Published On: Fri, Dec 4th, 2020

Prohibition And Covid-19; Part Three: “How the Amendment was Put Through”; the playbook for getting unwanted legislation

In his book, What Prohibition Has Done to America, Fabian Franklin dedicates a chapter (iv) to explaining that the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution come about because lawmakers in the Federal and State governments were stampeded and wrong-footed into it. This would only be part of a story that is surprisingly familiar to modern ears.

When we read and digest Franklin’s work, we can discern that he describes, inadvertently, how a controlling dead hand behind a public front of representative government would have to operate, and, in fact, the very formula of apparent cause and effect it would summon to generate legislation where there is no appetite for it. The amazing thing about this – and the reason why Franklin would have stumbled upon this without realising – is that we can see the same playbook being used in the current era, over again, and never more so plainly as in the genesis of the creation of the economic blockade with Covid-19 as its pretext, and so although such a thing is common to us now, technique for engineering Hegelian dialectic solutions would not, we might expect, be a thing readily discerned in a more naïve time.

The primary element in the operation is the setting up of a moral climate, and what Franklin is actually writing about is something that perhaps in his day didn’t have the name we know it by now: political correctness. At the centre of this mode of thinking was a pressure group, the Anti-Saloon League. Franklin puts the League at the crux of a kind of witch-hunt political atmosphere, and the following is only a tiny part of a much larger complaint against the League and its activity:

Never in our political history has there been such an example of consummately organised, astutely managed, and unremittingly maintained intimidation; and accordingly never in our history has a measure of such revolutionary character and of such profound importance as the Eighteenth Amendment been put through with anything like such smoothness and celerity.

The intimidation exercised by the Anti-Saloon League was potent in a degree far beyond the numerical strength of the League and its adherents, not only because of the effective and systematic use of its black-listing methods, but also for another reason.

Weak-kneed Congressmen and Legislaturemen succumbed not only to fear of the ballots which the League controlled but also to fear of another kind… [:] the moral intimidation which the Prohibition propaganda had constantly at command.

That such intimidation should be resorted to by a body pushing what it regards as a magnificent reform is not surprising; the pity is that so few people have the moral courage to beat back an attack of this kind.

Throughout the entire agitation, it was the inevitable habit of Prohibition advocates to stigmatize the anti-Prohibition forces as representing nothing but the “liquor interests”. The fight was presented in the light of a struggle between those who wished to coin money out of the degradation of their fellow-creatures and those who sought to save mankind from perdition.

That the millions of people who enjoyed drinking, to whom it was a cherished source of refreshment, recuperation, and sociability, had any stake in the matter, the agitators never for a moment acknowledged; if a man stood out against Prohibition he was not the champion of the millions who enjoyed drink, but the servant of the interests who sold drink.

This preposterous fiction was allowed to pass current with but little challenge; and many a public man who might have stood against the Anti-Saloon League’s power over the ballot-box cowered at the thought of the moral reprobation which a courageous stand against Prohibition might bring down upon him.

Pressure politics, which is the name given to the methodology employed by the Anti-Saloon League, has a Wikipedia entry, and it is almost entirely given over to reporting Anti-Saloon League tactics (references provided by Wikipedia have been removed for smoothness):

Discovering the power of utilizing the mass media to exert pressure on politicians is usually attributed to Wayne Wheeler, the de facto leader of the Anti-Saloon League. Under his mentorship, a number of skilled practitioners of pressure politics emerged within the league. One of the most accomplished of these was William E. Johnson, better known as “Pussyfoot” Johnson.

One leader of the league testified that prior to its passage in Congress, he had compiled a list of 13,000 business people who supported prohibition. They were then given their instructions at the crucial time:

“We blocked the telegraph wires in Congress for three days. One of our friends sent seventy- five telegrams, each signed differently with the name of one his subordinates. The campaign was successful. Congress surrendered. The first to bear the white flag was Senator Warren Harding of Ohio. He told us frankly he was opposed to the amendment, but since it was apparent from the telegrams that the business world was demanding it, he would submerge his own opinion and vote for submission.”

The league was so powerful that even national politicians feared its strength. The Eighteenth Amendment creating Prohibition might well not have passed if a secret ballot had made it impossible for the league to have punished the “disobedient” at the next election.

The Anti-Saloon League did not believe its actions to be immoral. To the contrary, its activities to bring about Prohibition were viewed as moral and justified because it believed it was working to bring about God’s will.

