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Our Local Angle

There is now starting to be some attention paid to Glenn Beck’s revival of the book The 5,000 Year Leap. On his recommendation this “history” (and I use the term loosely) has become something of a best seller decades after its initial publication.

The author of the book was right-wing fabulist W. Cleon Skousen. If you want an idea of how much of a wingnut he was, J. Bracken Lee (the infamously ultra-conservative Salt Lake City Mayor and Utah Governor) fired him as police chief for, his word, “Gestapo” tactics. In addition, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI kept a file on him and let it be known that the they didn’t endorse his claims about communism and two otherwise conservative Mormon scholars criticized the shaky intellectual basis for his work. In 1979, the President of the LDS made a conscious effort to distance the church from Skousen.

Here is the fun part for you longer term Arizonenses. Remember when there was that controversy about Evan Mecham endorsing a text book that used the term “Pickaninny”? Guess who wrote that book? Yep, W. Cleon Skousen. As it turns out, Mecham was a big fan of Skousen’s work too, which gives you an idea about Beck’s world view.

8 Comments

  1. Zelph wrote:

    Wasn’t Skousen also a member of the John Birth Society?

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink
  2. Of course many people aren’t particularly worried if someone was a John Birch Society member.

    I read the book (337 pages) and found it to be an OK American and constitutional history book but didn’t find any information or insight on history that can’t be found somewhere else.

    I grade the book as solid but not particularly inspiring. I read it but it took effort to finish the second half – the whole time I was wondering, where is the secret?

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink
  3. Snarky McSnarkerson wrote:

    Thane, if Skousen was a little too challenging, might I suggest something from the “Dick and Jane Collection”?

    See Dick. See Dick teabag. See Dick teabag Glenn.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink
  4. Is Thane a member of the John Birth Society?

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  5. todd wrote:

    I had long assumed that the JBS had dwindled to a nothing group, but from what I can tell they seem to be one of the groups behind the scenes in the teabagging protests and Beck’s whole 9-12 project. Anyone know a good source on recent information about them? I think it is interesting that the father of the Koch Brothers (who started Americans for Prosperity) was a founder of JBS. Is AFP just a revamped JBS?

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  6. todd wrote:

    Thane – does the book really argue that slave-owners were the true victims of slavery?

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink
  7. Eli_Blake wrote:

    Todd,

    The JBS is alive and well, they have a hotbed of activity in and around Snowflake. They have a table at the county fair here every year and the mob that disrupted the Kirkpatrick table where she wanted to talk to her constituents included at least a couple of people I recognized from the JBS.

    Their biggest problem is having to flip their world view over every few years, like a hotcake. When there is a Republican President the Birchers will argue that the conspiracy against the U.S. is directed from the outside but includes a sizeable ‘fifth column’ but when a Democrat gets elected all of a sudden on inauguration day the conspiracy is being directed ‘from within the walls of the White House’ and is designed to let enemies on the outside take down America. Sort of like old faithful– a seismic event that is easy to predict.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  8. Eli_Blake wrote:

    And incidentally, no problem with the 5,000 year leap because that can still fit into the time frame of my state senator, who believes the earth is 6,000 years old.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink