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Joanne98 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 07:04 AM
Original message
Why I Write So Much Against Fringe Conservatives

I feel like Ive done disservice to regular readers who may know of my home state of Utah as a red state, but might not be aware of just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Prologue
In my high school years, there was a requirement to take one of two courses. One was called World Problems and I forget what the other choice was because I signed up for World Problems. It was taught by a man by the name of Amos Musser. He was a fixture at the high school. My older brother had taken the same class from Mr. Musser and we had several arguments at the dinner table based on information my brother would bring home from the class. My father jokingly referred to the class as Amos Mussers World Problems and in retrospect wasnt far off.

I bring up Amos Musser because the class was a prep course for what Glenn Beck is doing now, according to this article on Talking Points Memo referencing this piece on Salon.com.

Of note:

Beck has created a massive meet-up for the disaffected, paranoid Palin-ite death panel wing of the GOP, those ideologues most susceptible to conspiracy theories and prone to latch on to eccentric distortions of fact in the name of opposing socialism. In that, they are true disciples of the late W. Cleon Skousen, Becks favorite writer and the author of the bible of the 9/12 movement, The 5,000 Year Leap. A once-famous anti-communist historian, Skousen was too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era, but Glenn Beck has now rescued him from the remainder pile of history, and introduced him to a receptive new audience.

and:

What has Beck been pushing on his legions? Leap, first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recasting the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by the French and English philosophers. Leap argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined.

Wherein it Gets Personal
What do Glenn Beck and Cleon Skousen have to do with me and Mr. Musser? Musser taught extensively from Skousens works, and some of what Skousen espouses was echoed on Sunday (at least it was in my small town growing up as well as my years in Provo, Utah); that the U.S. Founding Fathers were all Christian and devout and inspired by God in the same way Mormon prophets are regarded.

This isnt meant to be a dig against Mormonism, but a dig against the kind of revisionist thinking that permeates conservative talking points heard at demonstrations once Sarah Palins brand of crazy conservative was unleashed the summer of 2008. It should be noted that the Salon article mentions:

Before he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousens own Mormon church publicly distanced itself from the foundation that Skousen founded and that has published previous editions of The 5,000 Year Leap.

In my high school course of world problems, we were required to do a book report from a reading list that included Skousens Naked Communist. As you might imagine, the conspiracy theories and crazy ran super deep. We were indoctrinated with red scare filmstrips and paranoid delusions about the coming communist takeover of the United States. Apocalytpic demise! Millenial destruction! It was very dramatic.

I learned of Freemasons, Adam Weishaupt (credited with the quote the end justifies the means which in modern politics is de rigeur; cf. Watergate, Nixon, Cheney, torture, warrantless wiretapping, suspension of Habeas Corpus, etc.), Adam Smith, the Tri-lateral Commission (Musser would have loved this story and this one), the New World Order, and so on. The class was an ultra-conservative/libertarian/fringe conspiracy wet dream. Mr. Musser had a few massive black binders that had typewritten outlines and references that we were more than welcome to look at to verify his sources. Sources that he typed on pieces of paper. He drolly referred to his binders as his Big Black Books and made a show of locking in his desk. If only the KGB knew. What I would have given for Wikipedia in those days. I bought into it for awhile until I started to see a strange pattern that didnt come into focus until I read 1984. The very language that the nutjobs were using to describe the foundation of their thought; the pillars of their case and the language used to tie it Christianity (which Skousen is a master of) is embedded in Mormon theology. So, while crazy Adam Weihaupt was forming the illuminati to turn the world into a giant communist state or some other new world order, prominent conservatives used his very notion of ends justifying the means to perpetrate some of the most heinous abuses of power in our lifetime. We need only look to Cheney as the very embodiment of recreating, counter to Weishaupts tenets, a more monarchial presidential set of powers. Embodied by Nixons famous, If the president does it, its not against the law.

