The billboard I saw on my way to work said this:
“The United Nations Wants to Take YOUR Gun!”
I was alarmed. How could the United Nations Want to Take MY Gun when I don’t even have one? Are they planning to issue guns to everyone, just so they can take them away? Because THAT sure wouldn’t make any sense. Plus, I don’t want a gun in my house, even if it’s only long enough for the U.N. to take it away. Who knows how long they’ll leave it there before they come get it? It could be days, or even weeks, and in that time, plenty could go wrong, such as my roommate leaving dirty dishes in the sink FOR THE LAST TIME.
Upon checking the Web site referenced on the billboard — www.getusout.org — I learned what I should have known all along, which is that the John Birch Society is behind this. The John Birchers haven’t had much to do since communism stopped being a threat, though you shouldn’t say that in front of the John Birchers, because it will make them reply, “The communists just want you to THINK they’re no longer a threat!” The communists are in hiding, perhaps under the polar ice cap, with the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and Bigfoot.
Without a strong target that actually exists, the Birchers have moved on to the United Nations. To hear them tell it, the U.N. is hell-bent on removing all the personal freedoms enjoyed by Americans. You want to own a gun? The U.N. will take it away. You want to have as many kids as you please? The U.N. will regulate your womb. You want to make a right turn on a red light? The U.N. will enforce needlessly strict traffic laws.
And yet, just to give you an idea of how sneaky the U.N. is, all you ever hear reported in the news is that they’ve deployed a task force or initiated a peace-keeping effort somewhere. All this secret, rights-stealing stuff they do never makes the news. This is probably because the news media is run by liberals, all of whom have sworn blood oaths to promote the U.N. agenda.
If you read that last sentence and thought, “It’s amusing that Mr. Snider (or perhaps you thought ‘Mr. Snyder,’ the way you spell it in your angry letters) has mocked one of the common complaints about the media by pretending to espouse it,” then you are on level ground. If you read it and thought, “It’s about time someone in the media admits there’s a conspiracy to keep the news liberal,” then you are a wacko.
Having worked at a handful of newspapers in my day, I can tell you that the notion of a deep media conspiracy is a fairy tale. Most newsrooms are so chaotic that the people who work in them can barely remember to wear pants on a daily basis; the idea that papers could cooperate with each other, and that they could all cooperate with TV news — which we consider the mentally challenged stepson of journalism — is ludicrous.
I think the paranoid right-wing conspiracy theorists who come up with this stuff get off on being described as “paranoid right-wing conspiracy theorists.” Persecution means justification: If no one believes them, that’s just further evidence of how deep the conspiracy runs.
Doesn’t anybody still believe that calmness is the best way of dealing with things? I’m sure there are pros and cons regarding our involvement in the United Nations, although I suspect the major beef some of the paranoid right-wing conspiracy theorists have with the organization is that it accepts foreigners as members.
The U.N. is certainly a matter worth discussing. But to look at the hysteria on the Get Us Out Web site, you’d think it was a matter of life and death that must be acted upon NOW! Few things must be decided that hastily. Most things can wait a minute — at least until you’ve washed those dishes, anyway.
Some readers took my denial of a liberal media conspiracy to also mean I didn't think the media slants to the left sometimes. All I meant to say was that there's no conspiracy -- if there is sometimes a bias (which there is), it's not because of any organized effort to make it that way. More than a few people misunderstood me, though, which means I may not have been clear enough in my writing.
I got a lot of angry feedback on this column, due primarily to my dissing of the John Birchers. One woman called and offered to send me John Birch literature so I could see all the great things they have to say. I told her (though not in so many words) that I would rather die than read more John Birch literature.
I got this e-mail, which is virtually free of spelling or grammar errors, which is unusual enough to be worth mentioning. Much of what he says, however, is the same old song and dance.
I realize that angry letters from highly offended people are mostly regarded as medals of honor in your business. In most cases, people ought to just "get a life," learn how to take some ribbing, and quit being offended about things that don't matter.
But some things do matter. [Translation: I agree, Eric, that people shouldn't take themselves so seriously. But this isn't one of those times! I swear, it isn't!] Eric, you have no idea why people object so vehemently to the United Nations, and you have no idea what kind of people are members or supporters of the John Birch Society. [Translation: Since we see these issues differently, you must be wrong.] These people are used to being slandered, as you have done in your article, but you would be better served by using some discretion on subjects that you know nothing about. [Translation: Your being wrong comes from being uninformed. If you were better informed, you would surely agree with me and therefore be right.]
