A Timely Reminder of the Anti-Agenda 21 Distraction

agenda21by James A. Bacon

Here in Virginia, the anti-Agenda 21 zealots have managed to stay out of the headlines for quite a while. I don’t know if that’s because they are quietly re-energizing themselves or if the movement is falling apart. But it never hurts to be reminded of the bizarre nature of this populist splinter group, which has done so much to obfuscate the issues surrounding growth and development in Virginia and distract from the task of articulating a positive, forward-thinking set of conservative principles to guide governance at the local-government level.

That reminder comes from a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Agenda 21: the U.N. Sustainability and Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory.” The report documents how the anti-Agenda 21 movement, which regards the Agenda 21 project of the United Nations as a radical environmentalist plot to deprive Americans of their property rights and way of life, has thrived on the paranoid fringe of conservative thought.

Lead author Heidi Beirich documents the spread of anti-Agenda thinking from its fountainhead, Tom DeWeese, head of the American Policy Center in Remington, Va., to the Constitution Party, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, the John Birch Society, neo-Nazis and all manner of obscure, grass-roots organizations. Many of these are groups that mainstream conservatives do not want to be associated with. Indeed, many are a downright embarrassment to conservatives, for their ideological affinity for small government allows liberals and progressives to paint the broader small-government movement as a collection of cranks and weirdos.

Nowhere is that dynamic more damaging, however, than the debate over Climate Change, the very issue that animates the anti-Agenda 21 populists, because an inordinate fear of global warming underpins many liberal/progressive initiatives in the realm of transportation, zoning and land use.

In truth, there are legitimate questions relating to how global temperatures are measured and calculated. There are issues regarding how much global warming can be attributed to human activity and regarding the efficacy of the climate-model projections that underpin climate alarmism. There is disagreement over the extent to which global warming will harm humanity and the environment. And then there are questions outside the realm of science regarding how best to respond to the challenge of climate change — re-engineering the modern industrial economy to limit CO2 emissions or simply adapting to change if and when it occurs. But of all the issues that serious people raise about climate change orthodoxy, the existence of an international conspiracy to impose the United Nation’s sustainability/social justice agenda upon the American people is not one of them.

I addressed the flaws in the anti-Agenda 21 thinking (it is too incoherent to dignify with the appellation of a “theory”) two months ago in a white paper, “A Distracting Doctrine.” The anti-Agenda 21 literature is replete with cherry-picked data, leaps of logic and an astonishing lack of awareness of conflicting information. This scatter-shot body of thought is so embarrassingly unpersuasive that it actually harms the cause of other skeptics mounting a serious case against climate alarmism.

Worst of all, the anti-Agenda 21 movement is an immense distraction. Focusing on a supposed conspiracy is a losing proposition: first, because there is no conspiracy and it is difficult to persuade people to believe in something that does not exist; second, because global warming orthodoxy has many demonstrable weaknesses that people should be talking about but aren’t, in part because they’re distracted by Agenda 21; and third, because the anti-Agenda 21 movement offers no solutions to the challenges of local government in the 21st century.

The Agenda 21 contras have nothing useful to say about how Virginia regions and local governments should address the challenges of fiscal stress, congested roads and highways, quality of life, local environmental degradation and other issues affected by our built environment. The liberal/progressive answer, driven by a conviction that climate change is a threat demanding the investment of billions of dollars to reduce CO2 emissions, is to strive for environmental sustainability. As I have argued on this blog, conservatives should hammer on the themes of fiscal responsibility, livability, economic development and local environmental issues like air and water pollution. It’s hard to do that when the anti-Agenda 21 crowd is attracting attention by swatting at figments of their imagination.

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24 responses to “A Timely Reminder of the Anti-Agenda 21 Distraction”

  1. larryg Avatar

    Jim – tell me which political party the Agenda 21 folks hang out with.

  2. Breckinridge Avatar

    Jim, clearly if you are downplaying the conspiracy you must be hip deep in it yourself.

