By Chip Berlet
First posted 1/11/01
John Ashcroft appeared in a 1997 video from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle
Forum that portrayed the feminist movement, multiculturalism, reproductive
rights, gay rights, environmental concerns, global cooperation, and even
chemical weapons treaties as part of a secret conspiracy to promote a
socialist One World Government and New World Order.
The video, "Global Governance: The Quiet War Against American Independence," is
introduced by Schlafly who claims that President Clinton is part of a
conspiracy outlined by his former professor Carroll Quigley, involving
a "small elite" of "cosmopolitan" and "international" power
brokers who are close to government and "equally devoted to secrecy
and the secret use of financial influence in political life."
This type of conspiracist allegation is found in the right-wing of the
Republican Party, the Patriot and armed militia movement, and the Far
Right. The use of language about cosmopolitan international financial
elites shows insensitivity to the historic use of such phrases to promote
antisemitic claims of an international Jewish banking conspiracy.
Other featured speakers on the video include Jeane Kirkpatrick, former
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Jesse Helms, Chairman, Senate
Foreign Relations Committee; Helen Chenoweth (now Helen Chenoweth-Hage)
U.S. Representative, Idaho; and Patrick Buchanan, identified as a syndicated
columnist & "Crossfire" co-host.
Both Chenoweth and Buchanan have made overtures to the Patriot and militia
movements. In 1997 Rep. Chenoweth introduced a bill co-sponsored by 43
House members to block a federal plan to designate certain historic waterways "heritage
rivers." The primarily symbolic gesture had been attacked by the
Patriot movement and the overlapping anti-environmentalist "Wise
Use" movement as a federal land grab. Some claimed it was part of
a UN-backed New World Order initiative. A section of the Eagle Forum
video raises similar concerns, complete with maps of US territory showing
UN/US land grabs. Similar conspiracist charges are a regular feature
of publications fromthe John Birch Society.
In early 2000, Chenoweth worked openly with the John Birch Society,
a major Patriot group, in an effort to stop the transfer of the Panama
Canal. In response, Jason F. Isaacson, director of the American Jewish
Committee's Washington Office, wrote a letter to Rep. Chenoweth. Defending
the right of the Birch Society to express its views in public, Isaacson
wrote that, "We fear that your invitation to the John Birch Society
to speak at Wednesday's congressional briefing gives weight and prestige
to perspectives that are, and ought to remain, at the fringes of society...We
respectfully urge you to withdraw your invitation." Issacson said
AJC challenged "the wisdom of offering the Society a congressional
platform from which to promulgate those views - views that for decades
have fueled and thrived on conspiracy theories, nativism, isolationism
According to the video box for "Global Governance," in the
video "You'll see the Clinton Administration's dangerous drive to
ratify treaties that give global bureaucrats control over American land,
natural resources, private property, our economy, and even our children
Ashcroft is highlighted on the video box, and makes two substantial
appearances including giving the video's closing comments.
In his first appearance, Ashcroft comments on claims that United Nations
treaties protecting the rights of children are suspect and could result
in overly-intrusive government meddling with parental rights:
"I don't really believe that our government should interfere
substantially with child rearing. It would be wrong for states to tell
parents what they could or what they should do with their children--or
for the federal government. But when you take that beyond the state and
the federal government to an international organization that would seek
to tell you, for instance, that you couldn't take your child out of certain
sex education classes in our schools, for example; I think a family ought
to have a right to understand what values it supports in that arena, and
to protect the child in relation to those values."
At the end of the video, after repeated attacks on how the United Nations
and international conferences and treaties promote a radical feminist,
pro-gay, abortion on demand agenda that will undermine the American
family, Ashcroft says:
"I simply reject the notion that somehow we can go to countries
where there is less freedom, less respect, less dignity for any affected
population--whether it be women or children--and get them to tell us what
we ought to be doing. I think as responsible individuals, given the capacity
to make consequential choices by our government (and ultimately by God
who created us to be free), we don't need an international organization
to tell us how to treat our children, how to treat ourselves, how to treat
our women, how to fashion our families. As free Americans we can make those
decisions right here at home."
Throughout the video, assertions are made that enforcing UN and other
global treaties is part of a grand design to destroy US sovereignty.
At one point there is a hint that it is all part of a communist plot.
The Justice Department is involved in several ways with reporting requirements
and enforcement responsibilities that evolve from some of these treaties.
[This section adapted from Right-Wing Populism
Phyllis Schlafly, the grande dame of ultra-conservative conspiracism,
wrote only the occasional column blasting Clinton's morality as symptomatic
of decadent liberalism. She spent more space on her perennial issues
such as fighting a big federal government, dismantling the Department
of Education, opposing the UN, stopping globalism, and calling the nuclear
device dropped on two Japanese cities near the end of World War II the "Lifesaver
Bomb." Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum claimed 80,000 members in
Bomb," 8/10/95 at Schlafly's website
The politics of Schlafly (and much of her immediate family who are alsoultra-conservative
activists) reflect the confluence of Old Right anticommunism and old
church orthodoxy similar to the synthesis of other flag bearers of the
Catholic Right such as Pat Buchanan and Paul Weyrich.
