour Tous launched a ‘Europe for Fam­i­ly’ cam­paign which got 230 French can­di­dates to sign a pledge oppos­ing mar­riage equal­i­ty, trans rights and sex edu­ca­tion.
    ...

    Then there’s the Amer­i­can Cen­ter for Law and Jus­tice (ACLJ), which was start­ed by Pat Robert­son and has Jay Seku­low as its cur­rent chief coun­sel. Seku­low was one of the key lay­w­ers on Trump’s legal team:

    ...
    The sec­ond of the two Trump-linked groups, the Amer­i­can Cen­ter for Law and Jus­tice (ACLJ), also oper­ates through the courts. It was found­ed in 1990 by Amer­i­can tel­e­van­ge­list Pat Robert­son to oppose the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union.

    The group’s cur­rent chief coun­sel is Jay Seku­low, a con­ser­v­a­tive talk-show host who has been described as “the top lawyer” on Don­ald Trump’s legal team in the Mueller inquiry.
    ...

    One of the biggest spenders in Europe is The Bil­ly Gra­ham Evan­ge­lis­tic Asso­ci­a­tion. Note that Frankin Gra­ham is such a big Trump boost­er that he lit­er­al­ly would­n’t acknowl­edge that Trump has ever told a lie dur­ing an inter­view a few months ago, high­light­ing how deeply polit­i­cal his orga­ni­za­tion fun­da­men­tal­ly is:

    ...
    Trump, Franklin Gra­ham and US-sanc­tioned Krem­lin offi­cials

    The Bil­ly Gra­ham Evan­ge­lis­tic Asso­ci­a­tion is anoth­er major spender. It is led by the famous US evan­gel­i­cal preacher’s son, Franklin Gra­ham, who said Satan is the archi­tect of same-sex mar­riage and described Islam as an “evil and very wicked reli­gion”.

    ...

    Its fil­ings dis­close more than $23 mil­lion spent in Europe through two dif­fer­ent US enti­ties between 2008 and 2014 – mak­ing it the largest spender in this region, of the Amer­i­can groups analysed by open­Democ­ra­cy.
    ...

    And then there’s the array of small­er US-based far right reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions that are also oper­at­ing in Europe, like the Acton Insti­tute for the Study of Reli­gion and Lib­er­ty which has received dona­tions from the Koch broth­ers and is col­lab­o­rat­ing with Steve Ban­non’s ongo­ing plans to train far right indi­vid­u­als to infil­trate the Catholic Church:

    ...
    Train­ing Euro­peans, on the ‘front lines of the Cul­ture War’

    A num­ber of groups spend­ing small­er amounts of mon­ey appear to have increased their activ­i­ties in Europe in recent years.

    The Acton Insti­tute for the Study of Reli­gion and Lib­er­ty, which com­bines a con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian world­view with free-mar­ket eco­nom­ics, has received hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars from the Koch fam­i­ly foun­da­tions

    This group spent more than $1.7 mil­lion in Europe since 2008, with its spend­ing in the region ris­ing in recent years (from around $166,000 in 2008 to almost $240,000 in 2017).

    In Italy, it has col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Dig­ni­tatis Humanae Insti­tute – of which Steve Ban­non is a trustee – that has local­ly con­tro­ver­sial plans to use a monastery out­side Rome as a “glad­i­a­tor school for cul­ture war­riors”.
    ...

    Recall that the Acton Insti­tute, which is close­ly tied to Erik Prince and Bet­sy DeVoss, called for the return of child labor laws in 2017. Yep, anti-abor­tion and pro-child labor.

    There’s also the US branch of the Tra­di­tion, Fam­i­ly and Prop­er­ty (TFP) move­ment that’s been sup­port­ing Poland’s far right politi­cians:

    ...
    Also on the list is the US branch of the Tra­di­tion, Fam­i­ly and Prop­er­ty (TFP), an ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive transna­tion­al Catholic move­ment that says it’s “on the front lines of the Cul­ture War, peace­ful­ly defend­ing the val­ues of tra­di­tion, fam­i­ly and pri­vate own­er­ship”.

    This group said it spent about $100,000 in Europe since 2010. Its fil­ings don’t detail where this mon­ey went but the TFP has been linked to a con­tro­ver­sial ‘think tank’ in Poland that has helped devel­op pol­i­cy for far-right Law and Jus­tice (PiS) politi­cians.
    ...

    Recall how Tra­di­tion, Fam­i­ly and Prop­er­ty advo­cates for the return of nobil­i­ty as the offi­cial rul­ing class of soci­ety. So this group would prob­a­bly find a lot in com­mon with Kon­stan­tin Mal­ofeev.

    Final­ly, as the open­Democ­ra­cy report notes, their analy­sis is like­ly under­es­ti­mat­ing the lev­els of finan­cial flows and oth­er resources from the US into Europe over the past decade. Plus, unlike the non-prof­it groups ana­lyzed by open­Democ­ra­cy, reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions reg­is­tered as church­es don’t need to file any dis­clo­sures about their for­eign spend­ing:

    ...
    A ‘wake-up call’ to pre­vent ‘for­eign inter­fer­ence’

    Under US law, the groups analysed by open­Democ­ra­cy are required to pub­licly dis­close some infor­ma­tion about their for­eign spend­ing, but not the names of their over­seas recip­i­ents, details of what activ­i­ties they fund – or the iden­ti­ties of their own fun­ders.

    The $50 mil­lion fig­ure drawn from openDemocracy’s analy­sis is also a like­ly under­es­ti­mate of the resources that US con­ser­v­a­tives have chan­nelled into Europe in recent years.

    Data for 2018 is not yet avail­able; mean­while there are some impor­tant loop­holes. Reli­gious organ­i­sa­tions reg­is­tered as church­es, for exam­ple, don’t need to file the same dis­clo­sures.

    A num­ber of oth­er US Chris­t­ian con­ser­v­a­tive groups appear to be spend­ing mon­ey in Europe, but do not dis­close this on their US fil­ings – includ­ing the Howard Cen­ter for Fam­i­ly, Reli­gion and Soci­ety, which has coor­di­nat­ed the WCF net­work.
    ...

    And that’s just a peek into the exten­sive mon­ey and human resources being pour into Europe’s far right by the same net­work of far right Chris­t­ian orga­ni­za­tions that have risen to the heights of polit­i­cal pow­er in the Unit­ed States. So giv­en that the con­sol­i­da­tion of polit­i­cal pow­er by the forces behind this anti-abor­tion dri­ve is like­ly going to be a sig­nif­i­cant issue in the US 2020 elec­tions, the fact that these same forces are financ­ing Europe’s far right and advo­cate for things like child labor and a return of the monar­chy and nobil­i­ty gives us an idea of impli­ca­tions of allow­ing them to con­sol­i­date pow­er even fur­ther.

    And in oth­er ter­ri­fy­ing US fun­da­men­tal­ist for­eign influ­ence news...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 15, 2019, 3:08 pm
  7. Here’s a sto­ry that would be dis­turb­ing in any con­text but it par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­turb­ing in the con­text of Pres­i­dent Trump’s recent bare­ly-cloaked threats of a civ­il war waged on his behalf by con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian evan­gel­i­cals if he’s impeached and removed from office: Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr just gave a speech at Notre Dame where he not only mali­cious­ly and spe­cious­ly blames sec­u­lar­ism for a broad range of social prob­lems, but he also char­ac­ter­izes this as part of some sort of elab­o­rate sec­u­lar con­spir­a­cy against Chris­t­ian con­ser­v­a­tives. As Barr put it, “This is not decay. This is orga­nized destruc­tion. Sec­u­lar­ists and their allies have mar­shaled all the forces of mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pop­u­lar cul­ture, the enter­tain­ment indus­try, and acad­e­mia in an unremit­ting assault on reli­gion & tra­di­tion­al val­ues.” Orga­nized destruc­tion of soci­ety by sec­u­lar­ists who have mar­shaled all the forces of mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pop­u­lar cul­ture, the enter­tain­ment indus­try, and acad­e­mia (clas­sic anti-Semit­ic memes) in an unre­lent­ing assault on reli­gion. That’s what the Attor­ney Gen­er­al of the Unit­ed States just pro­claimed and this is, again, in the con­text of a pres­i­dent who is active­ly court­ing right-wing evan­gel­i­cals for a civ­il war if he’s impeached and removed from office.

    Also recall that this kind of speech is clas­sic Bill Barr. Barr, who appears to be a mem­ber of Opus Dei, penned an essay in 1995 where he argued that expressed an extreme view that the US gov­ern­ment should not be sec­u­lar, but instead should impose “a tran­scen­dent moral order with objec­tive stan­dards of right and wrong that… flows from God’s eter­nal law.”

    So Bill Bar­r’s recent speech where he told the audi­ence about a vast sec­u­lar con­spir­a­cy against faith in Amer­i­ca was real­ly just reminder that if Trump does end up try­ing to spark a civ­il war over his loom­ing impeach­ment, his Attor­ney Gen­er­al is going to be more than hap­py to frame it as a holy war. A holy war fought over Trump, which is dement­ed even by the stan­dards of holy wars but this is where we are:

    Moth­er Jones

    Attor­ney Gen­er­al Barr Rages Against Sec­u­lar­ist “Assault” on Reli­gion
    Barr blames society’s prob­lems, includ­ing “a dead­ly drug epi­dem­ic,” on a lack of faith.

    Pema Levy
    Reporter
    Octo­ber 12, 2019

    Experts blame grim eco­nom­ic con­di­tions and the preda­to­ry prac­tices of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies for the cur­rent opi­oid epi­dem­ic. Unrest and vio­lence on the part of young men is often attrib­uted to eco­nom­ic con­di­tions and acces­si­bil­i­ty of fringe ide­olo­gies online. But Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr appar­ent­ly has a dif­fer­ent the­o­ry for both of these prob­lems: not enough reli­gion.

    In a speech at Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame’s law school Fri­day, Barr blamed “sec­u­lar­ists” and “so-called pro­gres­sives” for wreak­ing hav­oc on Amer­i­can soci­ety. Barr’s depic­tion of a war between the non-reli­gious and peo­ple of faith shocked legal experts, who saw Barr’s defense of reli­gious free­dom as an assault on the First Amendment’s pro­tec­tion against the government’s estab­lish­ment of any reli­gion.

    “This is not decay,” Barr said. “This is orga­nized destruc­tion. Sec­u­lar­ists and their allies have mar­shaled all the forces of mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pop­u­lar cul­ture, the enter­tain­ment indus­try, and acad­e­mia in an unremit­ting assault on reli­gion & tra­di­tion­al val­ues.” (Barr spent years prof­it­ing off of these same indus­tries he is attack­ing. He served as gen­er­al coun­sel at Ver­i­zon for eight years, held a had a paid posi­tion on the board of Time Warn­er for nine, and rep­re­sent­ed tele­coms giant GTE in the 1990s.)

