WASHINGTON. From time to time, I respond at some length to queries emailed to me via Quora.com. Late last week,I received a peculiarly interesting query involving Carroll Quigley. This late and arguably great Georgetown University history professor and iconoclast was at his reputational peak when I attended Georgetown (1967-1972. BA, MA). The Quora query also referenced the influence of Carroll Quigley on Bill Clinton (Class of 1968) anticipates the rise of today’s globalist conspiracy theories.
The outline of Quigley’s alleged globalist conspiracy theory bears an uncanny resemblance to current globalist conspiracy theories, circa 2019. Hence, my interest. The query reads as follows.
Carroll Quigley – Bill Clinton’s favorite professor at Georgetown University – boldly admitted in his Tragedy & Hope (1966) that the multitudes were already under the control of a small but powerful group. What are your thoughts?
For those unfamiliar with Quora, which first emerged in 2010, Wikipedia briefly describes the site as “a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, and edited by Internet users in the form of opinions.”
As opposed to sites like Twitter and Facebook, the Q&A action is generally respectable and relatively well informed. However, numerous Q&As are clearly anti-Trump set-up questions framed in a way that lets you know they come in from the institutional left, and are meant to encourage anti-Trump responses.
That said, the dialogue here tends to be less heated then in those previously mentioned sites, which is why I respond to Quora queries from time to time. What follows is an expanded version of my answer to this one.
Georgetown: A Washington, D.C. University in the late 1960s
I attended Georgetown University in the late 1960s, first arriving there in 1967 as a naïve freshman from America’s Great Lakes region. Ironically and unexpectedly, my arrival there coincided with the beginning of the massive anti-Vietnam War protests that fall, and the April 1968 Washington riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Making things even more interesting in retrospect, note that Bill Clinton (whom I never met) was a Georgetown senior, three years ahead of me in the graduating Class of 1968.
At the time both of us were attending Georgetown, Carroll Quigley was regarded as Georgetown’s most famous but most controversial history professor. This was due to two simple facts:
- Carroll Quigley was an iconoclast, which was popular at the time; and
- Quigley was not an easy “A” or even an easy “B” for that matter. Grading was tougher back then, and taking Quigley’s course was a significant risk.
Not wishing to risk potential damage to my GPA, I never actually took Quigley’s famous course sequence. But on occasion, I did sneak in to the class to surreptitiously audit Quigley’s lectures just to see what all the fuss was about. He was a spellbinding, if complex, lecturer in the old style.
At the same time, my roommate actually managed to get through his credit course with flying colors. As a regular student, he often filled me in on the Quigley approach with plenty of anecdotes, facts and occasional factoids.
Carroll Quigley: Old style history professor and professional iconoclast
The Harvard-trained Quigley could make an excellent case for any number of his historical theories or suspicions. He arrived at his controversial theories and/or suspicions as a result of many years of extensive research on, well, secret stuff. He thus managed to gain numerous student devotees over the years.
Mid-to-late career, after the publication of Tragedy and Hope – arguably his most famous volume – Carroll Quigley began to resemble in many ways what we might today label a “conspiracy theorist.” That label may or may not prove accurate, however.
Roundtable Movement, Lord Milner and beyond
Quigley conducted extensive research on a relatively obscure “Roundtable Movement,” an elitist UK group or series of “Roundtable Groups” first gathered together circa 1909 by Alfred, Lord Milner. Apparently, the Movement’s initial goal was to unite, in federation, the UK with its Empire and Commonwealth satellites, including the new South African Union.
After the First World War and the founding of the League of Nations forced the organization to rethink its ideas, the Roundtable seems to have modified its goal to include the US and Canada if possible in a structure that some refer to today as “The Anglosphere.”
The Cecil Rhodes connection and an early globalist conspiracy theory
But Quigley’s research efforts, outlined in Tragedy and Hope, suggested that the activities of the Roundtable went considerably deeper.
“Historian Carroll Quigley claimed that the Round Table Groups were connected to a secret society, which South African diamond baron Cecil Rhodes is believed to have set up with similar goals. Rhodes was believed by some to have formed this secret society in his lifetime. This secret society is supposed to have been named the Society of the Elect.”
Quigley hinted that the alleged, well-connected Milner-Rhodes underground society promoted a world government. That government, ironically, resembled the multinational big-business “globalism” nationalists and populists now increasingly oppose. Bill Clinton may have taken this theory seriously. Yet you wouldn’t know it, judging from the economic outcome of his presidency. And both his (and Hillary’s) coziness with the People’s Republic of China.
Personally, I’ve never been able to confirm a Rhodes-Milner conspiracy. Which, of course, means that it might or might not prove true. That’s the problem with closely held research in the university environment. It’s devilishly hard to confirm.
