Charlie Meadows and the Right-Wing Vanguard

by RAF Staff

The right-wing fringe of Oklahoma’s conservative political establishment is making headlines again. Charlie Meadows, a longtime member of the John Birch Society and President of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) circulated a statement entitled “Why blacks hate cops & how blacks can be winners, not losers!” In the message, Meadows essentially blames the entire African-American population for being “filled with hate” which, according to his logic, is the explanation for why police kill young black men.

Meadows writes:

I suspect it not all that uncommon for a black man, particularly a young black person, to be shot by a cop, and perhaps killed, somewhere in America on a weekly basis, so why this shooting? If true, that statistic is in no way evidence of a crisis regarding blacks being shot by cops for the vast majority of those shootings are justified. Truth is, there are a lot of black males that are very angry and have allowed their hearts to be filled with hate. Just as love is a motivational force, so is hate and hate towards others almost always motivates people to do evil things. Hate causes people to walk around with a chip on their shoulder, be rebellious, sullen, arrogant and look for opportunities to get even with those they hate or surrogates of those hated.

It is ironic, however, that Meadows – long associated with fringe right-wing extremists and militia members across the country that have been labeled by the Department of Homeland Security and the Southern Poverty Law Center as Hate Groups – would dare to suggest that the reason young black men are being killed is because of their “hate.” If Meadows’ logic was correct, and hate is in fact what leads young men to be killed by the police, why is it that Meadows and his motley assortment of white separatists, extremists and conspiracy theorists in the John Birch Society aren’t being killed on the streets of US cities more regularly?

Of course, like most racists, Meadows realizes that he can’t just come out and openly say what’s written between the lines. He begins his diatribe with obligatory caveats denying that he is a racist and listing several of his black acquaintances. But his effort to whitewash his very transparent Neo-Confederate and extreme right-wing politics is thin when combined with other remarks he’s made recently.

In 2013, Meadows was a guest speaker invited to address a meeting of Wisconsin Tea Party leaders. Meadows expounded on how he and his crew successfully transformed Oklahoma into the bastion of theocratic conservatism that it is today. He detailed the world-view and tactics that led his group to become what some journalists describe as the “most powerful ‘outside group’ in the state of Oklahoma”.

Meadows himself recognizes that Oklahoma was once a progressive stronghold with a strong labor movement and one of the most progressive and worker-friendly state constitutions in the nation. In a portion of his presentation posted on YouTube, Meadows hails the Ku Klux Klan for helping to break the unions and move Oklahoma away from its populist roots to an impoverished land run by oil oligarchs and their political lackeys. In the video, Meadows says:

“[In Oklahoma we] had a very strong socialist movement in Eastern Oklahoma, North East Texas, parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, little bit of Missouri – a very strong Socialist Party and movement there and that influenced the state a lot. By the way, I was listening to a historian one night driving home and he said it was the KKK that destroyed the socialist movement. And I got there and I called in and I said ‘Heretofore I’ve never had any use for the KKK but maybe they aren’t all bad…’”

In the video, Meadows comments receive a peculiar response as the room full of Wisconsin Tea Party activists who all enjoy a hearty laugh at their guest’s praise for the Ku Klux Klan. What Meadows doesn’t note in his talk is the well-documented methods used by the Oklahoma Klan which ranged from tar-and-featherings to murder as part of the terror campaign against progressive Oklahomans, union organizers and “race mixers.” For all his bluster about the U.S. Constitution, he seems to be unflinching in lauding the KKK’s use of terror to suppress other U.S. citizens acting within their full legal rights to exercise free speech and free association because they held different opinions. Of course, as is clear from Meadows’ many writings, he believes that he and his cohort are in fact capable of channeling the Will of God and, through their Divine inspiration, have come to understand and define the true meaning of patriotism and Constitutionality in America. As others have observed, Charlie Meadows peddles the Protestant version of the same ideology touted by ISIS and other Islamic theocrats striving to create a government based on religion.

In recent years, with Meadows at the helm, the Oklahoma Conservative Action Committee has recreated politics in Oklahoma. Utilizing the resources provided to them by a national network of John Birch Society members, Meadows’ OCPAC organization has used Oklahoma as what other OCPAC backed leaders like Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin have described as a social experiment. And the success of Meadows’ group has not gone unnoticed. Over the last several years he has been a guest speaker traveling the country into other states on a mission to destroy liberalism which, true to his roots in the John Birch Society, Meadows views as part of a communist plot to destroy America.