    Larry, trade our crazies for your crazies and I suspect neither of us can really tell the difference. One of my fellow high school students forty-plus years ago was a deeply committed John Bircher and it used to drive him crazy when we pointed out that he sounded just like a Marxist railing against capitalism at times….The Agenda 21 crowd and the Global Warming Chicken Little Brigade strike me the same way. Neither terribly grounded in reason or the least bit tolerant of dissent.

    1. larryg Avatar

      re: ” Larry, trade our crazies for your crazies and I suspect neither of us can really tell the difference.”

      I think you have me mistaken here. I have no truck at all with the left wing crazies but I can tell you – that they are NOT into conspiracy theories !

      “One of my fellow high school students forty-plus years ago was a deeply committed John Bircher and it used to drive him crazy when we pointed out that he sounded just like a Marxist railing against capitalism at times….The Agenda 21 crowd and the Global Warming Chicken Little Brigade strike me the same way. Neither terribly grounded in reason or the least bit tolerant of dissent.”

      the reason I associated the Agenda 21 folks with the GOP is that many of their positions are the same – what varies is the degree.

      The GOP is deep into conspiracy theories itself these days if you haven’t noticed.

      I get called a leftist and a liberal here but I think if you consider my positions on tax and spending you’ll find that I’m quite fiscally conservative – in the style of old line establishment Republicans now called RINOs and outed from the GOP.

      I believe we spend way too much for schools – for the wrong things and that optional things not mandated by academic standards should be fee-based.

      I support toll roads.

      I support dynamic pricing of electricity and other utilities.

      I support increased Medicare premiums for those who make 85K in income.

      I support changes in Military pay and benefits for those who never serve in combat or similar.

      I can go on but basically I support less subsidies, more fee-based services.

      and I think we need to be honest about the fact that we are damaging our own economy when health care is eating 17% of our GDP while it’s 1/3 that in other countries.

      it’s easy to throw the liberal label here.. but what I challenge is the lack of honesty in positions. Take a position. base it on honest data – don’t play with bad data or propaganda or disinformation.

      The Agenda 21 crowd are not only wackos.. they are actively involved in the GOP and share many views of the GOP … that’s the truth.

      1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
        Tysons Engineer

        “the reason I associated the Agenda 21 folks with the GOP is that many of their positions are the same – what varies is the degree.”

        This is the real problem. Jim can wash away the conservatives guilt on bad planning practices, or attempt to, as much as he wants by saying look we aren’t the crazy ones, they are, but modern mainstream conservatism is in fact ALSO to blame for the bad trends in our nations land use.

        I will gladly return to conservatism as soon as they stop placating their current base of rural and suburban white voters by creating isolating zoning policies, highway only funding, complete stripping of all mass transit funding, and a general malaise and disinterest in anything having to do with cities.

        Hell most cities aren’t even asking for equitable return in funds for the amount of taxes they generate, I know in northern Virginia simply providing us back 50 cents on the dollar would mean a 1 billion dollar boom in our local spending for schools, infrastructure, etc.

        And who stops that slightly more equitable return to get back what you provide? Hypocritical republicans from rural areas of Virginia who evidently believe in small government… unless the smallest government is progressive.

        As soon as you get the gerrymandered house to stop stripping funds from NOVA to help pay for rural pet projects, the sooner I’ll say conservatives have returned to sanity (yes even main stream ones).

        Its policy that matters, not the crazies.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          TE –

          Wow. Well written. Isn’t it odd that the same Republicans from rural Virginia who simultaneously screech about self-sufficiency, only spending what you can afford to pay for etc never turn down a subsidy payment from urban Virginia.

          If there were one law I could pass by myself in the General Assembly it would be a “truth in public facilities funding” law. Under my law any person, place or thing paid for with public funds in a subsidy – taking area of Virginia would be required to be labeled – “This bridge / jail / policeman / etc was XX% paid for through subsidies from other parts of Virginia.”.

          And before somebody says that the same should be done in the Washington, DC area regarding funding from American taxpayers as a whole …. I think that would be a great idea.

          Back in the days when your pay stub was mailed to your house I used to get mine from Andersen Consulting / Accenture. Each pay stub for every employee said, “Brought to you by our clients.”. Yes, indeed. That was exactly where the money came from.

