Dangerous Talk Blog

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I’ve Been "Perna-ed"!

… and that’s not a bad thing

I’ve received several letters from loyal John Birch Society members criticizing me for “attacking” the John Birch Society with my last post.

I fervently deny the charge.

I joined the JBS for one reason. I wanted to stop communism, where nations were swallowed up into an all-powerful, militarily aggressive, governmental empire that spied on its citizens as often as possible, "disappeared" them at will -- and without trial -- to secret prison camps, where they could be tortured, housed like animals, or killed. That kind of world frightened me. And I joined the JBS because it was the most active and effective organization arrayed against the Soviet gulag state. Today, George Bush has brought all of those qualities to America: the surveillance, the torture, no trials, the empire, the military aggression, and the "disappeared" non-persons in those secret prisons. And in the five years The New American has been writing about these emerging problems, none of the above (except surveillance) has made it onto the action agenda of the John Birch Society. So if the JBS will not lift a finger to stop the Bush gulag, I’ve got to find an organization that will if I want to stop the Bush gulag.

It’s that simple. The above does not constitute an “attack” or “condemnation,” these are a simple and sober assessment of obvious facts. Anyone could find this out by picking up a copy of the JBS Bulletin or browsing the JBS website. Facts are not attacks, unless you are a cultist.

And while I’m on the subject of cultists, I did receive at least one letter from the party of Vance Smith after my last post, which apparently did take my last post as an attack. I received an anonymous postal letter purporting to come from Appleton JBS staffers who are just pining for a return to the glory reign of Smith Il-Son/Smith Son-Il and asking me to contact Mike Armstrong to help return the le regime ancien to the throne. But I doubt the risible letter represented the views of anyone on staff at the JBS.

I’d like to be able to quip that only MOAB-ing Westhill Boulevard would destroy the JBS faster than returning Vance Smith to the CEO position, but that would be too gratuitous a slap and a patent falsehood. The John Birch Society was designed with staff leadership spread out throughout the country in the form of talented coordinators like Hal Shurtleff, Dale Pierce and Jim Capo. Most of the talent at the national headquarters today emerged from the field staff. Clearly, the JBS would recover much more quickly from a MOAB-ing of Westhill Boulevard than it would from a second rule of Vance Smith or his acolytes. So I guess I can’t make that quip about MOAB. I don't think a gratuitous slap at the JBS field staff is worth the laughs.

I would close ranks with the JBS headquarters over this issue faster than Ted Kennedy closes ranks with his hotel minibar. Vance Smith’s “management” decreased the circulation of The New American by 2/3, cutting circulation from about 60,000 to a mere 20,000, and in the process managed to alienate all of the talented staff in Appleton. That’s not the kind of management I’d ever want to see imposed on my worst enemy. I haven’t resigned my membership in the JBS, and I wonder if the cultist letters to me would cease if I reassert that the JBS does exclusively good work. Probably not.

By now, you'll know I’m no Vance Smith fan though I once defended him. And that brings me to having been “Perna-ed” and finding an organization that will fight the Bush gulag. One of the letters I received after my post was from JBS chapter leader John Perna. Perna is a giant in the freedom movement, despite the fact that his words were reminiscent of my own words in criticizing Alan Stang just seven years ago. Here’s the key part of what John wrote:

“It takes more time, money and effort to BUILD a ship than it takes to SINK a ship…. Now there are apparently those who would like to sink that ship. I ask them this: Do you have another ship? Do you even have a life boat? Here is my challenge to those who claim that there is anything that The John Birch Society could do, that is better than what they are now doing: PLEASE demonstrate what would be better by YOUR OWN example.”

As he always does, John has issued a perfectly reasonable challenge. I don’t know if he had me in mind when he wrote the challenge, and I suppose it doesn’t matter because I took it to heart anyway. And all the while, I was thinking about how I had written essentially the same thing seven years earlier to Alan Stang.

And that got me to thinking about how I had been such a fool all of those years. Say what you will about Alan Stang, but he was right and I was wrong about Vance Smith.

He wasn’t the only one who had better insight than me. A group of field staff people, led by former California Coordinator Kevin Bearly, saw through Vance Smith a decade before anyone in Appleton had a clue (and 11 years before I did). After being cast out of the JBS by the Smith clique, they formed their own Welch Foundation (now The Right Source) and quietly went about the task of building a better boat, to use John Perna’s language. They recently picked up William Norman Grigg, the former Senior Editor for The New American, and added him to their staff and have just launched their own e-zine, Pro Libertate. They have local “Committees of Correspondence” that are roughly analogous to JBS Chapters, and are a growing organization. They have a nationally syndicated radio show called “The Right Source,” which you can listen to on the internet live 6-7 weekdays Eastern Time from a link at the Right Source website.

Most importantly, they are intensely interested in fighting the Bush gulag.

I had already planned to write for Pro Libertate as often as I could spare the time.

But John’s letter struck me to the core. The very night I received John Perna’s e-mail challenge I typed out a letter volunteering to help streamline The Right Source’s action agenda, putting to use my 10 years of experience designing the JBS Bulletin’s “Pending Legislation.” (I also volunteered to help coordinate the Antiwar League’s Boston area anti-torture initiative the next day.)

So I have thrown my lot in with The Right Source as a volunteer. I’ve been "Perna-ed," and that’s not a bad thing.