Having read Franklin, and until we read the Wikipedia entry, it’s hard to precisely understand Franklin’s horror at the campaign waged against lawmakers; we might, however, by Franklin’s reporting, get an idea that American lawmakers faced peer pressure in a culture where there was a politically correct expectation – which had been cultivated by mass media. This appears to be confirmed by our further research. And we can better appreciate how, as Franklin tells us, there was a self-referential loop of citation where the alacrity of the lawmakers could be said to represent mass support, and the public dedication to Prohibition was driving the momentum of the lawmakers.

But the reality was different, as Franklin explains:

The swiftness with which the Prohibition Amendment was adopted by Congress and by State Legislatures, and the overwhelming majorities which it commanded in those bodies, is no proof either of sincere conviction on the part of the lawmakers or of their belief that they were expressing the genuine will of their constituents.

And from Franklin we do learn a bit about the mendaciousness of the Anti-Saloon League, who represented the vote by Senate and Congress as an opening episode for adoption that left the final decision to the individual states who would have to ratify in their legislatures. However, at this later stage, the representation was forgotten, and the States felt that ratification was a fait accompli; and inevitability:

One of the shrewdest and most successful of the devices which the League and its supporters constantly made use of was to represent the function of Congress as being merely that of submitting the question to the State Legislatures; as though the passage of the Amendment by a two-thirds vote of Congress did not necessarily imply approval, but only a willingness to let the sentiment of the several States decide. Of course, such a view is preposterous; of course, if such were the purpose of the Constitutional procedure there would be no requirement of a two-thirds vote.* But many members of Congress were glad enough to take refuge behind this view of their duty, absurd though it was; and no one can say how large a part it played in securing the requisite two-thirds of House and Senate. Yet from the moment the Amendment was thus adopted by Congress, nothing more was heard of this notion of that body having performed the merely ministerial act of passing the question on to the Legislatures. On the contrary, the two-thirds vote (and more) was pointed to as conclusive evidence of the overwhelming support of the Amendment by the nation; the Legislatures were expected to get with alacrity into the band-wagon into which Congress had so eagerly climbed.

One of the proofs that Prohibition lacked the grass roots support that was claimed for it was on the prior failure to achieve state-level prohibition legislation in several states, and Franklin cites the case of Maryland where the Anti-Saloon League stopped pushing for the creation of law when politicians extricated themselves from a predicament by making it a necessity for the bill to be approved by a plebiscite. Obviously, it would have been a referendum that would not find in favour of prohibition.

Franklin uses the case to supposed it representative of most other cases, and a reflection of the real national mood which was not met together in consensus.

In these circumstances nothing but a mean subservience to political intimidation can possibly account for the indecent haste with which the ratification was pushed through…

Is this not a fine exhibition of the nature of the League’s hold on legislation? And is there no abundant evidence that the whole of this Maryland story is typical of what has been going on throughout the country?

And then Franklin floats an explanation:

Charges are made that the Anti-Saloon League has expended vast sums of money in its campaigns; money largely supplied, it is often alleged, by one of the world’s richest men, running into the tens of millions or higher”.

Franklin himself did not give official credence to the rumour, but perhaps still felt it possible, or else he surely would not have bothered to mention it. And as far as we are concerned, now that the genie has been released from the bottle, and there is smoke which must have come from a fire, we can’t discount the possibility, even though Franklin doesn’t mention it, that there was something other than moral intimidation that influenced American law makers; i.e., graft. In such circumstances, the narrative of lawmakers being made to understand that public opinion demanded they act for the common good would in fact very likely be a cover story for public consumption: an explanation that, although might provoke indignation, was a strawman about dirty tricks for the harmless knocking over. Underneath there was a more ugly realism of outright corruption, which would remain untouched.

Speaking of making impressions for public consumption, from Franklin we get a notion that the American public would have had an idea about their own mass support for Prohibition, whether it be true or not, conjured to them by what turns out to be the Anti-Saloon League’s exploitation of media, and perhaps most importantly, the failure to counter this by the producers of media who should have been expected to rally opposition:

The fundamental trouble lay in a deplorable absence of any general understanding of the seriousness of making a vital change in the Constitution… and of the solemn responsibility of those upon whom rested the decision to make or not to make that change. Even in newspapers in which one would expect, as a matter of course, that this aspect of the question would be earnestly impressed upon their readers, it was, as a rule, passed over without so much as a mention.

Again, payoffs or favours for newspaper magnates may have been a factor. Franklin doesn’t touch the subject, but we must look at the history from a post-9/11 perspective.