    The top pros­e­cu­tor of the Unit­ed States — a sec­u­lar nation with no state reli­gion, and whose leg­is­la­tors are for­bid­den to estab­lish one under the First Amend­ment of its Con­sti­tu­tion — slams “sec­u­lar­ists and their allies.” https://t.co/AIcZu17PDO

    — Adam Klas­feld (@KlasfeldReports) Octo­ber 12, 2019

    In his address Fri­day, Barr thun­dered against what he described as a “moral upheaval.” “Vir­tu­al­ly every mea­sure of social pathol­o­gy con­tin­ues to gain ground,” he said. “Along with the wreck­age of the fam­i­ly we are see­ing record lev­els of depres­sion and men­tal ill­ness, dispir­it­ed young peo­ple, soar­ing sui­cide rates, increas­ing num­bers of alien­at­ed young males, an increase in sense­less vio­lence and the dead­ly drug epi­dem­ic.”

    Barr point­ed par­tic­u­lar­ly to pub­lic schools, accord­ing to an account of the speech from the Indi­anapo­lis Star. “Ground zero for these attacks on reli­gion are the schools,” Barr said. “To me this is the most seri­ous chal­lenge to reli­gious lib­er­ty today.” There is decades of Supreme Court caselaw remov­ing reli­gion from pub­lic schools because the First Amend­ment bans the gov­ern­ment from estab­lish­ing or giv­ing pri­ma­cy to a reli­gion.

    This isn’t the first time Barr has decried sec­u­lar cul­ture. He has been an advo­cate for more reli­gion in Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment, schools, and law for decades and has a his­to­ry of involve­ment with con­ser­v­a­tive reli­gious groups includ­ing the Beck­et Fund for Reli­gious Lib­er­ty, which lit­i­gat­ed the Hob­by Lob­by case that allowed employ­ers not to cov­er con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age to employ­ees. In 1995, for exam­ple, Barr penned an essay blam­ing “a steady and mount­ing assault on tra­di­tion­al val­ues” since the 1960s for “soar­ing juve­nile crime, wide­spread drug addic­tion and sky­rock­et­ing vene­re­al dis­eases.”

    Barr’s com­ments come as he is under a cloud of scan­dal for his active involve­ment in try­ing to find evi­dence of the unproven the­o­ry that Ukraine col­lud­ed with Democ­rats dur­ing the 2016 election—an effort that took Barr to Italy this year and may have dragged him into the Ukraine scan­dal that set of an impeach­ment inquiry into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

    ...

    ———-

    “Attor­ney Gen­er­al Barr Rages Against Sec­u­lar­ist “Assault” on Reli­gion” by Pema Levy; Moth­er Jones; 10/12/2019

    “In a speech at Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame’s law school Fri­day, Barr blamed “sec­u­lar­ists” and “so-called pro­gres­sives” for wreak­ing hav­oc on Amer­i­can soci­ety. Barr’s depic­tion of a war between the non-reli­gious and peo­ple of faith shocked legal experts, who saw Barr’s defense of reli­gious free­dom as an assault on the First Amendment’s pro­tec­tion against the government’s estab­lish­ment of any reli­gion. ”

    A depic­tion of war between the non-reli­gious and peo­ple of faith. That was the thrust of Bar­r’s speech. A speech where he not only blamed a dizzy­ing array of social ills on sec­u­lar­ism, but pre­sent­ed that is part of a grand sec­u­lar con­spir­a­cy. It’s “orga­nized destruc­tion” waged by a sec­u­lar Amer­i­ca. And high­light­ing how Barr con­tin­ues to view the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state as part of this grand sec­u­lar con­spir­a­cy against reli­gions, he charged that Amer­i­c­as pub­lic schools are “ground zero” for this con­spir­a­cy against religion...presumably because force prayer is no longer allowed and schools have to teach kids about top­ics like evo­lu­tion. He real­ly does want to see the col­lapse of the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state. It’s not a secret:

    ...
    “This is not decay,” Barr said. “This is orga­nized destruc­tion. Sec­u­lar­ists and their allies have mar­shaled all the forces of mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pop­u­lar cul­ture, the enter­tain­ment indus­try, and acad­e­mia in an unremit­ting assault on reli­gion & tra­di­tion­al val­ues.” (Barr spent years prof­it­ing off of these same indus­tries he is attack­ing. He served as gen­er­al coun­sel at Ver­i­zon for eight years, held a had a paid posi­tion on the board of Time Warn­er for nine, and rep­re­sent­ed tele­coms giant GTE in the 1990s.)

    ...

    In his address Fri­day, Barr thun­dered against what he described as a “moral upheaval.” “Vir­tu­al­ly every mea­sure of social pathol­o­gy con­tin­ues to gain ground,” he said. “Along with the wreck­age of the fam­i­ly we are see­ing record lev­els of depres­sion and men­tal ill­ness, dispir­it­ed young peo­ple, soar­ing sui­cide rates, increas­ing num­bers of alien­at­ed young males, an increase in sense­less vio­lence and the dead­ly drug epi­dem­ic.”

    Barr point­ed par­tic­u­lar­ly to pub­lic schools, accord­ing to an account of the speech from the Indi­anapo­lis Star. “Ground zero for these attacks on reli­gion are the schools,” Barr said. “To me this is the most seri­ous chal­lenge to reli­gious lib­er­ty today.” There is decades of Supreme Court caselaw remov­ing reli­gion from pub­lic schools because the First Amend­ment bans the gov­ern­ment from estab­lish­ing or giv­ing pri­ma­cy to a reli­gion.
    ...

    Is Bar­r’s desire to see the col­lapse of the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state strong enough for him to sup­port burn­ing the state to the ground in a civ­il war? We’ll find out, but he does­n’t appear to have any qualms about using his office to pro­mote exact­ly the kinds of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about a vast sec­u­lar con­spir­a­cy against reli­gion that are required to stoke a civ­il con­flict.

    Also keep in mind if that the ‘UkraineGate’ scan­dal is what ends up lead­ing to Trump leav­ing office, that’s a scan­dal with Bill Bar­r’s fin­ger­prints all over it. So while it’s pos­si­ble Bar­r’s motives for lay­ing the rhetor­i­cal ground­work for some sort twist­ed civ­il holy war are pri­mar­i­ly root­ed in his long-held theo­crat­ic view, it’s also pos­si­ble he’s pri­mar­i­ly inter­est­ed at this point in sim­ply cov­er­ing his own ass by fram­ing any inves­ti­ga­tion into his actions as part of a ‘sec­u­lar con­spir­a­cy’ against the right­eous, much like his hea­then boss has been try­ing to do.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 16, 2019, 3:06 pm
  8. Pres­i­dent Trump became the first sit­ting pres­i­dent ever to attend the anti-abor­tion March for Life ral­ly a few days ago in what appeared to be a typ­i­cal ‘red meat’ ral­ly designed to keep his core sup­port­ers — con­ser­v­a­tive Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians — hap­py in the face of an ongo­ing impeach­ment tri­al in the Sen­ate. But It’s worth keep­ing in mind that there’s anoth­er core audi­ence Trump may have had in mind when he attend­ed that ral­ly: the pow­er­ful far right mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires who own much of the talk radio infra­struc­ture in the Unit­ed States and who finance theo­crat­ic orga­ni­za­tions like the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy (CNP). Bil­lion­aires extreme­ly close to Trump like Bet­sy DeVos, Erik Prince, and Robert Mer­cer. It’s that qui­et own­er­ship of the US’s talk radio net­works by the patrons of the theo­crat­ic far right that the fol­low­ing pair of arti­cles describes. They also described how Trump’s ongo­ing impeach­ment tri­al might be caus­ing these theocrats extra con­ster­na­tion because it threat­ens Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence too, a long-time favorite politi­cians of this net­work.

    The first arti­cle describes the cru­cial role region­al talk radio has played in putting out the Trump’s mes­sage to the Repub­li­can base and how the Trump team has gone out of its way to cul­ti­vate rela­tion­ships with region­al right-wing talk radio hosts to ensure they remain Trump super-fans. As the arti­cle notes, Trump him­self large­ly emu­lates the per­sona of a right-wing talk radio host and in many respects the rise of right-wing talk radio made a politi­cian like Trump some­what inevitable. It also men­tions now the same theocrats behind the CNP are also behind the rise of region­al right-wing talk radio net­works like the Salem net­work that start­ed off as a small Chris­t­ian fun­da­men­tal­ist oper­a­tion and expand­ed to more than 2,000 radio sta­tions across the coun­try (in addi­tion to Salem’s grow­ing port­fo­lio of con­ser­v­a­tive web­sites).

    As the sec­ond arti­cle notes, when Trump select­ed Mike Pence to be his vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, this move was done in part to please this cru­cial fac­tions of GOP pow­er bro­kers. And they still want to see Mike Pence become pres­i­dent some day, a dream that’s become all the more com­pli­cat­ed by an impeach­ment tri­al that threat­ens to engulf Pence too. It’s an impor­tant reminder that the real pow­er bro­kers behind the GOP may be extra hes­i­tant to see the right-wing media com­plex con­cede any wrong-doing at all on the part of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion as the impeach­ment tri­al plays out because those admis­sions could end up dam­ag­ing Pence too and they still have plans for Pence. As the sec­ond arti­cle also notes, fol­low­ing the elec­tion of Barack Oba­ma in 2008, the Repub­li­can mega-donor net­works behind the CNP sort of merged with the Koch Broth­er donor net­work, with the heads of Koch-backed orga­ni­za­tions — includ­ing Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty and the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots — join­ing the CNP at the same time CNP donors fund­ed Koch ini­tia­tives. In oth­er words, we’re talk­ing about a large­ly uni­fied right-wing oli­garchy that is behind this nation­al talk-radio media com­plex.

    The sec­ond arti­cle also describes how the CNP has had a long-term strat­e­gy of moti­vat­ing polit­i­cal­ly unen­gaged evan­gel­i­cals and they’ve found they can best moti­vate this group of about 17 mil­lion vot­ers by focus­ing on scare tac­tics involv­ing abor­tion and LGBT rights. Bom­bard­ing this demo­graph­ic with scary false mes­sages — like Democ­rats con­spire to “exe­cute babies on the day of their birth” and school­child­ren face a mor­tal dan­ger of sex­u­al assault by trans­gen­der peo­ple using pub­lic restrooms — appears to be par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive in get­ting this group to the polls. It’s a sto­ry that’s inevitably inter­twined with the rea­sons right-wing con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries have become such a pop­u­lar tool in recent years (like #Piz­za­Gate) because right-wing con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries tend to be focused on gen­er­at­ing fears about some sort of dia­bol­i­cal Satan­ic plot against Chris­tians and that’s pre­sum­ably pret­ty good at moti­vat­ing unmo­ti­vat­ed Chris­t­ian fun­da­men­tal­ists to vote.

