The secretive “Council for National Policy” (CNP) was created in 1981; a mixture of genuine anti-communists and phony career seekers.
Current books about the CNP such as “Shadow Network – Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right” shed a lot of light on the secretive organization, but are written from a typically left-wing perspective. When the CNP was founded in 1981, it was believed that within 50 years a point of unstoppable decline for conservatism would be reached.
The Texan Herman Paul Pressler III, a Houston judge who came from an influential family in the oil business, was a key figure in the creation of the CNP and also served as the organization’s president. In 2018, the Houston Chronicle newspaper reported that several men had been raped by him decades earlier, when he was a young priest. Paige Patterson, also an important figure in the early history of the CNP, covered up the matter.
The priest Jerry Falwell set the tone for many issues and Paul Weyrich used money from beer baron Joseph Coors and Richard Scaife (from the Mellon clan) to create the Heritage Foundation, a cadre factory that has produced countless Republican politicians. The term “dominionism” refers to the intention to form a completely Christian unified government.
Other CNP founding members included the preacher Tim LaHaye, the oil entrepreneur Nelson Bunker Hunt (sponsor of the Birch Society, which long controlled conspiracy media), and Joseph Coors. The CNP was able to crank out bestselling books like LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series of novels which have sold more than 65 million copies.
CNP founder John Singlaub was a retired general and co-founder of the CIA. His activities spanned Manchuria during the communist revolution in China, the Korean War, Nicaragua, and the Afghan struggle against the Soviet occupiers. He was involved with the United States Council for World Freedom, the US branch of the World Anti-Communist League (WACL). The chapter was involved in the Iran-Contra affair. The Associated Press reported that “Singlaub’s private group became the public cover for the White House operation.”
The WACL was described by former member Geoffrey Stewart-Smith as “largely a collection of Nazis, fascists, anti-Semites, counterfeiters, vicious racists and corrupt self-obsessed people”. Colonel Oliver North got into trouble because of Iran-Contra and let it be known that the CNP was involved in active operations. At the scandal hearings in 1987, North was asked whether he had been employed by the National Security Council on a plan for national emergencies. It was revealed in the Miami Herald newspaper that the federal government was prepared to incarcerate US citizens en masse, contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. There was even a secret exercise for it called Readiness Exercise 1984 and programs like Garden Plot.
In right-wing government circles it was expected that the US would send troops to Central America and that militant resistance would form in domestic left-wing circles. When such preparatory measures for uprisings continued in the 1990s under the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton, some right-wing activists and influencers feared that the whole matter was somehow part of the left-wing world conspiracy. The followers of classic conspiracy media (which was controlled by the Birch Society and the CNP) expected that Bill Clinton would hand over control of the USA to the United Nations, whereupon masses of US patriots would then end up in the internment camps. The result would then be the “New World Order”. Later, under Republican President George W. Bush, counterinsurgency preparations continued and conspiracy activists panicked after the 9/11 attacks.
The new legislation like the Patriot Act circumvented the Constitution and the Republicans strongly implied that if there was another, major attack by Islamists, the party would ultimately rule in a dictatorial manner. Conspiracy influencer Jones from Texas, who was closely associated with people from the Birch Society and the CNP, released the documentary film series “Police State” about how FEMA and other parts of the government carried out internment preparations under the guise of disaster response. When Jones became strongly associated with the Republican Party later in the Trump era, he explained that the camps were actually always intended for left-wing insurgents, not right-wing ones. You shouldn’t worry.
The Reagan era saw a massive expansion of political-religious radio programming by the CNP. Many of the target audience did not read newspapers or did not want to pay newspaper subscriptions. You could get radio shows on the way to work in the car or while working. Of course, the CNP had experts in psychological warfare and psychometrics. CNP member James Dobson was a psychologist and hosted the show “Focus on the Family.” Pat Robertson, son of a Virginia senator and a Yale law graduate, became a pastor and created the massive Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and rose to leadership at the CNP. Between 2000 and 2015, the market for newspaper advertising shrank from $60 billion to just $20 billion. The Internet also ensured that around 1,800 newspapers have disappeared since 2004. The owners (or shareholders) of large corporations bought newspapers like the Washington Post.
Almost the entire content of a newspaper is supplied by news agencies such as Reuters. Influential right-wing circles were able to subsidize newspapers and radio programs at will in order to then influence elections and legislation. Much of the political agenda favored wealthy circles and disadvantaged ordinary citizens, increasing the people’s misguided desire for socialist policies. Billionaires from the oil industry like the Kochs or from multi-level marketing like the DeVos family with Amway were able to throw money around. It is clear that this cartel was able to take over the entire conservative sphere, so that nothing independent could ever develop.
In the Internet era of the early 2000s, various people spontaneously started broadcasts and produced documentaries, but one could sense that the people responsible were at least indirectly influenced by the John Birch Society or the CNP. During the Bush era from 2000 to 2008, there was a growing scene of conspiracy ideologues who rejected the Republican Party. People complained about a two-party cartel and a strategy of dividing the population. There was an urgent recommendation to rely less on ideology and to find common ground between left, right and Muslims. Anyone could spontaneously start a blog or put together a listening program or even a documentary without a real budget. However, the activist movement had not succeeded in forcing new official investigations into 9/11 or establishing significant new political candidates. The aging Ron Paul only symbolically ran as a presidential candidate in 2008. Resignation and frustration spread among the activists. Barack Obama’s election victory didn’t bode well and the Republicans hadn’t changed a single bit. 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were no longer topics to mobilize people. From 2008 onwards, the CNP captured the conspiracy ideologists again. The greed for money and influence motivated the new generation of activists. The Tea Party movement was initially an uncoordinated collection of activities and received help from CNP member Dick Armey and money from the Kochs. There was always enough money to finance projects. Betsy DeVos’ brother was Erik Prince, CNP member and founder the mercenary company Blackwater.