So much of my young life was surrounded by devout Mormons, some of whom bought into Skousens more preposterous notions (e.g., recasting the U.S. founding fathers as Christians). Some of those people were Sunday School teachers, advisors and neighbors. Even today, the pervasiveness of these ideas runs deep in most Mormon conservative thinking. The following is from Chris Cannons Amazon review of Skousens The Five Thousand Year Leap:

The fight for the soul of our country is real! Every patriotic American, young and old, should read this book! Chris Cannon, US House of Representatives, 1997-2009

Read Cannons review here.

It should be noted that both Beck and Cannon are practicing Mormons.

In Modern Times
The problem I have with the current language at demonstrations and the bipolar rants of the conservative moron entertainers is that they co-opt language, revise its meaning and throw it back out into the public, smearing their opponents with the tactic that the words they use actually mean, but the weak-minded followers model and shout at things like healthcare reform townhalls and the 9/12 astroturfed demonstration last Saturday in Washington D.C. Skousen himself used the same tactics (quoted from the Salon piece):

Skousen laid low for much of the 60s. But he reemerged at the end of the decade peddling a new and improved conspiracy that merged left with right: the global capitalist mega-plot of the dynastic rich. Families like the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds, Skousen now believed, used left forces from Ho Chi Minh to the American civil rights movement to serve their own power.

Mr. Musser jumped all over that conspiracy, teaching it as fact for years in classes in a public high school in northern Utah.

To be fair, the Mormon scholarly journal Dialogue asked scholars to research Skousens claims. Heres what they wrote in 1971:

Skousens personal position, wrote a dismayed Quigley, seems to me perilously close to the exclusive uniformity which I see in Nazism and in the Radical Right in this country. In fact, his position has echoes of the original Nazi 25-point plan.

So here we are. Glenn Beck and the others talking about feeling like we did that day after 9/11, by inspiring divisiveness, cynicism and fucking with the very notion of what words mean. Obama is the scary racist fascist socialist communist that is going to kill grandma. Yet one of Glenn Becks heroes was found, by Mormons of all people, to be propagating thought that closely resembles the philosophical underpinnings of Nazism.

Its time to call it. Smart people need to stand up and call this bullshit what it is: toxic waste hurled out across the public airwaves as pseudo-intellect and deep care for this great country. Its dangerous. And its time to drop it.

Continued>>
http://blurbomat.com/archives/2009/09/17/against-fringe... /

This is helpful.
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izquierdista Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 07:41 AM
Response to Original message
1. Reader note
Some of the younger members here might be wondering what a "filmstrip" is. Prior to the days when classrooms had TVs and could play video (late '60s to early '70s, depending on the wealth of the school district), the choices for "audio-visual materials" were limited to 16mm film shown on movie projectors, or 35mm film shown one frame at a time. Occasionally the 35mm "filmstrip" had an audio to go with it, otherwise it was like a silent movie, alternating visual scenes with frames of text. The high end of the filmstrips had the audio synchronized with the pictures, and would automatically change the frame without an operator having to do it manually. The closest thing to it today are the low budget YouTube videos made up of still photos set to some audio track.
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bigbrother05 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 08:20 AM
Response to Original message
2. The NeoCons had Strauss; Birthers/Teabaggers have Skousen
The slippery slope got exponentially steeper during the W years. Why do I get the feeling that a modern Manson would have attended the 9-12 rally?
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Daveparts still Donating Member (614 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 08:43 AM
Response to Original message
3. Mormonism
Is a cult. The Mormons fled to Utah to escape the United States and not to be a part of it.
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hileeopnyn8d Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 04:48 PM
Response to Original message
4. Thanks for posting this
no sooner did I finish reading the Salon article about this when a Beck follower at another messageboard recommended "The 5000 Year Leap" as the best book on the Constitution she's ever read.

She mentioned how there was *so* much she hadn't been taught about the Constitution and *now* she knows why, and she thanks the lord for Glenn Beck everyday.

And yes, I'm going to call her out.
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Cirque du So-What Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-17-09 05:39 PM
Response to Original message
5. An excellent article about Beck & how Skousen inspired him
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