depuis le 5/02/2011 :
Visualisation(s): 9686 (6 ULg)
Téléchargement(s): 0 (0 ULg)
Chip Berlet

Fears of Fédéralisme in the United States: The Case of the ‘North American Union’ Conspiracy Theory

Article Open Access

Texte intégral

1Even before Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States the Internet was seething with lurid conspiracy theories tracing his alleged subversion and treachery. Obama, it was claimed, was a secret Muslim; he was not a proper citizen of the United States and his election as President should be overturned; he was the puppet of a cell of Jews and Communists in his Chicago neighborhood; he was a tool of the New World Order in a plot to establish a North American Union.

2Warnings about the impending creation of a North American Union that would merge the United States, Canada, and Mexico into one federal unit are spreading across the United States. While this merger is not on any serious government agenda, the issue is increasingly being debated in print publications, on the Internet, and over the airwaves.1

3The claims primarily are concocted by marginal right-wing conspiracy theorists in what scholars call the ‘Patriot’ movement; however the issue surfaced in the campaign for the U.S. Presidential election of 2008, and was raised at an international press conference on 21 August 2007 featuring then President Bush of the United States, President Calderón of Mexico, and Prime Minister Harper of Canada.2 What began as marginal rumors has entered mainstream political debate.

4Like all conspiracy theories, these claims start with a grain of truth. There is a ‘Security and Prosperity Partnership’ project involving common interest planning and streamlining of regulations among the three countries.3 But the idea that this is a secret precursor to a planned North American Union is a concoction of right-wing conspiracy theorists drawing on historic suspicion of collectivism and abuses of federal ‘Big Government’.

5During the height of the armed citizen Militia Movement that crested in the mid 1990s, there were widespread fears that the U.S. federal government was about to impose a draconian tyrannical dictatorship using jack-booted thugs delivered in black helicopters sent by the United Nations. The Militia Movement was a short-lived armed wing of the larger and more durable ‘Patriot’ movement in the United States, with its roots in Twentieth Century anti-communism and Cold War politics.4 The Patriot movement is often linked to tendencies called ‘Americanist’ or ‘Nativist, and is composed of an overlapping series of dissident right-wing social and political movements located between mainstream conservatism and the ultra-right that is composed of neonazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and other similar militant and openly White supremacist and antisemitic racist groups.5 Patriot groups, as Durham notes, have taken a variety of forms.6 Activists are constantly stepping across boundaries into mainstream conservatism on one side or the ultra-right on the other, depending on the historic moment, political events, and shifting ideology.

6Distrust of the federal government, distaste for bureaucratic regulation, and suspicion that national sovereignty is eroding – all of these are popular themes throughout the United States. This is, after all, a country where the bootlegger who makes homemade ‘moonshine’ liquor to avoid paying federal taxes is a folk hero. While the suspicious conspiracist concerns of the Patriot and armed Militia Movements reflect hyperbolized versions of these core themes, it is useful to see them as deeply rooted in specific nightmares that periodically disturb the American Dream.

The North American Union

7The basic allegation of the North American Union (NAU) conspiracy theory is that ‘behind closed doors, the Bush administration has collaborated with the governments of Mexico and Canada to merge the three nations into one Socialist mega-state’. This quote is from the introduction to an online video featuring long-time ultra-conservative leader Howard Phillips interviewing author Jerome Corsi on Phillips’ ‘Conservative Roundtable’ program.7 Similar claims are now implicating the Obama Administration.

8Phillips, Corsi, and Phyllis Schlafly are the major figures in the U.S. political right who, since 2006, have spearheaded the drive to expose the devious NAU collectivist plot.8 Others who have spread the warning include former Republican and third-party Presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, an icon of the xenophobic right in the United States; the ultraconservative John Birch Society; and supporters of right-wing libertarian Ron Paul, a U.S. Congressman from Texas who was a Republican Presidential nomination candidate in 2008.

9Corsi touts the looming implementation of the NAU in his book, The Late Great U.S.A.: The Coming Merger with Mexico and Canada, published 4 July 2007 – which is the date Americans celebrate Independence Day. Within a few weeks, Corsi’s book was in its third printing and a bestseller – reaching number 28 on the New York Times list and the ‘No. 1 spot on Amazon’s ‘Nonfiction’ list’.9 The publisher was WND books – an imprint of, a nasty right-wing website featuring xenophobia larded with conspiracy theories. Corsi writes columns for both WorldNetDaily (WND), and Human Events, an ultra-conservative newspaper.10 He is also a staff reporter for WND with a history of involvement in right-wing anti-liberal and anti-immigrant causes.11

10In June of 2006 Corsi explored a new front on the NAU conspiracy theory with his claims that the nefarious secretive globalists were:

(…) working behind the scenes to create the NAFTA Super Highway, despite the lack of comment on the plan by President Bush. The American public is largely asleep to this key piece of the coming ‘North American Union’ that government planners in the new trilateral region of United States, Canada and Mexico are about to drive into reality.12

11This claim was picked up by Patrick Buchanan, who has a syndicated newspaper column, and who quoted television newscaster Lou Dobbs, who like Buchanan is xenophobic and anti-immigrant.13 According to Buchanan:

This is a ‘mind-boggling concept’, exploded Lou Dobbs. It must cause Americans to think our political and academic elites have ‘gone utterly mad’.

Dr. Robert Pastor, vice chair of the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on North America, had just appeared before a panel of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations – to call for erasing all U.S. borders and a merger of the United States, Mexico and Canada in a North American union stretching from Prudhoe Bay to Guatemala.

Under the Pastor-CFR plan, the illegal alien invasion would be solved by eliminating America’s borders and legalizing the invasion. We would no longer defend the Rio Grande.14

12Discussion of and opposition to the NAU became so widespread, that in January 2007 an elected member of the U.S. Congress, Rep. Virgil Goode (a Republican from Virginia), drafted a resolution that urged President Bush to ‘not to go forward with the North American Union or the NAFTA Superhighway system’. The story for the resulting Corsi article on WorldNet Daily crowed ‘Congress debate begins on North America Union: Resolution calls for end of NAFTA superhighway, abandonment of integration with Canada, Mexico’. The kicker headline was: ‘Premeditated Merger’.15

Scraps of Facts, Truckloads of Rumors

13There is an actual ‘North America’s Supercorridor Coalition’, and it received so many complaints about its suspected role in the NAU and the alleged ‘NAFTA Superhighway’ that at one point it junked its website’s home page and pointed browsers to a statement that read in part:

As of late, there have been many media references to a ‘new, proposed NAFTA Superhighway’. While NASCO and the cities, counties, states and provinces along our existing Interstate Highways 35/29/94 (the NASCO Corridor) have referred for years to I-35 and key branches as ‘the NAFTA Superhighway’, the reference solely acknowledged and recognized I-35’s major role in carrying a remarkable portion of international trade with Mexico, the United States and Canada. In actual fact, there are no plans to build ‘a new NAFTA Superhighway’. It already exists today as I-35 and branches.16

14The left-leaning Nation magazine ran a story dismissing the claims about the NAU and the NAFTA Superhighway, but noted ‘Though opposition to the nonexistent highway is the cause célèbre of many a paranoiac, the myth upon which it rests was not fabricated out of whole cloth. Rather, it has been sewn together from scraps of fact’.17

15One of those factual scraps is Dr. Robert A. Pastor. He exists, and appears a bit tired of being cast in the role of a mendacious multinationalist Mephistopheles by conspiracy theorists. ‘Nobody is proposing a North American Union’, Pastor patiently told a reporter. 18 Pastor, a professor at American University, authored ‘Towards a North American Community: Lessons from the Old World for the New’, a 2001 study that earned Pastor the reputation among Patriot conspiracy mongers as the ‘father’ of the North American Union. ‘They also point to his co-chairmanship of a Council on Foreign Relations task force that produced a report in 2005 on cooperation among the three countries’. Pastor blamed the panic over the NAU and ‘NAFTA Superhighway’ on ‘the xenophobic or frightened right wing of America that is afraid of immigration and globalization’.19

16By the end of 2006, even a number of conservative commentators were growing tired of the panic, and began to attack the right-wing conspiracy theorists. Corsi then wrote columns in Human Events denouncing the denouncers.20

17In July 2007 Marcela Sanchez wrote an online column for the Washington Post titled: ‘Stop, Stop! A North American Union! As Some Stoke Fears of ‘Dangerous’ Partnership, Reality Takes a Detour’.21 The column ridiculed the conspiracy theories. Larry Greenley of the John Birch Society (JBS) denounced the Sanchez article in a response claiming that ‘Even President Bush Called the Security and Prosperity Partnership a ‘Union’ Back in 2005’.22 For the JBS, the editors at the Washington Post are among the secret elites behind the sinister plot in the first place.