Unlike some of the other crypto-racist extremists out there undaunted by their irrelevance, Meadows and his “Birchers” are aware of their reputation and are working to spruce up their ugly image. But pretending that they aren’t just a group of racist populists backed by corporations like Koch Industries appears to be like tensing a muscle for them and, as Meadows has once again revealed, they just can’t keep up the façade when under pressure. Meadows’ recent remarks are sad reminders that the JBS has not come very far from the 1960s when its leaders carried Confederate Battle Flags onto the steps of state buildings throughout the South and carried signs reading “Race mixing is communism.”

Still, most Americans dismiss the JBS as just a small group of red-baiting conspiracy theorists (Remember: It was the Birchers that circulated the myth that fluoridated drinking water was a conspiracy by communists working inside the government to “steal our precious bodily fluids” and, more recently, the notion that the United Nations is using ‘Agenda 21’ as a pretext to invade the United States with U.N. troops.) But if we take a closer look, we find Birchers at almost every turn across the U.S. today operating as Tea Party candidates and activists revealing that even a few dedicated people, with the right connections and virtually endless stream of financial support, can change the course of the nation. Ron Paul, himself heralded by both independents and libertarians, is closely associated with the John Birch Society. (According the John Birch Society’s website “Congressman Paul has publicly acknowledged that he is not a JBS member, but has endorsed the Society on occasion.”

With evidence linking Meadows to other states on a steady rightward trajectory, it appears Oklahoma is not a backwater lagging behind the times as it is often perceived; rather, it is on the cutting-edge of a rightwing insurgency using a vast array of front groups backed with big corporate bucks. One of the most influential of those corporations, Koch Industries, has utilized JBS networks and Bircher-backed candidates across the nation with Meadows at the forefront of some of the most controversial campaigns. (Meadows’ presence was noted during the effort to pass Act 10 in Wisconsin where Tea Party activists, Koch money and ALEC lobbyists drove Republican politicians like Governor Scott Walker to break the state’s unions just as had been done a century earlier in Oklahoma.)

A closer examination reveals that the overlap between Koch money, ALEC, the John Birch Society and Tea Party politics is more than circumstantial. Fred Koch, father of the now infamous “Koch brothers” was one of the founding members of the John Birch Society along with other right-wing extremists like Revilo P. Oliver who later became an open supporter of Adolf Hitler. Oliver went on to form the National Alliance, a dedicated Neo-Nazi organization in America which produced arch racists like William Luther Pierce – a name which briefly made headlines across the United States in 1990s as the real author of The Turner Diaries. (The Turner Diaries is a work of hardcore pro-Nazi fiction which was discovered in the getaway vehicle used by Timothy McVeigh after he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City.) And while the Kochs strive to distance themselves from the family’s sordid political relationships with the likes of Oliver, the fact that Koch Industries was found to be secretly profiting from selling oil to the Nazis during the Second World War makes for a compelling case that Koch’s consistent brushing up against racist extremists, Nazis and Neo-fascists is no coincidence.

In Oklahoma, Meadows and his OCPAC group work closely with other rightwing extremists undoubtedly united by the John Birch Society. Some of those from Meadows’ network, like former Oklahoma State Senator Randy Brogdon, have gone so far as to sanction the use of right-wing militias as alternatives to the Army National Guard to ensure that there is an armed political force ready to defend the Birchers’ interpretations of the U.S Constitution. (See local news coverage on the Birch-backed militia here.) While such policies might seem outrageous to most moderate conservatives in the U.S., Meadows, the Birch Society and their small but vocal extremist milieu of Neo-Confederates see such measures as steps toward their often stated “option” and goal of secession from the United States. In Oklahoma, the group presented to fulfill the armed agenda of the Birchers was quickly exposed as the former Oklahoma Constitutional Militia, a group of heavily armed rightwing radicals affiliated with various white-supremacists and Neo-Nazi organizations reconstituted as the Oklahoma Defense Force.

Of course, as soon as these facts were revealed in the mainstream media, the militia group supported by OCPAC and Senator Brogdon’s effort to legitimize them quickly disappeared. As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant and, like most ultra-rightwing fringe groups, when people start scrutinizing them, their financiers and relationships, they quickly vanish.