Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Power Game, Part Four

"In my opinion it is a lunatic book... There is a type of unstable mind which cannot rest without morbid imaginings, and the conception of a single cause simplifies thought.  With this good woman it is the Jews, with some people it is the Jesuits, with others Freemasons, and so on.  The world is more complex than that."-- Hilaire Belloc, commenting on Nesta Webster's Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, 1924


Nesta Webster saw conspiracies everywhere...

Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, published in 1924 and her masterwork, sought to alert the English-speaking world to the dangers posed by Jews, Bolsheviks, Freemasons, the Illuminati, the Knights Templar, ad infinitum et ad nauseum...
Nesta Webster remains one of the most cited
"authorities" among contemporary conspiracy
theorists.  At the request of the British Army's
leadership, Webster provided lectures to commanders
on the "true nature" of the Bolshevik threat.

Why Mrs Webster believed such things should be something of a mystery.  Born to a well-connected family in comfortable circumstances and raised in a stately home, she took a degree from respectable Westfield College in London and married rather well, becoming the wife of England's Superintendent of Police after she toured the world to complete her education.  Yet, despite this (or perhaps because of it), Nesta Helen Bevan Webster-- granddaughter of an Anglican Bishop of Chichester-- was publishing pamphlets with titles like "The need for Fascism in Britain" by the mid-1920s...

Our mystery may be solved in part by Webster's comment about the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic hoax fabricated between 1897 and 1903 by agents of the Russian Secret Police and subsequently widely distributed in the United States by auto maker Henry Ford.  It didn't matter, Webster said, if the Protocols were authentic or a clever forgery: what was important was they told the truth.  And that truth was simple for her.  She knew Jews were up to no good.  Plain and simple.  They toiled like moles, she said, in dark corners of finance and publishing to achieve world-wide domination...
Two French editions of the The Protocols of the Learned Elders
of Zion, a forgery created by Russian Secret Police who aimed to
bolster support for the Czar by appealing to Jew hatred.

[Henry Ford reportedly spent $5 million of his personal fortune to print 500,000 copies of the Protocols and to purchase the Dearborn Independent newspaper to spread his Jew hating nonsense.  Copies of the paper and the Protocols were distributed throughout his vast network of automobile dealerships where they were handed out free of charge to customers.  As early as 1922, Ford began providing financial aid to Adolph Hitler's Nazi movement out of sympathy for its anti-Semitic platform.  The German dictator admired Ford greatly, keeping a life-size portrait of the car maker in his office and honoring him in 1938 with The Grand Cross of the German Eagle, to celebrate Ford's 75th birthday.]

Anti-Semitism was fashionable among the better classes of Europe during Nesta's day just as that equally repulsive myth of Negro Inferiority guided the racial theories of the Deep South in the United States.  (Notions of White European superiority were fueled by the claims of Phrenology, a 19th Century pseudoscience which measured skulls for factors like thickness and bumps that could be used to determine intelligence levels or personality type of an individual or ethnic group).  Among Webster's early admirers, we may count Winston Churchill who enthusiastically and lavishly praised her fourth book, The French Revolution: A Study in Democracy, published in 1919...

It was the French Revolution, in point of fact, that got the intellectually complicated Nesta Webster into the Conspiracy Theory business...
Liberty Leading The People by Eugene Delacroix romantacized
the French Revolution whose leaders aimed to dethrone both King
and Pope and create a secular state based on Reason.

After she returned to England following her marriage to Captain Arthur Webster in India, Nesta devoted three years to researching the topic of the origins of the French Revolution.  She began with a suspicion that Jews and Freemasons were somehow to blame for the overthrow of good order in Europe.  Not surprisingly, she found evidence to prove her notions.  Historians question the actual value of her research since she tended to using unsubstantiated allegations from a single source or, alternatively, citing multiple authors who made similar unproven charges as proof that the charge had to be true...

Part of Webster's elaborate theory that sinister elements devoted to spreading atheism spawned the French Revolution involved the dark hand of the Illuminati who sprang into being on May 1, 1776, through the machinations of Adam Weishaupt.  Despite his training in the classrooms of Jesuits and his position as a lay professor of Canon Law at the University of Ingolstadt, Weishaupt became ensnared by freethinkers who held that one should base conclusions on the basis of facts, reason and logic as opposed to tradition or religious dogma...
The pseudoscience of Phrenology was used to scientifically
prove Caucasion superiority over other racial groups throughout
the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.  Its advocates
further used it to demonstrate English or German or French
superiority over other European groups.

Adam Weishaupt and his Order of the Illuminated Ones failed to find much favor with either Church or State.  Within a year of its founding, the Order was suppressed by Karl Theodore, the Elector of Bavaria.  Weishaupt went into exile.  The remaining members of the Illuminati panicked and scattered to the four winds...

Or did they?

