Tea Party and the Right  
comments_image Comments

The Bizarre Religious Myths Mormon Right-Wingers Are Pushing on Tea Partiers -- With Glenn Beck's Help

With the rise of the right, the National Center for Constitutional Studies' bizarre version of U.S. history is gaining adherents.

Continued from previous page

 
 
Share

In some ways, the NCCS worldview can sound remarkably similar to that of antigovernment "Patriots," whose movement has exploded in the last two years. So it's not much of a surprise that it has found a number of new organizational allies among "Constitutionalist" groups such as the conspiracy-obsessed John Birch Society, the ultraconservative "pro-family" group Eagle Forum, and the Oath Keepers, a group of ex-police and military personnel who publicly promise to resist orders if they find those orders at odds with their understanding of the Constitution. At the 2010 National Liberty Unity Summit, a powwow of far-right groups, NCCS president Earl Taylor delivered the keynote address following speeches by leading Oath Keepers Richard Mack and Guy Cunningham.

But mostly, the NCCS focuses on its seminars. And business has never been better.

"We're trying to flood the nation," NCCS president Taylor told The Washington Post in June. "And it's happening."

Communists, Capitalists and Jews
Students of the American far right may not recognize the anodyne-sounding NCCS, but they no doubt know the name of its founder, the late W. Cleon Skousen. By the time Skousen founded The Freeman Institute in 1971 (the name was changed to NCCS in 1984), the bespectacled former police chief had become a minor legend in the annals of right-wing radicalism. Throughout the late 1950s and 60s, following 11 years of mostly administrative work in the FBI, Skousen toured the country whipping up anti-communist (and anti-civil rights) hysteria under the banner of the John Birch Society. Among the stories in Skousen's fantastical arsenal was the claim that New Dealer Harry Hopkins gave the Soviets "50 suitcases" worth of information on the Manhattan Project and nearly half of the nation's supply of enriched uranium. When the John Birch Society came under attack for its founder's claim that Dwight Eisenhower was a communist agent, Skousen wrote a pamphlet titled The Communist Attack on the John Birch Society.

In the 1970s, he penned an influential tract of New World Order conspiracism, The Naked Capitalist, which described a cabal of scheming, internationalist-minded bankers and government officials set on destroying the Constitution by manipulating left and liberal groups around the world. The purpose of liberal internationalist groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations, Skousen believed, is to push "U.S. foreign policy toward the establishment of a world-wide collectivist society."

Among the sources Skousen cited to substantiate this claim was is a former czarist army officer named Arsene de Goulevitch, whose own sources included Boris Brasol, a White Russian émigré who provided Henry Ford with the first English translation of the Jew-bashing classic, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and later became a supporter of Nazi Germany.

The controversy that surrounded Skousen's growing public profile in the 1960s and early 70s caused a debate within the Mormon Church leadership. For many church leaders, Skousen was bringing unwanted attention to the institution, which until then had generally eschewed involvement in politics. But Skousen also had allies in high places. The strongest and most loyal of them was Ezra Taft Benson, a Mormon Apostle and future church president.

As with Skousen, Benson remains an icon among many ultraconservative Mormons, and his name is routinely invoked during NCCS lectures. The flyer for the NCCS seminar in Fairmont prominently displayed, as do so many materials produced by the NCCS, a Benson quote: "The Greatest Watchdog of our Freedom is an informed electorate." But Benson had a decidedly illiberal understanding of just what an informed electorate should believe. Benson read America's history (and future) through a looking glass of apocalyptic Mormon theology and folklore. He believed that the Constitution would one day "hang from a thread," at which time Mormons would assume leadership of the nation and rescue it from certain and irrevocable disaster. (These ideas are not part of official Mormon Church doctrine.)