18Shortly thereafter the meeting of the three national leaders took place on 21 August 2007. The question about the NAU was raised, and all three leaders responded:

President Bush: ‘(…) I’m amused by some of the speculation, some of the old – you can call them political scare tactics. If you’ve been in politics as long as I have, you get used to that kind of technique where you lay out a conspiracy and then force people to try to prove it doesn’t exist’.

Prime Minister Harper: ‘You know, we had some business leaders in front of us today; one in particular said, you know, the rules for jelly beans – he manufactures jelly beans – the rules for jelly bean contents are different in Canada and the United States; they have to maintain two separate inventories. Is the sovereignty of Canada going to fall apart if we standardize the jelly bean? I don’t think so.’

President Calderón: (As translated.) ‘(…) In actual fact, there are several myths about this meeting, some more jovial, funnier than others. What we tried to do is simply to meet, talk about our common problems and see what we can do in practical terms in order to improve the lives of our people. Whether it’s to standardize the parameters for chocolates or medicines, I think these are common-sense things (…).’23

19The conspiracists were not amused. Phyllis Schlafly responded with a column titled ‘Bush Refuses to Deny the North American Agenda’.24 This follows the typical conspiracist format in which no comment is further proof to the conspiracists of the truth of the allegation; and in which the plotters are asked to disprove a negative premise – which is impossible. Corsi followed up with an interview with a trucking industry Teamster Union leader headlined: ‘Bush creating North American Union: Teamsters boss: Mexican trucks part of ‘master plan’ for ‘super-government’.25

20In mid October 2007 the John Birch Society magazine New American published an entire special issue devoted to alerting the nation: ‘Merger in the Making: North American Union Edition’.26

21Not all the conspiracy theorists peddling the NAU and ‘NAFTA Superhighway’ myths are on the political right. In mid 2007 the ostensibly left-wing Centre for Research on Globalization published an article, ‘Canadians Completely Unaware of Looming North American Union’. The Centre has a history of transposing right-wing conspiracy theories into articles for a leftist audience.27 The June 2006 article by Corsi on the ‘NAFTA Super Highway’ even won an award from the left-leaning watchdog group, Project Censored.28 Still, most critics appear to be on the political right and have ties to the Patriot movement.

22The dynamic of conspiracism is the same across the Patriot movement – the more that mainstream publications, politicians, and pundits dismiss or ridicule the North American Union conspiracy theory, the more Patriot proponents see this as evidence that the plan is underway. The secret elites are behind it, and mainstream publications, politicians, and pundits are part of the plot. Barkun has called this dynamic ‘stigmatized knowledge’ in which lack of evidence confirms how sneaky the plotters really are, and denials are just more evidence of the truth of the sinister plan.29

Roots of Suspicion

23Why did these rumors about the NUA spread so quickly through the U.S. Patriot movement and burst into mainstream public policy discussions? Because such rumors are rooted in the American tradition; and it has happened before – repeatedly.30

24Davis suggests that movements to counter the ‘threat of conspiratorial subversion acquired new meaning in a nation born in revolution and based on the sovereignty of the people’. In the US, ‘crusades against subversion have never been the monopoly of a single social class or ideology, but have been readily appropriated by highly diverse groups’, notes Davis.31

25The witch hunts in Salem in the 1600s combined Protestant apocalyptic belief with fears of evil conspiracies. In the late 1700s the ink on the U.S. Constitution had barely dried when fears of ‘alien’ sedition swept the new country. The 1800s saw panics about the Illuminati, the Freemasons, and the Catholics. Claims of Jewish cabals emerged in the early 1900s. The next 50 years witnessed a series of Red Scares in the United States that stretched from the anti–immigrant Palmer Raids of 1919-1920, to the Cold War McCarthy Period in the 1950s.32

26The tendencies that create these periods of patriotic conspiracy belief draw from deep wells in the American heartland:  ‘states rights’, ‘rugged individualism’, Social Darwinism, a Laissez Faire form of economic libertarianism, and a tradition of populist political rhetoric.33 All five tendencies feed a distrust of the regulatory functions of federal governments and international agencies; and fuel paranoia about the prospect of even larger federations among nations.

27The causes of the U.S. Civil War involved many factors, but much of the populist rhetoric of politicians such as John C. Calhoun and Ben Tillman centered on calls to preserve States Rights under the federal system as a way to ensure white rule in the South, even after the war was over.34 States Rights has always been an issue central to the ideology of the ultraconservative advocacy group, the John Birch Society, and it became a major theme within the Patriot and armed Militia Movements in the 1990s.35

28As anyone who has ever watched a John Wayne film can attest, tales of the American Western frontier and the spirit of the pioneers reflect parables of ‘rugged individualism’. This is a ‘core American cultural value’, that is ‘especially significant in the American psyche’.36

29Social Darwinism takes the idea of the survival of the fittest in nature and imposes it on economic systems by arguing that fierce and unregulated competition builds individual character and national economic health.37 Social Darwinism is ‘a secularist philosophy’, explains Hofstadter, but it is influenced by ‘a kind of naturalistic Calvinism in which man’s relation to nature is as hard and demanding as man’s relationship to God under the Calvinistic system’.38 A return to early Calvinist doctrine is a popular theme in some sectors of the Christian Right in the United States, and Calvinism strongly influenced the early American outlook.39 The relationship between libertarian Laissez Faire Capitalism and Calvinist Protestantism was explored by Weber.40

30In the early Twentieth Century there were popular tracts in the United States warning that the federal income tax was theft and the Federal Reserve banking system a corrupt plan to loot the economy. These ideas were repackaged numerous times, with right-wing groups such as the John Birch Society and Liberty Lobby peddling them in the 1960s and the 1970s.41

31When President Roosevelt was elected President in 1933 he increased the size and role of the federal government significantly. Libertarian and Laissez Faire ideologues were outraged. To counter this new role for ‘Big Government’, associations of manufacturers and corporate executives spent millions of dollars to distribute ‘educational’ materials warning that a bloated federal government was the road to collectivism, communism, and tyranny. Economic libertarianism was a bedrock assumption of the American political economy up until the Franklin Roosevelt Administration of 1933 to 1945. Right-wing ideologues still claim that Roosevelt sent the country marching down the road to socialism.42

32After World War Two, conservative activists led by William F. Buckley, Jr. launched a campaign to rollback the size of the federal government. This became a major rhetorical goal of the Reagan Administration in the 1980s.43 Distrust of the federal government by North American Union conspiracy believers is thus fed from several interwoven strands of U.S. history, and then wrapped in populist rhetoric.

33The conspiracy theories concerning the North American Union and the ‘NAFTA Superhighway’ follow a populist political tradition that is also deeply rooted in American history. Canovan identifies several types of populism, including calls for more political participation in the form of populist democracy; the use of populist rhetoric by politicians claiming to represent the interests of ‘the people’ and reactionary populism which tends to mobilize a specific racial or ethnic group by scapegoating an alien ‘other’, seen as subverting the idealized society. Kazin speaks of populism as a rhetorical style that can be applied to multiple situations from multiple political and ideological perspectives.44

34Populism, then, is a rhetorical style that seeks to mobilize ‘the people’ as a social or political force to counter entrenched elites. Populist rhetoric is used in both left wing and right wing movements. It can be used to challenge or defend the status quo. It can end up promoting or undermining democratic civil society.45 The central populist motif of many historic right-wing dissident movements in the United States is the claim that the current government regime is indifferent, corrupt, or traitorous.46 Episodes of right-wing populism are often caused by economic, social, or cultural stress that assists right-wing organizers mobilizing an alienated cross-class sector of the population.47

35In the United States, populism often involves the use of a ‘producerist’ narrative that portrays a noble middle class of hard-working productive citizens being squeezed by a conspiracy involving secret elites above and lazy, sinful, and subversive parasites below.48 White supremacist used producerist narratives to fuel the attack on the freed Black former slaves in the U.S. South after the Civil War.49 Producerist versions of antisemitism helped German Nazis recruit an alienated mass base.50 Producerist forms of populism can weave together strands of integralism, organicism, and völkish nationalism.51

36The result of all of these antecedents is that a large portion of the U.S. Right adopts, often in an unwitting or crude form, a version of individualistic populist anti-elitism which facilitates the ease in which anti-government and anti-federalist conspiracy theories move through sectors of the Right in the United States and then into the mainstream.52

Some Sociological Frameworks

37It is easy to dismiss people who believe in conspiracy theories as simply crackpots, but when these claims spread across a society, something more complicated is happening. In recent years sociologists who study right-wing political and social movements have been identifying specific ideologies, frames, narratives, styles, processes, methodologies, and triggers that shape how right-wing movements work.53 Sociologists especially look at how particular ‘frames’ of reference are used to take a political ideology and build collective action movements that seek a change in society.54

38Sociologists use the term ‘narratives’ to discuss how stories are used in social movements to build group cohesion, and mobilize supporters to action. It does not matter if these stories are based on personal experiences or largely mythical.55 What matters is that movement participants believe them to be true, and shape their actions based on this belief.56

39It has only been since the 1970s that most sociologists began to agree that right-wing movements use frames and narratives in ways that are similar to other movements. This is true even with extreme right groups.57 The Patriot movement in the United States often combines frames and narratives that utilize dualism, demonization, scapegoating, and conspiracism. They combine these tendencies with an apocalyptic sense that time is running out so that quick action is needed. By looking at how these factors operate we can see that inside the U.S. Patriot movement and its precursors, what at first glance might appear to be simply irrational paranoid panic over the North American Union can be put into a context of social movement strategy aimed at shaping public policy debates.