It was the considered opinion of John Robison, a Scottish scientist, the secretive Order had not only remained intact but also continued to foment revolution and rebellion against God and legitimate authority throughout the Christianized world.  He shared his thoughts on the subject in his Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe carried on in the Secret Meetings of the Freemasons, Illuminati, and Reading Rooms, collected from Good Authorities...
Contemporary conspiracy theorists find proof of a Masonic
or Illuminati plot against Christianity in the "All-Seeing Eye"
above an unfinished pyramid and a Latin phrase proclaiming
a New Order of The Ages.  How, they ask, can we support a
government whose very founders brazenly announced their
godless agenda on the nation's currency?

Robison's Proofs of a Conspiracy appeared in the United States in 1798, a year after its European publication...

The Proofs crystallized suspicions among reactionaries about the true loyalties of their political opponents and set in motion a dynamic which still plays a significant role in American government two hundred years later.  To a very large extent, we can argue the fear of the Illuminati in their various guises continues to dominate conspiratorial fears on the political right in the United States...

Asked about Thomas Jefferson, the average American today may cite him as author of the Declaration of Independence or as the visionary who purchased the vast Louisiana Territory.  However, to the politically conservative Federalists of the late 1790s, old Tom was a hated and dangerous man, an agent of both French Atheism and the freethinking Illuminati. 
An issue of auto manufacturer Henry Ford's
Dearborn Independent, part of his multi-
million dollar campaign to alert America to
the threat posed by Jews in her midst

It took little time for preachers to jump on the anti-Illuminati bandwagon. Ink had barely dried on the first copy of Robison's Proofs printed in the US when Reverend Jedediah Morse preached two sermons on the topic to his Boston congregation.  A month after the Reverend Morse inveighed against the Illuminated Ones and their agents, the President of Yale University, Timothy Dwight, delivered an impassioned Fourth of July tirade, demanding to know if "our sons (shall) become disciples of Voltaire and our daughters concubines of the Illuminati?"  Dwight's fiery speech cemented Federalist fears of Jefferson and his godless ways...

Fear of the illuminati helped secure passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 by the Federalists.  These four acts came close to causing the fledgling United States to split apart as both Jefferson and James Madison, the key figure in drafting the nation's Constitution, authored resolutions denouncing them, and America's Navy fought an undeclared war on the high seas with ships flying the flag of the French Republic...
Title page of The Jefferson Bible, a cut-and-paste account
of the life of Jesus compiled by Thomas Jefferson.  A deist,
Jefferson had the highest regard for the moral teachings of
Jesus but believed stories of his miracles and resurrection
were fictions appended onto his biography by his followers.

The crisis engendered by the Alien and Seditions Act died down but the fear of secret societies remained strong.  What has been labeled as the first "Third Party" political movement in the United States was formed in upstate New York in 1828 to oppose the influence of Freemasons in American government. 

The Anti-Masonic Party, by way of trivia, gave our system of government the practices of nominating conventions and an official party platform.  To a large extent, organizers of the Anti-Masonic Party had a hidden agenda: defeating Andrew Jackson and his vigorous view of democracy.  Old Hickory was a Mason (one of 14 US Presidents who attained the degree of Master Mason) and frequently praised the society.  His opponents cleverly tapped into an existing distrust of Freemasonry to achieve their goal of defeating a larger political philosophy that had little to do with secret societies...

Originating in western New York, the Anti-Masonic Party began with a suspicion that Freemasons in the town of Batavia kidnaped and murdered William Morgan, a Mason who became dissatisfied with the order and threatened to publish its secrets...
Andrew Jackson mortally wounds Charles Dickinson in
an 1806 duel after Dickinson repeatedly asserted Jackson's
wife was an adultress who knowingly had sexual relations
in a bigamous marriage.  One of fourteen Presidents known
to be a Master Mason, Jackson's political opponents
unsuccessfully used his connection to Freemasonry against

Class resentment may have had something to do with anti-Masonic sentiment.  Masons were often among the more financially and socially successful members of society in the early days of the American Republic.  George Washington was a Mason.  Extensive research by Masonic historian Ronald Heaton indicates at least eight of the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence were Masons-- Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock being among them.  Unverified claims also link another five or six of the signers to the brotherhood.  It is generally acknowledged the Boston Tea Party was the child of Freemasons...

In the case of Andrew Jackson and the Anti-Masonic opposition to him, we should look past his reputation as champion of the common man and steadily growing middle class to remember he was a rich man.  Historians estimate his fortune in 2010 dollars would come close to $120 million.  [By way of comparison, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had resources equivalent to $525 million and $212 million respectively].  And we should also realize the opposition to Jackson (and Jefferson) was also led by fairly rich men who rallied ordinary folk against the "dangerous" policies of these Presidents...
The Mysteries of the Freemasons by Leo Taxil was a 19th century hoax which
asserted, among other ludicrous claims, that Masons worshipped the mysterious
Baphomet of the Knights Templar.  New Testament scholar Hugh Schonfeld has
argued that "Baphomet" is a cypher translating into "Sophia" ("Wisdom"), the
feminine aspect of God

The struggle against Jackson and Jefferson (as well as many other Presidents) had much to do with a sense of political displacement.  In simplest terms, those who were once the elite and in charge find themselves in subordinate roles with minimal ability to make the rules for others... 

