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John Birch Society: ‘Agenda 21’ is Stealth Plot to Steal Freedom

By Arthur Goldwag on December 5, 2011 - 11:57 am, Posted in Extremist Propaganda

It isn’t exactly the midnight ride of Paul Revere, but clearly something is up.

Since September, the John Birch Society has sponsored or co-sponsored lectures on the dangers of Agenda 21 in Manahawkin, Somers Point, Williamstown, Pompton Plains, and Toms River, N.J.; in Bozeman, Great Falls, Kalispell, and Missoula, Mont.; in Indianapolis, Ind.; in Albany and Queens, N.Y.; in Deland, Jacksonville and Gainesville, Fla.; in Mobile, Ala.; and in Shelton and Westport, Conn.

The Westport, Conn., lecture was delivered last week by Regional Field Director Hal Shurtlef in the fortuitously named McManus Meeting Room of the Westport Public Library (John F. McManus, of course, being the longtime president of the John Birch Society. The businessman James R. McManus, the library benefactor that the room is really named after, lives in Westport).

For all the seeming urgency, Agenda 21, it turns out, is old news; it dates back to 1992 and the Earth Summit in Rio. Signed by 178 world leaders, including President George H.W. Bush, the thousand-plus page document, “binding upon all living things on the planet,” is the United Nations’ program on “sustainable development.” Depending on whether you believe the UN or the John Birch Society, it’s either a much-needed strategic plan to scale down the use of fossil fuels and other natural resources to levels that meet “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – or a Trojan horse that will give the UN complete control over every aspect of American life.

Flashing slides of Karl Marx and Alger Hiss, the accused Communist spy who helped draft the UN Charter, Shurtlef painted a lurid picture. Agenda 21 explicitly calls for “a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced,” he said. Its goal, he falsely claimed, is the de-population of rural regions. Foreign bureaucrats, Shurtlef added absurdly, will mandate family size here in the United States, imposing forced abortions as they do in Communist China.

If UN environmentalists have their way, he went on, the expansive American way of life, in which everyone can aspire to the dream of owning a house with a big yard and two cars in the driveway, will be replaced by one in which increasing numbers of us are crammed into urban and suburban “pack ‘em and stack ‘em” apartment complexes, and forced to use mass transportation and live according to a “communitarian” ethos. Already, Edison’s great invention, the incandescent light bulb, has been banned. Thanks to Agenda 21, Americans are being forced to purchase expensive, compact fluorescent lightbulbs that are manufactured in Communist China. (It’s true that most incandescent bulbs are being gradually phased out in a number of industrialized countries in favor of bulbs using far less energy. In the U.S., the standard 100-watt bulb will no longer be made after Jan. 1.)

What is “communitarianism?” To quote from the pamphlet Agenda 21 and You, one of the many pieces of literature that was available for sale at the lecture, individually and in bulk, communitarianism is “not too dissimilar from communism, which is founded on the premise of the dictatorship of the proletariat or working class.” It is founded on the belief of the dictatorship or supremacy of the community. As a result of this supremacy, the individual is subservient to needs of the “greater good” of society. Examples of communitarian societies include Belarus, Burma, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea and Venezuela.

According to the JBS, the UN has been coordinating its on-the-ground efforts through something known as the ICLEI – the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives. Under its auspices, more than 1,000 cities and municipalities around the world, including hundreds in the U.S., have received grants (bribes, really) to enact the UN’s stealth agenda.

The JBS puts a scary new spin on the catch phrase “think globally, act locally”: “These initiatives that have been enacted ostensibly to save the environment, invariably destroy economic vitality, erode property rights, undermine liberty and constitutional government, impose soviet-style rule through ‘stakeholder councils,’ subvert local control –and usually devastate the natural environment to boot … ’sustainable development’ is a despot’s dream-come-true: an emerging all-purpose, open-ended, ‘enabling act’ granting global central planners carte blanche to claim it means whatever they want it to mean.”