          1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
            Tysons Engineer

            Sure as long as the same DC area labels also go out to Birmingham which is sustainable only because of its military bases, all those federal facilities around the country that the IRS, BLM, etc have. I understand the DC area gets a lot of lightning from the smaller government types, but its a fundamental misunderstanding of what is the real driver in debt. Yes govt consulting is here… I don’t think most people really understand that the private industry came here because it COSTS more to try to do business via telecommunications, business still revolves on face time people. So unless people want to relocate the capital of the country (yes I’ve heard) and seriously tell me how that is going to happen without needed to spend trillions of dollars in building construction in Nebraska to do so, then the geography is the geography.

            I don’t see anyone talking about hanging a sign on SS recipients necks and saying subsidized by a 27 year old in NYC 😛

            But I do agree, people need to understand where the bread is buttered in this country and time and time again its cities that are the engine, even in the most conservative of states, it is the CITY of Dallas that generates jobs, its the CITY of Houston that generates jobs.

            I’ll avoid holding my breath on the conservative policies coming to recognize the fiscal irresponsibility of this continued war on cities. For everything that I agree about social safety net reform (medicare/SS simple changes like chain CPI and age increase), the conservatives lose me when it comes to poor policies on things that actually affect my life.

          2. The Mark Warner tax increase passed because of support from NoVA Democrats. The bill cost Fairfax County taxpayers a net $107 million the very first year (Source: Senate Finance Committee) and brought FCPS $7 million in new revenue (Source: FCPS Staff). And the very next year, 49 local governments cut their local tax support for public schools (Source: Baconsrebellion). Whose fault is this? It isn’t the rural legislators who ate our lunch. It was the fault of local senators and delegates. They wanted to please Mark Warner more than protect their constituents. They were willing to give $100 million dollars of Fairfax County income to Richmond because they wanted to back Mark Warner’s claim of a strategic imbalance in the state’s budget.

            And you can still find Fairfax County residents who think this was a good idea. We elect Vidkun Quislings to the General Assembly. It’s our fault, not the people who take advantage of us because we are dip-shit stupid.

          3. larryg Avatar

            you mean Mark Warner convinced the General Assembly (because he cannot do it himself) to raise taxes for education…

            and the people of Virginia, including Fairfax, agreed with what he convinced the GA to do – and elected him Senator?

            are you saying that the people of Virginia are dip-shit stupid?


          4. Warner lacked the votes in the House to get his tax package enacted. Then Delegates Steve Shannon and Chap Petersen were holding out unless the school aid formula was adjusted to distribute the new money on a per student basis instead of based on the LCI. They received incredible pressure to abandon that effort from Warner, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, the simpletons at the Post, and other Fairfax County delegates and senators. After being beaten up for weeks, Shannon and Petersen caved. My point is: But for Fairfax County legislators, the tax increases wouldn’t have passed. And $107 million would stay in Fairfax County.

            Most fools in NoVA don’t understand what happened. Hats off to Mark Warner for playing us for fools. Hats off to the Red Necks from RoVA for playing us for fools. And a curse on our house for electing Quislings to the GA. Northern Virginia voters are not the brightest bulbs in the world. They are played almost every session.

          5. larryg Avatar

            did the voters of Fairfax vote for Mark Warner?

            if they did – do you think the voters in Fairfax are dip-shit stupid?

          6. larryg Avatar

            here’s what the voters of Virginia said about Mark Warner after he convinced the GA to raise taxes for education:

            ” In the November election, Warner defeated Gilmore, taking 65 percent of the vote to Gilmore’s 34 percent. Warner carried all but four counties in the state—Rockingham, Augusta, Powhatan and Hanover. In many cases, he ran up huge margins in areas of the state that have traditionally voted Republican”

            Remember – Gilmore was the no-tax guy… he claimed to have not increased taxes and he ran against a guy that was considered a tax & spender.

            Please also note that the opposition came from rural counties – not Fairfax or urban voters.

