Willis Carto and the American Far Right
Gainesville, Fla.: University Press of Florida, 2008
George Michael describes Willis Carto as “undoubtedly the central figure in the post-World War II American far right.” The organization Carto founded — Liberty Lobby — was “one of the most enduring institutions in the history of the movement and provided a base where virtually all segments of the far right came together.”
The Spotlight, which Liberty Lobby published for over 25 years, was widely read as the most influential medium of the far right, appealing to militia people, antiglobalists, conspiracy theorists, Holocaust revisionists, and White racialists.
Not surprisingly, the Anti-Defamation League considered Carto and Liberty Lobby highly dangerous.
Others agree with Michael’s assessment of Carto’s importance. Leonard Zeskind, for example, positions Carto at the pinnacle of white nationalism — along with William Pierce — in his 2009 book Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream. (Oddly, Carol Swain’s fine work, The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration, does not even mention Carto, a glaring omission.)
Zeskind quotes David Duke speaking about Carto to a conference full of “Aryan believers”:
There is probably no individual in this room who has had more impact on the movement today in terms of awareness of the Jewish question than this individual . . . Because he has not only influenced many of you individually . . . but he also has influenced the men and women who influenced you.
At the conclusion of his book, Zeskind writes that “More than any other individual in his time and place, he built the infrastructure and generated the resources supporting a long-standing white supremacist political movement.” George Michael’s book provides a satisfying tour of how Carto accomplished that.
These are not overblown claims. Consider that Liberty Lobby had 250,000 members in 1970, working with a budget of nearly a million dollars. At its mid-1980s peak, the budget was between $4 to $5 million. What far right or White nationalist organization is even a shadow of that today?
Observers of the America White nationalist movement will quickly note that Michael’s approach is the same as that taken by Robert Griffin in The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds: An Up-Close Portrait of White Nationalist William Pierce, in which Griffin stayed with Pierce and interviewed him at length, giving an even-handed account of Pierce’s work and thoughts.
Just as Robert Griffin did in his Pierce biography, Michael succeeds in humanizing Carto by giving an objective description of the man. Upon their first meeting in late 2000, for example, Michael had this impression:
At first [Carto’s] deep-set eyes conveyed a demeanor and mood of intense seriousness. Although at the time he was in his seventies, Carto appeared mentally sharp and physically fit. He is a diminutive man, shorter than average and probably weighing less than 150 pounds. His dapper attire gave him the appearance of a newspaper reporter, as portrayed in old Hollywood films. He speaks with a Midwestern accent that leaves an impression of ordinariness. Overall, his appearance is unremarkable; one might even describe him as avuncular.
Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1926, Carto had significant French ancestry, with the family name likely being “Carteaux” originally. Carto’s grandfather anglicized it to better blend in. Interestingly, Carto believes that his salt-of-the-earth father privately agreed with his unorthodox views “but he never discussed it. People like my dad — millions of guys like him at their country clubs and in private gatherings, playing bridge or whatever — they talk [about] things. It’s so obvious that the Jews are taking over. But the last thing they want to do is get involved.”
Carto’s focus on Jews began after he left the Army in 1946 (in 1944 he was shot and wounded by a Japanese sniper and was awarded the Purple Heart). Sensing something was wrong in the country, that “on virtually every issue — whether it was immigration, foreign policy, economics, taxes, or race relations — the media supported those positions that ran counter to the interests and wishes of the America people.” (“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”!)
Eventually, Carto became politicized and launched a newsletter known as Right. Influenced by Prof. John Owen Beaty’s Iron Curtain over America, Carto moved further toward the opinion that “Jewish international bankers were implicated in conspiracies to control the economies of the Western world.” (Did someone just say “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”?)
Through Right, Carto saw Jews as advocating the “pollution” of America through miscegenation while at the same time striving to maintain ethnic purity among themselves. Out of fear of miscegenation, Carto also opposed the admission of Alaska and Hawaii as states, fearing Hawaii, for its part, would elect ethnic Japanese who would not support White interests in Congress.
Carto managed to cross paths with nearly every right wing group and promoter of the last half century. In the 1960s, for instance, he met and worked with American Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell, but they parted ways. In addition, the Lobby’s charges against various Jewish groups prevented Liberty Lobby from joining other rightist groups such as the John Birch Society.
Michael’s narrative really comes alive in chapter seven, when he gives a well-rounded account of the career of Francis Parker Yockey, author of Imperium. By 1960, Carto appeared to many outsiders to be moderating his views, but in fact he was further radicalized by the writing of Yockey. Michael claims that a major event in Carto’s life was meeting Yockey while the latter was in a San Francisco jail on passport violations.