“Patriots, Tea Partiers, and John Birchers hate pollution,” Shurtlef assured his Westport audience. “But we know that the free market and local governments can preserve the environment better than bureaucrats can.”

Since the collapse of the Iron Curtain, right-wing isolationist groups like the John Birch Society have been in search of a new bogeyman. With varying degrees of success, they’ve pointed their fingers at LGBT people, at feminists, at Muslims, and at Saul Alinsky-inspired community organizers. With Agenda 21 and anti-environmentalism, they seem to believe they’ve finally hit just the right note. “Get the U.S. out of the United Nations” and “Get the UN out of the U.S.” have been JBS rallying cries since its inception in the 1950s. And climate change denial has become a credo of right-wing faith.

By imputing sinister associations to buzzwords like “sustainability” and “smart growth,” and by encouraging Americans to project their economic anxieties onto the green movement, the JBS is hoping to make environmentalism into a scarier prospect than environmental degradation.

  • Jereme

    Some of the bias here is offensive as the two party ultimatum itself.

  • Pete Talbot

    Though not particularly well organized, the John Birch Society is making its presence known in Montana. (I am as shocked as anyone to read that this group is still around.)

    The tea party and constitutionalists seem to be trotting out JBS talking points now, and rants show up on various blog sites and letters to the editor.

    When our city council (Missoula) paid its $1200 annual dues to the ICLEA — an organization that helps our city meet its sustainability goals through grants, computer software and the exchange of information — JBS sympathizers from all over Montana went ballistic at a council meeting here. The loss of liberty to “international elites” was their rallying cry.

    What’s most amazing is that some of these folks have been elected to our state legislature.

  • CM

    “The damning e-mails now emerging from the top scientists with the global warming research grants should be adiquate reason to suspect any claims of altruism from the UN.”

    Dick, even you must be aware that the so-called “Climategate” of two years ago (not “now emerging”) was definitively proven to be a big nothing that the climate-change deniers tried to puff up into a scandal, but in any case it involved a British university, not the U.N.

  • Sam Molloy

    They have a history of fearmongering about various conspiracies.There is nothing conspiratorial about wanting Sustainability. They could have some points about the private sector being more able to respond to a need than a Government Burocracy. I suppose we’ll have to see what President Gingrich does, if the camps allow television.

  • Mitch Beales

    Dick Lancaster when were incandescent light bulbs eliminated? I just bought some last weekend and Home Depot seemed to have plenty in stock. Maybe that explains the black helicopters hovering over Home Depot this morning. I’ll bet you wish they’d go take out that Episcopal Church in Marion, AL where al Qaeda is training instead.

  • marta kaye

    The founder of the John Birch society was Fred Koch, the father of the Tea Party Koch brothers, so the Birch society never went away, only quieted down. Castro, after ousting the terrible dictator Batista ,made the US angry because the US was getting kick backs from the Mafia who controlled Cuba up till then. Gambling, prositiution and such was abound. Castro stopped all that When he asked the US for emport, export help, the US said no, so that is when Castro turned to Russia for help for Cuba. The only reason it became communist.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “Some people want “Agenda 21?, they are the same people that think the Government knows what’s best for everyone. Big Government and “Agenda 21? are both wrong. Matter of fact it is as wrong as two fat dudes in a hot tub.”

    1. What is “big government”. Tell us the unit of measurement for “government.”

    2. Why do big corporations know more about what’s best for us than “big government?” For all the problems governments face, and sometimes cause, unlike a private enterprise, governments can have different priorities. For example, they decide that everyone needs a minimum of education, so they provide it. A private enterprise has only one motive- profit. A private enterprise also cannot possibly be held accountable to the public, even in theory.

    ” but I do know that Uncle Sugar has too much power and doesn’t deserve any more.”

    Like what exactly.

