The October issue of Vanity Fair magazine includes this year's "New Establishment" list. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein tops the list, while the usual suspects – Jobs, Bezos, Murdoch, Buffet, the Google founders – jostle around in the Top 10. But further back, at 81, there's a new entrant: Fox News host Glenn Beck.
Frankly, I think they could have put Beck higher up this list. His laughter-to-tears programme on Fox is both a cultural and a financial phenomenon in 2009. When these crazy people marched on Washington on Saturday, many of them did so at Beck's urging:
After pondering what planet these people come from, you may then be wondering from whence their inglorious leader gets his ideas. Happily for you, Alexander Zaitchik on Salon has put together a fascinating backgrounder on Beck's intellectual hero -- W. Cleon Skousen. Beck's cheerleading for Skousen's best-known work, The 5000-Year Leap, has had the book in the upper reaches of the Amazon best-seller list for months. And as Zaitchik notes, this wasn't his only work:
As Beck knows, to focus solely on "The 5,000 Year Leap" is to sell the author short. When he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen had authored more than a dozen books and pamphlets on the Red Menace, New World Order conspiracy, Christian child rearing, and Mormon end-times prophecy. It is a body of work that does much to explain Glenn Beck's bizarre conspiratorial mash-up of recent months, which decries a new darkness at noon and finds strange symbols carefully coded in the retired lobby art of Rockefeller Center. It also suggests that the modern base of the Republican Party is headed to a very strange place ...
In "The Naked Communist," Skousen had argued that the communists wanted power for their own reasons. In "The Naked Capitalist," Skousen argued that those reasons were really the reasons of the dynastic rich, who used front groups to do their dirty work and hide their tracks. The purpose of liberal internationalist groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations, argued Skousen, was to push "U.S. foreign policy toward the establishment of a world-wide collectivist society." Skousen claimed the Anglo-American banking establishment had a long history of such activity going back to the Bolshevik Revolution. He substantiated this claim by citing the work of a former Czarist army officer named Arsene de Goulevitch. Among Goulevitch's own sources is Boris Brasol, a pro-Nazi Russian émigré who provided Henry Ford with the first English translation of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion."
So there's a certain bizarre symmetry in Beck's hordes carrying placards depicting Barack Obama as Hitler, as so many of them did last Saturday.
That symmetry extends neatly to New Zealand's own most prominent disciple of John Birch Society dogma, former Act party vice president, Trevor Loudon. As David Farrar noted warmly this week, Loudon's typically fevered research into the alleged crypto-communist past of former White House "green jobs czar" Van Jones (driven out of the job after a public campaign by Beck) has been quoted in the US Congress.
Loudon received great acclaim from the same paranoid right last year for his efforts to uncover Obama's supposed communist links. He has effectively gone global after spending years sniffing the ideological underpants of anyone anywhere left of the centre of New Zealand politics, including the Greens' co-leader Russell Norman, often with hysterical results.
The irony is that the guy with the really troubling political past is Loudon himself. As you may indeed recall from this 2006 Hard News post:
[Loudon] still actively "studies" with the quasi-religious capitalism cult Zenith Applied Philosophy, which supposedly schismed away from Scientology early on (it's now on the notorious Church of Scientology "fair game" list, along with the Universal Church of Eternal Phetan, the Institute of Advanced Perception, and what seems like a million other flaky, cultish outfits).
ZAP was big news in Christchurch when I was a lad there. Its leader called himself Johnny Ultimate and appeared to have special powers. ZAP members would distribute recruiting leaflets by bus stops in the square, and also circulate books from the John Birch Society, a far-right American organisation which held that both the US and Soviet governments were controlled by a conspiracy of greedy bankers and corrupt politicians.
Jews, basically. And indeed, in the early 1980s, ZAP was a player in the neo-Nazi New Force party founded by the notorious Kerry Bolton. Loudon tends to try and skip around the association with semantics, but it's well enough documented.
It's unlikely that this kind of "thought" will ever gain much political purchase in New Zealand – Act remains the only viable political party weird enough to accord senior office to someone like Loudon – but it is certainly handy to be able to make the connections.
The same issue of Vanity Fair also contains Levi Johnston's inside story of life with the Palin family, from which Sarah Palin herself emerges as mendacious, stupid, lazy and vain. Oh, and greedy. It's been ghost-written as a first person account from interviews, and the style is a little unconvincing at times, but it's a truly flabbergasting read.
The main feature in tonight's Media7 (9.10pm, TVNZ 7) is a discussion with two journalists who have recently made significant reports on Fiji: Maori Television's Julian Wilcox, who travelled to Fiji with a Native Affairs team to conduct what turned out to be a tense, absorbing and occasionally alarming interview with Commodore Frank Bainmarama (you can watch the whole Native Affairs show here) and Radio New Zealand pacific correspondent Richard Pamatatau, who ventured to places reporters don't go – and found poor and desperate people in the villages.
I think you'll find it well worth watching.