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by Chip Berlet - Political Research Associates


Rightist Sources of Anti-Clinton Conspiracism


Rightist Sources of Anti-Clinton Conspiracism

That a wide variety of conservative and hard right groups work together in coalitions to challenge liberalism is hardly surprising. However there is increasing tolerance of the right-wing conspiracist subculture in these coalitions, even by groups with a more cautious track record.

The Rutherford Institute was listed as participating in just such a coalition event: a separate "Take America Back" rally in October 1997 during the massive Promise Keepers "Stand in the Gap" assembly on the Mall. The topic of a speech given by Steve Aden of the Rutherford Institute, was "Judicial System and Persecution of Christians." A large amount of Rutherford material was stacked on a table at the rally. Although Aden stuck to his topic, the rally itself turned into a highly politicized event in which calls for the impeachment of Clinton took center stage, and discussion of Clinton's involvement in numerous conspiracies was commonplace. According to Aden, his speech was "non-political, and although I did take note that others at the rally were making political speeches, when I was asked to make a political statement I declined to do so."50

The program for the "Take America Back" rally was a tabloid newspaper that featured calls for the impeachment of Clinton, and arch references to "Clinton's alleged background in drug smuggling, ties to multiple un-natural deaths of those around him, etc."51 The program urged readers to call Congressman Henry Hyde and demand impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee. An article quoted rally organizer Charles Phillips as saying the event was "a national kick-off for an ongoing movement to reclaim America from liberality, immorality and even possible sell-out to a foreign power..."52

According to the program, the topic of featured speaker Pat Matrisciana was "Executive Branch Integrity," which was consistent with Matrisciana's most famous product, the conspiracist video "The Clinton Chronicles." Also distributed was a 12-page booklet titled "The Citizens Presidential Impeachment Indictment" from Matrisciana's Citizens for Honest Government, the group that produced the "Clinton Chronicles" video widely distributed by Jerry Falwell and others. The 25 counts listed in the booklet included numerous conspiracist allegations claiming misconduct by Clinton. The Paula Jones case was listed alongside charges that Clinton engaged in massive and repeated conspiracies such as laundering drug money, bribery, and accessory to murder in the Vincent Foster case. Many of the allegations are standard fare in the US conspiracist subculture. The program blurb for Matrisciana notes he is publisher of the Citizen's Intelligence Digest, and claims that "Edwin Meese III, former U.S. Attorney General said `Citizens for Honest Government is doing important work on behalf of the American people,'."53

The keynote speaker was listed as Dr. Alan Keyes, described as championing a "conservative pro-family, pro-life message." Another speaker listed was Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, speaking on "Constitutional Government." 54

Anti-Clinton advocates in the conspiracist subculture can be found in groups that range across the political spectrum and incorporate both secular and religious motifs. Dubious allegations of wrongdoing appear in media ranging from publications of the hard right patriot and armed militia movements, to the reactionary John Birch Society, to more mainstream information sources such as media funded by ultraconservative activist and heir Richard Mellon Scaife.

A considerable amount of the information circulated in the hard right is undocumented rumor and irrational conspiracist theory. Print sources frequently cited as having "proof" of the conspiracy include the New American magazine from the reactionary John Birch Society; The American Sentinel, a reactionary newsletter; the Spotlight newspaper from the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby; and Executive Intelligence Review, (EIR) and The New Federalist from the neofascist Lyndon LaRouche movement.

For instance, the publisher of The American Sentinel put out a booklet titled The Clinton Clique, by long-time John Birch Society stalwarts Larry Abraham and William P. Hoar, detailing the JBS theory that Clinton is part of the Anglo-American conspiracy, which supposedly rules the world through the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. The JBS itself has been promoting bulk distribution of one issue of its magazine, The New American, with a cover story and special report on the "Conspiracy for Global Control" linking Clinton to the purported Council on Foreign Relations conspiracy.

While the most alarmist attacks on Clinton have originated in hard right alternative media, a troubling dynamic has developed where mainstream media feel pressured to report on allegations from dubious conspiracist sources to beat their competitors to the story. This is in part due to the massive number of these attacks from the conspiracist subculture, coupled with the rapid growth of new horizontal electronic communications networks that bypass traditional editing standards.55 This dynamic was described in a White House memo "Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce."56 Conservatives who complained that this criticism of conspiracist charges against Clinton came from partisans in the White House ignored previous warnings of scapegoating populism and conspiracism from conservative, mainstream, and progressive authors.57 Furthermore, progressives have not only criticized conspiracism on the right, but its appearance in left circles as well.58 A major conservative critique of conspiracist thinking was recently published.59 There is even a thoroughly-documented critique of conspiracism in the Christian evangelical movement written by an evangelical who objects to the trend.60

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