            If a politician advocates for a tax increase and then runs for Senate against a no-tax guy and gets 65% of the vote – and wins all but 4 rural counties – what does that mean? that voters are dumb dip-shits?

            doesn’t it mean that his success was more than a couple of Fairfax County political supporters?

            I’m not taking sides here.. REALLY!

            I’m just trying to get some semblance of truth and separate it from obvious personal views that seem to be in contradiction to the truth.

            It’s tough as heck to get you guys to be honest with the truth here sometimes!
            (and yes.. include me in that assessment also !).

            it would seem to me that the people of Virginia largely agreed with what Mark Warner did as Governor and DID have a clear choice on taxing.

            Perhaps Ed Gillespie will have better luck, eh?

          7. Larry, Mark Warner raped Fairfax County taxpayers and a majority of them obviously liked it. Do you think it is smart to bitch about the money sent to Richmond and the little bit sent back; vote for a guy who took $100 M more (just the first year); and then continue to whine about getting screwed by Richmond and vote for the guy who persuaded the GA to screw Fairfax County? It think it’s dumb.

  3. JohnS Avatar

    Agenda 21 is as much a talking point as “smart growth”, “livable communities” or whatever other parlance liberals are currently using to push their social engineering objectives. The left wants to redistribute wealth through government planning, conservatives call them out on it, and the Southern Poverty Law Center is called in to investigate. What a joke.

    1. larryg Avatar

      and this statement demonstrates clearly that Agenda 21 and the GOP are entwined on the issue – instead of Agenda 21 being a fringe splinter group as claimed. The core Agenda 21 philosophy, less extreme is a core GOP philosophy.

      We’re talking about conspiracies again.

      Conspiracies about Fast n furious, the IRS, Benghazi, Obamacare, sustainability, city planning, and global warming.

      It’s a Ginormous world-wide left wing conspiracy !!!


  4. JohnS Avatar

    We are talking about limited government, not conspiracies.

    It is not worth arguing over whether there are fringe elements- of course there are. Both on the left and on the right, except the conservative groups get targeted for audits by the IRS and investigated by hate group researchers.

    1. larryg Avatar

      no conspiracy on Benghazi or Global Warming?

      by the way – the Conservative groups are not prevented from operating – they are prevented from claiming tax-exempt status because they do advocate for political causes – that’s the rule for getting the tax exemption – you can’t do that.
      That’s why the Sierra Club has two separate groups – one that is tax-exempt and does not engage in political and a second one that does and is not tax exempt.

      so it’s a conspiracy to prevent the Conservative groups from getting tax exempt status because they are NOT engaging in political causes?

      When there are fringe elements in a political party – and the LEADERSHIP of the political party espouses and agrees with what the fringe group is advocating – what is that not really the entire political group taking up that cause?

      Did you see the part this part:

      ” in January 2012, the Republican
      National Committee bought into the propaganda,
      denouncing Agenda 21 in a resolution as a “destructive
      and insidious scheme” that is meant to impose a
      “socialist/communist redistribution of wealth.”

      do you think the RNC agreed with the Agenda 21 folks?

      sounds like it… Remember this is the same party that both Bushes signed on to the Agenda 21 goals.. and now a few years later – what is the very same party – it’s leaders – saying? Do you think the leadership of the GOP now disavows both Bushes?

    2. larryg Avatar

      remember – no group is prevented from existing and engaging in political activities. They are only prevented from claiming tax exempt status if they engage in political activity.

      how many of the Conservative group who have been denied tax-exempt status do you think – DO engage in political activities?

      The Sierra Club, for instance, actually has two separate groups. One group is tax-exempt and does not engage in political activities.. does not get involved in elections, endorse, etc. But the other group does – and it is not tax exempt and donations to it are not tax deductible.

      so do you think these Conservative groups engage in political activities ?

      they do don’t they? How can you claim tax-exempt status if you are engaging in political activities? is it a conspiracy for the IRS to determine that you ARE engaging in such activities and thus do not qualify for tax exempt status?

      this is going to go nowhere – because these groups overtly engage in political activities and there is no conspiracy – just application of the rules.