    So this right-wing media com­plex that’s spent decades spew­ing out all sorts of lies and dis­in­for­ma­tion remains a cru­cial source of sup­port for a pres­i­dent who seems to have a patho­log­i­cal need to lie, and thus far this rela­tion­ship between the lying media and the lying pres­i­dent appears to be com­plete­ly intact. In part because Trump’s team has gone out of its way to court these region­al right-wing talk radio hosts and in part because the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has proven will­ing to do the bid­ding of the pow­er­ful oli­garch net­works that actu­al own the media com­plex. Ok, first, here’s a Wash­ing­ton Post sto­ry about how the Trump team has been cul­ti­vat­ing a loy­al army of region­al right-wing talk radio hosts, cre­at­ing a set of rela­tion­ships that is now extra use­ful in the con­text of a damn­ing impeach­ment tri­al. Because when the facts aren’t on your side, hav­ing an army of dis­sem­blers in charge regur­gi­tat­ing those facts to audi­ences comes in real­ly handy:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Trump­world has con­vert­ed the nation’s region­al talk radio hosts into a loy­al army

    By Sarah Elli­son
    Jan­u­ary 23, 2020 at 6:00 AM EST

    RICHMOND — With break­fast from McDon­ald’s in his left hand and his soft­sided brief­case rolling behind him, John Fred­er­icks strolled into his radio stu­dio, housed in a small, iso­lat­ed build­ing on the south side of this city.

    He has engaged in some ver­sion of this rit­u­al in the pitch dark for the past eight years as host of a morn­ing show on a local AM radio sta­tion — an unlike­ly career path for the life­long stut­ter­er.

    Fred­er­icks, who declared bank­rupt­cy in 2011 in the wake of the finan­cial cri­sis and lost his family’s home, vowed to make the radio job work. And he turned his host­ing gig at a sin­gle sta­tion into a region­al­ly syn­di­cat­ed radio net­work run out of Rich­mond.

    Part­ly fueled by his bank­rupt­cy and dis­taste for mon­eyed elites, Fred­er­icks is a true believ­er in the Trump agen­da and arrived at his stu­dio on a recent morn­ing to deliv­er the news, deliv­er him­self from career dis­as­ter and deliv­er the coun­try into the hands of four more years of Don­ald Trump.

    Far from the White House and Capi­tol Hill, Fred­er­icks is one of hun­dreds of region­al radio hosts across the coun­try who have found them­selves in the improb­a­ble posi­tion of being show­ered with atten­tion by Trump offi­cials and sur­ro­gates. While grant­i­ng access to local media has long been an impor­tant ele­ment of run­ning a nation­al polit­i­cal cam­paign, Trump offi­cials have made it a cen­tral part of their strat­e­gy.

    Fred­er­icks says he has inter­viewed Trump 12 to 15 times and has host­ed the president’s son Eric and Eric’s wife, Lara, on his radio show.. “Through the cam­paign, every time he would do my show, he’d win a pri­ma­ry,” said Fred­er­icks, sit­ting in his office. “So then he got super­sti­tious and he’s like, ‘I got­ta do John’s show. ... Every time we do your show, some­thing great hap­pens. I got to keep doing it.’?”

    Fred­er­icks has inter­viewed Vice Pres­i­dent Pence; for­mer Trump advis­ers Corey Lewandows­ki, Sean Spicer, David Bossie and Jason Miller; and White House offi­cials Kellyanne Con­way, Stephanie Grisham and Hogan Gid­ley, some of them mul­ti­ple times. (It was on Fredericks’s show that Grisham, Trump’s press sec­re­tary, made her dis­put­ed claim that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s staff left nasty notes for the incom­ing Trump team.)

    Pour­ing atten­tion on region­al talk-radio hosts is a clas­sic Trump­world move: giv­ing rel­a­tive­ly unknown char­ac­ters prox­im­i­ty to the White House has paid off with a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of atten­tion and praise lav­ished on the pres­i­dent and his agen­da.

    On a recent Jan­u­ary morn­ing, Fred­er­icks, 61, walked out of the dark morn­ing into the flu­o­res­cent lights of the stu­dio lob­by, past a lone­ly ban­ner fea­tur­ing his air­brushed image and slo­gan, “Truck­ing the Truth.”

    Fred­er­icks loves his job. His only com­plaint is that his ear­ly wake-up, at 3:30 a.m. to pre­pare, grants him so lit­tle sleep that he has put on 30 pounds in recent years. But his girth has also grant­ed him a self-assigned nick­name, “the Godzil­la of Truth,” which he points out dai­ly to lis­ten­ers of his morn­ing dri­ve-time radio show.

    “For a show that goes on at 6 a.m., you can’t pos­si­bly pre­pare the night before,” he said. “It’s a dis­rup­tive pres­i­den­cy, and there’s so much hap­pen­ing. There are so many inter­nal bat­tles and every­one fight­ing with every­one else. It was dif­fer­ent in the Oba­ma pres­i­den­cy.”

    Not that Fred­er­icks miss­es those days. On his web­site, he dis­plays a tes­ti­mo­ni­al from Trump and has giv­en air­time over to Stephen K. Ban­non, the for­mer Trump White House advis­er.

    “They are so dis­re­spect­ed by the polit­i­cal appa­ra­tus in Wash­ing­ton that if you show them any out­reach at all, they will move heav­en and earth to give you accom­mo­da­tion, to give you time to real­ly let you tell your sto­ry,” Ban­non said in an inter­view in his Capi­tol Hill town­house short­ly after he fin­ished tap­ing his War Room pod­cast, which got its start on Fredericks’s radio net­work. “Not only will they have you on, they’ll play the clip all day long and they’ll talk about it for days. .?.?. The amaz­ing thing is this platform’s out there. It gets mas­sive lis­ten­er­ship .?.?. and nobody pays atten­tion to it.”

    The strat­e­gy has been par­tic­u­lar­ly pow­er­ful as Trump and his team have engaged in what Ban­non calls “infor­ma­tion war­fare” over the impeach­ment fight and the 2020 elec­tion, focus­ing on indi­vid­ual Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­gres­sion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives across the coun­try whose seats are in dis­tricts that Trump won in 2016. Region­al hosts can ham­mer on an indi­vid­ual issue or politi­cian far more reg­u­lar­ly than nation­al radio behe­moths, such as Rush Lim­baugh and Sean Han­ni­ty.

    Fred­er­icks takes his place in Trump’s strat­e­gy seri­ous­ly, too. Even though the medi­um would allow for some­thing more casu­al, Fred­er­icks wears a suit every day to work. “It’s a mind-set,” he explains. He leans his head for­ward over his lap­top, his hair thinned on the top of his head to the point of dis­ap­pear­ance. He stares over his glass­es into his lap­top, grasps the edge of the table and starts the day.

    Lis­ten­ing to talk-radio hosts across the coun­try high­lights just how much some of them sound like Trump — or how much Trump sounds like them. Fred­er­icks reg­u­lar­ly grants politi­cians and oth­ers Trumpian nick­names. He calls Rich­mond “Richve­gas” to show his sup­port for a bill that would bring more casi­nos to Vir­ginia, and dubbed for­mer Vir­ginia gov­er­nor Ter­ry McAu­li­ffe, for whom Fred­er­icks says he vot­ed in 2013, “Ter­ry McGe­nius.” Fred­er­icks is a long­time Repub­li­can but said he sup­port­ed McAu­li­ffe because he brought jobs to Vir­ginia and expand­ed Med­ic­aid in the state.

    Unlike Trump, Fredericks’s nick­names are typ­i­cal­ly pos­i­tive. “These are peo­ple I have a rela­tion­ship with,” he said.

    On Wednes­day morn­ing, Fred­er­icks host­ed for­mer Trump cam­paign man­ag­er Corey Lewandows­ki. After bemoan­ing Lewandowski’s deci­sion not to run for a Sen­ate seat in New Hamp­shire, Fred­er­icks quick­ly turned to impeach­ment. Lewandows­ki dis­missed the “sham” impeach­ment tri­al that had just kicked off in the Sen­ate, and Fred­er­icks chimed in that the Democ­rats “went around for three weeks say­ing they had over­whelm­ing evi­dence, and then they get to the Sen­ate [and] they say, ‘we need more wit­ness­es.’ How does that work?” The two men talked about how much all of this was going to help reelect Don­ald Trump.

    “I think he’s going to win New Hamp­shire, Min­neso­ta, Neva­da, I think he’ll win them all,” Fred­er­icks con­clud­ed.

    Bri­an Rosen­wald, an instruc­tor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and the author of the book “Talk Radio Amer­i­ca: How an Indus­try Took Over a Polit­i­cal Par­ty That Took Over the Unit­ed States” argues that talk-radio hosts paved the way for a Trump can­di­da­cy.

    “This is the talk-radio pres­i­den­cy,” he said. It began as far back as 1988, when Rush Limbaugh’s show first became nation­al­ly syn­di­cat­ed. “What Lim­baugh start­ed was a call for a fight­er, which was great for radio. And oth­ers mim­ic­ked that lan­guage and mes­sage,” Rosen­wald said.

    As much as Lim­baugh cre­at­ed the mod­el that hosts around the coun­try emu­late, local hosts can be more pow­er­ful in some cas­es, Rosen­wald said. A local host can repeat­ed­ly bol­ster or attack a local politi­cian, where­as a nation­al host sim­ply doesn’t have the time.

    The pow­er of those local radio hosts has been har­nessed by big con­ser­v­a­tive donors who have helped fuel the rise of local radio net­works such as Salem Radio Net­work, the BOTT Radio Net­work, and Amer­i­can Fam­i­ly Radio. Bannon’s impeach­ment pod­cast start­ed when he asked Fred­er­icks to grant him the last hour of Fredericks’s 6‑to-10‑a.m. show.

    Once Ban­non had a cou­ple of dry runs with his co-hosts Miller, a for­mer Trump cam­paign advis­er, and Raheem Kas­sam, the for­mer Lon­don edi­tor of Bre­it­bart and a for­mer chief advis­er to Nigel Farage’s UK Inde­pen­dence Par­ty, Ban­non took over Fredericks’s fourth hour and also expand­ed the show on Salem.

    Fred­er­icks is not part of a cor­po­rate radio net­work, but the rise of such groups has boost­ed many minor radio hosts. Salem start­ed out as a small fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­t­ian oper­a­tion run out of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and has expand­ed aggres­sive­ly in recent years, par­tic­u­lar­ly in swing states. It sup­ports nation­al­ly syn­di­cat­ed hosts such as Den­nis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, and Joe Walsh in addi­tion to a host of region­al per­son­al­i­ties large­ly unknown out­side their areas. Accord­ing to Salem, it now serves more than 2,000 radio sta­tions across the coun­try.

    Con­ser­v­a­tive groups such as the secre­tive Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy, backed by bil­lion­aire con­ser­v­a­tive fam­i­lies such as the Kochs, the Mer­cers, and the fam­i­ly of Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince, whose sis­ter is Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos, have fueled that expan­sion, accord­ing to a new book by Anne Nel­son, “Shad­ow Net­work: Media, Mon­ey, and the Secret Hub of the Rad­i­cal Right.”

    “These con­ser­v­a­tive net­works have expand­ed even as local news­pa­pers around the coun­try have dwin­dled,” Nel­son said in an inter­view. They have “gob­bled up inde­pen­dent and local sta­tions, boost­ed their sig­nals, and made them into an unseen pow­er­house in the mid­dle of the coun­try.”

    ...

    ————

    “Trump­world has con­vert­ed the nation’s region­al talk radio hosts into a loy­al army” by Sarah Elli­son; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 01/23/2020

    Far from the White House and Capi­tol Hill, Fred­er­icks is one of hun­dreds of region­al radio hosts across the coun­try who have found them­selves in the improb­a­ble posi­tion of being show­ered with atten­tion by Trump offi­cials and sur­ro­gates. While grant­i­ng access to local media has long been an impor­tant ele­ment of run­ning a nation­al polit­i­cal cam­paign, Trump offi­cials have made it a cen­tral part of their strat­e­gy.”

