Religions and Cults

Boettcher, Robert. Gifts of Deceit: Sun Myung Moon, Tongsun Park, and the Korean Scandal. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980. 402 pages.

Robert Boettcher was the staff director of the House Subcommittee on International Relations, which investigated the Koreagate scandal and Moon's ties to the Korean CIA. This is his inside story of the scandal, which involved bribery, corruption, coercion, big business, the arms industry, international trade, front organizations, U.S. Congressmen with their snouts in the trough, and KCIA colonels pouring in bags of cash. By 1977, Koreagate had spawned five investigations, but only one Congressman, Richard Hanna, went to jail.

Rev. Moon survived the scandal despite evidence that he was working for the Koreans. Ironically, he was helped by his conviction for tax evasion, which projected the image of a martyr for religious freedom and allowed him to mobilize support. Today Moonies no longer have to sell flowers at airports; his corporate and media empire spans the globe.

Not surprisingly, the issue of foreign influence that was raised by Koreagate emerged again in the 1992 campaign. Now, however, the same access to power is purchased legally -- through PACs, lobbying, and paying fat salaries to shameless former U.S. trade officials. Have a nice New World Order.

Diamond, Sara. Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston: South End Press, 1989. 292 pages.

There is only one scholar in the world who specializes in investigative research on the U.S. religious right, so it's fortunate that she keeps good files. Diamond has a keen sense of the interplay between religion and U.S. development policy, domestic issues, and big business. She also writes on the topic of quasi-government organizations for various publications.

Beginning in the 1970s, religious cultism evolved from remnants of a disillusioned counterculture. This impulse soon became co-opted into an evangelicalism that had mainstream appeal; even Jimmy Carter was reborn. By the 1980s the backlash was completed with the emergence of a reactionary religious right that intended to help Reagan target the evil empire. There had always been a religious right, but now they had large numbers and official sanction.

This book covers the cultic aspects of the religious right (shepherding, charismatic movement), the political aspects (their broadcasting empire, Republican party connections, organizing around pro-family issues), and the international connection (missions, contra support network, refugee relief). It is extremely name-intensive and well-researched.

Keith, Jim, ed. Secret and Suppressed: Banned Ideas and Hidden History. Feral House (P.O. Box 3466, Portland OR 97208), 1993. 309 pages.

"On occasion I have included a particular piece in this volume not for its absolute validity, ... but for its quotient of unacceptability in the reality tunnels of the mainstream." So confesses the editor, which explains why some of the essays are just too weird for us. These we liked:

Anna Keeler, "Remote Mind Control Technology," pp. 27-41. An objective look at the state of the art in hi-tech mind control, with references.

John Judge, "The Black Hole of Guyana: The Untold Story of the Jonestown Massacre," pp. 127-165. The U.S. intelligence community's connections to the Jonestown experiment. Includes 291 footnotes.

G.J. Krupey, "AIDS: Act of God or the Pentagon?", pp. 241-255. Reviews the historical background behind the theory that AIDS originated in a biological-warfare lab. Includes 27 footnotes.

David Steiner and Harry Katz, 1992 telephone transcript, pp. 257-269. AIPAC's president David Steiner brags about the Israeli lobby's connections to Clinton while Katz was taping him. Katz gave his tape to the media and Steiner was forced to resign.

King, Dennis. Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism. New York: Doubleday, 1989. 415 pages.

LaRouche started as a sectarian leftist and self-styled intellectual in the late 1960s. By 1973 cadres from his National Caucus of Labor Committees launched "Operation Mop Up" and began beating up rival leftist groups. Within several years the NCLC stepped over that thin line between sectarian leftism and the right wing, and was cooperating with the KKK, Liberty Lobby, and law enforcement officials. In the early Reagan years, LaRouche's anti-Sovietism found expression through his lobbying on behalf of Star Wars and his access to U.S. intelligence and other officials. His publications such as Executive Intelligence Review are taken seriously by journalists and investigators because of their demonstrated access to occasional inside information. At the same time, LaRouche's people are understandably regarded with a certain amount of healthy suspicion.

