I have previously discussed the concept of what I have dubbed "the hierarchy of misery." The term refers to organizations or movements in which a tiny parasitic elite benefits on the backs of a large mass of people. I discussed how Amway and the Unification movement embody this category. In this post, I will show that one thing that makes these groups particularly pernicious is that many of them often have a mutually beneficial relationship with other hierarchies of misery. It is a synergistic relationship in which the overall pathology becomes greater than the sum of its component parts.
In the diagram, I have charted how this insidious mutualism has taken place in recent American history with groups that have a theocratic orientation. Let me discuss the players:
1) Amway/Kingpin IBOs. This refers to Amway Global network marketing company as well as some of the more reactionary distributor organizations headed by wealthy reactionary "kingpin" distributors (known in Amway as Independent Business Owners-or IBOs). Here is a newspaper story on the exploitative nature of many of the top Amway kingpin IBOs.
2) The Falwell Organization. This pertains to the various organizations run by Jerry Falwell (1933-2007).
3) Sun Myung Moon Groups. This includes the Family Federation for World Peace, 1000 front groups, and media organizations, notably the Washington Times and the UPI wire service.
4) The Right-Wing Governmental Apparatus. Prominent members of the right who exercise governmental power.
5) The Neo-Confederate Movement. This refers to the white supremacist movement in the United States that usually poses as a movement to preserve "Southern heritage." In fact, this heritage is largely one in which a small oligarchy kept itself in power in the American South for over a hundred years by pitting poor white against poor black--to keep both groups oppressed.
The diagram shows what each groups gives and receives from other groups
1.Amway to Falwell. Falwell's ministry has been receiving significant financial support from Amway kingpin IBO Dexter Yager (more on Yager here).
2. Falwell to Amway. In turn, Falwell spoke out in defense of Amway against critics who were trying to expose unethical practices by Amway and various kingpin organizations.
3. Moon to Falwell. In the early 1990's, Sun Myung Moon funneled $3.5 million to bail out Falwell's floundering diploma mill, Liberty University (quick note: a Brown University student went undercover at Liberty U. and is writing a book about his experiences). Also, when Moon was facing legal problems in the 1980's, he freely gave to various sectarian right groups.
4. Falwell to Moon. Jerry Falwell was not a big fan of Moon when the would-be Messiah was converting young Americans to the Unification Church in the 1970's, Falwell said, "Reverend Sun Myung Moon is like the plague: he exploits boys and girls, and he should be exported [sic]." Falwell changed his tune in a big hurry when Falwell had a chance to line his pockets with Moon's ill-gotten cash. Falwell lavishly praised Moon, giving Moon further legitimacy with the American conservative movement.
5. Moon to the right-wing governmental apparatus. Moon has been the biggest contributor to the American right. Moon has dumped over $3 billion into the right-wing newspaper the Washington Times and has provided workers and funds to right-wing causes. Moon has given lucrative speaking fees to prominent GOP politicians, notable former president George H. W. Bush.
6. The right-wing governmental apparatus to Moon. Prominent GOP politicians, such as Orrin Hatch and former President Bush have given Moon the legitimacy he craves. This culminated in the disgraceful coronation ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in 2004. In addition, the videos of prominent politicians heaping fulsome praise on Moon have allowed Moon to gain converts and bilk money from gullible people.
7. The Falwell groups to the right-wing governmental apparatus. Falwell has devoted massive resources to electing right-wing politicians and causes. Falwell bragged that once a person entered his church the new convert was registered to vote (as a Republican, of course).
8. The right-wing governmental apparatus to Falwell. Falwell has been given legitimacy by every Republican president since Reagan. When Falwell died, Republican presidential candidates tried to outdo each other in praising Falwell.
9. Amway has been one of the largest contributors to the GOP and right-wing causes. In 1994, Amway gave to then what was the largest corporate contribution to the Republicans--$2.5 million. Most of the kingpin IBOs are on the hard right (a recent post on my main blog has a lot of information about the warped ideology of Amway's biggest IBO Dexter Yager). In addition, at Amway rallies, prominent right-wing politicians are paid huge speaking fees to extol the virtues of Amway to distributors; GOP politicians who have spoken at Amway rallies include "former Presidents George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and former Vice Presidents Bob Dole and Dan Quayle, along with other GOP heavyweights like Gingrich, Oliver North, Senator Rick Santorum and even the latest SE Regional Chairman for the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, Ralph Reed."
10. These de facto contributions to prominent Republicans have been lucrative for Amway. The late Molly Ivins reported that then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich inserted a special tax break in a bill that created a $283 million for Amway's parent corporation Aliticor. It is also worth noting that during the Bush years, nothing was done by governmental regulatory bodies like the FTC regarding the illegal but highly lucrative tools pyramid scheme (YouTube has the Dateline NBC segment here and here that has undercover footage of how the tools scam works--the segment also shows the bizarre cult-like atmosphere of the Amway/Quixtar rallies; quick note: for more of the fucked up shit that goes on at Amway rallies, watch Dexter Yager's wife Birdie speak at a rally here).
11. & 12. I put these two grouping together because, unfortunately, much of the right's governmental apparatus is comprised of neo-Confederates or people sympathetic to the neo-Confederate movement.
13. The neo-Confederate movement has filled the Washington Times' editorial page. I have written about this on my Moon blog. The Southern Poverty Law Center and The Nation's Max Blumenthal have addressed this phenomenon.
14. The Washington Times' editorial page appears to be the last quasi-respectable refuge for white supremacist crackpots. Having white supremacists working for a newspaper in the nation's capital has accorded the neo-Confederate movement a great deal of undeserved legitimacy. A quick note on Moon and white supremacists: I'm not sure what Moon's deal is with white supremacists. Although Moon is Korean, like the white supremacists, he is an anti-Semite and an anti-black racist. I recently asked a prominent academician about this and she told me that she had asked some people and they didn't have a clue).
Humanity in general loses when these reactionary and benighted ideologies prosper. However, there are specific victims:
1) New and prospective Amway distributors. Despite claims by Amway kingpins that Amway is the best way to get rich, only one person per 100,000 who joined Amway/Quixtar in 1999-2000 attained an income over $90,000 a year.
2) Moonie converts. These people waste their lives in the belief that a demented megalomaniac is the Messiah. It is very sad.
3) Victims of Moon scams. This category includes not only those who contributed to Moon canvassers claiming to represent charities and youth groups (this practice is know as "heavenly deception" in Moonie circles) but more seriously it includes the "spiritual sales" scandal in which widows in Japan were swindles out of their life savings by church operatives.
4) American journalism. It's bad enough that Moon scammed many people out of their life savings. It's worse when he uses $3 billion of this ill-gotten money to create a rag like the Washington Times. The Washington Times constitutes an assault on journalism.
5) Jerry Falwell's victims. This includes not only those members of Falwell's flock who were scammed by paying huge amounts for Falwell's tapes that purportedly showed evidence that Bill and Hillary Clinton were involved in murder and drug-running but the American people in general. Falwell poisoned American political discourse and he will not be missed.