    The Talk Radio Pres­i­dent is run­ning a Talk Radio reelec­tion strat­e­gy. A strat­e­gy that include fre­quent inter­views with radio hosts most peo­ple have nev­er hear of, with the hope of receiv­ing dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly favor­able cov­er­age from these hosts in return:

    ...
    Fred­er­icks says he has inter­viewed Trump 12 to 15 times and has host­ed the president’s son Eric and Eric’s wife, Lara, on his radio show.. “Through the cam­paign, every time he would do my show, he’d win a pri­ma­ry,” said Fred­er­icks, sit­ting in his office. “So then he got super­sti­tious and he’s like, ‘I got­ta do John’s show. ... Every time we do your show, some­thing great hap­pens. I got to keep doing it.’?”

    Fred­er­icks has inter­viewed Vice Pres­i­dent Pence; for­mer Trump advis­ers Corey Lewandows­ki, Sean Spicer, David Bossie and Jason Miller; and White House offi­cials Kellyanne Con­way, Stephanie Grisham and Hogan Gid­ley, some of them mul­ti­ple times. (It was on Fredericks’s show that Grisham, Trump’s press sec­re­tary, made her dis­put­ed claim that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s staff left nasty notes for the incom­ing Trump team.)

    Pour­ing atten­tion on region­al talk-radio hosts is a clas­sic Trump­world move: giv­ing rel­a­tive­ly unknown char­ac­ters prox­im­i­ty to the White House has paid off with a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of atten­tion and praise lav­ished on the pres­i­dent and his agen­da.

    ...

    Bri­an Rosen­wald, an instruc­tor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and the author of the book “Talk Radio Amer­i­ca: How an Indus­try Took Over a Polit­i­cal Par­ty That Took Over the Unit­ed States” argues that talk-radio hosts paved the way for a Trump can­di­da­cy.

    “This is the talk-radio pres­i­den­cy,” he said. It began as far back as 1988, when Rush Limbaugh’s show first became nation­al­ly syn­di­cat­ed. “What Lim­baugh start­ed was a call for a fight­er, which was great for radio. And oth­ers mim­ic­ked that lan­guage and mes­sage,” Rosen­wald said.

    As much as Lim­baugh cre­at­ed the mod­el that hosts around the coun­try emu­late, local hosts can be more pow­er­ful in some cas­es, Rosen­wald said. A local host can repeat­ed­ly bol­ster or attack a local politi­cian, where­as a nation­al host sim­ply doesn’t have the time.
    ...

    But anoth­er rea­son talk radio has been an impor­tant ele­ment for Trump’s reelec­tion strat­e­gy is because right-wing talk radio con­tin­ues to expand thanks to the bil­lion­aires behind the CNP, like Bet­sy DeVos and the Mer­cers, who have been pay­ing for this expan­sion. That’s accord­ing to a new book by Anne Nel­son, “Shad­ow Net­work: Media, Mon­ey, and the Secret Hub of the Rad­i­cal Right”:

    ...
    The pow­er of those local radio hosts has been har­nessed by big con­ser­v­a­tive donors who have helped fuel the rise of local radio net­works such as Salem Radio Net­work, the BOTT Radio Net­work, and Amer­i­can Fam­i­ly Radio. Bannon’s impeach­ment pod­cast start­ed when he asked Fred­er­icks to grant him the last hour of Fredericks’s 6‑to-10‑a.m. show.

    ...

    Fred­er­icks is not part of a cor­po­rate radio net­work, but the rise of such groups has boost­ed many minor radio hosts. Salem start­ed out as a small fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­t­ian oper­a­tion run out of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and has expand­ed aggres­sive­ly in recent years, par­tic­u­lar­ly in swing states. It sup­ports nation­al­ly syn­di­cat­ed hosts such as Den­nis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, and Joe Walsh in addi­tion to a host of region­al per­son­al­i­ties large­ly unknown out­side their areas. Accord­ing to Salem, it now serves more than 2,000 radio sta­tions across the coun­try.

    Con­ser­v­a­tive groups such as the secre­tive Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy, backed by bil­lion­aire con­ser­v­a­tive fam­i­lies such as the Kochs, the Mer­cers, and the fam­i­ly of Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince, whose sis­ter is Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos, have fueled that expan­sion, accord­ing to a new book by Anne Nel­son, “Shad­ow Net­work: Media, Mon­ey, and the Secret Hub of the Rad­i­cal Right.”

    “These con­ser­v­a­tive net­works have expand­ed even as local news­pa­pers around the coun­try have dwin­dled,” Nel­son said in an inter­view. They have “gob­bled up inde­pen­dent and local sta­tions, boost­ed their sig­nals, and made them into an unseen pow­er­house in the mid­dle of the coun­try.”
    ...

    ““These con­ser­v­a­tive net­works have expand­ed even as local news­pa­pers around the coun­try have dwindled...They have “gob­bled up inde­pen­dent and local sta­tions, boost­ed their sig­nals, and made them into an unseen pow­er­house in the mid­dle of the coun­try.””

    Yep, even as local news­pa­pers have been dying off, region­al right-wing talk radio has been expand­ing thanks to the invest­ments of these theo­crat­ic oli­garchs who also hap­pen to be key back­ers of Trump. Now here’s an arti­cle from Octo­ber by Anne Nel­son that describes more of what she cov­ers in her new book “Shad­ow Net­work: Media, Mon­ey, and the Secret Hub of the Rad­i­cal Right.” As Nel­son describes, this group of theo­crat­ic bil­lion­aires behind the CNP did­n’t just play a crit­i­cal role in the rise of Don­ald Trump when they effec­tive­ly gave him their bless­ing in 2016. They’ve been back­ing the rise of Mike Pence for years, and Trump’s selec­tion of Pence as a vice pres­i­dent could be seen as pay­back for their sup­port. And fol­low­ing the elec­tion of Barack Oba­ma in 2008, the CNP and the Koch donor net­works large­ly merged. So when Trump plays trib­ute to the CNP, he’s pay­ing trib­ute to a core ele­ment of the the GOP pow­er base. In oth­er words, when Trump pays trib­ute to the theo­crat­ic hard right, he’s pay­ing trib­ute to the true kings of the swamp:

    Salon

    This pow­er­ful group groomed Mike Pence for the White House. Impeach­ment could com­pli­cate their plans
    The Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy, a major boost­er of Pence’s career, brought cru­cial evan­gel­i­cal votes to Trump

    ANNE NELSON
    OCTOBER 25, 2019 11:00AM (UTC)

    With the prospect of an impeach­ment loom­ing over Wash­ing­ton this month, the con­ver­sa­tion has nat­u­ral­ly turned to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence — both as a pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor to the pres­i­den­cy and as a pos­si­ble can­di­date for impeach­ment him­self. Stand­ing in the eye of the storm, on Octo­ber 5 Pence chose to tweet a pho­to of him­self at the podi­um of an orga­ni­za­tion that is unknown to most Amer­i­cans.

    ...

    “The Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy is one of the old­est and most effec­tive orga­ni­za­tions in the his­to­ry of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment,” he wrote. He thanked for­mer Ohio con­gress­man (and CNP exec­u­tive direc­tor) Bob McEwen “and the more than 400 fel­low con­ser­v­a­tives for com­ing out & fight­ing for the prin­ci­ples that have made this coun­try great!”

    Pence’s ano­dyne state­ment can be viewed as both life insur­ance for his career and the ongo­ing repay­ment of an old debt. The rea­sons have less to do with Trump than with the inner work­ings of the Repub­li­can Par­ty.

    Over the past few decades the tra­di­tion­al GOP has been over­tak­en by par­ti­sans of the Rad­i­cal Right, now entrenched in the par­ty’s infra­struc­ture. This shad­ow net­work of hard­line orga­ni­za­tions, activists and donors stands ready to out­last the Trump pres­i­den­cy. The sto­ry of the CNP, a hub in this net­work, is a case study in how the dura­bil­i­ty and strate­gic capac­i­ty of right-wing insti­tu­tions have shaped the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal land­scape.

    The Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy had its ori­gins in the South­west, where the social agen­da of Chris­t­ian fun­da­men­tal­ists and the eco­nom­ic inter­ests of the oil indus­try con­verged. They found­ed the CNP in 1981 to cap­i­tal­ize on the elec­tion of Ronald Rea­gan; Reagan’s for­mer attor­ney gen­er­al, Edwin Meese III, would serve as the CNP’s pres­i­dent from 1993–1997.

    The orga­ni­za­tion meets sev­er­al times a year, main­tain­ing secre­cy for its mem­ber­ship and its pro­ceed­ings. But a 2014 mem­ber­ship ros­ter was leaked and pub­lished by the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter, illus­trat­ing the span of the polit­i­cal net­work: major donors such as the DeVos fam­i­ly; evan­gel­i­cal pow­er­hous­es such as South­ern Bap­tist leader Richard Land; and heads of influ­en­tial media inter­ests, includ­ing the Salem Media con­glom­er­ate. Kellyanne Con­way has belonged to the CNP’s exec­u­tive com­mit­tee, and Jay Seku­low, lead attor­ney on Trump’s per­son­al legal team, has served on the board of gov­er­nors. The orga­ni­za­tion also, crit­i­cal­ly, includes the heads of mem­ber­ship orga­ni­za­tions such as the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion and the Susan B. Antho­ny List (a group that funds anti-choice can­di­dates), whose ground troops can be deployed in coor­di­nat­ed polit­i­cal can­vass­ing. In the words of for­mer CNP pres­i­dent Richard DeVos (father-in-law to Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy), the CNP con­venes the “donors and the doers.”

    The CNP has played the long game in Wash­ing­ton, using its abil­i­ty to acti­vate evan­gel­i­cal vot­ing blocs as its polit­i­cal cap­i­tal, build­ing up influ­ence in the state­hous­es and push­ing the GOP ever far­ther to the right. Over time, the CNP part­ner­ships evolved into a well-oiled machine, in which big mon­ey, region­al broad­cast­ers and ground troops advanced its inter­ests in ways that were often neglect­ed by the nation­al news media. Mike Pence appeared at var­i­ous stages of his career. One co-founder, Mor­ton Black­well, claims to have trained some 200,000 con­ser­v­a­tive can­di­dates and polit­i­cal activists through his Lead­er­ship Insti­tute — among them Mike Pence. Anoth­er co-founder, ide­o­log­i­cal archi­tect Paul Weyrich, insti­tut­ed a cel­e­brat­ed week­ly lunch not far from the Capi­tol to talk strat­e­gy. Con­gress­man Mike Pence briefed the group on a week­ly basis. In 2006 the New York Times quot­ed Weyrich’s ver­dict on Pence: “He is what I’ve been wait­ing for in terms of lead­er­ship.”