    “The Government cannot run anything right, want proof look at our debt, SSI, and Medicare/Medicaid . ”

    If you want proof of how bad Americans are at understanding basic economic concepts and history, just look at the line above. Social Security has been one of, if not the most effective program the American government has ever had. It is in crisis now because of some “small government” advocates who took power starting in the 1980s and considered the answer to every problem to be “tax cuts.” Our debt is the same deal. The rich wanted to go to war(I mean send the poor to war of course), but they also wanted tax cuts. When you increase spending with wars and military expenditures, while lowering taxes to unprecedented levels, there is only one way to make good the difference- borrow.

    “Neither Uncle Sugar nor the UN has any business telling anyone what to do with their own property .”

    Yeah, actually Uncle Sugar as you call him does have business telling people about their property, because Uncle Sugar is who backs up your claim to that property.

  •, Aron


    Wild turkeys can be vicious! I’ve actually seem them attack cars with people inside of them. Not too much fun, I can assure you.

    That being said, you gave me a solid smile with that comment. I award you one Certifiably Delicious e-Cookie as compensation. :D

  • Dick Lancaster

    “…Alger Hiss, the accused Communist spy…” should read, “…Alger Hiss, the convicted communist spy…”

    The damning e-mails now emerging from the top scientists with the global warming research grants should be adiquate reason to suspect any claims of altruism from the UN. Al Gore’s Academy Award winng documentary about stranded polar bears is a complete fraud. Carbon credits is bizarre idea that was taken seriously. Even if the JBS is full of kooks, it should be noted that the National Enquirer took down John Edwards when none of the lib media would touch that story.

    And finally, our new light bulbs are mercury based and quite toxic if broken. Ask yourselves who gained by eliminating incandescent bulbs?

  • B Johnson

    The “map” referred to above was prepared by Michael Coffman, PhD, of Bangor, Maine, possibly in connection with efforts on behalf of paper companies (Maine and other states), sugar cane growers (Florida), western state cheap grazing on federal land advocates, and elsewhere in the US. If you have seen the map (there are several slight variations) you will note that the map tends to stop at US borders, nothing UN or international about it. The most easily available versions are rather fuzzy, like the ink ran from red, representing corridors, into the light color representing “no impact”.

    Dr. Coffman has been a speaker for the JBS, listing positions as President of Environmental Perspectives, Inc., and Executive Director of Sovereignty International. Judeo-Christian “principles of stewardship” are contrasted with “pantheistic-based environmentalism”. His website ( has and links to literature supporting his point(s) of view.

    Maine has many discussion groups, including, on the far right, the JBS, one or more Tea Parties, and Constitutionalists. The Republicans are sometimes difficult to distinguish from other “parties”. Several national conservative groups are active in Maine, and radio and tv ad rates are cheap here.

    In connection with a multi-town, state, and federal effort to preserve US Route 1 in the Maine midcoast area as somewhat rural and “traditional village” scenery (“Gateway1″), a coalition of the above groups killed four million dollars of planning effort, some claiming that residents in rural areas would be required by Agenda 21 to move to urban enclaves in villages, the effort being a United Nations and/or socialist plot. Not so, at least in the knowledge of anyone in the formal Gateway1 organization.

    Agenda 21 is focussed on discouraging slash and burn development (perhaps by American interests) in other countries (way too late for Maine and much of the US).

  • CM

    “The Government cannot run anything right, want proof look at our debt, SSI, and Medicare/Medicaid.”

    “Seems to me this is more an American issue than any ‘Party’ affiliation issue.”

    Yes, Lu, do look at our “debt, SSI and Medicare/Medicaid.” (Let’s assume that by SSI, you mean Social Security, not supplemental security income.) What do we find? The national debt skyrocketed under conservative Republican administrations. Meanwhile, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid all operated efficiently for decades until those same “conservatives” got to work on choking them to death.