40When looking at social movements, the word ‘apocalypse’ is used in a generic sense, and refers to the idea that there is an approaching confrontation, cataclysmic event, or transformation. This upcoming struggle between good and evil will mark the end of an epoch. During the apocalyptic transformation, hidden truths are revealed and a new reality emerges to replace the old.58 Apocalyptic movements generally believe that time is running out, and that a handful of people have been given the news, which means they have a duty to warn others and make appropriate preparations. This frame is an effective tool for mobilizing mass movements.59 Sometimes the term ‘millenarianism’ is used to describe movements that are apocalyptic, and the term ‘millennialism’ is used to refer specifically to movements that are tracking a one thousand year time span or a similar lengthy period.60

41A significant number of Christian activists in the United States are mobilized into action by apocalyptic and millennialist themes derived from the Christian Bible, especially the book of Revelation.61 This can generate conspiracy theories with a prophetic religious basis.62 The book of Revelation is read in this idiosyncratic way by some Christians, especially fundamentalist evangelical Protestants in the United States. They see in Biblical prophecy a warning that just before the return of Jesus Christ in his ‘Second Coming’, powerful political and religious figures will forge an alliance with the evil ‘Antichrist’, and a false prophet, and seek to build a one world global government and establish a New World Order – after which Christians will be hunted down and the world run on behalf of Satan himself.63 Today this belief is transmuted into conspiracy theories about liberal ‘secular humanist’ collectivists building a global government through the United Nations with the collusion of multi–national corporations.

42A secularized version of this apocalyptic narrative about federal plans for tyranny and a global ‘New World Order’ has been around for decades, and circulated within the Patriot and armed Militia Movements in the 1990s.64 This secularized conspiracist narrative sometimes is picked up by the political left in the United States.65

43Griffin uses the term palingenesis to describe a populist drive for a ‘heroic rebirth’ of society; and he sees this as a key element of fascism as a mass movement.66 Palingenesis appears in other movements as well, especially where apocalyptic belief adopts the dualistic or Manichean idea of an inevitable struggle between good and evil forces. Lifton observes that ‘historically the apocalyptic imagination has usually been nonviolent in nature’, but apocalypticism also can generate horrific violence.67 It is likely that there is an increased risk of violence with apocalyptic movements (or governments) where there is a higher level of authoritarianism.68 Still, it is important to observe that militant ideologies do not automatically created violent methodologies.

44The apocalyptic sense that time is running out runs through the North American Union conspiracy theories. The plans have been hatched; national leaders have met in secret. Is it already too late? No, say the conspiracy theorists, not if bold men heed the warning and stand up against evil tyranny. This frame of impending betrayal welded to a narrative of heroic resistance is very compelling to potential recruits. It also writes a script in which the conspiracy theorist is a hero for spreading the dualistic stories of evil intent.


45Dualism divides the world into good versus evil with no middle ground allowed. You are either with us or against us. Complexity, nuance, and ambiguity are swept away in the binary frame of reference. At the same time, anger and aggression are often directed at people who suggest coexistence, toleration, pragmatism, compromise, or mediation. Richard Hostadter noted that the ‘fundamentalist mind… is essentially Manichean’.69 This is probably an overgeneralization, but there are fundamentalist evangelical Protestants and traditionalist or conservative Catholics in the United States who see the world through the lens of dualism.70

46In its most vivid form, dualism is a core aspect of all totalitarian movements and governments. Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism, describes how both Hitler and Stalin used dualism as a tool to enforce their will on a nation.71 Lifton looks at the same process in small groups.72 Arendt uses the term ‘totalitarianism’, while Lifton uses ‘totalism’. They are describing the same type of group on different levels of social organization. It is likely that all large scale totalitarian movements are what Voegelin calls ‘political religions’ and Gentile calls the ‘sacralization of politics’.73 This does not refer to the intersection of religion and politics, but to the process of raising the stakes in a political struggle to the level of ultimate cosmological significance. To be on the ‘wrong’ side means that you betray some entity that has been elevated to what is essentially a sacred status.

47Anthony and Robbins use the phrase ‘exemplary dualism’ for a specific form of dualism in which ‘contemporary sociopolitical or socioreligious forces are transmogrified into absolute contrast categories embodying moral, eschatological, and cosmic polarities upon which hinge the millennial destiny of humankind’.74 They find this in ‘totalist’ religious and ideological movements ‘with highly dualistic worldviews’ and ‘an absolutist apocalyptic outlook’ where members cast a ‘projection of negativity and rejected elements of self onto ideologically designated scapegoats’.75

48When dualism is widespread in a society or socio-political movement, it often generates three related processes: demonization, scapegoating, and conspiracism.76

49In the process of scapegoating on a societal level, a person or group of people are wrongfully stereotyped as having negative traits or sinister plans, and are singled out for blame. By projecting societal problems onto the scapegoat, mass movements allow the actual sources of societal problems to be overlooked or absolved of blame. This is true even when the societal problems are largely fictitious or manufactured – scapegoating serves as a distraction.77 It is easier to get people to engage in scapegoating if the scapegoated target is demonized.78

50Demonization occurs when an individual or group is portrayed as the embodiment of evil.79 This involves a sequence of denigration, dehumanization, and demonization, which results in generating hatred of the objectified target.80 One way to demonize is to claim that the scapegoat is plotting against the public good.81 This can involve demagogic appeals, and for this to work, movement participants must see the movement leader as charismatic. Otherwise the performance is easily exposed as buffoonery. Some populists have used demagogic appeals to denounce corrupt elites, but government officials sometimes use demagoguery and conspiracy theories to justify political repression against scapegoated groups. In both instances, when the demagoguery works, it is because there are pre-existing and widespread societal fears of conspiracies by real and imaginary subversive elements.82

51These dualistic narratives in which a heroic good ‘Us’ is pitted against a dastardly bad ‘Them’ are therefore powerful emotional tools, and can be modified to subvert the status quo, or defend it against attack by subversives.83


52The use of conspiracy stories in public debates has a long tradition in the United States. When used in a socio-political movement, a conspiracy theory is a narrative form of scapegoating. The term conspiracism is used by some scholars to describe this worldview. Conspiracism exists around the world, and under some conditions, can move quickly from the margins of a society to the mainstream.84 There are real conspiracies in which groups of people with political power or wealth secretly organize to enforce or challenge the status quo, but in the long run, these conspiracies do not control the broad sweep of history.85

53Goldberg notes that the word ‘conspiracy’ tracks back to the ‘Latin word conspirare – to breathe together’.86 Conspiracism frames demonized enemies as part of a vast insidious plot against the common good, while it valorizes the scapegoater as a hero for sounding the alarm.87 According to Fenster, conspiracy theorists are involved in a misdirected attempt to explain how power is exercised in a society.88 Exposing alleged conspiracies of secret elites attracts attention and gains status for the ‘truth teller’ in some conspiracy-oriented socio-political movements. Governments can engage in conspiracism as well, which often leads to political repression by state agencies.89

54In the Unites States there are three main traditions woven into conspiracy theories, with the following historic scapegoated villains:

  • Freemasons and the Illuminati.90

  • Plutocrats & the ‘Banksters’91

  • Jews92

55Daniel Pipes suggests that the two main branches of contemporary conspiracism (Jews and Freemasons) have ‘parallel histories’, and track back to ‘conspiracist traditions’ that emerged during Christianity’s ‘Crusading era’. Pipes dates this to ‘1096 for the Jews, 1307 for secret societies’, and notes the parallelism extends to ‘basic themes, mutual influences, shared beliefs, and overlapping culprits’.93 A synthesis of the two earlier main branches of conspiracism, the conspiracy theory about the Plutocrats & the ‘Banksters’ spread to a broader audience during a period of widespread populism in the United States in the late 1800s.

56Sometimes conspiracy narratives focus on one main target; while in others the story lines are blended, resulting in a myriad of variations.94 In the North American Union conspiracy theories, the scapegoats vary depending on the source of the call to resist tyranny, and include all three forms listed above.

The American Dream State & Paranoid Nightmares

57We now have three sets of inter-related factors we can use to explain the potent synergy of the NAU conspiracy theory.