    After Barack Obama’s elec­tion in 2008, the donor net­works of the CNP, fueled by the DeVos family’s Amway for­tune, con­verged with those of the Koch broth­ers. Their dig­i­tal cam­paigns and grass­roots activism con­verged as well. The heads of Koch-backed orga­ni­za­tions — includ­ing Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty and the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots — joined the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy, and CNP donors fund­ed Koch ini­tia­tives. In 2012 Democ­rats cel­e­brat­ed Obama’s reelec­tion, but Repub­li­can efforts to cul­ti­vate state-lev­el pol­i­tics were pay­ing off. Despite the Democ­rats gain­ing a nation­al plu­ral­i­ty of over 1.4 mil­lion votes in the House elec­tions, Repub­li­cans won back the House with a mar­gin of 17 seats, giv­ing them pow­er over the bud­getary process.

    The CNP part­ners’ long-term strat­e­gy iden­ti­fied some 17 mil­lion polit­i­cal­ly unen­gaged evan­gel­i­cals, many con­cen­trat­ed in swing states, and sought ways to dri­ve them to the polls. Focus groups found that this demo­graph­ic could be moti­vat­ed by scare tac­tics involv­ing abor­tion and LGBT rights. These vot­ers have been bom­bard­ed with false­hoods: Democ­rats con­spire to “exe­cute babies on the day of their birth”; school­child­ren face a mor­tal dan­ger of sex­u­al assault by trans­gen­der peo­ple using pub­lic restrooms. Swing state vot­ers encoun­tered these cam­paigns on radio broad­casts from CNP part­ner net­works, in church sanc­tu­ar­ies from part­ner “min­istries” and on social media, fueled by part­ner memes. They were com­ple­ment­ed by grass­roots can­vass­ing run by CNP mem­bers, includ­ing the NRA, the Susan B. Antho­ny List and Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty.

    In 2016, CNP mem­bers played a crit­i­cal role in bridg­ing the chasm between the evan­gel­i­cal base and Trump, over­com­ing objec­tions to Trump’s char­ac­ter flaws and spir­i­tu­al deficits.
    CNP mem­bers Mar­jorie Dan­nen­felser and Pen­ny Nance had signed an “any­one but Trump” let­ter to Iowa vot­ers; South­ern Bap­tist Richard Land and his fel­low edi­tors at the Chris­t­ian Post described him as “excep­tion­al­ly bad.” But CNP pres­i­dent Tony Perkins and strate­gist Ralph Reed kept their options open. Trump rode the wave of the pri­maries on the strength of his celebri­ty, but he lacked cam­paign funds, strat­e­gy and ground troops. The CNP part­ners could offer him all three — under cer­tain con­di­tions.

    On June 21, 2016, Perkins host­ed some 1,000 fun­da­men­tal­ist lead­ers at the Mar­riott Mar­quis in Times Square to allow Trump to make his case, shar­ing the stage with a panoply of CNP all-stars. Trump emerged with their full sup­port. In return, CNP mem­bers received an Evan­gel­i­cal Advi­so­ry Board stacked with CNP mem­bers, a lead­ing role in writ­ing the social planks of the Repub­li­can plat­form, and, cru­cial­ly, a deci­sive say in fed­er­al judi­cial nom­i­na­tions — their most pow­er­ful lever for reshap­ing the nation­al land­scape. By mid-July Trump also replaced his pre­vi­ous choic­es for run­ning mate with Mike Pence.

    Pence’s career now hangs in the bal­ance, and much will depend on how close­ly he’s tied to Trump’s actions — even if Trump is only impeached and not con­vict­ed. But the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy has looked ahead. Oper­at­ing on the prin­ci­ple of “an heir and a spare,” it con­spic­u­ous­ly audi­tioned Nicky Haley at its 2018 meet­ing.

    ...

    ————

    “This pow­er­ful group groomed Mike Pence for the White House. Impeach­ment could com­pli­cate their plans” by ANNE NELSON; Salon; 10/25/2019

    Over the past few decades the tra­di­tion­al GOP has been over­tak­en by par­ti­sans of the Rad­i­cal Right, now entrenched in the par­ty’s infra­struc­ture. This shad­ow net­work of hard­line orga­ni­za­tions, activists and donors stands ready to out­last the Trump pres­i­den­cy. The sto­ry of the CNP, a hub in this net­work, is a case study in how the dura­bil­i­ty and strate­gic capac­i­ty of right-wing insti­tu­tions have shaped the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal land­scape.”

    Yes, is the Rad­i­cal Right infra­struc­ture that took over the GOP in recent decades that has become the core sup­port base for Trump. Not just sup­port for Trump in terms of vot­ers but also sup­port from the key pow­er-bro­kers that financed this takeover. A fusion of theocrats and the oil indus­try that goes back to 1981 with Rea­gan’s elec­tion. A merg­er that was com­plet­ed fol­low­ing Barack Oba­ma’s vic­to­ry in 2008 with the merg­er of the CNP and the Koch net­work:

    ...
    The Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy had its ori­gins in the South­west, where the social agen­da of Chris­t­ian fun­da­men­tal­ists and the eco­nom­ic inter­ests of the oil indus­try con­verged. They found­ed the CNP in 1981 to cap­i­tal­ize on the elec­tion of Ronald Rea­gan; Reagan’s for­mer attor­ney gen­er­al, Edwin Meese III, would serve as the CNP’s pres­i­dent from 1993–1997.

    ...

    After Barack Obama’s elec­tion in 2008, the donor net­works of the CNP, fueled by the DeVos family’s Amway for­tune, con­verged with those of the Koch broth­ers. Their dig­i­tal cam­paigns and grass­roots activism con­verged as well. The heads of Koch-backed orga­ni­za­tions — includ­ing Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty and the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots — joined the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy, and CNP donors fund­ed Koch ini­tia­tives. In 2012 Democ­rats cel­e­brat­ed Obama’s reelec­tion, but Repub­li­can efforts to cul­ti­vate state-lev­el pol­i­tics were pay­ing off. Despite the Democ­rats gain­ing a nation­al plu­ral­i­ty of over 1.4 mil­lion votes in the House elec­tions, Repub­li­cans won back the House with a mar­gin of 17 seats, giv­ing them pow­er over the bud­getary process.
    ...

    Oth­er CNP fig­ures close to Trump include Kellyanne Conawy and Jay Seku­low, who is cur­rent­ly part of Trump’s impeach­ment defense team. Mike Pence used to brief the CNP on a week­ly basis when in con­gress:

    ...
    The orga­ni­za­tion meets sev­er­al times a year, main­tain­ing secre­cy for its mem­ber­ship and its pro­ceed­ings. But a 2014 mem­ber­ship ros­ter was leaked and pub­lished by the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter, illus­trat­ing the span of the polit­i­cal net­work: major donors such as the DeVos fam­i­ly; evan­gel­i­cal pow­er­hous­es such as South­ern Bap­tist leader Richard Land; and heads of influ­en­tial media inter­ests, includ­ing the Salem Media con­glom­er­ate. Kellyanne Con­way has belonged to the CNP’s exec­u­tive com­mit­tee, and Jay Seku­low, lead attor­ney on Trump’s per­son­al legal team, has served on the board of gov­er­nors. The orga­ni­za­tion also, crit­i­cal­ly, includes the heads of mem­ber­ship orga­ni­za­tions such as the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion and the Susan B. Antho­ny List (a group that funds anti-choice can­di­dates), whose ground troops can be deployed in coor­di­nat­ed polit­i­cal can­vass­ing. In the words of for­mer CNP pres­i­dent Richard DeVos (father-in-law to Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy), the CNP con­venes the “donors and the doers.”

    The CNP has played the long game in Wash­ing­ton, using its abil­i­ty to acti­vate evan­gel­i­cal vot­ing blocs as its polit­i­cal cap­i­tal, build­ing up influ­ence in the state­hous­es and push­ing the GOP ever far­ther to the right. Over time, the CNP part­ner­ships evolved into a well-oiled machine, in which big mon­ey, region­al broad­cast­ers and ground troops advanced its inter­ests in ways that were often neglect­ed by the nation­al news media. Mike Pence appeared at var­i­ous stages of his career. One co-founder, Mor­ton Black­well, claims to have trained some 200,000 con­ser­v­a­tive can­di­dates and polit­i­cal activists through his Lead­er­ship Insti­tute — among them Mike Pence. Anoth­er co-founder, ide­o­log­i­cal archi­tect Paul Weyrich, insti­tut­ed a cel­e­brat­ed week­ly lunch not far from the Capi­tol to talk strat­e­gy. Con­gress­man Mike Pence briefed the group on a week­ly basis. In 2006 the New York Times quot­ed Weyrich’s ver­dict on Pence: “He is what I’ve been wait­ing for in terms of lead­er­ship.”
    ...

    And in return for their sup­port, the CNP has had immense influ­ence over the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s plat­form and the Trump judi­cial nom­i­na­tions. Recall how, as we’ve see, the far right Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety pret­ty much has unchecked pow­er over Trump’s judi­cial nom­i­na­tion and the fig­ure run­ning that oper­a­tion, Leonard Leo, was also run­ning enti­ties that appear to be set up to facil­i­tate large ‘Dark Mon­ey’ anony­mous polit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions to Trump. It’s an exam­ple of how the infra­struc­ture of these move­ments in the post-Cit­i­zens Unit­ed envi­ron­ment often con­sists of cor­po­rate shell com­pa­nies set up for polit­i­cal mon­ey-laun­der­ing to ensure the ‘pay-to-play’ sys­tem of buy­ing politi­cians and pol­i­cy can oper­ate smooth­ly:

    ...
    On June 21, 2016, Perkins host­ed some 1,000 fun­da­men­tal­ist lead­ers at the Mar­riott Mar­quis in Times Square to allow Trump to make his case, shar­ing the stage with a panoply of CNP all-stars. Trump emerged with their full sup­port. In return, CNP mem­bers received an Evan­gel­i­cal Advi­so­ry Board stacked with CNP mem­bers, a lead­ing role in writ­ing the social planks of the Repub­li­can plat­form, and, cru­cial­ly, a deci­sive say in fed­er­al judi­cial nom­i­na­tions — their most pow­er­ful lever for reshap­ing the nation­al land­scape. By mid-July Trump also replaced his pre­vi­ous choic­es for run­ning mate with Mike Pence.
    ...

    And, final­ly, the arti­cle men­tions how the CNP’s long-term strat­e­gy focus­es on iden­ti­fy unmo­ti­vat­ed evan­gel­i­cals and scar­ing them into vot­ing with decep­tive fear-mon­ger­ing cam­paigns that focus abor­tion and LGBT rights:

    ...
    The CNP part­ners’ long-term strat­e­gy iden­ti­fied some 17 mil­lion polit­i­cal­ly unen­gaged evan­gel­i­cals, many con­cen­trat­ed in swing states, and sought ways to dri­ve them to the polls. Focus groups found that this demo­graph­ic could be moti­vat­ed by scare tac­tics involv­ing abor­tion and LGBT rights. These vot­ers have been bom­bard­ed with false­hoods: Democ­rats con­spire to “exe­cute babies on the day of their birth”; school­child­ren face a mor­tal dan­ger of sex­u­al assault by trans­gen­der peo­ple using pub­lic restrooms. Swing state vot­ers encoun­tered these cam­paigns on radio broad­casts from CNP part­ner net­works, in church sanc­tu­ar­ies from part­ner “min­istries” and on social media, fueled by part­ner memes. They were com­ple­ment­ed by grass­roots can­vass­ing run by CNP mem­bers, includ­ing the NRA, the Susan B. Antho­ny List and Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty.
    ...

