Last Thursday, Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions accused President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and Vice President Biden of “deliberately collapsing” the nation’s immigration law enforcement system. This is pure John Birch Society paranoia:
Our law enforcement system is in a state of collapse, and it’s a deliberate plan by the president of the United States, and it’s wrong. And, people need to be aware of it and need to stand up to it and I believe the American people are beginning to do so.
Sessions made that remark as ‘Patriot’ militia gathered to support rancher Cliven Bundy’s twenty year fight to avoid grazing fees; this is a dog whistle for right wing anti-government activists. Last week saw any number of right wing memes connecting that confrontation to the immigration issue, and not simply by confusing the Bureau of Land Management with the Border Patrol, but seeing them as a single sinister strategy. A conspiracy, in other words. One that is aimed at destroying America from within, all Manchurian candidate-like.
This notional plot to undo America has a long pedigree. In 1960, it was visible in the uprising against water Fluoridation and billboards calling for the impeachment of Earl Warren over the Supreme Court’s decision to integrate public schools. Diminished during the Reagan Years, it came back to prominence on talk radio and within the militia movement. Finally, with the arrival of tea parties in 2009, the John Birch Society returned from its years in the wilderness to become the soul of a movement. Right wing political activism today has an agenda that is almost indistinguishable from the JBS agenda, and that probably has something to do with the fact that the sons of Fred Koch, the organization’s founder, have been funding the tea party movement since before anyone heard of it. (They also endorse Cliven Bundy’s campaign to delegitimize the BLM.)
Sessions has long been a favorite Senator of the JBS and enjoys high ratings from the Society, which makes sense since he shares much of their belief system. For example, Sessions called the NAACP a communist organization long before he was ever elected. He achieved notoriety as a US Attorney for Alabama’s Southern District by giving America a preview of future vote suppression efforts, including the tea party “True the Vote” organization.
The year before his nomination to federal court, he had unsuccessfully prosecuted three civil rights workers–including Albert Turner, a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr.–on a tenuous case of voter fraud. The three had been working in the “Black Belt” counties of Alabama, which, after years of voting white, had begun to swing toward black candidates as voter registration drives brought in more black voters. Sessions’s focus on these counties to the exclusion of others caused an uproar among civil rights leaders, especially after hours of interrogating black absentee voters produced only 14 allegedly tampered ballots out of more than 1.7 million cast in the state in the 1984 election. The activists, known as the Marion Three, were acquitted in four hours and became a cause célébre. Civil rights groups charged that Sessions had been looking for voter fraud in the black community and overlooking the same violations among whites, at least partly to help reelect his friend Senator Denton.
It is not a coincidence that Shelby County, Alabama sued to overturn Section 5 of the Civil Rights Act. When they were supporting Governor George Wallace during the 1960s, the JBS had more than a hundred chapters in or around nearby Birmingham, and the state probably has a larger, better-connected, and more influential JBS presence today than it did at the height of the Civil Rights Era. Mainstream media has paid little attention to the JBS since the 1960s, reckoning it inconsequential, but we have detected an alarming return to relevance that has largely gone unnoticed, and Sessions’ home state seems especially rife with JBS politics nowadays.
In 2007, a liberal Alabama blog discovered state legislators lifting language from the JBS website for a bill designed to stop the North American Union, an entirely-fictional conspiracy story that had been a JBS obsession for years. By 2013, Alabama Republicans were introducing JBS model legislation to ban “Agenda 21,” a nonbinding United Nations sustainable development program that has become a peculiar focus for the Society, which sees it as a sinister international agenda to erode private property rights. The entire Baldwin County, Alabama Planning and Zoning Commission recently resigned in protest after their multi-year effort to formulate a master plan for community growth got shot down by a County Commission in deep capture to JBS propaganda.
Sessions certainly shares the JBS view on immigration issues. As he said last week,
Vice President Biden recently said, quote: ‘You know, 11 million people live in the shadows; I believe they’re already American citizens.’ Eleven million undocumented aliens are already Americans? Goodness. The vice president of the United States would make such a statement. It’s stunning beyond belief.
It is possible to distill the whole of Bircherism to this theme: an alien shadow world is waiting to come alive at any moment and take over your country. The only way to stop them is to make it as hard as possible for people to vote, then hunt down every last alien and send them back to their world. No amount of border fence can hold back this invisible invasion — it is an emergency. In fact, our freedom and prosperity are so threatened that we ought to declare a nationwide police state and wreck the economy in order to solve it. Civil disobedience by immigration activists protesting the record rate of deportations, or appeals to justice and the integrity of the family, are just lies meant to distract us from this “truth.” Sessions represents this point of view better than almost anyone else in Congress.