58Historic Antecedents

  • States rights

  • Rugged individualism

  • Social Darwinism

  • Laissez Faire economic libertarianism

  • Populist political rhetoric

59Active processes involving frames and narratives.

  • Apocalypticism

  • Dualism, Demonization, & Scapegoating

  • Conspiracism

60Familiar Scapegoats

  • Freemasons and the Illuminati

  • Plutocrats & the ‘Banksters’

  • Jews

61All these factors interact, blend, and mutually support each other to produce informed leaders, passionate followers, and a large pool of potential recruits for the North American Union conspiracy theory in the United States. The interplay of these processes occurs throughout U.S. history.

62In studying the anti-Masonic movement of the 1800s, Hofstadter wrote of the ‘apocalyptic and absolutist framework’ of the participants and their conspiracy theories.95 In the next century, anti-communism was assisted by pre-existing libertarian anti-collectivism, but also Christian apocalyptic prophecy. Donner notes that following the revolution in Russia:

Bolshevism came to be identified over wide areas of the country by God–fearing Americans as the Antichrist come to do eschatological battle with the children of light. A slightly secularized version, widely shared in rural and small–town America, postulated a doomsday conflict between decent upright folk and radicalism—alien, satanic, immorality incarnate.96

63This gravitation toward apocalyptic conspiracy theories was dubbed by Hofstadter the ‘paranoid style in American politics’, Hofstadter identified ‘the central preconception’ of the paranoid style as a belief in the ‘existence of a vast, insidious, preternaturally effective international conspiratorial network designed to perpetrate acts of the most fiendish character’. According to Hofstadter, this was common in certain figures in the U.S. political right, and was accompanied with a ‘sense that his political passions are unselfish and patriotic’ which ‘goes far to intensify his feeling of righteousness and his moral indignation’.97 According to Hofstadter:

(…) the feeling of persecution is central, and it is indeed systematized in grandiose theories of conspiracy. But there is a vital difference between the paranoid spokesman in politics and the clinical paranoiac: although they both tend to be overheated, oversuspicious, overaggressive, grandiose, and apocalyptic in expression, the clinical paranoid sees the hostile and conspiratorial world in which he feels himself to be living as directed specifically against him; whereas the spokesman of the paranoid style finds it directed against a nation, a culture, a way of life whose fate affects not himself alone but millions of others’.98

64Thompson suggests Hofstadter was right to articulate the ‘startling affinities between the paranoid style and apocalyptic belief’, especially the demonization of opponents and ‘the sense of time running out’. Thompson, however, argues Hofstadter should have made a more direct connection by considering ‘the possibility that the paranoia he identified actually derived from apocalyptic belief; that the people who spread scare stories about Catholics, masons, Illuminati and Communists’ were extrapolating from widespread Protestant End Times beliefs. Furthermore, the persistence of End Times belief ‘in the United States rather than Europe surely explains why the paranoid style seems so quintessentially American’.99

65In the United States, pre-existing Christian Right dualism and their ongoing frame of an apocalyptic battle against potentially satanic collectivism provides a fertile field for planting the narrative of the North American Union conspiracy theories.

66Distrust of authority and belief in over-arching conspiracies of powerful elites are common in what some scholars call the ‘cultic milieu’, in which ideas outside of the norm are coupled with a closed system of received knowledge and a sense of the heroic mission of the true believers. Michael Barkun calls the cultic milieu a ‘domain of rejected and stigmatized knowledge’.100 The more mainstream authorities try to debunk these conspiracist beliefs, the more the true believers see this as evidence of the righteousness of their views and the utter depravity and deceitfulness of the powerful elites.

67Certain actions by the U.S. government have also provided sustenance for these conspiracy theories. ‘Conspiracism thrives when power is exercised at a distance by seemingly selfish groups zealous in their authority’, writes Goldberg. ‘When the present continues to reveal the past, all are susceptible to the prompting of conspiracy thinking, with class and gender lines offering no barriers’. He warns, ‘Conspiracism demands confrontation’.101

68This is certainly true within conspiracist sectors of the anti-globalization movement, which overlaps significantly with anti-federalism in the United States, especially on the political right. Secrecy in government, lack of transparency, even outright falsifications by U.S. government officials all feed the growth of the anti-federalist North American Union conspiracism.

Contemporary Conspiracism

69Fears of federalism and global cooperation in the United States gained an increased following in the 1990s as conspiracy theories and libertarian ideology intersected and flourished during the growth of the Militia wing of the Patriot movement.102 This had real world implications. For example, the international Biodiversity Treaty was stopped in part by a coalition of Patriot, Wise Use, and Lyndon LaRouche network organizers who peddled conspiracist theories.103 In the state of New Jersey Patriot activists distributed flyers and faxes to rally support to derail a proposed environmental law.104 This methodology spread across the country.105

70In the mid 1990s the Council of State Governments and National Governors’ Association planned to hold a national ‘Conference of the States’. Conservative and Patriot groups rallied against the event, warning that it was actually a secret plot to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to remove the Second Amendment (right to bear arms) to allow federal agents to confiscate guns as a preface to tyranny.106 Michael Reagan, a national radio talk show host, suggested the conference was part of the plan to establish a One World Government.107 Even as the armed Militia Movement was dwindling, conspiracist Patriot themes continued to attract supporters. In the state of Montana several state legislators in the late 1990s were still promoting the Patriot agenda.108

71Federal and international cooperation to protect the environment is a frequent target of conspiracist right-wing activists. As Lyons and I wrote:

In 1997 U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho introduced a bill cosponsored 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. Conspiracy theories about environmental activists created an atmosphere where confrontations accelerated in rate and intensity.109

72Ten years later the same themes were still being used to mobilize opposition to environmental cooperation. Compare the text above from 1997 with the text below, from an apocalyptic Christian Patriot conspiracist warning in 2007 about international Heritage Park designations.

The powerful UNESCO and its arms of outreach, the World Heritage do not seem at all restrained from taking more control of certain areas… the Government really relinquishes control of said areas. The United States is definitely led by some people who see the control of international groups, governing bodies, as a good thing. There are others who are positioning the US to become part of a New Global government… the areas in the USA deemed to be under the guidance and control of a foreign body, namely the World Heritage Organization under the UNESCO brand, and an outreach of the United Nations… The problem for many of us is the every increasing foreign control to the once free country called the United States…it is accompanied by slavery and bondage to a New World Order. Beware of the Controllers; they want your blood, sweat, and your money.110

73Why is the United Nations such a boogeyman? For most of the 20th century, the conspiracy theories in the Patriot, Americanist, and nativist movements focused on the threat of global communism. During the Cold War it was common in Patriot circles to argue that liberal elites in the U.S. government were in league with communists.111 When communism collapsed in Europe, some sectors of the political Right focused attention on generating populist resentment aimed solely at the elites who ‘controlled’ the U.S. federal government.112 In the Christian Right, this was tied to the idea of a ‘secular humanist’ conspiracy.113 One alleged goal of this Godless conspiracy is to build the One World Government prophesied as part of Satan’s End Times plan for world conquest. The United Nations, global treaties, the European Union, the European Parliament, and the North American Union therefore are all seen as signs of the impending confrontation with the forces of evil. With the Euro currency in circulation, can the ‘Amero’ be far behind?

74North American Union conspiracism has taken place during the growing destabilization of societies around the world brought by globalization dominated by transnational corporate interests. The tensions inside the United States caused by this transformation reflected the fact that they were within the nation that is the primary engine of corporate globalization, so these tensions were different than in many other countries, but no less significant.114

75Mark Rupert describes the right wing anti-globalist worldview as envisioning ‘a world in which Americans are uniquely privileged [and] inheritors of a divinely inspired socio–political order which must at all costs be defended against external intrusions and internal subversion’. He argues that this analysis seeks to challenge corporate power without comprehending the nature of ‘capital concentration and the transnational socialization of production’:

Insofar as it seeks to preserve capitalism while reversing its central processes, we might anticipate the ongoing frustration of the reactionary vision, and an attendant intensification of scapegoating and hostility toward those seen as outside of, different or dissenting from its vision of national identity.

76This predictive description by Rupert certainly resembles the frames, narratives, and public statements of leaders of the conspiracist movement against the North American Union, and is incorporated into populist appeals for resistance. Similar tendencies have swept across Europe in recent years.115

77Right-wing populist parties in Europe attracted a disproportionate number of men, persons employed in the private sector, and younger voters’, reports Betz. These populists clustered in two distinct categories: working class resentment of immigrants, and entrepreneurial libertarian resentment of government bureaucrats.116 Anecdotal evidence suggests this pattern is followed in the United States as well.