    Giv­en that much of the GOP’s rhetoric these days large­ly focus on putting out some sort of decep­tive scare-mon­ger­ing mes­sage about a left-wing plot against con­ser­v­a­tives, it’s a reminder that the CNP’s core long-term strat­e­gy is basi­cal­ly the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s core long-term strat­e­gy at this point and a reflec­tion of the extent the CNP real­ly has cap­tured the par­ty. So as this impeach­ment process plays out, keep in mind that one of the pri­ma­ry polit­i­cal forces back­ing Trump has an inter­est in not admit­ting any­thing that might dam­age Mike Pence’s polit­i­cal future and a long-term strat­e­gy of scar­ing vot­ers with lies about dia­bol­i­cal Demo­c­ra­t­ic plots and a vast net­work of right-wing talk radio sta­tions capa­ble of push­ing any decep­tive mes­sag­ing cam­paign it wants across the US. In oth­er words, if you thought the right-wing medi­a’s behav­ior could­n’t get any more damn­ing than the ‘#Piz­za­Gate’ lows of 2016, just get ready for 2020.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 27, 2020, 4:32 pm
  9. Now that the acquit­tal of Pres­i­dent Trump is all but cer­tain in the Sen­ate #UkraineGate impeach­ment tri­al fol­low­ing the deci­sion of Sen­ate Repub­li­cans not to allow wit­ness­es, it appears that the Repub­li­can Par­ty is for­mal­ly sanc­tion­ing both the solic­i­ta­tion of for­eign influ­ence in elec­tions (which is what first hap­pened with the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment) and also the use of pres­i­den­tial pow­ers to extort for­eign gov­ern­ments into pro­vid­ing that influ­ence if they weren’t oth­er­wise inclined to do so (which is what hap­pened after Volodymyr Zelen­sky beat Poroshenko). It’s the kind of result to the Sen­ate tri­al that’s going to once again lead to hope­ful calls for some sort of Repub­li­can Par­ty soul search­ing, some­thing that’s becom­ing an increas­ing­ly dark joke.

    So since the Repub­li­can Par­ty appears to now endorse the idea of turn­ing US elec­tions into inter­na­tion­al group efforts, it seems like a good time to remind our­selves that the Repub­li­can Par­ty can increas­ing­ly be viewed as just the US-wing of an increas­ing­ly inter­twined glob­al far move­ment that’s been con­sol­i­dat­ing polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic pow­er across the world for decades and rep­re­sents a kind of ‘come out’ phase of inter­na­tion­al fas­cism. It’s one of the grand ironies of the right-wing embrace of ‘nation­al­ism’: it’s an inter­na­tion­al ‘nation­al­ist’ move­ment that brands itself as ‘pop­ulist’ and yet is guid­ed by large­ly the same far right aris­to­crat­ic and patri­ar­chal ide­ol­o­gy and vision. Each coun­try is free to cre­ate its own culture...as long as it’s a far right cul­ture. If not, that inter­na­tion­al move­ment will work in coor­di­na­tion to crush that soci­ety until the far right ‘nation­al­ists’ have regained con­trol. That’s lit­er­al­ly the new ‘New World Order’ we’re see­ing emerge after decades of suc­cess­ful­ly far right net­work­ing and a recon­sol­i­da­tion of pow­er in the post-WWII envi­ron­ment. Glob­al con­trol by a gang ‘nation­al­ist’ far right move­ments that work togeth­er to crush any soci­ety that does­n’t com­ply. It’s the kind of vision that assumes there’s going to be A LOT more solic­i­ta­tion for for­eign influ­ence in elec­tions.

    It’s that con­text of a glob­al far right net­work of move­ments that work togeth­er across bor­der to help each oth­er take pow­er and keep it that makes the fol­low­ing arti­cle from back in April so rel­e­vant today fol­low­ing the end of a Sen­ate impeach­ment tri­al that appears to endorse the pres­i­den­tial recruit­ment of for­eign help. The arti­cle also relates to the recent reports about a pow­er strug­gle at the Vat­i­can led by a group of far right Catholics — includ­ing Steve Ban­non, Ital­ian far right politi­cian Mat­teo Salvi­ni, and the Ger­man Princess Glo­ria of Thurn and Taxis — to repeal var­i­ous reforms by Pope Fran­cis opposed by the Church’s ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive wing. The arti­cle about the World Con­gress of Fam­i­lies con­fer­ence that took place in Verona last April. As the arti­cle describes, the con­fer­ence is basi­cal­ly an inter­na­tion­al net­work­ing event for the Chris­t­ian far right. The osten­si­ble theme of the con­fer­ence is the alleged left wing attack on ‘the fam­i­ly’, with much of focus on the threat of fem­i­nism and the LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ty. There’s also a bare­ly veiled white nation­al­ist alarmism over a per­ceived demo­graph­ic cri­sis of too few white babies. In oth­er words, it was basi­cal­ly an con­fer­ence of the inter­na­tion­al ‘respectable’ reac­tionary far right that hide behind the mask of ‘tra­di­tion­al val­ues’.

    The con­fer­ence includ­ed pow­er­ful fig­ures in the reli­gious, busi­ness, and polit­i­cal world from across the globe and stressed the need for inter­na­tion­al cross-bor­der coop­er­a­tion and coor­di­na­tion in assur­ing the far right takes polit­i­cal pow­er every­where. Salvi­ni and Princess Glo­ria were both fea­tured speak­ers, along with Bri­an Brown, who leads the anti-gay mar­riage group US Nation­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Mar­riage. Brown now also runs the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for the Fam­i­ly, which coor­di­nates the WCF net­work. It’s an exam­ple of how the WCF is very much tied into the orga­nized US reli­gious right. Recall how, last March, weeks before this con­fer­ence, there was a report about US evan­gel­i­cal groups spend­ing tens of mil­lions of dol­lars sup­port­ing Euro­pean far right polit­i­cal par­ties and move­ments. This con­fer­ence is the pub­lic face of that increas­ing­ly inter­twined inter­na­tion­al far right net­work. And that inter­na­tion­al far right net­work has big plans to con­tin­ue help­ing itself inter­na­tion­al­ly. Hence the need for grant­i­ng the pres­i­dent the right to solic­it anoth­er gov­ern­ment for help in elec­tions. From the per­spec­tive the far right’s vision of a glob­al con­fed­er­a­tion of far right move­ments that joint­ly con­trol the world, inter­na­tion­al far right coor­di­na­tion is both an ends and a means:

    The Face

    How the far right is weapon­is­ing “the fam­i­ly”

    At the World Con­gress of Fam­i­lies, where ultra-con­ser­v­a­tives use “tra­di­tion­al val­ues” to strate­gise resis­tance to repro­duc­tive and sex­u­al rights.

    Claire Provost
    17th April 2019

    A colour­ful ban­ner streams down the elab­o­rate facade of The Gran Guardia palace in cen­tral Verona, Italy. A winged child, his fist raised in the air, hov­ers beneath the words: “The Wind of Change: Europe and the Glob­al Pro-Fam­i­ly Move­ment”.

    Secu­ri­ty is tight: body­guards in black suits hov­er in door­ways, press­ing their ear­pieces while Ital­ian riot police and cara­binieri (para­mil­i­tary offi­cers) encir­cle the build­ing. Princess Glo­ria of Thurn and Taxis, Ger­many is late, I’m told, but the Ital­ian VIPs (includ­ing Mat­teo Salvi­ni, the country’s deputy prime min­is­ter, from the far-right Lega par­ty) are still expect­ed to speak on sched­ule.

    I am at the 13th World Con­gress of Fam­i­lies (WCF) – a now annu­al con­fer­ence of ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive activists and their grow­ing list of polit­i­cal allies. Each year they come togeth­er to strate­gise fights against abor­tion, con­tra­cep­tion, sex edu­ca­tion, and the rights of LGBTQ+ peo­ple – and to pro­mote what Chris­t­ian right activists call “the nat­ur­al fam­i­ly”: a mar­ried man and woman and their (ide­al­ly many) chil­dren.

    At these events, the jet-set­ting reli­gious and polit­i­cal elite – includ­ing priests, bish­ops, gov­ern­ment min­is­ters, ambas­sadors, and aris­to­crats like Prince Louis Alphonse of Bour­bon, duke of Anjou, who is also a great-grand­son of Gen­er­al Fran­co – dis­cuss how to spread “tra­di­tion­al val­ues” and resist or roll back demands for repro­duc­tive and sex­u­al rights.

    They argue that the “nat­ur­al fam­i­ly” has been under attack and that this has brought the world to the precipice of a “demo­graph­ic win­ter” where not enough babies are being born. Who has lead these “attacks”? In their view: fem­i­nists and LGBTQ+ rights activists who have been lead­ing fights for gen­der equal­i­ty and social jus­tice around the world.

    Some speak in mil­i­taris­tic lan­guage, of “cul­ture wars”. Oth­ers empha­sise “love” and sim­ply remove from the frame same-sex par­ents, sin­gle moth­ers, women who end unwant­ed preg­nan­cies – and the unthink­able: teens who have sex.

    The WCF was found­ed in 1997 after meet­ings between right-wing Chris­t­ian lead­ers in the US and ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Russ­ian writ­ers. It has host­ed sev­en inter­na­tion­al meet­ings in Europe over the last decade – though it has large­ly escaped press atten­tion and pub­lic scruti­ny, until now.

    From the US to Italy to Brazil far-right move­ments have put “the fam­i­ly” – and con­trol over women’s bod­ies and lives – at the cen­tre of their pop­ulist pol­i­tics. The polit­i­cal vision nur­tured by this WCF net­work over the years is now fright­en­ing­ly main­stream.

    I came across these meet­ings years ago, but attend­ed my first in Budapest, Hun­gary in 2017. I had just start­ed a new job at the inde­pen­dent media plat­form open­Democ­ra­cy, edit­ing the website’s gen­der and sex­u­al­i­ty sec­tion. As an inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist, I want­ed to see what was going on with­in the organ­ised move­ments oppos­ing women’s and LGBTQ+ rights around the world.

    Vic­tor Orban, Hungary’s prime min­is­ter, from its far-right Fidesz par­ty, spoke at that 2017 meet­ing along with a num­ber of his min­is­ters. Anoth­er speak­er was Jack Han­ick, a for­mer Fox News pro­duc­er who described the hit sit­com Mod­ern Fam­i­ly – with its divorced and remar­ried char­ac­ters, and a same-sex cou­ple who adopt a child – as the lat­est chap­ter in “TV’s role in the destruc­tion of the tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly.”

    This year more jour­nal­ists tried to get inside to cov­er the dis­cus­sions – but many were denied. I have reg­is­tered as a par­tic­i­pant and am under­cov­er, and it seems more cru­cial than ever that I report what I find. At the Euro­pean elec­tions in May, far-right par­ties will seek to cap­ture the world’s largest demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-elect­ed body with poli­cies and cam­paigns which threat­en the rights of mil­lions. And many of the key cam­paign­ers are gath­ered in Verona this week­end.