We humans seek explanations for why things change.  In the case of white southerners facing court-ordered integration of schools during the tumultuous1960s, the explanation often had to do with a conspiracy led by Jews and Communists who used their stooges on the "liberal" Supreme Court to weaken America to "mongrelize" the white race.  The Federalist Party of the late 1790s and early 1800s, formed around business and trade ideas promoted by Andrew Hamilton, saw opponents as hell-bent on visiting the horrors of the French Revolution upon the United States... 

Sometimes, a sense of displacement affects the internal direction of a political party.  Feeling core Republican Party conservative values were being ignored, midwestern lawyer Phyllis Schlafly led a revolt against "Eastern Liberals" like New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller then dominating the party.  This successful uprising resulted in Senator Barry Goldwater's disastrous 1964 nomination for the Presidency...
Mid-1960s advertisement for the John Birch Society, a
staunchly anti-Communist conservative organization whose
founder charged President Dwight Eisenhower was willing
tool of the Red Conspiracy.

Those who see sinister purposes behind associations of the rich and powerful will not find merit in political scientist C Wright Mill's assertion in his 1956 study, The Power Elite, that "social origin and formal education in common tend to make the members of the power elite more readily understood and trusted by each other, their continued association further cements what they feel they have in common"... 

Why should we believe two rich men who attended the same university see that as a bond when we can just as easily believe they are bent on enslaving humanity through currency manipulation or stock market frauds?  The former is too simple an answer...

Bogeymen like Illuminati and Freemasons do not appear magically out of nowhere.  We can trace the fear of them back much farther than the 1700s, to lingering suspicions the Knights Templar survived their brutal suppression engineered by France's King Philip IV and Pope Clement V in the early 1300s.  Those who profited financially from the judicial executions justified by confessions extracted through torture feared the Templars who'd escaped were biding their time, patiently waiting to destroy Church and State...
George Washington in Masonic regalia

[Mainstream historians tend to be skeptical of claims linking the Templars and Masons directly.  Certain Masonic traditions assert the connection (as do many if not most anti-Masonic groups) but documentation to prove this is lacking.  Readers interested in one of the better works on the subject may find John J Robinson's Born in Blood useful.  A non-Mason when he began researching the English Peasant's Revolt of 1381, Robinson found what he believed to be subtle hints of an organized Templar survival in the events which took place during the uprising.  Robinson's theories are considered speculative but other historians often recommend Born in Blood as well-written and interesting with a proviso they do see his case as proven.]
Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren was a frequent target of hatred by
groups who simultaneously opposed racial integration and supported the
practice of saying Christian prayers in publicly funded schools.

Returning to Nesta Webster, we note her interest in the French Revolution began with an attempt to understand the rise of Communism in Russia.  She repeatedly argued in her writing that Bolshevism sprang from a much older conspiracy.  As for the roots of this older conspiracy, she saw three possibilities: Zionism, pan-Germanism, or an evil "occult power."  Her personal preference was to blame the Jews, noting "Jews have never been more Jews than when we tried to make them men and citizens"...

Hilaire Belloc described Webster as delusional.  I suspect he was right...
Banner of the Anti-Masonic Party, the first "Third Party"
political movement in the United States.  Its agenda was to
free the United States of the doleful effects of Freemasonry.
Its largely Protestant membership also kept a wary eye on
Catholic immigrants.

[Skeptical readers may view some of Nesta's thoughts as ignorant racism, asking how we could automatically link Zionist-inspired conspiracies to Freemasonry and bands of Bolsheviks.  These readers may be unaware at least one connection was addressed in 1869 by Gougenot de Mousseaux in a work whose title translates to Jews, Judaism, and the Judaization of Christian People.  de Mousseaux warned that Freemasonry was "an audacious work of Judaism, an artificial Judaism to recruit strange men-- and especially Christians-- to the Jewish race" with Masonic Lodges acting as synagogues where duped Gentiles worked to advance Zionist agendas.]    

Of course, one man's lunatic is another man's clear thinking citizen.  What do we make of the John Birch Society, founded in 1958 by candy manufacturer Robert Welch, Jr?  Are they the right-wing extremists many claim them to be?  Or is there truth to JBS allegations that the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was infiltrated by Communists?  Why would our government put fluoride in our drinking water if not to poison and weaken us so Reds can march in, take over, and fly the Hammer and Sickle flag high above Kansas' state capitol?  What did George Herbert Walker Bush mean with his remarks about a New World Order?  Can there be any real doubt among loyal and true American patriots that President Eisenhower was a tool of Moscow and its collectivist monsters?...     

Technological advances in the 1920s and 1930s made
Phrenology available and affordable to all.  These
improvements unfortunately did little to improve the
intelligence of people who used the pseudoscience to
generate theories of racial superiority.



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Note: All photographs for this essay were located through Google Images or Wikipedia, without authoritative source or ownership information except as noted: French editions of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion from; Robot Phrenologist devices from; Phrenology Chart illustrating the Natural Language of the faculties from; George Washington Freemason from; title page from the Jefferson Bible from; C Wright Mills quote from The Power Elite (Mills, New York, 1956); de Mousseaux quoted by Daniel Pipes in Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where it Comes From (New York, 1997);

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