Phyllis Schlafly's book A Choice, Not an Echo suggested a conspiracist
theory in which the Republican Party was secretly controlled by elitistintellectuals
dominated by members of the Bilderberger banking conference, whose policies
were allegedly designed to usher in global communist conquest. The title "A
Choice, Not an Echo" became a campaign slogan. The book characterized
the Goldwater campaign as a revolt of "Grassroots Republicans" against
the secret internationalist "kingmakers" alleged to control
both the Democratic and Republican parties. A Choice Not an
Echo mainstreamed the conspiracist idea that the shadowy elites behind
Wall Street capitalism also propped up Moscow communism. Schlafly,
with retired Rear Admiral Chester Ward as co-author, also wrote The
Gravediggers, tailored to support the Goldwater campaign, claimed
US military strategy and tactics was actually designed to pave the way
for global communist conquest. Inthe early 1960s, Schlafly's first passion
had been aggressive Cold War foreign policy and military strategy, topics
where she developed considerable expertise.
Under the leadership of Phyllis Schlafly, the right-wing populists waged
a successful effort to block passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
The campaign mobilized tens of thousands of women activists by skillfully
portraying the ERA as a threat to women's financial security and other
interests: "Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment would...deprive
the American woman of many of the fundamental special privileges we now
enjoy, and especially the greatest rights of all: (1) NOT to take a job,
(2) to keep her baby,and (3) to be supported by her husband." Schlafly's
shift of focus to fighting the ERA indicated the narrow constraints placed
on intelligent, capable women within the male-dominated Right, but also
the movement's increased attention to domestic social issues. Her return
to Cold War conspiracism in the video "Global Governance" needs
to be seen in this larger context.
Fears over the protection of families and children were central themes
for the New Right and especially its Christian Right component. Sara
Diamond, author of Roads to Dominion, lists the key priorities:
"What people in the Christian Right want is pretty basic.
They want laws to outlaw abortion which they consider a form of infanticide.
They want to change the tax code to encourage married mothers to stay
home and raise good kids. They want queers to get back in the closet
and pretend not to exist. They want high quality schools; they think
the public schools are failing not for lack of resources but because
kids can't pray or read Genesis in biology class."
Source: Sara Diamond, "The Christian Right Seeks Dominion: On The Road
To Political Power And Theocracy," in Eye's Right! Challenging The
Right Wing Backlash, ed Chip Berlet (Boston, South End Press, 1995),
Phyllis Schlafly, A Choice Not An Echo. (Alton, IL: Pere MarquettePress,
1964), pp. 111-121.
Long before her fame as an anti-feminist, Schlafly's first passion was
aggressive Cold War foreign policy and military strategy, where she developed
considerable expertise that went unappreciated in a largely male milieu;
see Abby Scher, Cold War on the Home Front: Middle Class Women's Politicsin
the 1950's, dissertation, sociology, New School for Social Research,
May 1995, pp. 300-301.
Anti-communism ran in the family. Schlafly's husband Fred, an early
political mentor, had lectured at Schwarz's local Christian Anti-Communism
Crusade traveling schools. See Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein, Danger
on the Right: The Attitudes, Personnel and Influence of the Radical Right
and Extreme Conservatives, (New York: Random House/ADL, 1964), p.
271.The extended Schlafly family launched the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation
to network Catholic anti-communists; see Chip Berlet, "Cardinal
Mindszenty: heroic anti-Communist or anti-Semite or Both?," St.
Louis JournalismReview, April, 1988. See also letters in June and
Phyllis Schlafly and Chester Ward, The Gravediggers. (Alton,
IL: Pere Marquette Press, 1964).
The two authors went on to pen Strike from Space, which anticipated
the right's call for the Star Wars program to defend against Soviet missle
Phyllis Schlafly and Chester Ward, Strike from Space, revised
and expanded, (Alton, IL: Pere Marquette Press, 1966).
Ward, a member of the National Strategy Committee of the American Security
Council was also a lecturer at the Foreign Policy Research Institute
which formulated many benchmark Cold War anti-communist strategies. See
Russ Bellant, Old Nazis, the New Right and the Reagan Administration:
The Role of Domestic Fascist Networks in the Republican Party and Their
Effect on U.S. Cold War Policies, (Boston, MA: South End Press/Political
Research Associates Series, 1991), pp. 35, 37.
On conspiracism and the Republican Right, See:
Pat Robertson, The New World Order, (Dallas: Word Publishing,
1991), pp. 3-14, 36, 177-178.
Antony C. Sutton, Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution ,
(New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1974).
James Perloff, Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations
and the American Decline, (Appleton, WI: Western Islands [John
Birch Society], 1988)
Phyllis Schlafly and Chester Ward, Kissinger on the Couch , (New
Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1975);
W. Cleon Skousen The Naked Capitalist: A Review and Commentary onDr.
Carroll Quigley's Book: Tragedy and Hope--A History of the World in
Our Time, (Salt Lake City, UT: self published/Reviewer, 1970);
For a critique of this type of conspiracism, see:
Jacob Heilbrunn, "On Pat Robertson: His Anti-Semitic Sources," pp
68-71, TheNew York Review of Books, April 20, 1995.
Two favorites of conspiracist analysts:
Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our
Time, (New York: Macmillan, 1966).
Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to
Cliveden, (New York: Books in Focus, 1981).
Quigley is said to have been unhappy with how the political right characterised
and analyzed his work. (See Skousen, above).