Right Wing Media and Agenda 21
Many journalistic sources regularly release stories about the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory with a variety of perspectives. This ranges from discussing the situation factually with a neutral ideological stance, to left-of-center media outlets that insult and attack anti-Agenda 21 groups, to the right-wing media that often embrace some aspect of the conspiracy or at the very least find fault in Agenda 21. However, the sources that are important to this work are the third group, the news channels, radio shows, and websites that cater to political conservative audiences. These sources are important not simply because they discuss this topic with greater frequency and within the conspiracy narrative. The additional relevance of these conservative media sources appears when we understand that their role in stimulating the growth of the groups and ideas that form the basis of the anti-Agenda 21 movement is part of an intentional political maneuver. Scholarly data on the growth of the Tea Party and the resurgence of the GOP in 2010 looked at several factors that allowed this situation. One of the most important factors in the study was the growth of ideologically driven new sources.
There has been a long history of conservative media beginning in the Depression Era with news radio programs featuring religious leaders that warned against communist conspiracies, anti-American conspiracies, and other points of social anxiety (Burack and Snyder- Hall 2013, 446). However, the very politically driven news media that we are accustomed to today did not start to take shape until the 1980s. During this period, Rush Limbaugh began a new format for a call-in talk show based on conservative politics (Burack and Snyder-Hall 2013, 477). The result was a very popular radio show that focused on attacking liberal values and groups that opposed (or groups that were opposed by) Republican values through discourse labeled “hate radio” by its’ critics (Burack and Snyder-Hall 2013, 477). This type of programming was previously disallowed until 1987, when Ronald Reagan ended the “Fairness Doctrine” (policies that required balanced viewpoints in news media) from broadcast rules
(Burack and Snyder-Hall 2013, 477) . Today, these conservative radio shows are an important sources of news and entertainment for nearly one-in-five Americans, mostly white, middle-class males.
The two most popular hosts, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, actively promote Republican ideals and serves as an “echo chamber” for conservative ideology (Burack and Snyder-Hall 2013, 477). The reach of conservative media grew much larger when News Corp unveiled the television channel Fox News in 1996. The network offered content very similar to conservative news radio under the guise of “fair and balanced” broadcast news (Burack and Snyder-Hall 2013). The network slow grew in popularity with several spikes in viewership during George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, the 9/11 attacks and the election of Barack Obama. During the network’s growth, it became home to Glen Beck, a key figure in both the Tea Party’s growth as well as an adamant supporter of anti-Agenda 21 conspiracy theories (Burack and Snyder-Hall 2013, 448). Further, there is data that show these media companies are simply one part of a much larger conservative political network that disseminates conservative political ideology and political agendas (Meagher 2012, 469-470).
This vast conservative “network” funds and organizes a variety of think tanks, non-profits and the media outlets that share their ideas with the public. The result is a well-designed social network that works as a pipeline of ideas from think tanks and politicians to activists and voters (Meagher 2012, 469-470). . Sean Hannity is the host of both television and radio shows. During his time on the air, he has had anti-Agenda 21 supporters such as Tom Deweese (head of the conservative group American Policy Center) and Newt Gingrich (at the time a presidential candidate) on his radios show to discuss the situation (DeWeese 2012). As one may expect the guests discussed the subject within the conservative narrative previously analyzed in this work (DeWeese 2012). Past the use of the Republican conspiracy narrative, an important point to gather from these guest interviews is the empowerment it gives anti-Agenda 21 activists and the validity it lends to their cause. When an important figure in the GOP voiced his support for the Agenda 21 conspiracy narrative on one of the most popular conservative new shows the story becomes much more credible to the general public then information gathered from a conspiracy website with questionable authority in the matter.