    Day 1: ‘Out-breed the left’

    I arrive at the palace short­ly after 8am, walk­ing along pic­turesque streets lined with restau­rants. The sky over­head is cloud­less and a bright, light blue. The area around the venue is calm, though par­tic­i­pants – and a few press – are milling on the stairs.

    I col­lect my par­tic­i­pants pass and a tote bag of ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive good­ies, includ­ing a gold­en pin in the shape of tiny feet – a gift from the ProVi­ta Ital­ian anti-abor­tion group that is a key organ­is­er of the event and that has well-doc­u­ment­ed links to the neo-fas­cist par­ty Forza Nuo­va, includ­ing through the fam­i­ly of the party’s leader, Rober­to Fiore.

    I’m struck by some of the stalls inside the build­ing. While most are from Chris­t­ian right groups there is also one from a com­pa­ny called Braz­za­le. Lat­er, I look them up: they claim to be the old­est Ital­ian dairy com­pa­ny, oper­at­ing con­tin­u­ous­ly since 1784. And they’re not the only busi­ness list­ed as a spon­sor of this ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive jam­boree.

    On the con­gress mate­ri­als, there is also the logo of Vil­la San­di, a win­ery that says it’s “one of the lead­ing pro­duc­ers of Pros­ec­co” – and is part of the busi­ness empire con­trolled by the bil­lion­aire Moret­ti Pole­ga­to fam­i­ly. These strike me as stark reminders that, far from being a niche event, the WCF is an elite net­work involv­ing a grow­ing num­ber of pow­er­ful peo­ple.

    At one stand I get a copy of a newslet­ter from an Aus­tralian group with the head­line: “Abor­tion debate: What can we learn from the US.” It shares news from Amer­i­ca where abor­tion rights are under attack in numer­ous states and from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion – reflect­ing how these move­ments learn from and root for each oth­er across bor­ders.

    The Con­gress is spread over four floors in the grand build­ing. Signs mark the way to an audi­to­ri­um, a VIP Lounge, and rooms for work­shops with titles like “Cyber­ac­tivism Con­fronting the Rad­i­cal Left” and “The Beau­ty of Mar­riage.” This is a high-pro­duc­tion event, with simul­ta­ne­ous trans­la­tion via head­sets in Eng­lish, Ital­ian, Russ­ian, and French.

    A stream of anti-abor­tion activists, and local Ital­ian politi­cians, take the podi­um. The seats around me have filled up with del­e­gates – many in suits. I’m struck by the num­ber of men on stage, talk­ing about the babies that oth­er peo­ple must bear. Each one intro­duces him­self by stat­ing how many chil­dren they’ve fathered – three, four, five or more – to grow­ing applause.

    An Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tive YouTube star, Steve Tur­ley, elec­tri­fies the crowd. “It’s great to be among such a group of far right rad­i­cals,” he chuck­les, mock­ing “50 dif­fer­ent gen­der options on Face­book” and cel­e­brat­ing “re-awak­ened tra­di­tion­al­ist nation­al­ism” around the world.

    From the US to India there is a “mas­sive reli­gious renew­al” sweep­ing the globe, he says, adding that “the sec­u­lar pop­u­la­tion will begin a steady decline” [as reli­gious con­ser­v­a­tives have more chil­dren]. He pro­claims: “Amer­i­ca is basi­cal­ly going to be Evan­gel­i­cal, Mor­mon and Amish.”

    Final­ly, a woman takes the stage – only to read a state­ment from her boss. This is Cristi­na Buga, advi­sor to Igor Dodon, pres­i­dent of Moldo­va – where last year’s WCF was host­ed. The state­ment she reads warns of the “cri­sis” of demo­graph­ic decline and migra­tion threat­en­ing “a nor­mal, nat­ur­al soci­ety” while the fam­i­ly “rep­re­sents the strength of our nation.”

    “This cul­ture war is a glob­al war”, an ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Span­ish activist says, in one of the day’s more mil­i­taris­tic speech­es. “Ene­mies,” he explains, have “infil­trat­ed all insti­tu­tions” from polit­i­cal par­ties to the Unit­ed Nations. But, he offers encour­ag­ing­ly, the tide is turn­ing. Now, we must launch glob­al cam­paigns in the ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive fight-back, col­lab­o­rat­ing across bor­ders. We must also seize pow­er: direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, by “con­trol­ling the envi­ron­ment” in which politi­cians oper­ate.

    I devour this speech – it’s incred­i­ble. Pow­er­ful, ener­gis­ing – and fright­en­ing. The man on stage is talk­ing about me, and the amaz­ing, empow­er­ing women I’ve met who are work­ing tire­less­ly to build real-life alter­na­tives to patri­archy and gen­der injus­tice. I sink into my chair, in case any­one notices the “ene­my” among them.

    Some of the speak­ers open­ly mix anti-immi­grant and “pro-fam­i­ly” pro­pa­gan­da. For exam­ple, politi­cians from both Italy and Hun­gary promise to address their coun­tries’ “demo­graph­ic declines” by get­ting more (white) women to have babies rather than let­ting more (not-white) peo­ple in. At times, it feels to me as if they’re wrap­ping racism in a “fam­i­ly-friend­ly” blan­ket.

    ...

    Day 2: ‘A VIP event’

    Most of the VIPs are speak­ing today, includ­ing Princess Glo­ria. As they arrive at the Gran Guardia, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple are gath­er­ing in the city’s streets to oppose the con­gress and march for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. Walk­ing to the palace, I pass posters out­side shops with the day’s local news­pa­per head­lines, includ­ing: “Today the counter protests: Fam­i­ly Con­gress, in Verona divides Italy.”

    So many events have been organ­ised in the city, includ­ing fem­i­nist book pre­sen­ta­tions, talks with schol­ars from dif­fer­ent coun­tries, the pro­jec­tion of a doc­u­men­tary about the strug­gle for LGBTQ+ rights in Ugan­da, the­atre plays, a fem­i­nist assem­bly and the street demon­stra­tion. Peo­ple have trav­elled from across Italy and fur­ther afield in Europe to stand up to the WCF and fas­cisms and fun­da­men­talisms of all stripes

    I want to wit­ness this his­toric mobil­i­sa­tion, but am stuck inside the palace. In the morn­ing, I step out­side as riot police assem­ble around the venue’s entrance, where on its grand steps a neo-fas­cist par­ty, Forza Nuo­va, is hold­ing a press con­fer­ence. Ital­ian jour­nal­ists swarm the par­ty offi­cial – giv­ing him, it seems, pre­cise­ly the atten­tion he wants – as he announces a cam­paign for a ref­er­en­dum on the country’s abor­tion law.

    Princess Glo­ria arrives. One of the event’s most glam­orous speak­ers – though not its only aris­to­crat – she joins a promi­nent Amer­i­can anti-LGBTQ+ rights activist on stage: Bri­an Brown, who leads the US Nation­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Mar­riage, a group found­ed in 2007 to oppose the legal­i­sa­tion of same-sex mar­riage in that coun­try.

    Brown (who now also runs the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for the Fam­i­ly, which coor­di­nates the WCF net­work) tells us the Verona event was called “The Winds of Change” because “we’re see­ing a lot of good indi­ca­tions” from coun­tries like Hun­gary “stand­ing up for the fam­i­ly.” He intro­duces Glo­ria as a for­mer “punk rock princess” and 1980s cul­tur­al icon who was friends with Michael Jack­son, Elton John, Andy Warhol, but leaves out her more recent biog­ra­phy: the princess’s trans­for­ma­tion into a con­ser­v­a­tive Catholic activist who’s now friends with Steve Ban­non.

    On stage, she crit­i­cis­es the Church for “going along with the mainstream…abandoning the gospel”, and con­nects her cur­rent, hard­line Catholic con­ser­v­a­tive views with her rebel­lious past, say­ing: “It is always more inter­est­ing to be away from the main­stream.”

    Dis­tin­guish­ing her­self from some of the more bla­tant­ly white nation­al­ist del­e­gates in the room, Glo­ria also declares that increased migra­tion into Europe, from Africa, is a good thing because Africans, by her esti­ma­tion, are more con­ser­v­a­tive and could influ­ence soci­eties in the region which have, in her com­par­i­son, lost their way.

    “We work very hard…to unite peo­ple that are very dif­fer­ent around this sim­ple idea of the nat­ur­al fam­i­ly,” Brown stress­es, nod­ding specif­i­cal­ly to the pres­ence of par­tic­i­pants from both Rus­sia and Ukraine, despite Europe’s ongo­ing “ for­got­ten war” in east­ern Ukraine. “We might dis­agree on geopol­i­tics, but unite togeth­er for the fam­i­ly,” he says.

    In oth­er words: this is a broad church of anti-fem­i­nist, anti-LGBTQ+ hate, with room for dis­agree­ment on many issues as long as we’re clear on one thing: the “nat­ur­al fam­i­ly” and the need to defend it against its many ene­mies.

    When he takes to the stage, the Lega’s Mat­teo Salvi­ni (cur­rent­ly deputy prime min­is­ter) receives a hero’s wel­come and per­forms rhetor­i­cal acro­bat­ics in a bid to cast the pro­tes­tors out­side as author­i­tar­i­ans who want to impose their views on oth­ers. The true cri­sis today is that of “emp­ty cribs”, he says, telling us: “You are the vanguard…that keeps the flame alive for what 99.9% of peo­ple want.”

    Day 3: ‘Make Europe Great Again’

    Ahead of the Verona event, we pub­lished a new inves­ti­ga­tion at open­Democ­ra­cy reveal­ing that a group of US Chris­t­ian right organ­i­sa­tions – sev­er­al of which have been con­nect­ed to the WCF before – spent at least $ 50 mil­lion push­ing their agen­das in Europe over the last decade. This is like­ly an under­es­ti­mate of their influ­ence, how­ev­er.

    There is a big Amer­i­can del­e­ga­tion at the meet­ing, includ­ing sev­er­al out­spo­ken US Chris­t­ian right sup­port­ers of Don­ald Trump. It’s now Sun­day, day three, and one speak­er takes to the stage in the MAGA hat. “The West will nev­er, ever be bro­ken”, he says, adding that “Brex­it, the bible and bor­ders” can help “make Europe great again” too.

    It’s 11am but when I over­hear that some par­tic­i­pants are going to the Latin mass list­ed in the con­gress pro­gramme, at a church in the old part of town, I decide it’s time to cut out of the con­gress. After two full days, I feel exhaust­ed and over­whelmed.

    I gath­er my things and stuff them back into the WCF can­vas tote bag and head to the most tourist-trav­elled part of Verona, not far from the sup­posed hous­es of the famous star-crossed lovers, Juli­et and Romeo. The San­ta Maria Anti­ca church dates back to the 12th-cen­tu­ry when it was used as a pri­vate chapel for one of Verona’s most pow­er­ful fam­i­lies. From the nar­row street out­side, it doesn’t look big – and I’m not able to get in. What appears to be a line at the door is actu­al­ly over­flow. Peo­ple are strain­ing to lis­ten, even if they can­not see. At 5’2”, I give up.

