Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The New lluminati

Since politics today is conducted primarily through the use of catchphrases and codewords, political memes are particularly fun to watch and never more than when they’re first beginning to enter the public discourse. The right has long been the master of this art, building on the direct mail campaigns of Richard Viguerie and, later, Newt Gingrich’s famous list of words to use when making political speeches. Particularly interesting are those codewords and phrases that really just mean “Them – everything we despise”. For instance, the favorite buzzword of the religious right, beginning in the late 70s, was “secular humanist”. But in the 90s, I noticed that phrase being phased out in favor of “pagan”. But it seems now that the left is catching up in this area. What better example could we find today than “neo-cons”? In all such cases, there is a real meaning to the term but as a political buzzword it is rarely if ever defined. It just means Them…the Others…The Name We Dare Not Speak.

Well now it appears that there is a new Them emerging on the left, and this one I have to confess amuses me a great deal. With the nomination of John Roberts as Justice, the new Them are….the Federalist Society. And as we are just in the beginning stages of this meme’s incorporation into our political discourse, it will be rather fun to watch and document. We can watch it bubble up from blogs and activist sites and spread like a playgroung rumor. Jonathan Bunch first brought it to my attention in a post at In the Agora, quoting someone at the TPMcafe:

We know that Edith Brown Clement and John Roberts were two of the final 3…Supporters of neo-federalism, circumscribing the power of the national government’s regulatory power. Both are members of the secretive Federalist Society, which advocates a similar line.

As we shall see, this notion of the Federalist Society as secretive is the leading edge of this meme. At Democrats.com, this meme has been floating around for a couple of years already and it’s just now finding its way into conversation. A search for “federalist society” on that site shows lots of examples from the last few years. For these folks, the Federalist Society is “The Conservative Cabal that is Attacking America from Within”, touting “Extremist Reactionary” ideas. They are “meanspirited, anti-American club of mostly white, mostly male ultrarightwingers” seeking “to tear America as we know it down.” Furthermore, they have a “Dark Vision” for America and, declares one breathless entry, “an Evil ‘Illuminati’ Does Exist, But It’s Called the Federalist Society and It’s Now Running America.” One blogger at that site even calls them a “treasonous conspiracy which engineered the Stolen Election of 2000” while another refers to the “neo-Nazi-esque secretive group calling itself the Federalist Society.” David Brock refers in interviews to “these right-wing judicial extremists who belonged to a secretive legal network called the Federalist Society” while a poster at Daily Kos calls them “secretive and extremist.” Congratulations, it’s a bouncing baby buzzword!

Now, I certainly don’t doubt that there are many members of the Federalist Society who are extremist. Robert Bork, after all, is one of the leaders of the organization and you all know how I feel about that lunatic. But there are also lots of conservative legal scholars who belong to the organization who are highly critical of Bork. And the last thing they are is secretive, for crying out loud. They have chapters at every major law school, they host public conferences open to all and they have their own webpage with all their officers, chapters and activities listed. This isn’t exactly Skull and Bones, folks. Nor are they at all unique.

The liberal counterpart to the Federalist Society is the American Constitution Society, which includes most of the prominent liberal legal scholars in the nation on their rolls and is pretty much a mirror image of the FedSoc. The leadership of the ACS includes big names like Mario Cuomo, Lawrence Tribe, and Abner Mikva. While the pedestrian left frets and stews about the “secret cabal” of FedSoc members who serve in the Bush administration, where were they when Janet Reno and Walter Dellinger, both advisory board members of the ACS, held down the top two legal jobs in the Clinton administration? Perhaps they were just so secretive that no one knew about their involvement with the ACS.

All of this is quite silly. And quite amusing. One can hardly wait until we hear stories of rituals carried out by moonlight involving the blood of babies.


  1. #1 flatlander100
    July 21, 2005

    Well, no. “The Federalist Society” is not quite on a par with “neo-con” or “secular humanist” as a generic term for “them.” The FS is real organization with a voluntary membership [as secular humanists and neo-cons are not]. Presumably, then, members ascribe to some set of ideas or principles or policy goals that define those who voluntarily joint. Therefor it seems not unreasonable for folks to attribute the stated ideals of the organization or its stated constitutional principles or its stated policy goals to those who voluntarily join it. “Neo-con” and “secular humanist” however are undefined, except by those who use the terms as pejoratives.

  2. #2 Kevin
    July 21, 2005

    I see it as a symptom of the current political climate, which is stormy to say the least. As the country at least appears more polarized, it’s easy to see politics as a zero-sum game where compromise is impossible. While that’s true to a certain extent, it’s fallacious and yet seductive to imagine one’s political opponents as the great Other–at once all powerful and yet easily defeated with concerted effort.