This has been described in an editorial for the conservative news magazine The New American as an important moment for the cause as it served as “a sign that the mainstream Conservative movement is coming on board in the Agenda 21 fight” (DeWeese 2012). Rush Limbaugh, one of the most popular voices in conservative media, talks less about Agenda 21, but still uses the narrative of anti-Agenda 21 supporters. Internet searches of “Rush Limbaugh Agenda 21” provides several links from left leaning media sources criticizing the Republican party and pundits such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh for taking part in the conspiracy theory (Lacey 2012) (Media Matters 2014). However, these links do not document any instances of Limbaugh actually attacking Agenda 21. The search also provides several links to right wing media sources and conspiracy websites that have reposted an article by a conservative/conspiracy author Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh (Paugh 2013). In the article, Paugh supports the conspiracy narrative associated with Agenda 21 and references a specific monologue from Rush Limbaugh that she feels supports her case. This monologue does not reference Agenda 21 either. Further searches of the media archives on Limbaugh’s site provide little support to either side’s assertion that Limbaugh regularly (or at all) discusses this subject.
However, as multiple sources on both sides of the political spectrum have mentioned this specific segment in reference to Agenda 21 conspiracies it seems appropriate to include it in this analysis. During one of his 2013 monologues, Limbaugh delivers a long speech about the evils of central planning, mass transit, and in essence any form of government interference with land development. He never expressly mentions Agenda 21 during the diatribe, however, the narrative he uses to attack the federal government, HUD, and liberal development is close to the works of anti-Agenda 21 activists (Limbaugh 2013). He discusses at length his opinion of HUD programs from the 1970s that he considers an attempt to strip away people rights in order to create racial equity in housing (Limbaugh 2013). After this, Limbaugh switches to an assault on current HUD policies that he criticizes for attempting to regulate urban density and what type of housing can be build. This is very much within the narrative for Agenda 21 conspiracies as many of the conspiracy based fears concern a large central government that forces people from their current living situation into dense urban area. Finally, Limbaugh discusses his view that central planning of this nature is a liberal plot to keep people from living within the groups and cultures they choose (Limbaugh 2013). This part of the monologue, although not directly related to Agenda 21, touches on the narrative as it implies liberals are using central planning schemes, under the guise of equity and smart planning to chip away at American cultural norms.
(Beck 2011) He then explains this is all because of socialist redistribution that is outlined in Agenda 21 (Beck 2011). Next, Beck attacks Dr. Gro Brutland a former Prime minster of Norway and one of the key figures in planning The Rio Summit of 1992 (Bärlund n/d). After mocking the pronunciation of her name and implying she is unattractive and dour, he states she is a member of several socialist groups and friends with Bill and Hilary Clinton (Beck 2011). Although these concepts may not seem that damming in some political circles, Beck rolls his eyes, mocks these people, and through his behavior and dismissive statements implies that these social connections are proof that Agenda 21 is much more than a simple sustainability plan. , After attacking Dr. Brutland, Beck moves on to his next target, a figure in international politics that anyone familiar with the Schiller paper would recognize, Maurice Strong. Beck then spends several minutes talking about how Strong is part of many sustainable development plans, and implies these plans are a ploy (Beck 2011). He then states that Strong would require people to be licensed to have children and that he hopes for industrial society to collapse (Beck 2011). He offers no source or context with which these comments were supposedly made, he simply states sarcastically “no, nothing nefarious there” (Beck 2011).
Beck moves on to how this will affect viewers. He uses this time to explain that any instance in which local or state governments are attempting to use programs deemed “sustainable” are likely something that is secretly being pushed by the ICLICE. Much like other conspiracy based works concerning Agenda 21 he labels the ILCIE as a covert attempt to push United Nation control over American municipalities (Beck 2011). He then attacks several people within the ILCIE. He labels these people as either socialists or communists working towards a malevolent world government (Beck 2011). Beck then explains that Agenda 21 is a long-term covert plan to enact global government under the guise of environmentalism (Beck 2011). He goes on to talk about how large and well-entrenched the plan is within policy and international politics. After he has built a fearful monster out of Agenda 21 and its supporters, one that may seem undefeatable to viewers, Beck explains his theory that God will take part in this situation. He explains that God will step into protect freedom. He then quickly shifts the topic to how anti-Agenda 21 activists have been keeping the nation aware of the problems and are fighting back (Beck 2011). At the end of his diatribe, he warns viewers to look for the terms “sustainable planning” and “social justice” as “buzzwords” used by the enemy to trick people into believing that Agenda 21 and environmental policy are positive for society (Beck 2011).
