COUP WATCH: Ashcroft Appearance on Schlafly's 1997 Conspiracist Video
by Chip Berlet
1/11/01 - Revision 1
John Ashcroft appeared in a 1997 video from Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum that portrayed the feminist movement, multiculturalism, reproductive rights, gay rights, environmental concerns, global cooperation, and even chemical weapons treaties as part of a secret conspiracy to promote a socialist One World Government and New World Order.
The video, "Global Governance: The Quiet War Against American Independence," is introduced by Schlafly who claims that President Clinton is part of a conspiracy outlined by his former professor Carroll Quigley, involving a "small elite" of "cosmopolitan" and "international" power brokers who are close to government and "equally devoted to secrecy and the secret use of financial influence in political life."
This type of conspiracist allegation is found in the right-wing of the Republican Party, the Patriot and armed militia movement, and the Far Right. The use of language about cosmopolitan international financial elites shows insensitivity to the historic use of such phrases to promote antisemitic claims of an international Jewish banking conspiracy.
Other featured speakers on the video include Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Jesse Helms, Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Helen Chenoweth (now Helen Chenoweth-Hage) U.S. Representative, Idaho; and Patrick Buchanan, identified as a syndicated columnist & "Crossfire" co-host.
Both Chenoweth and Buchanan have made overtures to the Patriot and militia movements. In 1997 Rep. Chenoweth introduced a bill co-sponsored by 43 House members to block a federal plan to designate certain historic waterways "heritage rivers." The primarily symbolic gesture had been attacked by the Patriot movement and the overlapping anti-environmentalist "Wise Use" movement as a federal land grab. Some claimed it was part of a UN-backed New World Order initiative. A section of the Eagle Forum video raises similar concerns, complete with maps of US territory showing UN/US land grabs. Similar conspiracist charges are a regular feature of publications from the John Birch Society.
In early 2000, Chenoweth worked openly with the John Birch Society, a major Patriot group, in an effort to stop the transfer of the Panama Canal. In response, Jason F. Isaacson, director of the American Jewish Committee's Washington Office, wrote a letter to Rep. Chenoweth. Defending the right of the Birch Society to express its views in public, Isaacson wrote that, "We fear that your invitation to the John Birch Society to speak at Wednesday's congressional briefing gives weight and prestige to perspectives that are, and ought to remain, at the fringes of society...We respectfully urge you to withdraw your invitation." Issacson said AJC challenged "the wisdom of offering the Society a congressional platform from which to promulgate those views - views that for decades have fueled and thrived on conspiracy theories, nativism, isolationism and intolerance."
According to the video box for "Global Governance," in the video "You'll see the Clinton Administration's dangerous drive to ratify treaties that give global bureaucrats control over American land, natural resources, private property, our economy, and even our children and our families."
Ashcroft is highlighted on the video box, and makes two substantial appearances including giving the video's closing comments.
In his first appearance, Ashcroft comments on claims that United Nations treaties protecting the rights of children are suspect and could result in overly-intrusive government meddling with parental rights:
"I don't really believe that our government should interfere substantially with child rearing. It would be wrong for states to tell parents what they could or what they should do with their children--or for the federal government. But when you take that beyond the state and the federal government to an international organization that would seek to tell you, for instance, that you couldn't take your child out of certain sex education classes in our schools, for example; I think a family ought to have a right to understand what values it supports in that arena, and to protect the child in relation to those values."
At the end of the video, after repeated attacks on how the United Nations and international conferences and treaties promote a radical feminist, pro-gay, abortion on demand agenda that will undermine the American family, Ashcroft says:
"I simply reject the notion that somehow we can go to countries where there is less freedom, less respect, less dignity for any affected population--whether it be women or children--and get them to tell us what we ought to be doing. I think as responsible individuals, given the capacity to make consequential choices by our government (and ultimately by God who created us to be free), we don't need an international organization to tell us how to treat our children, how to treat ourselves, how to treat our women, how to fashion our families. As free Americans we can make those decisions right here at home."
Throughout the video, assertions are made that enforcing UN and other global treaties is part of a grand design to destroy US sovereignty. At one point there is a hint that it is all part of a communist plot. The Justice Department is involved in several ways with reporting requirements and enforcement responsibilities that evolve from some of these treaties.
For background information on this type of conspiracism, see Right-Wing Populism in America, Too Close for Comfort, by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons, New York: Guilford Press, 2000.