What we definitely don’t learn from Franklin is that the Anti-Saloon League were openly associated with the Ku Klux Klan, which we must note is fundamentally a freemasonic order before it is anything else – but the following from Chapter VII of his book makes a little more sense:

How profoundly the whole course of the Prohibition movement has been affected by the desire of the South to keep liquor away from the negroes, needs no elaboration; it would not be going far beyond the truth to say that the people of New York are being deprived of their right to the harmless enjoyment of wine and beer in order that the negroes of Alabama and Texas may not get beastly drunk on rotgut whiskey. If the South had stuck to its own business and to its traditional principle of State autonomy–a principle which the South invokes as ardently as ever when it comes to any other phase of the negro question–there would never have been a Prohibition Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

Cursory research of the Anti-Saloon League reveals that it was sophisticated in organisation, and the way that it activated a local population by seeking out the brightest to agitate amongst them reminds of modern community organising. It was managed to be as ruthlessly efficient as it could be. It wasn’t the operation of people who were amateur at organising in society to move it to their will. Moreover, that it obviously operated according to the freemasonic philosophy of the ends justifying the means completes a character analysis that suggests that the chain of command could have gone all the way to the top of the money pile, as Franklin hints.

So, while there appears to be a lot more to the Anti-Saloon League, and the political environment it operated in, than Franklin would evoke to meet our eye, even on the face of it, things already convict a shadowy network dealing in conspiracy.  We can discern from Franklin a paid-for pressure group, in receipt of millions of 1920s dollars (a staggering amount), that is setting the agenda and dictating the terms of political correctness, so that opposition to the agenda can be stigmatised as being immoral. The media, says Franklin, is not doing its duty – and from another source we learn that media was manipulated to amplify the moral climate. And we can suppose that the creators of this climate would by default claim mass public devotion to it, and be able to do so without critical scrutiny. We can see  from Franklin a representation from this pressure group, exploiting this falsehood, being made to politicians whereby Prohibition enjoys limitless support; which is therefore a manipulation of lawmakers to act against the desires and interests of their constituents.

This much we can discern, and already we have enough evidence to see a dead hand behind the bringing about of the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution: Prohibition.

But then, there is the shadow cast of a group of rich people, with their money, and perhaps the clout that they can pull in secret societies, arranging the scene of a crime to keep their involvement hidden. In this staging, at its motivating centre, is merely a projection of their authority over the plan: a disembodied moral duty, with useful idiot public (newly enfranchised women, for instance) and politicians alike attempting to meet their responsibilities accordingly. But in fact, the truth would be that most people wouldn’t want what the moral imperative delivers. It is for the benefit of those who created the illusions. And in fact, most politicians might even have had full knowledge of this, but they took advantage of the culture, and they acted to type according to the synthetic expectations; they took the graft, perhaps† and hid that they had done it with the apparent fact that they were beholden to mass demand.

The good reason that we should expect the fullest extent of the deception and corruption beyond the manipulation which Franklin acknowledges is because we can see the same full model today. We can see a dead hand behind elected government that creates a tableau of circumstances that look natural, but are contrived for creating legislation that it wants and that the people don’t. At the centre is the moral impetus, created by a pressure group (Black Lives Matter, most recently), or it could be the murder of a politician (Jo Leadbeater [Cox]), or it could be the need for a vaccine to prevent the spread of a supposed killer virus, or it could be the responsibility to protect by other means from the same supposed (invented) killer virus.

Then, of course, in this model there is the media and government gaslighting the people, and insisting to them that they do support, and unanimously (so, no need to check) support the efforts of government to do the right thing. Lots of the people are susceptible to this – although, by rights, it should get less each time they are subjected to it. On top of that, the media fails to educate the public about reasonable grounds for opposition. A culture is created where everyone is told that there is a common good, and the government is doing what everyone else wants and expects from it. Opposition is politically incorrect, and treated to scorn.

There is nothing new under the sun, reader, and the playbook for furthering an agenda that the people do not want was written a long time ago. The legislation based on the pretext of a supposed Covid-19 problem was wangled in exactly the same way as was the legislation based on the pretext of a supposed drunken American society problem, a hundred years before.


†If there is anything in the possibility of politicians being paid off to bring about Prohibition, then we will certainly look for it in the book that is going to be used as the source material for the continuation of this series, The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State, by Lisa McGirr.

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  1. Money-power hand in the moralising puppet:

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. (CS Lewis)

T-shirts to protest compulsory face coverings - click image