  3. #3 SharonB
    July 21, 2005

    However, if you want to see a truly secretive group from the religious right, google “council for national policy” This group, combining the likes of Rev. Moon to James Dobson is verifiably scary.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    July 21, 2005


    You make a correct distinction, but that’s not really the point I’m trying to make. The point is that the Federalist Society is not “secretive”, it’s not “neo-nazi” or “treasonous”…it’s just a group of relatively conservative legal scholars. It’s no different than a hundred similar groups in many professions. I have dozens of friends who are members, there’s a chapter in every law school, and there’s nothing the least bit mysterious or underhanded about it. It’s not some secret cabal seeking to take over the world any more than the American Constitution Society is.

  5. #5 KeithB
    July 21, 2005

    Three words: Tri Lateral Comission

  6. #6 Sastra
    July 21, 2005

    As Ed says, there is a real meaning to the term “neo-con,” but when turned into a buzzword the meaning changes. Just for the record, “secular humanist” isn’t “undefined” either. It has consistent definitions used by actual secular humanists, at least some of whom are in secular humanist organizations (such as Council for Secular Humanism and the American Humanist Association.)

    It’s a definition usually grossly distorted and augmented beyond recognition when used as a pejorative, of course — but we’re not exactly an invented boogeyman, as flatlander seems to imply.

    A bit off point, perhaps, but I thought I’d come out of lurk anyway. Great blog, Ed. 😉

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    July 21, 2005

    Hey Sastra. I don’t think flatlander actually thinks you’re a boogeyman, but he obviously just doesn’t know you. Good to see you, hope everything is well with you and your family.

  8. #8 Sastra
    July 21, 2005

    Doing great, St.C ; thanks.
    It wasn’t the boogeyman part, it was the undefined, invented part that hurt.

  9. #9 carpundit
    July 21, 2005

    I confess: I am a member of the Federalist Society. I even carry a card in my wallet. I am not an extremist.

    TFS is not a secret society. I had no trouble finding it, learning about it, and joining it.

    Until Ed’s post here, I hadn’t realized what a buzzword it had become. (Like a Republican labeling someone a card-carrying member of the ACLU.)

    BTW, it turns out Judge Roberts is not a member.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    July 21, 2005


    Or maybe Roberts is a secret member? The plot thickens!

  11. #11 gmanedit
    July 22, 2005

    “While the pedestrian left frets and stews about the ‘secret cabal’ of FedSoc members who serve in the Bush administration, where were they when Janet Reno and Walter Dellinger, both advisory board members of the ACS, held down the top two legal jobs in the Clinton administration? Perhaps they were just so secretive that no one knew about their involvement with the ACS.”

    Before getting snotty, you should have gone to the ACS website, where you would have learned that the group started in 2001 (http://www.acslaw.org/about/index.shtml).

  12. #12 buzzin in my ear
    July 22, 2005

    Do you doubt they sacrifice babies? Why do you think thew right opposes abortion? The fetuses that liberals give to the grey aliens are not what the reptillians want!

    One needs to be clear about the really *important* political issues. Yes many scholars thought the greys and reptialians were allies because they’d be seen together, but there were other reasons.

    The simple fact of the matter was that area 51 was not sufficient which is why we needed 53 to 74 which should help explain things. After the illuminat was exposed by the John irch society and other patriots it was realized that to battle this virus we needed to get in touch with non secular humanist alien civilizations. So the federalist society was born as soon as we found a race that worshipped L Ron Hubbard.

    Did you really think Sony Bono’s death was an accident? How do you explain Bill Clinton’s getting elected? Obviously if you want to be a sheeple and ignore these things you can believe the usual explanations, but that of course means you don’t care about the little babies!

    I hope I’ve made myself clear. I shall other revelations in future posts? If they don’t get me! Did anyone think Mena was just about cocaine? That’s what they wanted you to believe. Next thing you’ll claim is that George Washington wasn’t a Mason and that the whole conspiracy wasn’t programmed in from the beginning. But then how do you explain Wilson and the Federal Reserve? And od you think it coincidence that England and France were involved in WWI *and* our revolution?

    Some people do, but some people will believe anything. I must get away from here now, they are trying to tack me down, but don’t worry I’ve figured out the technology, I am in contact with the overseers a apecies which wants to prevent the havoc that the greys and reptialians want to cause with their wars, but I think it’s fairly obvious that the federalists and the illuminati battle to create psychic screams that the alleged rivals harvest for energy. Which is why of course they must kill babies!

New comments have been disabled.