Salem Media Group, the Bott Radio Network and American Family Radio either bought entire radio stations or rented airtime. The IRS granted tax-exempt status to the Family Research Council and American Family Radio. The content was always very simple: Christian values and faith, patriotism and agitation against the left. The Bott Network and American Family Radio also made profits from dubious nutritional supplements. The CNP circles recruited new talent like Mike Pence, who had long worked as a show host. The machine ran relentlessly: the CNP leadership set the agenda, the donors provided the money, officials coordinated and the media people propagated. Nevertheless, there was a big problem: large parts of the youth couldn’t really click with hyper-Christian slogans and strange ideas about what the government should look like. Older conservatives increasingly died out. Supposedly the CNP missed these trends, but this may have been intentional from higher ups. It is the major breaking point that can be used to stifle conservatism in the future if necessary.
The Trump era
There was increased activity by the Mercer Family Foundation and the new right trend appealed to many younger men. There is now a relatively high level of agitation and humor in the new right media. Gone are the days when leftists like Jon Stewart railed against Bush on the Daily Show and right-wing circles had no comparable programs. However, Donald Trump introduced a major weak point. Trump was very old and had a devastatingly bad reputation when it came to women. The RedPill Movement, as a counterpart to radical feminism, served to make young men extremely unattractive to women. The CNP rehashed the old doctrine of “dominionism,” that is, single-party rule and “Christian” legislation. Some men hope that at some point they will be able to find young, pretty girls in arranged marriages. CNP people were initially very skeptical and even negative about Trump. Female CNP members like Marjorie Dannenfelser and Penny Nance tried to persuade Iowa voters not to support Trump under any circumstances. Things looked so bad for Trump that many people around him thought that he was guaranteed to lose and that his candidacy would at least increase his fame and perhaps then start a political TV channel. For ominous reasons, CNP people decided to support him. Conspiracy buffs suddenly paid homage to him as the savior of America. The QAnon sect celebrated the myth that Trump would use a secret team to arrest the Democrats. After his victory, Trump’s administration was filled with people from the CNP orbit, the Heritage Foundation, etc. and the new judges for the Supreme Court also came from these cadres. It’s abundantly clear that the legacy elites were in control, but the marketing gave the opposite impression that Trump had come to clean up the mess. Depending on the need, the rug can be pulled out from under the right-wingers’ feet at some point.
The traditional line of the John Birch Society and parts of the CNP was that the Rothschild banking family and Anglo-Americans like the Rockefellers were the “Illuminati.” You had to differentiate between the “good” and the “bad” billionaires. As long as the conservative audience sticks to the right-wing circles, everything would somehow be okay again. The old myth that powerful conservatives will one day arrest the left was rehashed during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the form of the Q cult and similar promises from Dr. Steve Pieczenik and General Flynn. The CNP’s Tim LaHaye played an important role in helping religious right groups support George W. Bush for the presidency in 2000. At the same time, conspiracy buffs were adamant that Bush was part of the Illuminati conspiracy and wanted to usher in the “New World Order.” LaHaye said wholeheartedly:
“I myself have been studying for 45 years the satanically inspired, centuries-old conspiracy to use government, education and the media to destroy every trace of Christianity in our society and establish a new world order.”
He has read “at least fifty books about the Illuminati.” Which means he’s read over 50 run-of-the-mill conspiracy books; probably almost all of them works from the Birch Society and the CNP environment, and then was seriously convinced that he understood the world. In this respect, he is no different from any (online) activist who has fallen for identical material. The CNP is so powerful that even left-wing social scientists who research “conspiracy theories” often shy away from mentioning it and explaining the scope of the Birch Society (JBS). In the academic “Routledge Handbook of Conspiracy Theories” there is only a brief mention of the JBS. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti Defamation League, on the other hand, are more daring and seem genuinely horrified. The CNP directory includes representatives from 14 different conservative media outlets, including the opinion editor of the Washington Times; the editor of the Daily Caller website; the editor-in-chief of CNSNews.com; and Thomas Lifson, editor and publisher of American Thinker. The “In Memoriam” section of the 2014 directory features W. Cleon Skousen, a longtime John Birch Society speaker. Skousen wrote a hugely popular book called The Naked Capitalist. Others on the list include Larry McDonald, a congressman and second president of the John Birch Society. CNP’s W. Cleon Skousen was field director of the American Security Council and an administrative officer at the FBI. A few years ago, his old books were advertised again by the extremely successful TV presenter Glenn Beck. After Skousen left the FBI, the agency became increasingly concerned about his views and created a file on him that grew to 2,000 pages. During his service he had nothing to do with counterintelligence against communists. A 1962 FBI memo states:
“In the last year or so, Skousen has joined the far-right professional anti-communists who are promoting their own anti-communism for obvious financial reasons.”
Skousen’s book, “The Naked Communist,” the FBI official said, was “another example of why a solid, scholarly textbook on communism is urgently needed instead.” In 1963, Skousen’s extremism cost him money. No conservative organization with mainstream credibility wanted anything to do with him. Members of the ultra-conservative American Security Council kicked him out because they felt he had “gone unhinged.” One ASC member who shared this opinion was William C. Mott of the US Navy. Mott found Skousen “money-hungry…totally unqualified and interested only in advancing his own personal goals.” When Skousen joined Robert Welch’s charge that Dwight Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy,” the last of Skousen’s dwindling corporate clients abandoned him. He read “Tragedy and Hope” by Carroll Quigley, but, like the Birch Society, fundamentally misinterpreted it. Quigley is not an arrogant insider of the great conspiracy who admitted internal affairs.