Vital center liberals and libertarians have been arguing for years that the far right and far left meet in a circle. They were speaking, however, of contemporaries like Stalin and Hitler, figures who fed off each other. But what is overlooked is that one extreme can pass the generational torch to another. That is what has happened with the antiwar Left today: they have inherited the rhetoric, hatreds and mindset of the far-Right of the early 1960s.
Between Sputnik and the Kennedy assassination, groups such as the John Birch Society, the Minutemen, and the Christian Anticommunist Crusade not only saw reds under the bed but in the oval office, as well. Robert Welch, the founder of the Birchers, accused Dwight Eisenhower of heading “the communist control apparatus” in America. The Minutemen updated this accusation with JFK. The Dallas-based Fact Finding Committee, a far-Right outfit with ties to the Birch Society, issued the infamous mug shot of Kennedy replete with a “Wanted for Treason” on Nov. 22, 1963, for “aiding the communist cause.”
Today’s antiwar left matches the intensity although not the bipartisanship of these hatreds. Like Welch and Billy James Hargis of the Christian Anticommunist Crusade, the left is fast and loose with the term traitor. “George Bush betrayed this country!” thundered Al Gore recently. Match this with David Ferrie, a fervent anti-Castroite, Bircher and favorite of Kennedy assassination buffs, and his comment before a Veterans’ group that “Kennedy betrayed the whole nation by not going full bore on the Bay of Pigs.” Gore Vidal echoes issue 12 of American Opinion (April 1961) by stating that the founding fathers would have lynched the president. He also subscribes to the same conspiratorial villains: a mixture of Wall Streeters and Israelites. (“The Jews and the House of Acheson lead us into Korea,” said Billy James Hargis of the Christian Anticommunist Crusade). “This is a war for oil orchestrated by the Bush-Cheney junta and encouraged by Israel.” The Kennedy “wanted for treason” sign finds its updated version today with MoveOn.on org’s “warrant” for the arrest of George W. Bush “for crimes against the country.” The antiwar Left’s conspiracy is peopled by party and thus less menacing and more controllable. For them, the problem can be corrected with the insertion of a Democrat, any Democrat, into the oval office.
Like their counterparts today, the far right of the early 1960s claims the election was stolen by a conscious agent of the communist conspiracy. “John Kennedy’s election was bought by the Council on Foreign Relations,” said Robert Welch of the John Birch society. Michael Moore and Gore Vidal’s coup relies less on Jewishness and more on Wall Street; Bush won through an oil rich junta. But for both, elections are not won, they are handed to a prospective candidate by the powerful sitting around the table in some dark room.
There are some differences between these groups, however. None of the far right’s members had the status of today’s antiwar Left, which boast a former vice president, a former attorney general, 300 college professors and 205 movie stars as well as a nationwide radio station. By contrast, the Birchers had only John Wayne and no university personnel. The Texas branch of the John Birch Society had as their figurehead the disgraced general and homosexual Ted Walker. MoveOn.org, by contrast, has been visited by Wesley Clark.
There are telling differences in self-perception, as well. The far right also always saw itself as a victim. One Minutemen pamphlet detailed the Red invasion coming soon from across the Mexican border into Texas. The entire issue detailed how anti-Communists would be tortured with page after page of brainwashing and detailed pictures of Americans being strung up by their thumbs.
Today’s antiwar Left engages in power fantasies of a different sort. They are the perpetrators of violence not the recipients of it. In one week, the liberal radio show Air America had 114 references to shooting George Bush in the back of the head (a far cry from the days of the far-Right when Minutemen covers showed a Chinese communist soldier drawing a bead on the reader); and 17 references to torturing Donald Rumsfield.
The most troubling difference, however, lies in the response of the populace In the early 1960s, these far right groups were being monitored and investigated by a U.S Senator. But today, there is no William Fulbright willing to step up to the plate.
Perhaps the antiwar left should ask their Hollywood branch to dig up the movie Seven Days in May, where the president, the near victim of a military coup, sums up the desperation that leads otherwise democratic figures to engage in undemocratic ventures: “They’re powered by frustation, not lust for power or money.” The same could be said of today’s antiwar Left, whose hatreds and obsessions with unseating George Bush, is leading them down the same paranoid path as traveled by another group in the early 1960s.
“They are the haters, who brood over the election that was stolen from them. They are eager for revenge and will use any means to get it.” The above quote is not about today’s antiwar Left; it is communist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo’s description of the plethora of far right groups that sprang up in the early 1960s. That it could be mistaken for the minions of MoveOn.org says something about the level of hatred among the antiwar Left today.