Soon after this 15-minute meeting, Yockey committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill, and rumors swirled that Carto had provided the pill. (As an aside, Michael notes that the U.S. attorney responsible for prosecuting Yockey “inexplicably resigned, left his wife and children, and joined a monastery.”)
This was my own introduction to the life of the enigmatic Yockey, and Michael’s account ably captures the reason someone like Carto felt that while in Yockey’s company he could “feel history standing aside me.”
Yockey’s arguments certainly resonated with those Carto had been making in the previous decade. As Michael writes, “In Yockey’s worldview, Jews were the primary culprits in the decline of Western civilization. Not unlike previous anti-Semitic narratives, he submitted that Jews excelled mainly in parasitism and were incapable of creating a civilization of their own. He characterized them as ‘culture distorters’ . . .”
In a letter purloined by an undercover mole in the organization, Carto had been very explicit about his beliefs:
Hitler’s defeat was the defeat of Europe. And of America. How could we have been so blind? The blame, it seems, must be laid at the door of the international Jews. It was their propaganda, lies and demands which blinded the West to what Germany was doing. . . . If Satan himself, with all of the superhuman genius and diabolical ingenuity at his command, had tried to create a permanent disintegration and force for the destruction of the nations, he could have done no better than to invent the Jews.
Yockey felt that Jews had taken over America in “all but name” by 1933, with Roosevelt as their agent. Using the media, Yockey argued, Jews controlled public opinion, and thereby the policies of the democracies in Europe and the United States. According to Michael, Yockey reasoned that the Industrial Revolution allowed Jews to rise to power, with American eventually becoming a “money civilization” with a “semitic countenance.” Michael notes that Yockey also asserted that Jews composed 10 percent of the population of the North American continent and that “it is a stark and gruesome fact that America today is ruled by the Jew” (emphasis in original).
From Yockey, Carto drew a lesson that he shared with his rival (and reported enemy) William Pierce, head of the National Alliance. The West, he felt, needed a new faith that would allow a spiritual regeneration. “Only a new dynamic Weltanschauung could save the West.” Opposing this civilization was an enemy that had “four millenniums of experience in guile and deception,” the Jews. One method of destroying the West, both Yockey and Carto believed, was introducing multiculturalism. As Carto states, multiculturalism “could only bring the downfall of all cultures.”
Carto believed that through media control, Jews “confused the white masses, thereby inverting their morality so that they sympathized with non-whites and convinced the former of the ‘rightness of the suicide of the White race.’ Jews were accused of waging a ‘permanent revolution’ against the underpinnings of Western civilization.” Carto continues to maintain this view.
Similar views were held by other racialists with whom Carto crossed paths. For instance, Prof. Revilo Oliver had a mixed relationship with Carto, though they shared similarly negative views on Jews. Pierce, as mentioned, was no Carto supporter. When Carto forces accused Pierce of being an FBI informant, Pierce responded by accusing Carto of embezzlement.
Amidst all this turmoil, Carto labored on. In fact, one of his greatest achievements was yet to come: the founding of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) in 1978.
One strength of Michael’s book surfaces again here. As he did in the beginning of the book with a chapter offering an overview of the far right before Carto, Michael prefaces the discussion of the IHR with an introductory treatment of the origins of Holocaust revisionism. He lists, for example, the achievements of Frenchman Paul Rassinier, the first notable revisionist, whose works include Crossing the Line and The Drama of the European Jews (online edition; for the French edition, click here. For an online version of the French ed., click here). He then ties together Carto’s promotion of David Hoggan’s The Myth of the Six Million and its impact on leading revisionist Harry Elmer Barnes. We next hear about Arthur Butz and his seminal work Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry (1976).
Two years after Butz’s book appeared, Carto took the crucial step of providing an institutional setting for the disparate revisionist forces. With the founding of the IHR, the world now had “the number-one international force for Holocaust revisionism.”
Located in Torrance, California, the IHR housed the Noontide Press. More importantly, The IHR published a periodical, the Journal of Historical Review, which was a direct descendant of Carto’s American Mercury. Presented along scholarly lines, articles were properly formatted and footnoted, and at one point the IHR boasted twenty-five editorial advisory committee members, eighteen of whom held doctorate degrees.
Not surprisingly, the rise of an institution supporting Holocaust revisionism elicited a powerful backlash. Carto’s house was vandalized, followed by picketing by Jewish Defense League members. Next, a firebomb did minor damage to parts of the IHR facilities in 1981. A year later there were two more firebombings. On July 4, 1984, however, a serious arson attack by unknown forces destroyed more than ninety percent of the books and tapes at the IHR, resulting in nearly a half million dollars of damage. The case was never solved.
