Sunday, January 15, 2012

James B. Utt: conspiracy theorist, whack job

Cleon Skousen
     Yesterday, I posted a recording of a 1969 conversation between a right-wing radio evangelist and Congressman James B. Utt. In it, Utt worries that our great nation is on the brink of anarchy—or dictatorship, and so on. Too much attention, he says, is paid to “dissident minorities” and not enough to the “moral” people of America.
     I had never heard Utt speak before. The radio interview makes clear that, despite his gentlemanly demeanor, the fellow was every bit the Neanderthal that he is reputed to have been.
     Without doubt, James B. Utt, after whom Saddleback College’s library was named (in 1973), was a full-on conspiracy nut of the lunatic fringe variety. At one point in the recording, Dr. Burpo (the radio evangelist) refers to a remark recently made to him by yet another Congressman. That Congressman evidently expressed the view that it “mattered not” who is in the White House or Congress, for there’s an “establishment” that is really running the country.
     Does Utt agree with that view?
     Utt answers that his colleague is “a long way toward being right.” He goes on to say
The Council [on] Foreign Relations dictates—they together with the international bankers who actually are in the Conference of [sic] Foreign Relations—dictates the moves of this country. I’m inclined to agree with [the Congressman]. But it doesn’t have to be so. ….We should be an independent and free country. … When the people want a change they should get the change they want and not still be subject to a hidden government such as the Council of Foreign Relations [sic]. I’ve put out newsletters on the CFR, …and they are controlled by the international bankers. (Interview)
     So Utt embraced a conspiracy theory according to which the country was actually run by “international bankers,” who control, among other things, the old New York/Washington think tank known as the CFR—the Council on Foreign Relations, which Utt variously refers to as the “Conference” or “Council” “of” Foreign Relations.
     The CFR is old and established, like the Washington Monument, though it is probably too secretive for its own good. It is often on conspiracy theorists' radar. According to Wikipedia,
The Council has been the subject of debate, as shown in the 1969 film The Capitalist Conspiracy by G. Edward Griffin, the 2006 film by Aaron Russo, America: Freedom to Fascism and a 2007 documentary Zeitgeist: The Movie, as well as the book The Naked Capitalist which reviewed Carroll Quigley's book Tragedy and Hope from a less supportive standpoint.
     You’ll recall that Mr. Griffin was also the author of The Fearful Master, for which Utt wrote a glowing introduction (see yesterday's James B. Utt in his own wacky words).

Utt's G. Edward Griffin on Beck's old Fox show
     Griffin’s film (says Wikipedia) was “inspired by Cleon Skousen's book The Naked Capitalist.”
     And who was Cleon Skousen (1913-2006)? Evidently, he was a conspiracy nut, Mormon division. According to Wikipedia, Skousen was a “notable anti-communist and supporter of the John Birch Society.” By the early 60s, “Skousen founded a group called the All-American Society, which Time magazine described in 1961 as an ‘exemplar of the far-right ultras’” (ibid.).
     One of Skousen's better known works was The Naked Capitalist (a companion, I guess, to The Naked Communist):
   In 1970, he wrote The Naked Capitalist based on the book Tragedy and Hope by Carroll Quigley, which claimed that top Western merchant bankers, industrialists and related institutions were behind the rise of communism and fascism around the world. Skousen's aim was to summarize the ideas in Quigley's books and thus make them accessible to a wider audience, however, Quigley disavowed Skousen's interpretations of his work. Skousen states in the work that the purpose of liberal internationalist groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations, is to push "U.S. foreign policy toward the establishment of a world-wide collectivist society." The Naked Capitalist has been cited by many, including Cleon Skousen's nephew Joel Skousen, as proof of a "New World Order" strategy to create a One World Government. (Wikipedia)
     Though Skousen died several years ago, he remains influential, at least in some circles:
   In the 1990s, Arizona law enforcement veteran Russell Pearce became a disciple of Skousen's views. Pearce became an influential Arizona State Senator and was sworn in as President of the Arizona State Senate in 2011.
   In September 2007, a year prior to the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Jan Mickelson of Iowa radio station WHO and Republican Iowa caucus presidential candidate Mitt Romney discussed Skousen in an off-the-air conversation during a break in Mickelson's broadcast, which Mickelson recorded. In the conversation, Mickelson touted Skousen's American Constitutionalism and Romney cited Skousen as an expert on Mormon theology. In commentary about this exchange, the National Review's Mark Hemingway termed Skousen an "...all-around nutjob," and described The Naked Communist [another of Skousen’s works] as "so irrational in its paranoia that it would have made Whittaker Chambers blush," adding, "to be fair Skousen wrote on numerous topics with wildly varying degrees of intellectual sobriety....
   In fall of 2007, political commentator Glenn Beck began promoting The 5,000 Year Leap [a 1981 Skousen work] on his show, describing it as "divinely inspired".... Leap argues that the U.S. Constitution is infused with Judeo-Christian virtues as well as Enlightenment philosophy. Skousen's son Paul Skousen asked Beck to write the foreword for a new edition of the book. Texas Governor Rick Perry has also promoted the book.
   After Beck began promoting Skousen's The 5,000 Year Leap in March 2009, it went to number one in sales on the charts and stayed in the top 15 throughout the following summer....
. . .
   In a November 2010 article in Canada's National Post, Alexander Zaitchik, author of Common Nonsense (a book critical of Glenn Beck), described Skousen as a "whack job" with "decidedly dubious theories.” (Wikipedia)


Anonymous said...

You're making up all these names - Utt, Burpo, Cleon, Mitt.

B. von Traven said...

Nope. Not making 'em up. Their names do seem strangely fitting, however.

Trust teachers. We know.

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