78Male angst is another factor in energizing contemporary right-wing movements. In the 1980s and 1990s alienation was generated by an identity crisis for many men triggered by tensions over shifting roles and privileges based on gender and race.117, When placed in a larger context of economic, social, cultural, and political grievances, it is mostly angry straight White Christian men who seem to comprise a large pool of potential recruits for right-wing movements.118 Women do play significant roles in some of these movements.119 Nonetheless, the Militia Movement was primarily led and populated by white men, and many of them used apocalyptic rhetoric with Christian references. The situation remains similar inside the ongoing Patriot Movement.

79According to Quinby, among some right-wing groups ‘the reassertion of masculinist hierarchy is being cast in terms of apocalyptic avowals of (heterosexist) family values and the New World Order’.120 Kintz notes this ‘linkage between God, the Constitution, and masculinity provides a powerful foundation of emotion’.121


80Benedict contends that nationalism is based primarily on the concept of ‘imagined communities’. Nordstrom invoked Benedict when writing about the nationalism of the U.S. anti-Catholic movement around the turn of the Twentieth Century.122 Nordstrom’s description still resonates as an explanation of today’s conspiracist fears of alien ideas penetrating the federal union and turning federal officials and employees into traitorous termites:

(…) claims of Catholic subversion, immorality, and danger to the nation can thus be understood as illustrating an ‘imagined’ community of rural Anglo-Saxon Protestants valiantly defending the nation from threats by an internal, foreign, and sinister force invading American cities.123

81Therefore, wrote Nordstrom, attempts by Catholics ‘to win the American public’s support and respect were extremely dangerous because they threatened this idyllic imagined depiction of American nationalism’124 Catholics are now part of the collective ‘imagined community’ in the United States, but the frames and narratives of conspiracist scapegoating share essential components across decades and even centuries. It is still about defending an ‘idyllic imagined depiction of American nationalism’.

82Who knows what those foreign bureaucrats in Belgium really are brewing up as part of their sinister plan to create a New World Order? In one hundred years the fears might focus on those bureaucrats in Marseille…or on Mars. The scapegoats change, the fear of losing sovereignty and individual rights to faceless bureaucrats with alien ideas remains a constant.125

83When government officials and the corporate media dismiss conspiracist claims it is interpreted by conspiracists as further proof of how really clever and nasty are the planners and their plans. The voices of conspiracists are always whispering of plots, observes philosopher Herman Sinaiko, but in a healthy community, few take these claims seriously.126 The antidote to widespread conspiracism is to reduce government secrecy and increase the transparency of government operations.127 Open public debates sluice out the sewers of conspiracism. It is the majority of residents in a nation who relegate conspiracist voices to the dustbin of history – but only if a majority of residents have good reasons to trust their government.

84Many of those involved in the Patriot and armed militia movements appear to fear a falling socio-economic status, have already been downsized, or are experiencing an economic reversal or sense that one is on the horizon.128 Joining the campaign against the North American Union can give men (and women) a sense of agency and restored status in a heroic battle against an evil conspiracy of duplicitous federal puppets building a New World Order that would smash national sovereignty. In the United States, a considerable portion of the society has been primed by the interrelated factors discussed here to be a bludgeon for the right, observes Ehrenreich.129

85When the North American Union conspiracy theory collapses, there will be another conspiracy theory to replace it. In the face of the current economic crisis, it is likely that the next scapegoats will not only be easily woven into the time-honoured conspiracist narratives, but also more likely to face physical threats and acts of violence. That is what has happened in the past in similar circumstances… and ‘what’s past is prologue’.130

86Author’s Note

87Thanks to Matthew N. Lyons, Jérôme Jamin, and the anonymous reviewer. I have provided an overabundance of notes to assist further research in areas which for some readers may be unfamiliar yet fruitful areas of further exploration. A collection of images, charts, and slide shows related to this article are posted online by Political Research Associates at