    So I have to disagree, it is indeed a party issue. As for Agenda 21, opposing it merely because it’s a U.N. platform and not because of what it actually proposes (do you even know?) is like disbelieving scripture if the devil quotes it.

  • Lucifer

    What does” Tea Baggers” have to do with it . Seems to me this is more an American issue than any ” Party ” affiliation issue.

  • Mitch Beales

    Justina the turkeys eating the deer must have been something to see!-)

  • http:'' Justina

    JBS crazies aside, there is enough material in Agenda 21,
    incl. a map of how they want living, controlled living, and off
    limits to human space eventually in the USA alone, that it
    is to put it mildly inconvenient. It is also constructed from too
    far away to fit properly any local situation.

    Greenbelts are opposed (maybe on their own, maybe as
    Agenda 21) by people who want to develop on them, but are
    really essential for air quality and to keep some contact with
    nature, especially where they ultimately connect through
    undeveloped land to wild places. interesting animals drift in.
    Where I live, there is a creek that seems to be home to wild
    turkeys, who strut slowly up the road every day, eating slugs
    and snails off everyone’s front yards, and at least one deer.

    So I am against Agenda 21 and for greenbelts.

    St. Basil of Great of the early Church said once, regarding
    Christian use of non Christian literature, be like the bee,
    who goes from flower to flower, taking the good nectar and
    rejecting what is not good.

    The same attitude applies to environmentalism, many other
    things, and most individual writers.

  • roger smith

    Perhaps, even if I could hit my head with a hammer, I could still make far more sense than Tea Baggers and their kind!

  • Lucifer

    Some people want “Agenda 21″, they are the same people that think the Government knows what’s best for everyone. Big Government and “Agenda 21″ are both wrong. Matter of fact it is as wrong as two fat dudes in a hot tub.
    I don’t know jack about the “John Birch Society” and have no desire to, but I do know that Uncle Sugar has too much power and doesn’t deserve any more.
    The Government cannot run anything right, want proof look at our debt, SSI, and Medicare/Medicaid . The best thing the US can do is to tell the UN to get stepping and then start stepping its own self. Neither Uncle Sugar nor the UN has any business telling anyone what to do with their own property .

  • Mitch Beales

    Jim Eckland I share your opinion that the birchers are a bunch of geese but watch your spelling, “goose” ends in “e”.

    If the John Birch Society had its way Fulgencio Batista and his mafia henchmen would still be running Cuba, Dwight Eisenhower would have died in a federal prison, and the world as we know it would have been destroyed by a nuclear WWIII.

    Cuba did not “fall to communism,” it fell to rebel patriots led by Fidel Castro assisted by Pedro Diaz Lanz who was fired as chief of the airforce well before Cuba “went communist.”

  • Peter M Gatliff

    If you take a look at the founding members ofJBS you will find they were involved in the “Busniess Plot’. he over throw of the U Government back in 1934. Just Google the”Buiness Plot”.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Hey I think Josef Stalin once said, “Hey it’s a good thing there wasn’t a chapter of the John Birch Society in Leningrad back in 1917! We would have been screwed!” REAL QUOTE, I swear!!!

  • Linnea

    Can’t believe this bats*** bunch is still around. The Birchers are completely out of touch with reality. And here I thought they were gone well before I was born (in the mid-70’s). Just goes to show, I guess, that uber-reactionaries never die… they just keep mutating into something even crazier.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Sorry but the John Birch Society peddles idiotic conspiracy theories. “Liberty”? For whom? Liberty to do what? Limited government? Please explain how to measure government.

    And I’m sorry to say to Mr. Smith, your quote on Google only comes up with four results, all either JBS or libertarian sites. That is a dead giveaway of a fabrication. Castro succeeded in Cuba because Batista was a brutal dictator in league with the American mafia. Castro did America a favor by severely undermining the gangs of Meyer Lansky, Mickey Cohen, and Lucky Luciano.