      1. Larry, I think there needs to be some clarification between 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations. The former cannot engage in any political activities, including lobbying. The latter can be involved in lobbying if related to its “social welfare” purpose. But such organization cannot be an arm of a political party or group. Under some circumstances and with certain adverse tax consequences, it can even campaign for or against candidates that support or oppose its position on the social welfare issues. There are many knotty Revenue Rulings dealing with 501(c)(4) organizations.

        1. larryg Avatar

          ” Larry, I think there needs to be some clarification between 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations. The former cannot engage in any political activities, including lobbying. The latter can be involved in lobbying if related to its “social welfare” purpose. But such organization cannot be an arm of a political party or group. Under some circumstances and with certain adverse tax consequences, it can even campaign for or against candidates that support or oppose its position on the social welfare issues. There are many knotty Revenue Rulings dealing with 501(c)(4) organizations.”

          there is no law that outlaws the existence of any group. they are free to exist and advocate for what they believe.

          they are also free to CLAIM they are not political and apply for non-profit status.

          denial of non-profit status does not force the group to disband.

          so what is this REALLY about? Is it about stopping the formation of Tea Party or or Conservative groups?


          how would you VERIFY … ANY groups claim that they do not advocate politically?

          would you have to investigate to find out?

          if you investigate to find out – does that mean you have a motive to force the group to disband?

          do you think there has been a surge of newly-formed Tea Party groups as opposed to other newly-formed groups applying for non-profit status?

          do you see how distorted the narrative is?

          these groups are free to form, free to operate without one word from the IRS. The IRS has nothing to do with them at all – UNLESS they apply for non-profit status.

  5. Darrell Avatar

    All I know is that every time someone asks a question about global warming, they get ‘insane’ tattooed on their forehead. Every time someone questions global warming, they get shuffled off to face the corner. Yet it’s the IPCC chicken littles screaming doom and gloom that get global leaders to impose new laws with only just enough public input to meet legal requirements. That may not be Agenda 21, but it sure appears to be the preferred method of political governance in Century 21 whether it’s global warming, public transit, or the Not So Third Crossing highway.

    1. larryg Avatar

      I don’t know what will happen in the future – I just think it’s short-sighted to essentially bet the farm that nothing will happen…

      but the conspiracy aspect is wacko – in my view – because the anti-GW folks say that scientists – around the world – are cooking the books – in a grand worldwide conspiracy where they are also convincing almost every world leader as if the world leaders – all of them are rubes.

      sorry – I can’t go there. a global conspiracy among scientists and leaders of countries?


  6. Darrell Avatar

    It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy to work for the government. Especially when your livelihood depends on political rubes mailing you the rubles. The crazies, on the other hand, must be content with 3 minutes of fame at the local city council meeting. There is no oil company check, or government grant in their mail box.

    1. larryg Avatar

      well of course.. but you have all kinds of people working for the govt – cancer researchers, ocean tsunami guys, volcano guys, malaria guys, etc..

      and yes.. they’d like to get more money

      but do you REALLY think that all of them in one field would get together to cook up some totally bogus thing to convince all the countries in the world to fund them?


      I have no problem with the concept of researchers working to get more funding and I actually have no problems that some researchers are dishonest and lie .. and do bad research .. but to believe that they are involved in a worldwide cabal to do it – is a bridge too far – for me.


  7. mbaldwin Avatar

    This was a fine entry, with unassailable criticisms of extremism that has sadly captured what we once considered “conservative” positions.

    Today we lack a sensible, much needed “conservative” political element capable of reaching positions based on facts, reason, and some semblance of consistent governmental policy. The climate change reports get immediately blasted by ideological commentators based on the arguments of that 2-5% of scientists who find some fault with elements within the reports. Likewise, we find “conservatives” eschewing America’s internationalist role and embracing isolationist myopia and failing to mobilize political support for a stronger, more vigorous foreign policy to confront Putin, Assad, and the Egyptian repressionist military.

    When I read in a previous blog a comparison of the Watergate coverup to the alleged Benghazi “coverup” I had about given up on Bacon’s Rebellion. This entry, at least, redeems it.

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