1 Dine (P.), ‘North American Union? Rumor sweeps the right’, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Washington Bureau, 13 May 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007, online archive; Hayes (C.), ‘The NAFTA Superhighway’, The Nation, 27 August 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,; Bennett (D.), ‘The amero conspiracy’, Boston Globe, 25 November 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,
2 Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, ‘President Bush Participates in Joint Press Availability with Prime Minister Harper of Canada, and President Calderón of Mexico, Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello, Montebello, Canada’, 21 August 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,
3 Dine (P.), art. cit.
4 Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), Right–Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, New York, Guilford Press, 2000, p. 287-304. The chapter on the Patriot and armed militia movements, ‘Battling the New World Order: Patriots and armed militias’, is online, retrieved 12 December 2007, Those unfamiliar with the phenomenon should consult this text and the citations in the next note for more details.
5 A ‘Chart of sectors’ of the U.S. political right is compiled by Political Research Associates, retrieved 12 December 2007, See also Diamond (S.), Roads to dominion: Right–wing movements and political power in the United States, New York, Guilford Press, 1995; For background on the Patriot and armed militia movements, see Chermak (S.M.), Searching for a demon: The media construction of the Militia Movement, Boston, Northeastern University Press, 2002; Crothers (L.), Rage on the right: The American Militia Movement from Ruby Ridge to Homeland Security, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield, 2003; Freilich (J.D.), American militias: State level variations in Militia activities, New York, ULFB Scholarly Publishing, 2003; Gallaher (C.), On the fault line: Race, class, and the American Patriot Movement, Lanham, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002; Berlet (C.), ‘Militias in the frame’. Review Essay, Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 33, No. 5, September 2004, p. 514-521; Berlet (C.), ‘Hard times on the hard right: Why progressives must remain vigilant’, The Public Eye, Political Research Associates, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring 2002, p. 1, 2-22; Mason (L.), Insurgency on the populist right: A case study of the contemporary U.S. patriot movement, dissertation, City University of New York, May 2006.
6 Durham (M.), White rage: The extreme right and American politics, London, Routledge, 2007, p. 51-65; Durham (M.), The Christian Right, the Far Right and the Boundaries of American Conservatism, Manchester, Manchester University, 2000.
7 ‘The Dangers of the North American Union’, Conservative Roundtable interview with Jerome Corsi conducted by Howard Phillips, online video, retrieved 26 November 2007,
8 Bennett (D.), art. cit.
9 ‘“Late, Great USA” a New York Times best-seller: Controversial exposé on North American Union shoots up charts’, World Net Daily, WND Books, 19 July 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,
10 Bennett (D.), art. cit.
11 Ibid.; Zaitchik (A.), ‘Conservatives in love: A writer and an activist gaze into each other’s eyes and see an America imperiled’, (review of Minutemen: The battle to secure America’s borders by Gilchrist (J.) and Corsi (J.R.), foreword by Tancredo (T.), Torrance, CA, World Ahead Publishing, 2006,) Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, Issue 124, Winter 2006, retrieved 26 November 2007, See also J.R. Corsi biographical blurbs below his articles on
12 Corsi (J.R.), ‘Bush Administration quietly plans NAFTA Super Highway’, Human Events, 12 June 2006, retrieved 26 November 2007,
13 Buchanan (P.J.), ‘The NAFTA Super Highway’, column, Town Hall online, 29 August 2006, retrieved 26 November 2007,
14 Ibid.
15 Corsi (J.R.), ‘Congress debate begins on North America Union: Resolution calls for end of NAFTA Superhighway, abandonment of integration with Canada, Mexico’, ‘Premeditated Merger’,, 25 September 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007, ‘Premeditated Merger’, is a pun on the legal phrase ‘Premeditated Murder’ in English.
16 North America’s Supercorridor Coalition, Inc., ‘New home page’, retrieved 26 November 2007,
17 Hayes (C.), ‘The NAFTA Superhighway’, The Nation, 27 August 2007 retrieved 26 November 2007,
18 Dine (P.), art. cit.
19 Ibid.
20 Corsi (J.R.), ‘More insults about the ‘North American conspiracy’’, Human Events, 5 January 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,; Corsi (J.R.), ‘North American Union isn’t going away’, Human Events, 9 January 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,
21 Sanchez (M.), ‘Stop, stop! A North American Union! As some stoke fears of ‘dangerous’ partnership, reality takes a detour’, Washington Post Online, Friday, July 13, 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,
22 Greenley (L.), ‘Even President Bush called the Security and Prosperity Partnership a ‘Union’ back in 2005’, JBS News Feed, John Birch Society, 14 July 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,
23 Both quotes from Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, ‘President Bush participates in joint press availability…’.
24 Schlafly (P.), ‘Bush refuses to deny the North American agenda’, column, Eagle Forum, 7 September 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,
25 Corsi (J.R.), ‘Hoffa: ‘Bush creating North American Union’, Teamsters boss: Mexican trucks part of ‘master plan’ for ‘Super-government’’, ‘Premeditated Merger’,, September 14, 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,
26 ‘Merger in the making: North American Union edition’, The New American, Special Issue, John Birch Society, 15 October 2007.
27 Parkinson (K.), ‘Canadians completely unaware of looming North American Union: Bush and Calderon to visit Canada’, Global Research, 17 July 2007, retrieved 26 November 2007,
28 Corsi (J.R.), ‘Bush Administration Quietly Plans NAFTA Super Highway’. The award further eroded Project Censored reputation on the left by once again credulously promoting right-wing conspiracy theories. See Hazen (D.), ‘Beyond project censored: It’s time for a new award’, AlterNet, 1 April 2000, retrieved 26 November 2007,; Biggs (B.S.), ‘The Unbearable Lameness of Project Censored’, Mother Jones, 11 April 2000, retrieved 26 November 2007,; Walls (D.), ‘Dubious sources: How project censored joined the whitewash of Serb atrocities’, New Politics, Vol. 9, No. 1, issue 33, Summer 2002,
29 Barkun (M.), ‘Conspiracy theories as stigmatized knowledge: The basis for a new age racism?’, in Kaplan (J.) and Bjørgo (T.) (ed.), Nation and race: The developing euro-American racist subculture, Boston, Northeastern University Press, 1998, p. 58-72.
30 For details on periodic scapegoating through conspiracy theories, see ‘Scapegoat timeline’, Political Research Associates, retrieved 12 December 2007,
31 Davis (D.B.) (ed.), The fear of conspiracy: Images of un–American subversion from the Revolution to the present, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1972, p. xv–xvi.
32 Hofstadter (R.), ‘The paranoid style in American politics’, in Hofstadter (R.), The paranoid style in American politics and other essays, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1965, p. 3-40; Davis (D.B.), op. cit.; Curry (R.O.) and Brown (T.M.), ‘Introduction’, in Curry (R.O.) and Brown (T.M.) (ed.), Conspiracy: The fear of subversion in American history, New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972; Bennett (D.H.), The party of fear: The American far right from Nativism to the militia movement, revised, New York, Vintage Books, [1988] 1995; Higham (J.), Strangers in the land: Patterns of American nativism 1860–1925, New York, Atheneum, [1955] 1972; Goldberg (R.A.), Enemies within: The culture of conspiracy in modern America, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2001.
33 On ‘American Exceptionalism’ see Tocqueville (A. D.), Democracy in America, translated, edited, and with an Introduction by Mansfield (H.C.) and Winthrop (D.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2000 (originally published as De La Démocratie En Amérique, in two volumes, Paris, C. Gosselin. 1835; as cited by Lipset (S.M.), American Exceptionalism: A Double–Edged Sword, New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 1997, p. 18. See also Myrdal (G), An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1944; Bellah, (R.N.), ‘Civil Religion in America,’ Daedalus, 1967, Vol. 96, No. 1., p. 1-21.
34 Kantrowitz (S.), Ben Tillman & the Reconstruction of White Supremacy, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina, 2000.
35 Mintz (F.P.), The Liberty Lobby and the American right: Race, conspiracy, and culture, Westport, CT, Greenwood, 1985; Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p. 292-293.
36 Hirschman (E.C.), ‘Men, Dogs, Guns, and Cars: The Semiotics of Rugged Individualism’, Journal of Advertising, Vol. 32 No. 1, 2003, p. 9-22. See also Hsu (F.L.K.), Rugged Individualism Reconsidered: Essays in Psychological Anthropology, Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1988.
37 Hofstadter (R.), Social Darwinism in American Thought, reprint edition, Boston, Beacon Press, [1955] 1992; Bannister (R.), Social Darwinism: Science and Myth in Anglo-American Social Thought, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1979; Degler (C.), In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991.
38 Hofstadter (R.), Social Darwinism, op. cit., p. 10.
39 Zakai (A.), Exile and Kingdom: History and Apocalypse in the Puritan Migration to America, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992; Hatch (N.O.), The Democratization of American Christianity, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1989.
40 Weber (M.), The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Parsons (T.), reprint, New York, Routledge, [1930] 1999.
41 Mintz, (F.P.) op. cit.
42 Hayek (F.) (ed.), Collectivist Economic Planning: Critical Studies on the Possibilities of Socialism, London, Routledge, 1935; Hayek (F.), The Road to Serfdom, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1944; Flynn (J.), As We Go Marching, Garden City, NY, Doubleday/Doran, 1944; Von Mises (L.), Omnipotent Government, the Rise of the Total State and Total War, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1944; Von Mises (L.), Planned Chaos, Irvington-on-Hudson, NY, Foundation for Economic Education, 1947; Von Mises (L.), The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, Princeton, Van Nostrand, 1956; Sennholz (H.F.), ‘The Great Depression’, The Freeman, April 1975, p. 212-213; quoted in Reed (L.W.), ‘Great Myths of the Great Depression: Phase IV: The Wagner Act’, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, retrieved 26 November 2007,
43 This section is in part drawn from Berlet (C.), ‘The new political right in the United States: Reaction, rollback, and resentment’, in Thompson (M.) (ed.), Confronting the new conservatism: The rise of the right in America, NYU Press, New York, 2007.
