Sherman Skolnick book review (2004)

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Ahead of the Parade: a Who’s Who of Treason and High Crimes—Exclusive Details of Fraud & Corruption of the Monopoly Press, the Banks, the Bench and the Bar, & the Secret Political Police, by Sherman H. Skolnick. Tempe, AZ: Dandelion Books, 2003. 315 pp.

Sherman Skolnick is probably best-known as the founder of Citizens’ Committee to Clean Up the Courts, founded in 1963 to conjure up concepts of corruption and criminality that could be used as political leverage against judges and lawyers. While many of his targets would dispute his version of events then and now, it can’t be denied that more judges and lawyers have gone to jail because of his efforts than any journalist or politician who immediately comes to mind. I could not imagine what price Skolnick has paid to pursue his particular line of dialogue with history, nor, perhaps, what price has been paid to him. I do know, however, that he’s almost 80 years old and knows enough HTML to get a book deal.

His take on politics is less reliable, as demonstrated in his book Ahead of the Parade. It’s technically his second book, but The Secret History of Airplane Sabotage (1973), which examined in excruciating detail the crash of United Airlines 553 at Chicago’s Midway Airport in December, 1972, never actually made it through the first printing—perhaps because he concluded that the crash occurred at the request of Richard Nixon, the master of dirty tricks, who wanted to silence the wife of Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt; she died alongside a US congressman and a CBS News reporter.

So he could be viewed as credible on the subject of judicial affairs, especially in his hometown of Chicago, a tough place to come up doing that kind of work today, more so especially if crippled by childhood polio. Apparently Skolnick’s parents appealed to FDR to personally intervene in obtaining hard-to-find medical care, and he did, even having the boy out to visit with him in Hot Springs, where he made available some of the “alternative therapies” developed for the (usually) sitting President. In later years Skolnick would accuse FDR of complicity inPearl Harborand the squandering of US gold reserves, though he remains fond of the old autocrat. More recent Presidents get harsher treatment, and W is depicted as fundamentally illegitimate.

The challenge here is to describe Skolnick without using the phrase “conspiracy theory,” which isolates the reviewer from heat associated with the author’s arguments but is nonetheless prejudicial. Where once the phrase enjoyed a certain cachet, just a few years ago, in the years since the most flamboyantly destructive conspiracy in modern history was executed by associates of Osama bin Laden the phrase has been used to slur a lot of content that is verifiably true. The liberation of Iraq, for example, was widely and vociferously opposed on the basis of arguments since proven correct, even endorsed by those who argued most stridently for war—and apostates before and since have to worry about being labeled as “conspiracy theorists” by professional conspirators.

Skolnick’s writing style has real old-school punch, like a cross between William S. Burroughs and Walter Winchell. It would be fun to read on almost any subject, but that his chosen field is sabotage and dirty tricks is just delightful! His skolnicksreport.com is loaded with what is, at the very worst, the very best political satire available in English, and at best the finest conspiracy theory this side of Lyndon LaRouche. Until a better phrase comes along, it will have to be called that, though doing so begs the question of whether it is possible for conspiracy theory to ever be true. Having written more about Mr. Skolnick than any other living journalist, and being reasonably educated in many of the matters that come up in his work, I would say: Yes. Conspiracy theory permutates from game theory, and is a fundamental component of political science as an art form.

A number of individuals and organizations come under suspicion within this framework, including the CIA, FBI, MI-6, Mossad, McDonald’s Federal Reserve, Bank of America, Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, CREEP, BCCI, Jesse Jackson, Marc Rich, Rahm Emanuel, Timothy McVeigh, Saddam Hussein, Al Gore, Gore Vidal, and “William Rockefeller Clinton” (don’t ask). All the great dynasties are here: Rothschild, Rockefeller, Kennedy, Windsor (whose matriarch is Queen of England) and five different men spanning three generations of the Bush family, including the current “occupant and resident” of the White House. Now, even those of us who doubt that China uses Wal-Mart’s transportation channels to move drugs into the US and pays law enforcement to look the other way, or that JFK was supposed to be killed at a Chicago Bears game a month before Dallas, can marvel at the audacity with which Skolnick hammers out his theses.

If a fifth of Skolnick’s reports on national and international politics were ever proven true, the shock would reverberate across the world. A fun mind-game to play when reading Ahead of the Parade is to assume that, amidst all the questionable content, there is one line in it that is absolutely true—but which line?

A large portion of the book is devoted to theIllinoisjudicial scene—namely, the details of a lawsuit that sought to overturn copyright protection for Coca-Cola. He writes of judgeships and media anchor-spots being purchased, and of secret courts that do the elite’s bidding behind the scenes. Unless one has a passion for jurisprudence (or lack thereof), or like collecting dirt on one of the world’s most successful brand names, the reader will skip through much of this material for the meat—the dirty deeds of our nation’s elite. Bush, Clinton, Gore, the Pope, the Queen of England, the Rockefellers, Jesse Jackson, Marc Rich, Chandra Levy, even Simon Wiesenthal—very few escape his poison pen, and those who do are excoriated repeatedly on the website.

The visual of an 80 year-old man speaking quite sincerely about how the Pope has killed people to keep up margins in the soybean trade, or how Al Gore was nearly killed twice by air power in the week before JFK, Jr. died in similar fashion (which he has done at length on his cable access show, “Broadsides”), is plenty amusing, like a senile relative rewriting history. But there is a method to his madness, which centers on dissolving the reflexive belief that it is possible to exert real power in this nation while also holding true to professed morality. In that sense, Ahead of the Parade could be viewed as the sequel to the late William Cooper’s Behold a Pale Horse (1991), that classic of conspiracy theory that reads as more legit with each passing year.

The most obvious lesson to be taken from Skolnick’s opus is that most if not all the major global powers have people hard at work on behalf of their interests right here in America. Another lesson would be that bribery is a very specific art form, the mastery of which can greatly relieve the pressures of an aggressive life. I doubt that anyone would seriously question such notions anymore, but it was flatly dismissed as late as the Enron collapse in summer 2001, which to outsiders looked much like a controlled implosion done for the benefit of shadowy forces, and whose perpetrators escaped justice by throwing money at our government.

If this book has any real flaw, other than the questionability of its content, it is that the book could never come close to the sheer vicious joy of the website. A better idea would have been for Skolnick to anthologize his infamous “Overthrow of the American Republic” (OOTAR) series, now numbering 66 parts. But that would be too easy. There is something clearly quixotic about Skolnick’s quest to piss of the entire Western ruling structure, so to see a book under his name at all is pretty heartening for those Americans who truly value our (current) freedom of speech.

The distinct possibility that our country, for better or worse, has already been sold out from under us to people whose identities we won’t know until it’s too late has not been articulated in this way since William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg got really deep in the early 1970s, and I would hazard to guess that they would enjoy Skolnick, in moderation. If nothing is true unless you see it with your own eyes, then most of what we know to exist really doesn’t, which is an infinitely more frightening prospect than if everything was true. As the recently pardoned Lenny Bruce once said “Chicago is so corrupt, it’s thrilling.” Indeed.

sheltonhull@gmail.com; December 13, 2004

*Note: Sherman Skolnick died in 2002, but his website remains intact.

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