    Yes, there are a range of extrem­ists in this ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive, transna­tion­al move­ment. No, they are no joke. Where they inter­sect in the Venn dia­gram of fun­da­men­talisms is a scary place for many peo­ple: one where women don’t have con­trol over their bod­ies, LGBTQ+ peo­ple don’t have equal rights and there is only one accept­able type of fam­i­ly.

    I think back to day one when Clau­dio D’Amico, a Lega par­ty offi­cial, referred direct­ly to the upcom­ing and much-antic­i­pat­ed Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions. “When we go to vote…look for can­di­dates that sup­port the fam­i­ly. We must do this all over Europe,” he told us, adding: “We will win!”

    ...

    ———-

    “How the far right is weapon­is­ing “the fam­i­ly”” by Claire Provost; The Face; 04/17/2019

    ““This cul­ture war is a glob­al war”, an ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Span­ish activist says, in one of the day’s more mil­i­taris­tic speech­es. “Ene­mies,” he explains, have “infil­trat­ed all insti­tu­tions” from polit­i­cal par­ties to the Unit­ed Nations. But, he offers encour­ag­ing­ly, the tide is turn­ing. Now, we must launch glob­al cam­paigns in the ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive fight-back, col­lab­o­rat­ing across bor­ders. We must also seize pow­er: direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, by “con­trol­ling the envi­ron­ment” in which politi­cians oper­ate.

    It’s quite a ral­ly­ing cry: “Now, we must launch glob­al cam­paigns in the ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive fight-back, col­lab­o­rat­ing across bor­ders. We must also seize pow­er: direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, by “con­trol­ling the envi­ron­ment” in which politi­cians oper­ate.” And yet that’s pre­cise­ly what we’ve seen increas­ing­ly hap­pen­ing for years. An inter­na­tion­al net­work of author­i­tar­i­an move­ments. It’s what Steve Ban­non has been open­ly devel­op­ing for years now. And as this con­fer­ence makes clear, ‘pop­ulist’ inter­na­tion­al net­work is heav­i­ly backed by some of the wealth­i­est and most pow­er­ful peo­ple on the plan­et. Pow­er­ful peo­ple who view Vic­tor Orban’s Hun­gary as a mod­el soci­ety:

    ...
    At these events, the jet-set­ting reli­gious and polit­i­cal elite – includ­ing priests, bish­ops, gov­ern­ment min­is­ters, ambas­sadors, and aris­to­crats like Prince Louis Alphonse of Bour­bon, duke of Anjou, who is also a great-grand­son of Gen­er­al Fran­co – dis­cuss how to spread “tra­di­tion­al val­ues” and resist or roll back demands for repro­duc­tive and sex­u­al rights.

    ...

    The WCF was found­ed in 1997 after meet­ings between right-wing Chris­t­ian lead­ers in the US and ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Russ­ian writ­ers. It has host­ed sev­en inter­na­tion­al meet­ings in Europe over the last decade – though it has large­ly escaped press atten­tion and pub­lic scruti­ny, until now.

    ...

    Vic­tor Orban, Hungary’s prime min­is­ter, from its far-right Fidesz par­ty, spoke at that 2017 meet­ing along with a num­ber of his min­is­ters. Anoth­er speak­er was Jack Han­ick, a for­mer Fox News pro­duc­er who described the hit sit­com Mod­ern Fam­i­ly – with its divorced and remar­ried char­ac­ters, and a same-sex cou­ple who adopt a child – as the lat­est chap­ter in “TV’s role in the destruc­tion of the tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly.”
    ...

    The con­fer­ence swag even includ­ed a gift from ProVi­ta, an Ital­ian anti-abor­tion group that’s both a key orga­niz­er of the even and has well doc­u­ment­ed ties to the neo-fas­cist Forza Nuo­va par­ty. It’s an exam­ple of the util­i­ty ral­ly­ing around ‘tra­di­tion­al val­ues’ has for the main­stream­ing of fas­cism:

    ...
    Day 1: ‘Out-breed the left’

    I arrive at the palace short­ly after 8am, walk­ing along pic­turesque streets lined with restau­rants. The sky over­head is cloud­less and a bright, light blue. The area around the venue is calm, though par­tic­i­pants – and a few press – are milling on the stairs.

    I col­lect my par­tic­i­pants pass and a tote bag of ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive good­ies, includ­ing a gold­en pin in the shape of tiny feet – a gift from the ProVi­ta Ital­ian anti-abor­tion group that is a key organ­is­er of the event and that has well-doc­u­ment­ed links to the neo-fas­cist par­ty Forza Nuo­va, includ­ing through the fam­i­ly of the party’s leader, Rober­to Fiore.

    I’m struck by some of the stalls inside the build­ing. While most are from Chris­t­ian right groups there is also one from a com­pa­ny called Braz­za­le. Lat­er, I look them up: they claim to be the old­est Ital­ian dairy com­pa­ny, oper­at­ing con­tin­u­ous­ly since 1784. And they’re not the only busi­ness list­ed as a spon­sor of this ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive jam­boree.

    On the con­gress mate­ri­als, there is also the logo of Vil­la San­di, a win­ery that says it’s “one of the lead­ing pro­duc­ers of Pros­ec­co” – and is part of the busi­ness empire con­trolled by the bil­lion­aire Moret­ti Pole­ga­to fam­i­ly. These strike me as stark reminders that, far from being a niche event, the WCF is an elite net­work involv­ing a grow­ing num­ber of pow­er­ful peo­ple.

    ...

    An Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tive YouTube star, Steve Tur­ley, elec­tri­fies the crowd. “It’s great to be among such a group of far right rad­i­cals,” he chuck­les, mock­ing “50 dif­fer­ent gen­der options on Face­book” and cel­e­brat­ing “re-awak­ened tra­di­tion­al­ist nation­al­ism” around the world.

    From the US to India there is a “mas­sive reli­gious renew­al” sweep­ing the globe, he says, adding that “the sec­u­lar pop­u­la­tion will begin a steady decline” [as reli­gious con­ser­v­a­tives have more chil­dren]. He pro­claims: “Amer­i­ca is basi­cal­ly going to be Evan­gel­i­cal, Mor­mon and Amish.”

    ...

    Day 2: ‘A VIP event’

    Most of the VIPs are speak­ing today, includ­ing Princess Glo­ria. As they arrive at the Gran Guardia, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple are gath­er­ing in the city’s streets to oppose the con­gress and march for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. Walk­ing to the palace, I pass posters out­side shops with the day’s local news­pa­per head­lines, includ­ing: “Today the counter protests: Fam­i­ly Con­gress, in Verona divides Italy.”

    So many events have been organ­ised in the city, includ­ing fem­i­nist book pre­sen­ta­tions, talks with schol­ars from dif­fer­ent coun­tries, the pro­jec­tion of a doc­u­men­tary about the strug­gle for LGBTQ+ rights in Ugan­da, the­atre plays, a fem­i­nist assem­bly and the street demon­stra­tion. Peo­ple have trav­elled from across Italy and fur­ther afield in Europe to stand up to the WCF and fas­cisms and fun­da­men­talisms of all stripes

    I want to wit­ness this his­toric mobil­i­sa­tion, but am stuck inside the palace. In the morn­ing, I step out­side as riot police assem­ble around the venue’s entrance, where on its grand steps a neo-fas­cist par­ty, Forza Nuo­va, is hold­ing a press con­fer­ence. Ital­ian jour­nal­ists swarm the par­ty offi­cial – giv­ing him, it seems, pre­cise­ly the atten­tion he wants – as he announces a cam­paign for a ref­er­en­dum on the country’s abor­tion law.

    ...

    When he takes to the stage, the Lega’s Mat­teo Salvi­ni (cur­rent­ly deputy prime min­is­ter) receives a hero’s wel­come and per­forms rhetor­i­cal acro­bat­ics in a bid to cast the pro­tes­tors out­side as author­i­tar­i­ans who want to impose their views on oth­ers. The true cri­sis today is that of “emp­ty cribs”, he says, telling us: “You are the vanguard…that keeps the flame alive for what 99.9% of peo­ple want.”
    ...

    There’s also Princess Glo­ria, one of the most antic­i­pat­ed speak­ers (who also hap­pens to be orches­trat­ing some sort of ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Pope coup at that Vat­i­can with Steve Ban­non). She was joined on staged by Bri­an Brown, the Amer­i­can evan­gel­i­cal who runs the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for the Fam­i­ly, which coor­di­nates the WCF net­work. It’s a reminder of how exten­sive­ly the far right wing of US evan­gel­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty is involved in build­ing this inter­na­tion­al move­ment:

    ...
    Princess Glo­ria arrives. One of the event’s most glam­orous speak­ers – though not its only aris­to­crat – she joins a promi­nent Amer­i­can anti-LGBTQ+ rights activist on stage: Bri­an Brown, who leads the US Nation­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Mar­riage, a group found­ed in 2007 to oppose the legal­i­sa­tion of same-sex mar­riage in that coun­try.

    Brown (who now also runs the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for the Fam­i­ly, which coor­di­nates the WCF net­work) tells us the Verona event was called “The Winds of Change” because “we’re see­ing a lot of good indi­ca­tions” from coun­tries like Hun­gary “stand­ing up for the fam­i­ly.” He intro­duces Glo­ria as a for­mer “punk rock princess” and 1980s cul­tur­al icon who was friends with Michael Jack­son, Elton John, Andy Warhol, but leaves out her more recent biog­ra­phy: the princess’s trans­for­ma­tion into a con­ser­v­a­tive Catholic activist who’s now friends with Steve Ban­non.

    ...

    Day 3: ‘Make Europe Great Again’

    Ahead of the Verona event, we pub­lished a new inves­ti­ga­tion at open­Democ­ra­cy reveal­ing that a group of US Chris­t­ian right organ­i­sa­tions – sev­er­al of which have been con­nect­ed to the WCF before – spent at least $ 50 mil­lion push­ing their agen­das in Europe over the last decade. This is like­ly an under­es­ti­mate of their influ­ence, how­ev­er.

    There is a big Amer­i­can del­e­ga­tion at the meet­ing, includ­ing sev­er­al out­spo­ken US Chris­t­ian right sup­port­ers of Don­ald Trump. It’s now Sun­day, day three, and one speak­er takes to the stage in the MAGA hat. “The West will nev­er, ever be bro­ken”, he says, adding that “Brex­it, the bible and bor­ders” can help “make Europe great again” too.
    ...

    So that’s all part of the con­text of the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s open endorse­ment of solic­it­ing inter­na­tion­al help in domes­tic polit­i­cal elec­tions dur­ing the Sen­ate impeach­ment tri­al. Solic­it­ing inter­na­tion­al help for fel­low trav­el­ers is the plan to seize con­trol and crush the left is the plan. The short-term plan and long-term plan. As George Orwell famous­ly warned, If you want a vision of the future, imag­ine a boot stamp­ing on a human face — for­ev­er. Seiz­ing pow­er and them stamp­ing out all oppo­si­tion for­ev­er. That’s the big plan and it’s going to require a lot of inter­na­tion­al coor­di­na­tion. Indef­i­nite­ly. Inter­na­tion­al coor­di­na­tion the GOP has now for­mal­ly endorsed for the fore­see­able future.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 1, 2020, 4:57 pm

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