44 Kazin (M.), The populist persuasion: An American history, New York, Basic Books, 1995; Canovan (M.), Populism, New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981, p. 13, 128-138, 289-294; Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p. 4-13.
45 Canovan, (M.) op. cit., p. 3-16, 46-51, 289-301; Kazin (M.), op. cit., Brinkley (A.), Voices of protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1982, p. 165-168; Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p.4-6; Laclau (E.), Politics and ideology in Marxist theory: Capitalism, fascism, populism, NLB/Atlantic Highlands Humanities Press, London, 1977; Rupert (Mary), ‘The patriot movement and the roots of fascism’, in Nan (S.A.), et. al (ed.), Windows to conflict analysis and resolution: Framing our field, Inst. for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Fairfax, VA, 1997; Rupert (Mark), ‘Globalization and the reconstruction of common sense in the US’. in Gill (S.) and Mittelman (J.) (ed.), Innovation and Transformation in International Studies, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997, retrieved 26 November 2007,
46 Betz (H.G.), Radical right-wing populism in Western Europe. New York, St. Martins Press, 1994; Kazin (M.), op. cit.; Junas (D.), ‘The rise of citizen militias: Angry white guys with guns’, CovertAction Quarterly, No. 52, Spring 1995, p. 20-25; Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p.287-304.
47 Laclau (E.), op. cit.; Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit.
48 Canovan (M.). op. cit., 54-55; Kazin (M.), op. cit., 35-36, 52-54, 143-144; Stock (C.M.), Rural radicals: Righteous rage in the American grain. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1996, p. 15-86; Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p. 4-6. For a chart on how this works, see ‘Producerist Narrative’, Political Research Associates, retrieved 12 December 2007, <>, click on the graphic to enlarge.
49 Kantrowitz (S.), Ben Tillman & the reconstruction of white supremacy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2000, p. 4-6, 109-114, 153.
50 Payne (S.G.), A history of Fascism, 1914–45, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI. 1995, p. 52-53; Postone (M.), ‘Anti–Semitism and National Socialism’, in Rabinbach (A.) and Zipes (J.) (ed.), Germans & Jews since the Holocaust: The changing situation in West Germany, Holmes & Meier, New York, 1986.
51 Berlet (C.), ‘Christian Identity: The apocalyptic style, political religion, palingenesis and neo-fascism’, in Griffin (R.) (ed.), Fascism, Totalitarianism, and Political Religion, London, Routledge, 2005.
52 Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p. 6-13.
53 This and other sections on factors in right-wing movement building are adapted from several previously-published studies. It was first discussed in Berlet (C.), ‘Mad as Hell: Right-Wing Populism, Fascism, and Apocalyptic Millennialism’, paper presented at the 14th World Congress of Sociology, International Sociological Association, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1998, and then incorporated into Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit. I then further developed the thesis in my chapters Berlet (C.), ‘Mapping the political right: Gender and race oppression in right-wing movements’, in Ferber (A.L.) (ed.), Home-grown hate: Gender and organized racism, New York, Routledge, 2004; Berlet (C.), ‘Christian Identity’, op. cit.; Berlet (C.), ‘When alienation turns right: Populist conspiracism, the apocalyptic style, and neofascist movements’, in Langman (L.) and Fishman (D.K.) (ed.), Trauma, promise, and the millennium: The evolution of alienation, Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2005, and Berlet (C.), ‘The United States: Messianism, apocalypticism, and political religion’, in Feldman (M.), Griffin (R.) and Mallett (R.) (ed.), The Sacred in Twentieth Century Politics: Essays in Honour of Professor Stanley G. Payne. The sacred in politics. A festschrift for Stanley Payne, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
54 On framing in social movements, see: Goffman (E.), Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1974; McCarthy (J.D.) and Zald (M.N.), ‘Resource mobilization and social movements: A partial theory’, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 82, No. 6, 1977, p. 1212–1241; Snow (D.A.), Rochford (E.B. Jr.), Worden (S.K.) and Benford (R.D.), ‘Frame alignment process, micromobilization, and movement participation’, American Sociological Review Vol. 51, 1986, p. 464-481, reprinted in Buechler (S.M.) and Cylke (F.K., Jr.) (ed.), Social movements: perspectives and issues, Mountain View, Calif., Mayfield Publishing, 1997, p. 211-228; Gamson (W.A.), ‘Constructing social protest’, in Johnston (H.) and Klandermans (B.) (ed.), Social movements and culture, Vol. 4, Social movements, protest, and contention, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1995, p. 85-106; Snow (D.A.) and Benford (R.D.), ‘Ideology, frame resonance, and participant mobilization’, in Klandermans (B.), Kriesi (H.) and Tarrow (S.) (ed.), From structure to action: Comparing social movements across cultures, International social movement research, Vol. 1, Greenwich, CT, JAI Press, 1988, p. 197-217; Johnston (H.), ‘A methodology for frame analysis: From discourse to cognitive schemata’, in Johnston (H.) and Klandermans (B.) (ed.), Social movements and culture, Vol. 4, Social movements, protest, and contention, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1995, p. 217–246; Zald (M.N.), ‘Culture, ideology, and strategic framing’, in McAdam (D.), McCarthy (J.D.) and Zald (M.N.) (ed.), Comparative perspectives on social movements: Political opportunities, mobilizing structures, and cultural framing, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 261-274; Klandermans (B.), The social psychology of protest, Oxford, Blackwell, 1997.
55 Ewick (P) and Silbey (S.S.), ‘Subversive stories and hegemonic tales: Toward a sociology of narrative’, Law & Society Review, Vol. 29, No. 2, 1995, p. 197-226; Davis (J.) (ed.), Stories of change: Narrative and social movements, Albany, State University of New York Press, 2002.
56 Thomas (W.I.) and Thomas (D.S.), ‘Situations defined as real are real in their consequences’, in Stone (G.P.) and Farberman (H.A.) (ed.), Social psychology through Symbolic Interaction, Waltham, MA, Ginn Blaisdell/Xerox, 1970, p. 154-155.
57 Dobratz (B.A.) and Shanks (S.L.), ‘Ideology and the framing process in the white separatist/supremacist movement in the United States’, Quarterly Journal of Ideology, Vol. 19, Nos. 1 and 2, 1996, p. 3-28; Dobratz (B.A.) and Shanks (S.L.), The white separatist movement in the United States: ‘White power, white pride!’, New York, Twayne Publishers, 1997; Berlet (C.), ‘Who’s Mediating the Storm? Right-Wing Alternative Information Networks’, in Kintz (L.) and Lesage (J.) (ed.), Culture, Media, and the Religious Right, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998, p. 249–273; Berlet (C.), ‘Hate groups, racial tension and ethnoviolence in an integrating Chicago neighborhood 1976-1988’, in Dobratz (B.A.), Walder (L.K.) and Buzzell (T.) (ed.), Research in Political Sociology, Vol. 9, The politics of social inequality, 2001, p. 117-163.
58 Cohn (N), Cosmos, chaos and the world to come: The ancient roots of apocalyptic faith, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1970; Cohn (N), The pursuit of the millennium, New York, Oxford University Press,1993; Boyer (P.), When time shall be no more: Prophecy belief in modern American culture, Cambridge, MA, Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1992; Strozier (C.B.), Apocalypse: On the psychology of fundamentalism in America, Boston, Beacon Press, 1994; O’Leary (S.D.), Arguing the apocalypse: A theory of millennial rhetoric, New York, Oxford University Press, 1994; Fuller (R.), Naming the antichrist: The history of an American obsession, New York, Oxford University Press, 1995; Thompson (D.), The end of time: Faith and fear in the shadow of the millennium, Hanover, NH, University Press of New England, 1998; Pagels (E.), The origin of Satan, New York, Vintage, 1996.
59 I first heard apocalypticism described as a type of frame by sociologist of religion by Brenda E. Brasher at a conference. We later developed the idea in Brasher (B.E.) and Berlet (C.), ‘Imagining Satan: Modern Christian right print culture as an apocalyptic master frame’, paper presented at the Conference on Religion and the Culture of Print in America, Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America, University of Wisconsin-Madison, September 10-11, 2004.
60 I take a broader view than Gentile who suggests apocalyptic political religions are not ‘millenarian’. I think they are millenarian, but not necessarily millennialist. To make matters more confusing, a number of authors have used these terms in a variety of different ways. See Gentile (E.), ‘Fascism, totalitarianism and political religion’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, Vol. 5, No. 3, Winter 2004, p. 326-375, special issue on Fascism as a Totalitarian Movement; Gentile (E.), The sacralization of politics in Fascist Italy, translated by Botsford (K.), Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1996.
61 See, for example, Boyer (P.), op. cit., p. 254-339; Strozier (C.B.), op. cit., 108-129; O’leary (S.D.), op. cit., p. 134–193; Fuller (R.), op. cit., p. 165–190; Diamond (S.), Not by politics alone: The enduring influence of the Christian right, Guilford Press, New York, 1998, p. 197–215; Diamond (S.), Spiritual warfare: The politics of the Christian right, South End Press, Boston, 1989; Diamond (S.), ‘Political millennialism within the evangelical subculture’, in Strozier (C.B.) and Flynn (M.) (ed.), The year 2000: Essays on the end, New York, New York University Press, 1997; Clarkson (F.), Eternal hostility: The struggle between theocracy and democracy, Common Courage, Monroe, ME, 1997, p. 125–138; Kintz (L.), Between Jesus and the market: The emotions that matter in right–wing America, Durham, NC, Duke University Press, p. 8–9, 134–139, 266–267; Herman (D.), The antigay agenda: Orthodox vision and the Christian right, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1997, p. 19–24, 35–44, 125–128, 171–172; Mason (C.), Killing for life: The apocalyptic narrative of pro-life politics, Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, N.Y, 2002.
62 Barkun (M.), A culture of conspiracy: Apocalyptic visions in contemporary America, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 2003); Goldberg (R.A.), op. cit.; Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit.
63 Berlet, (C.), ‘Dances with devils: How apocalyptic and millennialist themes influence right wing scapegoating and conspiracism’, The Public Eye, Vol. 12, No. 2–3, Fall 1998, p. 1-22. Online version, retrieved 26 November 2007, <>.
64 Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p. 13, 179, 193, 242, 293, 317.
