January 11, 1965
(Last part of an interpretive series based on "The Radical Right" essays edited by Daniel Bell; Doubleday Anchor Book; 1964.)
By HAP CAWOOD
When a Billy Hargis Crusade representative told Columbus high school students several months ago that the Beatles were part of the Red plot to dominate America, many might have laughed.
Some fundamentalists, however, take this quite seriously. Located between the disrespectable right (say, the American Nazi Party) and the semi-respectable right (say, the D.A.R.), these fundamentalists are usually identifiable by five characteristics as listed by Alan F. Westin:
(1.) "They assume that there are always solutions capable of producing international victories and of resolving social problems." Failure is attributed "to conspiracies led by evil men and their dupes."
(2.) Leaders of major social and economic groups are regarded as "Communist-minded." Robert Welch of the John Birch Society has pointed the finger at the A.M.A. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, among others.
(3.) They reject the American political system as being unreliable.
(4.) "They reject those programs for dealing with social, economic and international problems that liberals and conservatives agree upon as minimal foundations. In their place, (they) propose drastic panaceas requiring major social change."
(5.) Finally, they advocate both "direct action" and "dirty tactics" to "break the grip of the Communist conspiracy."
Thus the fundamentalists might pressure against the selling of UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Educational Fund) Christmas cards, as they did last month in California, or "unknowns" might make threatening phone calls to the families of civics teachers using textbooks explaining the U.N.--harassing him until he leaves town, as they did to Dan O'Brian at Washington Court House. (The WRFD Commentator, Sept. 24, 1964.)
These "dirty tactics" and the "conspiracy paranoia" are psychologically related. To summarize (although poorly), Daniel Bell's explanation of Leon Festinger's psychological studies, the radical rightist is unwilling to see Russia's military strength "as a prime factor in the balance of terror." Nevertheless, the threat produces fear and he needs a justification for it. So he builds up an internal threat to take the place of the external realities he has denied (few are concerned with international politics).
By making his enemy the "soft underbelly of democracy," as Westin phrases it, he can both justify his fears and do something about them. Thus he agitates "where a minimum of pressure can often produce maximum terror and restrictive responses."
As the fundamentalist sees communism as his enemy he can interpret frustrating realities as part of a Communist plot. Similarly, he can insulate himself from criticism by seeing himself as a martyr to a righteous and misunderstood cause. He can mix fantastic allegations with reasonableness and be convinced by the "reasonableness" that the allegations must also be true.
He is probably convinced of his Americanism as portrayed in public relations magazines picturing families saluting the flag.
Like The Communist
But, like the Communists, this same flag-saluting organization might use fronts, authoritarian leadership, secret membership and "dirty tactics." Its "preservation of America" might be by lessening individual liberties and by restricting the rights to assemble, petition, associate, teach, travel, speak or conduct research without having to conform to political tests.
They have yet to learn the truism that has allowed their presence: that freedom must extend to those with whom one disagrees.