William P. Hoar. Architects of Conspiracy: An Intriguing History. Western Islands, 1984. See here to buy the book.
Architects of Conspiracy is a collection of William P. Hoar’s articles that appeared from 1975 to 1984 in American Opinion magazine. American Opinion is now called the New American, and it was a periodical that was published by the ultra-conservative John Birch Society. The John Birch Society maintains that there is a conspiracy to create a one-world government. Those involved in the conspiracy include wealthy financiers, Communists, and the Council on Foreign Relations and Trilateral Commission. The John Birch Society also holds to a laissez-faire stance on economics. In its view, federal government intervention in the economy constricts freedom and undermines competition, thereby protecting and benefitting the wealthy.
The articles are arranged chronologically. The book starts with the French Revolution and its impact on the newly-created United States of America. It then goes through the Industrial Revolution in England, Manifest Destiny in the United States, post-Civil War Reconstruction, and the Robber Barons. Then it moves into the early twentieth century, covering Anarchism, Andrew Carnegie, Populism, and World War I and its aftermath. Afterwards, Hoar proceeds to the 1920’s-1940’s, with chapters concerning Henry Ford, the Great Depression, the New Deal, World War II, and Nazism and Fascism. Hoar then turns his attention to post-World War II events, including the Truman Administration, the Korean War, the aftermath of the Vietnam War, and U.S. summits with the Soviet Union. There is also a chapter about how there were corrupt U.S. President prior to Richard Nixon, echoing conservative Victor Lasky’s claim that “It didn’t start with Watergate.” The final two chapters concern the plans to create a New World Order.
Here are some thoughts:
A. The book is a collection of articles, so it is not very cohesive in explaining what the conspiracy is and how it seeks to effect its goals. Is the conspiracy an attempt to overthrow the Establishment (like the Jacobins), or is it part of the Establishment? The “conspiracy” also does not look monolithic: for example, you have wealthy financier Bernard Baruch criticizing Herbert Hoover for being a socialist. Should they not be on the same side? Hoar seems to contradict himself on what the stances of the conspiracy actually were. Did it favor the expansion of the British Empire or seek to undermine said Empire? Did it support or oppose American intervention into World War II? Then there is the question of the motives of the so-called conspiracy. In some cases, the motives are rather obvious: the wealthy are on the take and seek to influence government to their own ends. Woodrow Wilson, according to Hoar, sought to be President of the world. Regarding the “conspiracy’s” stance towards Communism, Hoar accepts the McCarthyite narrative that there were Communists in the U.S. Government. Overall, though, Hoar, or at least the quotations that he presents, appear to depict the figures (i.e., Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, even the Trilateral Commission) as naive about the Communist threat rather than as deliberate supporters of it.
B. Hoar’s comments on racial issues stood out to me. He seems to be mildly sympathetic towards the “Black Codes” that white southerners enacted after the Civil War, seeing them as understandable attempts by whites to protect their property and lives. This stood out to me, since a number of conservatives criticize the “Black Codes” as gun control measures that were enacted to oppress African-Americans. Hoar also sees the need, for some reason, to note that Abraham Lincoln did not believe in social and political equality among the races. Elsewhere in the book, however, Hoar is critical of racism. He criticizes the racism of populists, both in the early twentieth century and among later right-wingers who adopt the label of populism. Hoar also praises Henry Ford for hiring a large number of African-Americans.
C. I recently rewatched an episode of the Cosby Show entitled “Mrs. Huxtable Goes to Kindergarten.” On this episode, Claire goes on TV and debates the Great Depression with a conservative intellectual. The conservative argued that the Depression was a mere economic downturn and that the economy would have corrected itself in time, without FDR’s help. FDR’s New Deal only exasperated the problem. Banking had nothing to do with the Depression, the conservative argued, nor did the stock market crash directly cause it. How did Hoar’s analysis compare with this? Hoar, too, treats the Depression as an economic downturn that would have self-corrected. He believes that both Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt exasperated it, with their high taxes and government spending; Hoar also criticizes the Smoot-Hawley tariffs that occurred during Hoover’s Presidency. Hoar also views the stock market crash as the result of the economic downturn rather than the cause. Unlike that conservative intellectual, however, Hoar assigns a great deal of blame to the Federal Reserve for the Great Depression. The Federal Reserve eased credit during the 1920’s, resulting in bad loans, then it suddenly tightened credit. For Hoar, the Federal Reserve manipulates the economy for private financial interests, and depressions can actually help rather than hurt some of the wealthy, so the Federal Reserve has no problem causing depressions.
D. The book may fail in presenting a coherent picture of a “conspiracy,” but most of the chapters by themselves are fine pieces of revisionist history. Hoar depicts Louis XVI as a rather progressive ruler of France, overthrown due to an induced economic crisis. Hoar’s claim in the introduction that what people say publicly and what they do privately are different is borne out throughout this book: for instance, FDR was preparing for war even as he publicly affirmed that the U.S. would stay out of it. Hoar draws from numerous secondary sources as well as includes primary quotes, such as Andrew Jackson’s critique of the Bank of the United States, and the fears that the League of Nations would undermine American sovereignty. The book is one-sided, and other books will offer a different perspectives on the stances historical figures took and the decisions that they made. Hoar still asks legitimate questions.