LaRouchian political theory is a mixture of Kant, anti-Semitism, and paranoic tirades against everything from British empiricism to Oliver North. It is something of a mystery how LaRouche funds his organization, which is also active in Germany. He was convicted in 1988 of conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion (charges that grew out of his organization's sleazy fund-raising practices), and is serving a 15-year sentence. One suspects, however, that this clue provides a partial answer at best.

Lernoux, Penny. People of God: The Struggle for World Catholicism. New York: Viking, 1989. 466 pages.

Penny Lernoux was a practicing Catholic and prize-winning journalist who lived in Bogota until shortly before her death from lung cancer in October, 1989 at the age of 49. She moved to Latin America in 1962, first working for the U.S. Information Agency and then as a bureau chief and correspondent for Copley News Service. In 1974 she began free-lancing; her work has appeared in Newsweek, The Nation, Harper's, Atlantic Monthly, Business Week, and the National Catholic Reporter.

Much of "People of God" is of more interest to those who follow Catholicism closely, while NameBase is focused on Catholicism only as it affects politics and the power structure generally. But the last half of the book has sections on the Knights of Malta (also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta or SMOM), Opus Dei (called the "Holy Mafia" by its critics), Communion and Liberation (a lay movement in Italy), and Tradition, Family, and Property (an extremist cult in South America). For Lernoux, these groups are among those struggling for the soul of the Church, and represent a counterreformation, known as the "Restoration," that threatens to reverse the gains of Vatican II.

Vankin, Jonathan. Conspiracies, Cover-ups, and Crimes. New York: Paragon House, 1991. 319 pages.

Reporter Jonathan Vankin gives concrete meaning to the slippery term "conspiracy theorist," which (surprisingly) isn't yet in the dictionary. With an engaging mixture of sympathetic interest and skepticism, Vankin interviews a passel of contemporary anti-conspirators and attempts to weigh their theories. These range from what we might charitably call the highly speculative (UFOs intervening in human history), through the tantalizingly possible (various JFK conspiracies), to the unhappily certain (CIA drug programs, FBI plots against black political leaders). Vankin ranges across the political spectrum as well (from rightist Lyndon LaRouche to the left-leaning Christic Institute), and even finds space for popular villains of yesteryear like the Bavarian Illuminati and the Freemasons.

Vankin turns up plenty of evidence for the establishment view of conspiracy theorists as so many paranoid losers. But he also argues that by rejecting a media-manipulated consensus, such people can serve truth and democracy. And as Vankin also says, there's plenty out there to look into. His own publisher, for instance, exists to buy respectability for its owners, Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church.

-- Steve Badrich

Vankin, Jonathan and Whalen, John. The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time: History's Biggest Mysteries, Cover-ups, and Cabals. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1998. 502 pages.

In 1991 a book by Jonathan Vankin titled "Conspiracies, Cover-ups, and Crimes" discussed various episodes in 17 discrete chapters. This book ups the page count from 319 to 502, and expands the number of episodes to sixty. There is not much overlap between the two books.

The writing is generally balanced and capable. The authors deserve credit for describing the various theories on their ostensible merits, rather than conveniently dismissing them as psychological epiphenomena. They recognize that the "Disney" or "New York Times" or "TV news" version of history, packaged for mass consumption, is the product of vested interests, laziness, armchair psychoanalysis, peer pressure, and the stigma associated with the word "conspiracy."

Some of the topics were chosen for their entertainment value, which gives this book a coffee-table aura that other topics don't deserve. Then there's the problem of whether anything valuable can be imparted in eight pages per topic. Many readers will learn only enough about any particular item to discuss it unintelligently, or dismiss it more convincingly. But this book is better than nothing, and is probably the last of the genre.

NameBase book reviews               CloudFlare Watch