Michael next chronicles a depressing series of setbacks and challenges to Carto and the IHR, including a lawsuit by a Jewish businessman, (see Michael Collins Piper’s account here) and a more devastating one involving Journal of Historical Review editor Mark Weber and his allies. The upshot was that in 1996 a judge awarded the IHR $7.365 million in damages, forcing Carto, his wife, and Liberty Lobby to declare bankruptcy. This appears to be a fitting tale about the far right more generally, as squabbling amongst themselves seems to result in more harm than attacks by external enemies. As Michael notes, “Thus, in an ironic twist of fate, one of the most longstanding institutions of the far right was forced to close shop, not due to action by its watchdog opponents, such as the ADL or the Southern Poverty Law Center, but rather due to an internecine feud on the far right.”
Remarkably, Carto bounced back. In place of Liberty Lobby and its mouthpiece The Spotlight, Carto created American Free Press and The Barnes Review. The former newsletter maintains a heavy focus on Holocaust revisionism, just as The Journal of Historical Review had. (Michael notes in passing that even some Jewish scholars seek to downgrade many of the more exaggerated claims about Jewish suffering. Two men mentioned are historian Peter Novick and enfant terrible Norman Finkelstein.)
In addition, The Barnes Review holds annual conferences in the Washington, D.C. area, attracting speakers such as Eustace Mullins, attorney Edgar Steele, and Holocaust revisionists Frederick Toben and Germar Rudolf. In-house journalists such as Michael Collins Piper also speak. Even Hutton Gibson, father of Mel, has given a lecture there.
American Free Press is less heavily focused on Jews, preferring to name the Bilderberg Group as more responsible for trends harmful to Whites. The following exchange between Carto and Michael illustrates Carto’s views, while also showing the immediacy of the book’s approach:
Willis Carto: They [Jews] have the universalistic dream where everybody is going to be a slave. And the plutocrats, they want essentially the same thing. But at some point I can just imagine the Anglo-plutocrats — the Bush types and the Queen of England types — sitting around with the Jews. And what’s going to happen then? That’s going to be a watershed. And if anybody thinks that the plutocrats are going to share with the Jews or the Jews are going to share with the plutocrats, he is totally crazy.
George Michael: How do you see this relationship between the plutocrats — the so-called Eastern establishment — and the Jews? Who do you really think pulls the strings?
WC: I think it is shared interests. I don’t think they really have come to the point yet that they have to start scheming against each other . . . . They’re both after the same thing, which is mastery of the globe . . . . When they reach some point, the daggers have to come out. I mean the Jews aren’t plutocrats. And the plutocrats aren’t Jews. They are going to share power only until they get down too close to the bone, when they have to start nibbling with sharp teeth. I don’t think it will hold together.
GM: Are you optimistic that somehow these problems can be surmounted, that someday there will be an effective opposition that will be able to marshal grassroots support to effect change in America? And the western world by extension?
WC: If I understand your question right, I can see as I say, at some point, the dollar has to crack. It has to shatter. Everything has to collapse. And when it does . . . . Well, I’ll tell you what I really believe. There is one of two things. And both of them are pretty bad. Number one I sort of laugh, I find it kind of humorous that these old-line, old money people want a gold standard. They’re going to get their gold standard. When the dollar goes down the tube, they’re going to have their gold standard, because that will be the only money. That is one scenario, which isn’t good. The other scenario isn’t any better, but is really a condition of anarchy in this country where you have all these groups that are put together forcibly at each other’s throats. And it could be very bloody.
A perennial favorite of American Free Press is Mossad Conspiracy Theories, a prime one being that Israel spies extensively on its “patron,” the United States. Such a claim today appears to be on more and more solid ground, as various revelations about Jewish and Israeli spying surface. (For more, see my recent column “Spies Like Us”). In addition to mere spying, articles in the newspaper allege an Israel role in 9/11 and the anthrax attacks that followed. Finally, American Free Press strongly pushes arguments that Israel and its neoconservative operatives were behind the drive for a second war on Iraq.
Michael sees the emergence of Carto’s new media as evidence of Carto’s continuing resolve. “The survival of American Free Press has demonstrated the durability and tenacity of Willis Carto. The paper’s circulation is roughly 40,000, not far below the Spotlight’s circulation of 50,000 when it ceased publication. Furthermore, The Barnes Review is now the most widely distributed revisionist journal. Finally, Carto still organizes conferences that draw crowds in the low hundreds — a considerable feat by American far right standards. Nearly all observers wrote him off after his loss in the battle with the IHR. However, as of 2007, the eighty-one-year-old Carto works a full-time schedule that would tire most men half his age.”
Before assuming that this represents a hopeful sign, one should pay attention to what immediately follows the above quote. “[Carto’s] influence on the American far right remains undeniable. But in the larger scheme of American politics, just how significant has he been?”