65 Ibid., p.340-343; Berlet (C.), ‘Siren Song - Conspiracy!’ New Internationalist, No. 405, October 2007; retrieved 26 November 2007, <>; Berlet (C.), ‘ZOG ate my brains’, New Internationalist, No. 372, October 2004, Special Issue on Judeophobia, retrieved 26 November 2007, <>; Berlet (C.), ‘Friendly fascists: The far right tries to move in on the left’, The Progressive, June 1992, p. 16-20; Berlet (C.), Right woos left: Populist Party, LaRouchian, and other neo– fascist overtures to progressives and why they must be rejected, revised, Political Research Associates, Cambridge, MA, [1990] 1994, retrieved 12 December 2007, <>.
66 Griffin (R.), The nature of fascism, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1991, p. xi, 26.
67 Lifton (R.J.), Superpower syndrome: America’s apocalyptic confrontation with the world, New York, Thunder’s Mouth Books/Nation Books, 2003, p. 21; Wessinger (C), (ed.), Millennialism, persecution, and violence: Historical cases, Syracuse Univ. Press, Syracuse, NY, 2000.
68 This is speculative, but appears to be backed in part by the work of several authors: Altemeyer (R.), The authoritarian specter, Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996; Altemeyer (R.), The Authoritarians, online book, self published, retrieved 12 December 2007, <>; Northcott (M.), An angel directs the storm. Apocalyptic religion & American empire. I.B. Tauris, London, 2004: Lifton (R.J.), op. cit.; Horsley (R.A.), Jesus and empire: The Kingdom of God and the new world disorder, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, Minneapolis, MN, 2002.
69 Hofstadter (R.), Anti–Intellectualism in American Life, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1963, p. 135.
70 Strozier (C.B.), op. cit.; Cuneo (M.W.), The smoke of satan: Conservative and traditionalist dissent in contemporary American Catholicism, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997.
71 Arendt (H.), The origins of totalitarianism, new edition, new prefaces, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, [1951] 1973.
72 Lifton (R.J.), Thought reform and the psychology of totalism, reprint, Univ. of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, [1961] 1989.
73 Voegelin (E.), The political religions, in Henningsen (M.) (ed.) The collected works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 5: Modernity without restraint, Univ. of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, 2000; Gentile (E.), The sacralization of politics in Fascist Italy, Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1994.
74 Anthony (D.) and Robbins (T.), ‘Religious totalism, exemplary dualism, and the Waco tragedy’, in Robbins (T.) and Palmer (S.J.) (ed.), Millennium, messiahs, and mayhem: Contemporary apocalyptic movements, Routledge, New York, 1997, p. 261–84, quote from p. 267.
75 Ibid. p. 264, 269.
76 Allport (G.W.), Nature of prejudice, Addison-Wesley, Cambridge, MA, 1954, p. 243-260; Fenster (M.), Conspiracy theories: Secrecy and power in American culture. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1999; Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p.4-13; Goldberg (R.A.), op. cit.
77 Hardisty (J.V.), Mobilizing resentment: Conservative resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers, Boston, Beacon Press, 1999; Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit.; Frank (T.), What’s the matter with Kansas?: How conservatives won the heart of America, Metropolitan Books, New York, 2004.
78 Allport (G.W.), op. cit., p. 243–60; Girard (R.), The scapegoat, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.
79 Aho (J.A.), This thing of darkness: A sociology of the enemy, Univ. of Washington Press, Seattle, 1994, p. 107–21; Pagels (E.), The origin of Satan; Smith (D.N.), ‘The social construction of enemies: Jews and the representation of evil’, Sociological Theory, 1996, Vol. 14, No. 3; Noël (L.), Intolerance, A General Survey, McGill-Queen’s Univ. Press, Montreal, 1994.
80 This sequence concept for generating hatred was suggested by K.S. Stern at the Conference to Establish the Field of Hate Studies, at the Institute for Action against Hate, Gonzaga University Law School, Spokane, Washington, 18–20 March 2003. See also, Stern (K.S.) ‘The need for an interdisciplinary field of hate studies’, Journal of Hate Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2003/04, online version retrieved 12 December 2007, <>. See also Berlet (C.), ‘Hate, Oppression, Repression, and the Apocalyptic Style: Facing Complex Questions and Challenges’, Journal of Hate Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, Institute for Action against Hate, Gonzaga University Law School, 2003/04. online version retrieved 12 December 2007, <>.
81 Wistrich (R.S.) (ed.), Demonizing the other: Antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia, Routledge, London, [1999] 2003.
82 Allport, (G.W.), ‘Demagogy’, in Curry (R.O.) and Brown (T. M.), op. cit. p. 263–76.
83 Ewick (P) and Silbey (S.S.), op. cit.
84 Hofstadter (R.), ‘The paranoid style,’ op. cit.; DAVIS (D.B.), op. cit.; BENNETT, (D.H.), op. cit.; Johnson (G.), Architects of fear: Conspiracy theories and paranoia in American Politics, Tarcher/Houghton Mifflin, Los Angeles, 1983, 17–30; Mintz, (F.P.), op. cit.; Goldberg (R.A.), op. cit.; Barkun (M.), A culture of conspiracy, op. cit.; Kovel (J.), Red hunting in the promised land: Anticommunism and the making of America, New York, Basic Books, 1994.
85 Curry (R.O.) and Brown (T. M.), op. cit.; Cumings (B.), 1990. The roaring of the cataract, 1947-1950. Vol. 2, The origins of the Korean War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990, p. 767.
86 Goldberg (R.A.), op. cit., p. 1.
87 Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p.9.
88 Fenster (M.), op. cit.
89 Davis (D.B.), op. cit., p. 361; Donner (F.J.), The age of surveillance: The aims & methods of America’s political intelligence system, New York, Vintage, [1980] 1981, p. 11.
90 Robison (J.), Proofs of a Conspiracy—against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, carried on in the secret meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies, fourth ed., postscript, Western Islands (John Birch Society imprint), Boston: 1967, (originally published 1798); BARRUEL (A.), Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, second ed. revised and corrected, English translation by Robert Clifford, reprinted in one volume American Council on Economics and Society, Real-View-Books, (Fraser, MI, 1995), (originally published in several volumes 1797-98).
91 Banksters is a pun in English combining the words ‘bankers’ and ‘gangsters’.
92 Cohn (N.), Warrant for genocide: The myth of the Jewish world conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Serif. London: [1967] 1996. For a slide presentation on how the Protocols have spread throughout conspiracy theories in the United States, see ‘Protocols to the left, Protocols to the right’, retrieved 12 December 2007, <>, based on Berlet (C.), ‘Protocols to the left, Protocols to the right: Conspiracism in American political discourse at the turn of the second millennium’, paper presented at the conference: Reconsidering ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’: 100 years after the forgery, The Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, Boston University, 30-31 October 2005.
93 Pipes (D.), Conspiracy: How the paranoid style flourishes and where it comes from, New York: The Free Press, 1997, p. 131.
94 For an image or slide show illustrating this point, see ‘Protocols of Conspiracism’, Political Research Associates, retrieved 12 December 2007, <>.
95 Hofstadter (R.), ‘The paranoid style,’ op. cit., p. 17.
96 Donner (F.J.), op. cit., p. 47–48.
97 Hofstadter (R.), ‘The paranoid style,’ op. cit.,p. 4.
98 Ibid., emphasis in the original.
99 Thompson (D.), op. cit., p. 307-308.
100 Barkun (M.), Religion and the Racist Right, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1994, p. 243, 247-79. See also Campbell (C.), ‘Cults, the Cultic Milieu, and Secularization’ in A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain, Vol. 5, London, SCM Press, 1972, (Campbell coined the term ‘cultic milieu’); and Kaplan (J.) and Lööw (H.), The cultic milieu: Oppositional subcultures in an age of globalization, Walnut Creek, Calif., AltaMira Press, 2002.
101 Goldberg (R.A.), op. cit., p. 188.
102 This section is in part adapted from Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p. 301-303.
103 Barry (D.) and Cook (K.A.), How the Biodiversity Treaty went down: The intersecting worlds of ‘Wise Use’ and Lyndon LaRouche, report, Environmental Working Group, Washington, DC, 1994, p. 1.
104 Spotlight, 11 December 1995, p. 1.
105 Russakoff (D.), ‘No-name movement fed by fax expands’, the Washington Post, 20 August 1995, online archive.
106 ‘Postponement of the ‘Conference of the States’’, supplement to The Right Guide, 31 May 1995, on file at Political Research Associates.
107 Reagan (M.) with Denney (J.), Making waves, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1996, p. 121–133.
108 Kaufmann (C.), ‘From the margins to the mainstream: Montana ‘Patriots’, in the political arena’. The Provocateur, Montana Human Rights Network, Spring 1999, p. 32–36; Berlet (C.) and Lyons (M.N.), op. cit., p. 301-303.
109 Ibid., p.303. For more details on the links between anti-federalism and the anti-environmentalist backlash, see Burke (W.K.), ‘The Wise Use Movement: Right-wing anti-environmentalism’, in Berlet (C.) (ed.), Eyes right! Challenging the right wing backlash, South End Press, Boston, 1995, p. 135-145, retrieved 12 December 2007, <>; Ramos (T.L.),’Wise Use in the west’, in Echeverria (J.) and Eby (R.B.) (ed.), Let the people judge: Wise Use and the private property rights movement, Island Press, Washington, DC, 1995, p. 82-118; Helvarg (D.), The war against the Greens: The ‘Wise-Use’ movement, the New Right, and anti-environmental violence, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1994; Rowell (A.), Green backlash: Global subversion of the environmental movement, Routledge, New York, 1996; SWITZER (J.V.), Green backlash: The history and politics of the environmental opposition in the U.S., Lynne Rienner, Boulder, CO, 1997.
110 Smith (D.G.), ‘World heritage, UNESCO, and the USA’, LA Chronicle, 13 May 2007, retrieved 12 December 2007, <>. The page also continues links to the author’s other Christian apocalyptic prophecies and warnings, retrieved 12 December 2007,, and a special deal on a handy ‘Prophecy Pack’, retrieved 12 December 2007,
111 Kovel (J.), op. cit.
112 Marsden (G.M.), Understanding fundamentalism and evangelicalism, Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans, 1991, p. 109; Junas (D.), ‘The rise of citizen militias: Angry white guys with guns’, CovertAction Quarterly, Spring 1995, retrieved 26 November 2007,; Berlet (C.), ‘Following the threads: A work in progress,’ in Ansell (A.E.) (ed.), Unraveling the right: The new conservatism in American thought and politics, New York, Westview, 1998, p. 26-28.
113 Diamond (S.), Not by Politics Alone, op. cit. p. 70-71; Diamond (S.), Roads to Dominion, op. cit., p. 246–248; Martin (W.), With God on our side: The rise of the Religious Right in America, New York, Broadway Books, 1996, p. 194-198, 331-333, 344-347.

Pour citer cet article

Chip Berlet, «Fears of Fédéralisme in the United States: The Case of the ‘North American Union’ Conspiracy Theory», Fédéralisme Régionalisme [En ligne], Volume 9 : 2009, Numéro 1 - Le fédéralisme américain, URL :

A propos de : Chip Berlet

Senior analyst, Political Research Associates