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by Chip Berlet - Political Research Associates

Scapegoats for the Right:

From Red Menace Subversives to Liberal Globalist Agents

Scapegoats for the Right:

From Red Menace Subversives to Liberal Globalist Agents

During the 1980's and 1990's the demonized targets of the US hard right shifted away from anticommunism. There was a transition of scapegoats away from the "red menace" to international terrorists, sinful abortion providers, homosexual "special rights" activists, liberal secular humanists and their "big government" allies, to a plot by globalists on behalf of the New World Order. The relatively painless nature of this transition is due in part to the legacy of fundamentalist Christian conspiracism in rightist ideology.

There were several sources of anticommunism during the Cold War, including views based on economics, geopolitical strategy, and religion. Prior to the collapse of communism, many leaders of the new Christian right had already embraced a variation on their longstanding fear of secret elites in league with Satan: the secular humanist conspiracist theory.15 If communism is but one manifestation of Satan's age-old one-world conspiracy, then the collapse of communism in Europe allows a shift in focus to the other aspects of the alleged conspiracy--liberalism, secular humanism, statism, and collectivism.

According to scholar George Marsden, the shift in focus to the secular humanist demon:

"revitalized fundamentalist conspiracy theory. Fundamentalists always had been alarmed at moral decline within America but often had been vague as to whom, other than the Devil, to blame. The "secular humanist" thesis gave this central concern a clearer focus that was more plausible and of wider appeal than the old mono-causal communist-conspiracy accounts. Communism and socialism could, of course, be fit right into the humanist picture; but so could all the moral and legal changes at home without implausible scenarios of Russian agents infiltrating American schools, government, reform movements, and mainline churches."16

A number of contemporary Christian right ideologues promote the secular humanist conspiracist theory, including Timothy and Beverly LaHaye and Dr. James Dobson. Author John Stormer updated his book None Dare Call it Treason in the late 1980's shifting its focus from anti-communism to the claim that secular humanism now played the key subversive role in undermining America.17 In a similar way, militant Protestant fundamentalist elements in the antiabortion movement, influenced by hard right theological activist Francis A. Schaeffer, claimed a conspiracy of secular humanists as the source of godless disregard for what they argued was sinful murder of the unborn.18

One of the core ideas of the US right during this century has been that modern liberalism is a handmaiden for collectivist godless communism. Secular humanists-pictured as the torchbearers of liberal godlessness and New Deal statism-could also be scapegoated from a variety of perspectives: economic, anti-elitist, moral, as well as religious. The idea of the secular humanist conspiracy also paralleled and buttressed the resurgent libertarian theme that collectivism destroys individual initiative, and saps the vigor of the free market system. It also echoed the concern of conservatives, neoconservatives, and paleoconservatives over creeping moral decay and the failure of New Deal liberalism. This congruence resulted in some remarkable tactical coalitions following the rise of the New Right in the late 1970's, especially around issues of public school curricula and government funding for education.

The transformation of communism's role as the key scapegoat for the US hard right begins with the assumption of Christian anticommunism that collectivism is godless while capitalism is godly; is generalized to a linkage of liberalism to godless collectivism; then to the notion of a liberal secular humanist conspiracy; and finally concludes that globalism is the ultimate collectivist plot. But just as the dubious "red menace" allegations against liberals by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his allies finally soured, it is possible that the relentless claims of Clinton evil-doing are being increasingly doubted outside the hard right.

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