[Former LDS Church] President David O. McKay, in private conversation, made the statement that the John Birch Society will be vindicated. [He also, in private conversation, asked his wife to "pass the salt, please." As a result, prudent members of the church are now passing the salt every chance they get. General authorities are allowed to have opinions, too. If it were so all-fired important, why did he only say it in "private conversation," instead of over a pulpit?] President Ezra Taft Benson was an outspoken public supporter of the Birch Society. His wife was a member, and his son Reed was a prominent spokesman for the JBS for many years. Of course, name-dropping doesn't necessarily make something right, but you might begin your "education" by asking yourself what these prophets of God knew that you don't. [Some general authorities have been Democrats, too. Should we all join that organization, as well, just because they did it?] The time will come when you will regret what you have written about the United Nations and the JBS. [Cue ominous music. Clearly, I shouldn't have implied John Birchers were self-serious or fanatical, because I can see now that isn't the case. They're not melodramatic, either.]
I think you have patterned your writing after Dave Barry. This is good, since Dave Barry is at least eight times as funny as the next funniest guy on the planet.
You are very clever. I actually laugh right out loud sometimes. You are capable of being as clever as Dave Barry, or close to it. But your columns have a hard edge to them, sometimes bordering on mean. Dave Barry offends a lot of people, simply because some people are too easily offended, but his columns are never mean. His writing has an underlying humility to it, consistent with the attitude of most people who have lived a few years and have been humbled by life. As long as you are modeling you writing after the best in the business, you might try to soften your columns a little bit.
The following letter was written after the man called to ask if we would give him as much space to rebut what I had said as I had taken to say it. I told him no, he was only allowed 250 words (the maximum for letters to the editor). He was mad, but he wrote his letter. Remember the part where I said that if you mention the disappearance of communism in front of a John Bircher, he'll fly off the handle? Keep that in mind.
Eric Snider's "Snide Remarks"? column: "If I had a gun, the U.N. would be welcome to it," was indeed "snide" ("malicious" and "derisive"), [For the millionth time, I ask: Why do people still think it's clever to point out that a column called "Snide Remarks" is, in fact, snide?] but it was fact-starved and insult obese. [I like that phrase, maybe for the title of my next book.]
Mr. Snider naively states: "The John Birchers haven't had much to do since communism stopped being a threat ..." When did Communism stop being a threat? Red China, ruling one billion humans, is still a dangerous communist regime. If you don't believe that brutal communists still rule China, threatening mankind and America, read The Cox Report -- The Unanimous and Bipartisan Report of The House Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China. Or read the excellent book Red Dragon Rising -- Communist China's Military Threat to America. Either alerts any reasonable investigator to Communism's continuing threat.
Like Red China, communist-controlled Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam are members in good standing at the U.N. [So are France, England and Italy. What, a few bad apples makes the whole thing worthless?]
Mr. Snider has labeled members of The John Birch Society as "paranoid right-wing conspiracy theorists." Is it paranoia to consider facts pointing to conspiracy? The 19 suicide-terrorists of Sept. 11, didn't execute their attacks in unison by coincidence, but by conspiracy. [That's an excellent refutation of something I didn't say. I didn't say there was no such thing as conspiracies, ever, in the whole world. I just meant they're not EVERYWHERE, like the paranoid right-wing conspiracy theorists think they are.]
Mr. Snider believes "the Birchers have moved on to the United Nations." No, Mr. Snider, in 1958 our society's founder warned of the danger that the U.N. posed to American independence. We have continuously warned that communists and internationalists seeking global domination founded the U.N. to achieve their goal. You simply weren't listening. [Can't fault me for that. I wasn't born in 1958.]
Bliss William Tew
Coordinator, The John Birch Society
I did screw the column up a little. Originally, I had a parenthetical remark in the fourth paragraph, saying, in effect, "Or maybe the John Birchers have ALWAYS been anti-U.N; I don't feel like looking it up." I cut it out to improve the flow, but I should have left it. It at least would have left open the possibility that the anti-U.N. stance isn't new.
But in a way, what I said was still accurate. The John Birchers may have always been anti-U.N., but it was certainly never their big focus like it is now. Ask anyone what the John Birch Society stood for in the '50s and '60s, and they'll tell you, "They hunted out communists."? No one would say, "They were against the United Nations." It may have been one of their tenets, but they didn't make it a big issue until now -- now that communism isn't worth being afraid of anymore.
I got quite a few e-mails that are not being posted here because they were not, properly speaking, angry letters. In them, the writers merely expressed that the United Nations is indeed a dangerous organization that must be stopped. I politely (yes, politely) pointed out to each writer that the column itself said our involvement in the U.N. is a matter worth discussing. I did not mean to imply it was a perfectly innocent operation; merely that paranoia and hysteria aren't going to get us anywhere.