  •, Aron

    Jim, Mike, and John,

    I call shenanigans on every one of your statements. Especially regarding the one concerning Welch being able to stop Castro.

    People really aren’t listening to you anymore.

    Go cry about it.

  • John Smith

    “If there had been even one chapter of the John Birch Society in Havana prior to 1959, working to expose Castro as Robert Welch was at the time, Cuba would not have fallen to Communism.”. -Major Pedro Diaz Lanz, former chief of Fidel Castro ‘s airforce.

  • Mike

    “Really, The John Birch Society? What’s next, the return of the Silver Shirts?”

    you socialists come up with something different, like liberty based on limited government, and we’ll go away. You first.

  • Jim Eckland

    The John Birch Society and it’s members work to preserve America’s Freedom under it’s Constitution. They volunteer their time and their literature usually makes good sense. Their members are good sensible people.

    I don’t agree with them on all issues, but I have a goos opinion of them..

    Government continues to expand….Stop it before it’s too late !!

  • Judith M. Smith

    very scary–we have a commissioner here in Carroll County, MD who is trying to push the Agenda 21 thing down our throats…reading this article, close your eyes, and it is him speaking the words. CC was the first county in the US to drop out of ICLEI…and is changing development regs–“Property Rights” is the sales pitch. This county has a lot of old, undereducated, farmers, who blindly vote Rep. in a mostly Democratic state. As long as it is a R promoting this craziness, they will drink the Kool Aid. Really, really scary.

  • CM

    CIA Jon:

    “i want to meet a JBS member in person
    i’ve only seen their bumber stickers”

    If your local government, city or county, is considering revisions to its rules for development, go to one of their meetings and there’s a fair chance some JBS members or sympathizers (Tea Partiers) will be there, opposing any restrictions on development by waving the Agenda 21 flag. Local government officials usually are taken by surprise by this tactic (because of course they aren’t actually basing their proposed policies on UN recommendations) and sometimes will delay needed action in order to have time for their staffers to study up on the issue.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    I was once very familiar with JBS literature, so if you are wondering how they managed to survive the fall of the USSR, it’s quite simple: They claim it was all a trick. You’ll see!

  •, Aron

    Jack Ash Society? I like it! Pete Seeger really was something special…

    And regarding the JBS, the only good thing they ever did was cost Goldwater the presidency.

  • Mitch Beales

    Pete Seeger got it right with his “Jack Ash Society.”

  • Erika

    My first reaction: The John Birch Society still exists???

    My second reaction: Aren’t these the same people who thought that flourated water was a Commie plot??? That makes them at least as creditible as the people who see Satanic messages in Ritz crackers.

    My third reaction: Seriously, the John Birch Society??? Do they have members who would have joined the Know Nothing Party but decided that their platform was a bit outdated? Do they sit around listening to sermons by the Rev. Estus Pirkle and Jerry Falwell while working on their home fallout shelters? Are they now a bunch of 90 year olds who are still muddering under their breath about how that noted Commie Dwight D. Eisenhower sold out the U.S. to the Soviet Union and how the Commies are using flouridation of water to steal or at least corrupt their precious bodily fluids? Do they laugh at Klansmen because they are only 50 years out of date?

    Really, The John Birch Society? What’s next, the return of the Silver Shirts?

  • CIA Jon

    i want to meet a JBS member in person
    i’ve only seen their bumber stickers

  • CIA Jon

    when will they run out of steam?

  •, Aron

    When I attended the University of Florida, in Gainesville I was good friends with Lloyd Bailey, a legend within the cave-diving community. He owns and operates Lloyd Bailey Scuba, which is an excellent dive shop.

    He also happens to be the longtime president of the local John Birch Society chapter. Right underneath the sign for his dive shop is another beseeching ‘Get US Out of the UN!’

    Needless to say, every time I spoke to him, he always brought up politics. And I can personally attest to how crazy he sounded.

    Very scary politics.