This monologue by Beck is very interesting as it uses more of the original conspiracy theory than the works of other major conservative broadcasters. Limbaugh uses a similar narrative but shifts the blame for central planning and loss of freedoms to the federal government, Beck fully embraces the narrative of the Schiller white paper. He discuss the plan and highlights aspects of Agenda 21 that fit both Malthusian and New World Order conspiracies. He attempts to explain the plan as a covert and nefarious action by a cadre of international elites. Finally, Beck’s narrative explains the situation as a battle of good vs. evil and implies that God is on the side of anti-Agenda 21 activists.
This monologue provides us with a good example of the style and narrative in which Beck’s broadcasts discuss Agenda 21. However, this is not the only method that Beck has used to malign the sustainability plan. Beck’s news website The Blaze features a special section that deals with nothing but Agenda 21 conspiracy theories (The Blaze Inc. 2015). This section of the
website features dozens of articles from the last few years that discuss instances in which groups have fought against Agenda 21 or a local sustainability plan is being labeled as part of the conspiracy (The Blaze Inc. 2015). These articles all work within the frame that Beck has developed to support his assertions about the evil of Agenda 21.
The last and perhaps strongest piece of work Beck has put forth concerning Agenda 21 is a fictional novel he “co-authored” with Harriet Parke. The novel is titled Agenda 21 and is a dystopian science fiction novel set approximately fifteen years after the implementation of the United Nations sustainability plan (Beck and Parke, Agenda 21 2012). The plot of the book takes several aspects from classic dystopian science fiction novels. The setting is a bleak totalitarian world in which the protagonist has imperfect/unreliable information about the world in which she lives, creating a very similar social settings to both George Orwell’s classic 1984 as well as Ayn Rand’s novella Anthem (Orwell 1961) (Rand 1995). The book centers around a teenage girl who was born shortly after the implementation of Agenda 21 and describes her experiences in a nightmarish world created by the provisions of the sustainability plan. The main plot points are directly related to the conspiracy narrative surrounding Agenda 21. The main characters live in a small dense settlement under the control of a distant authoritarian centralized government that serves as the New World Order (Beck and Parke 2012, 10-13).
The society appears very underdeveloped and has strict controls on the use of technology, energy, food and any natural resource (Beck and Parke 2012, 10-12). These aspects of the book are much more vivid than the warnings of the Schiller paper, yet follow the narrative almost perfectly. There are other sections of the book that illustrate the narrative of conspiracy theorists, such as a scene that describes a shrine-like feeding area that produces fat, over fed squirrels and wildlife, while humans starve (Beck and Parke, Agenda 21 2012, 29). This scene appears to address the parts of the conspiracy theory that assume that the Agenda 21 plan is run by an ecocult that worships nature and has little regard for human life. Another important sub-plot is how reproduction and population are strictly regulated through either a centralized breeding program for the young or a euthanasia program for the old and weak (Beck and Parke, Agenda 21 2012, 34-40). These points supply the Malthusian aspect of the conspiracy that warns of harsh government controls concerning population and reproduction. Overall, the novel follows the predictions of conspiracy theorists, covering all of the major points of works, such as the Schiller paper with graphic and often violent scenarios.