A visceral distrust of “theories” is always a good first move
But, educated as a humanities professor myself, I gradually learned to mistrust professorial “theories” such as this one. Namely, theories known only to the professor. You just have to take the professor’s word. But practically speaking, it’s also great way to head off any contrary research on the topic in question. Case in point: The outright
global warming climate change hoax perpetrated by University of East Anglia’s “climatologists” and many others, as exposed via leaked emails. And promptly buried by a complicit lapdog media.
Professors, in general, like to wall off certain areas of academic research. This effectively gives them exclusive responsibility for cultivating their theories while not allowing counter-theories to develop. Functionally, this contradicts the “scientific method” of research in which every theory is openly and publicly debated. The severe decline in this rigorous methodology is why I remain a skeptic in all things, current topic included.
On the other hand, distrusting professorial theories does not necessarily mean they aren’t true. Only that you can’t get inside the tent far enough to prove or disprove them yourself.
Carroll Quigley gives Bill Clinton – and us – something to think about
Quigley was actually onto something in his research. But as a mildly left-leaning academic (contrary opinions welcome), I think he got it a bit wrong. He suspected right-leaning “capitalist” conspirators as the manipulators of a still embryonic world government. In other words, a form of government that would attract later globalist conspiracy theories.
But Quigley could never have imagined the oxymoronic outcome of these real or inferred international political power schemes. Namely, that various assorted capitalists would come to admire and endorse Marxist tactics to manipulate governments and societies from the top down. Their apparent goal: Top-down Communism and world without borders or nationalities. In short, some kind of New Feudalism. It’s the ultimate globalist conspiracy theory. But in 2019, given various “open borders” movements in the West, this particular globalist conspiracy theory seems more than just a theory.
In this New Feudalist society, it would be difficult for shattered onetime nation-states to oppose elitist rule. This progression is what we’ve been witnessing for at least 30 years now via the likes of George Soros, et. al. Yet it’s still hard to label all this elusive movement as a “globalist conspiracy.” Whatever it is, it unfolds ad hoc, promoted by like-minded elites somehow programmed to think the same way.
In other words, Quigley may actually have been on to something significant. To the extent that Bill Clinton actually bought into Quigley’s nascent theory, this may have inspired his gradualist left-wing stance as President. But Clinton’s “situation ethics,” which arose from another 1960s educational fad, may have been a far stronger driver during his presidency.
Such speculation remains interesting. It could be what drove the current Quora query, which actually aims considerably beyond Bill Clinton.
Back when Western Civ was still in flower
Carroll Quigley was one of those classic, old-time professors who regarded his thoughts and pronouncements as omniscient and axiomatic. Just like today’s most ideological, opinionated and (of course) tenured professors, he would never admit he or his theories were wrong. As a student, you parrot what they say to get an “A” in the course. Or else… Some things never change.
Quigley was an original. But he could not be described as being “politically correct.” More importantly, right or wrong, he worked very hard when it came to researching a topic. In a weird way, his contemporary counterpart is a very different kind of iconoclast: Camille Paglia. That may be one reason why so many of today’s seriously hard-left history professors long ago programmed Quigley and his theories out of existence. Just like they’re attacking Paglia today.
It would be impossible for an iconoclast like Quigley to get a tenure-track university faculty position today. Original thinking that deviates from current “received wisdom” is not welcome in 99% of American universities.
For better or worse, I suspect any potential New Quigley, circa 2019, would quickly tangle with today’s indoctrinated, brain-dead students. Such a professor would inevitably wind up “offending” them by committing scores of “microaggressions,” thereby depriving them of their expected “safe spaces.”
No intellectual giants are left to defend the fort of Western democracy
Few professors in recent years ever envisioned the youthful Frankenstein monsters they were creating in their classrooms. Yet they did so by heedlessly indoctrinating these students with Marxist crap. Instead, they should have taught the evolution of Western history, government and literature. They failed their students by denying them a context for their lives in our troubled times.
Like the Saudi “religious police,” these newly minted young brownshirts walk among us today, looking for someone to denounce. Even Quigley might be astonished at what today’s university hath wrought.
The weird “globalism” he may somehow have foreseen in 1966 is dangerously close to fruition. But Quigley never left a blueprint for opposing it. And Bill Clinton may very well have embraced it. Whatever the case, in the end, we’ll have to develop a solution to this rapidly developing situation ourselves. And soon.
— Headline image: Medieval illustration of men harvesting wheat with reaping-hooks, on a calendar page for August. Queen Mary’s Psalter. (Public domain image via Wikipedia entry on feudalism.)