Michael observes that some have looked at the net effect of Willis Carto’s work and concluded it has been “virtually nothing.” If so, Carto alone is hardly to blame, as researchers on the American Right, John George and Laird Wilcox comment:
[W]hatever else one can say of Willis Carto, it is clear that he, more than any individual, has been responsible for giving form to the ragtag band of citizens who make up the [R]ightist fringe. Carto has attempted to ride herd on a very difficult and contentious band of rugged individualists, prima donnas, loners, and nut cases with predictably marginal results. Some critics on the [R]ight say that Carto’s failures have been caused by his autocratic personality, but it’s doubtful anyone else could have done better.
Surprisingly, Carto’s own take on his efforts to unite the right is similar:
That was a fundamental error. I had to learn as many, many others have learned, that such a noble sounding goal is impractical and impossible, a waste of time, a waste of effort. These various groups and organizations, and leaders, under no circumstances are they going to join together. They all have their own ideas on how to do things and none of them work. That certainly is not the way to do it. I was wrong all those years. It took a long time for me to find out. . . .
The only way this can be surmounted is to have one personality, one leader, extremely intelligent, with the right type of personality, a good speaker, a gregarious person, who can literally take over these other groups in the sense that half of their membership deserts to come over to his banner. That’s the only way it could be done. . . .
That’s the only way to do it. Not to try to merge with other organizations. You have to steal their membership. He [Hitler] didn’t merge his party with anybody. But through his own abilities as a speaker and all the other leadership qualities he had, he was literally able to steal the memberships. And so these organizations would vote to dissolve and go into the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. That’s what he did. And he instinctively recognized the fallacy of what Liberty Lobby later tried to do and the Congress of Freedom tried to do and what We, the People tried to do and get one organization out of many. You can’t have it.
Surely there is a lesson in this for today’s activists. One such lesson can be drawn from Carto’s insistence that white nationalist efforts must be institutionally grounded, as he tried to do with Liberty Lobby and the IHR.
Willis Carto and the American Far Right is a personal tale of an important man in a vitally important story about an entire race. Carto saw the risks to the West over half a century ago, and to his credit has been working ceaselessly ever since to defend his people and civilization. Thus, it is cheerless to read Carto’s final words in the book: “I did my best. That’s all I can say.” Yet one cannot help but admire the man portrayed in these pages.
Carto will soon pass from the scene, but, as Michael notes, new groups of White nationalists will emerge. How could it be otherwise? Faced with undeniable decline and the threat of genocidal violence at the hands of outside enemies and traitorous or clueless Whites within, there will always be those who seek to fight back before the light finally goes out.
The late Harvard historian Samuel Huntington explained why such resistance is inevitable. In his last major work, Who Are We: The Challenges to America’s National Identity, he recorded the betrayal of American elites, who in the 1960s and 1970s “began to promote measures consciously designed to weaken America’s cultural and creedal identity and to strengthen racial, ethnic, cultural, and other subnational identities. These efforts by a nation’s leaders to deconstruct the nation they governed were, quite possibly, without precedent in human history.” (See also E. Michael Jones’s The Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing, Peter Brimelow’s speech at the Preserving Western Civilization conference, or the VDARE.com exchange between Kevin MacDonald and Eric Kaufman for similar perspectives.)
White backlash, Huntington argued, is to be expected, which, should it come, would put Carto in the vanguard. “The actual and prospective continuing loss of power, status, and numbers by any social, ethnic, racial, or economic group,” Huntington wrote, “almost always leads to efforts by that group to stop or reverse those losses.” The example he cites? Bosnia-Herzegovina. While he did not foresee that level of violence, he did predict that Whites — in this case those in California — would react to their dispossession with a certainty of 100%. One hopes Carto will still be around to witness Whites finally standing up for themselves.
We humans often say that we live in interesting times, and for Whites today, that is certainly true. How, for example, can we have people like Carto, Huntington and even a far-Left professor like James Petras sharing views on the plight of the West, or in the case of Carto and Petras, an insistence that Jewish/Zionist power is a leading threat? What Petras writes in books such as The Power of Israel in the United States (see his similar books Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire: Bankers, Zionists and Militants, Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power, and Global Depression and Regional Wars: The United States, Latin America and the Middle East; see also my review here) would not seem out of place in one of Carto’s many publications. Now that is interesting.
Both Leonard Zeskind and Michael are in agreement about the future of far right activism. Zeskind concludes that movement activists have created “a white nationalist opposition to the status quo that will not go away in the near future” (emphasis in text). Michael believes that such activism “will probably endure well into the current century.”
Let’s hope so. And let’s hope that it finally gains traction.
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