However, it is not simply what is said that is important with this work. For this discussion, it is important to understand the type of book one encounters when reading Agenda 21. This work is not an “ethical political novel” that seeks to provoke an interest and open discussion about a social situation (McAlear 2009, 197-198). Instead this novel is written with methodological and narrative tactics (whether intentional or not) that mirror propaganda novels such as The Turner Diaries (McAlear 2009, 198). The novel does not contain situations of moral ambiguity that could lead one to debate the concepts or wrestle with questions that arise from the context of the work. Instead, the work is written as a personal narrative that follows the perceptions of a single character. This format has been analyzed by scholars as a less effective method for provoking discussion with a political novel and as a method better suited for the dispersal of propaganda and persuasion (McAlear 2009, 197). Beck and Parke’s novel follows a similar method used for the creation of the The Turner Diaries an infamous dystopian propaganda novel written by a white supremacist about American society after a race war (McAlear 2009).
Further, Beck and Parke’s novel Agenda 21 has other similarities in narrative construction with The Turner Diaries. Both novels are written with framing and narratives in which the current era is corrupted, and a better future is expected to come from a new era that takes people back to the purity of a lost past (Beck and Parke 2012, 347-353) (McAlear 2009, 194). These concepts form the basis of the resolution in Beck and Parke’s novel as the protagonists flee their prison-like society to escape the current totalitarian order and to rediscover social conditions from the past before Agenda 21 (Beck and Parke, Agenda 21 2012).
This is much different than other political dystopian novels such as Alexus Huxley’s A Brave New World or Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Although the format of these novels do have some similarity with Parke and Beck’s Agenda 21 novel and the Turner Diaries, using the standards applied above they also have a greater “ethical content” (McAlear 2009, 198). This is based on the structure of the novels that focus on the view point of various characters, show more than one moral viewpoint and leave the reader with a bit of tension as to why people follow the authoritarian governments and how the situations occurred (Bradbury 1951) (Huxley 1932) (McAlear 2009, 197-199) . In works such as The Turner Diaries and Agenda 21, these concepts are notability missing and the antagonists are simply evil or villainous as opposed to complex characters making decision within a social context that effects their motivations and actions.
A final point about the novel Agenda 21 is the special afterward written by Beck. In a short section at the end of the book, Beck addresses readers directly. He compliments Parke for her work and explains that the method of using a novel to tell the story has had a great influence in spreading awareness about the issues (Beck and Parke 2012, 356-7). Beck then explains that the novel is fiction, that he is not a conspiracy theorist, and that the scenarios in the novel are the most extreme examples of what could happen under Agenda 21 (Beck and Parke, Agenda 21 2012, 357). However, immediately after he assures readers that the events of the novel probably will not happen, he then offers several pages of information to show how it could happen. This
includes a short outline of the conspiracy theory concerning Agenda 21. The outline includes a list of supporters of the plan such as Maurice Strong and their supposed connections with socialist groups; a primer on how to watch for any language usage that could be connected to the plan, and a list of resources for readers to better inform themselves about the dangers of the plan (Beck and Parke 2012, 358-376). Further, Beck urges activism against the plan at every level of government. Finally, he finishes the work by thanking the Republican Party for officially supporting anti-Agenda 21 movements through the resolution approved at the GOP 2012 Winter Meeting (Beck and Parke 2012, 379).
This is a fascinating piece of work for this analysis. It fully embraces the conspiracy narrative concerning Agenda 21 and gives graphic illustration as to how the world could look if conspiracy theorists are correct. The novel is entertaining, yet never really deviates from the established framework that views Agenda 21 as a Malthusian plot by the New World Order to control all life. The novel is a piece of political fiction, yet it is written with methodology that is better suited for propaganda. After 350 pages of anxiety-inducing prose, Beck directly addresses the reader and supplies ample amounts of information that helps to add validity and authority to the work. Although he attempts to downplay the possibilities of the horrors in the novel, he only does so for a few sentences before he begins to preach as to how this all could happen. The novel as a whole gives more weight and detail to the conspiracy than a non-fictional account, as anything that seems too implausible can be discounted as fiction as opposed to the ravings of a paranoid person.