The Rotarian Menace!



Ed Driscoll at Instapundit reminds us of a classic example of Leftist paranoia:


The article is by Brown graduate Simon van Zuylen-Wood, who somewhat sheepishly admits running into an awful lot of other Brown graduates while researching his tale of adorable young Marxists dreaming of class war while sipping (I am not making this up) frozé in (I am not making this up) Bushwick. He focuses on the Democratic Socialists of America. The DSA, we are told, is both a rising political force and also has one-fifth the membership of the Rotary Club. Anyone who thinks the Rotary Club is powerful also probably thinks “I Love Lucy” is the hottest thing on television, but picture something one-fifth as powerful as that.

The Rotary Club, you say? Some original “Progressives” absolutely convinced themselves that the Rotarians were plotting coups and takeovers in the night (or at least at lunch), as Fried Siegel wrote in 2014:

In his new book, The Revolt Against the Masses, Fred Siegel looks back at Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 book, It Can’t Happen Here, which posited that the Rotary Club(!) was poised to seize American power:

The heart of It Can’t Happen Here is laid out in the opening chapter, which presents the local Rotary Club, with its Veterans of Foreign Wars tub-thumping patriotism and prohibitionist moralism, as comparable, on a small scale, to the mass movements that brought Fascism to Europe. Later in the novel, he has a character explain, half-satirically and half-seriously, “This is Revolution in terms of Rotary.” In other words, Lewis’s imagined fascism is little more than Main Street writ political. When he wants to mock Windrip, he describes him as a “professional common man” who is “chummy with all waitresses at . . . lunch rooms.” For Lewis, fascism is the product of backslapping Rotarians, Elks, and Masons, as well as various and sundry other versions of joiners that Tocqueville had once celebrated as the basis of American self-government. There is more than a hint of snobbery in all this. The book’s local incarnation of evil is Jessup’s shiftless, resentful handyman Shad Ledue, who was a member of the “Odd Fellows and the Ancient and Independent Order of Rams.” Ledue uses Windrip’s ascension to rise above himself and displace Jessup from his rightful place in the local hierarchy of power.

If the book were merely an indictment of red-state nativist intolerance, there would be little to distinguish it from numerous other novels and plays of the 1920s that were part of “the revolt against the village.” Lewis was hardly the only writer of the period to, Mencken-like, describe the average American as a “boob” or “peasant.” What made It Can’t Happen Here compelling was that it showed the boobs working through a familiar institution, the local Rotary, to become a menace to the Republic.

As Siegel goes on to note, as late as the 1960s, prominent leftist American intellectual Dwight Macdonald was muttering, “Europe has its Hitlers, but we have our Rotarians.” My dad was president of a local suburban chapter for a year in the mid-1970s; I had no idea until recently what a hard core violent revolutionary in Florsheim wingtips he was!

Go here to read the comments.  I have been seven times president of my local Rotary Club.  No wonder I am such a fan of the right of revolution set forth by Mr. Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence!


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  1. Let us hope the Rotary Club would at least wish to seize power rather than be just a benign community do-good club instilling good feelings about local businesses. Rise up Rotarians!

  2. Now the cat is out of the bag.

    This all started with Wankle.
    If he could get his foothold into America via his Rotary engine he knew that one day he would own the hearts and minds of the free world. Freemasonry has its nasty underbelly. Rotarians has it’s own as well…and it’s mastermind is Wink Wankle. Mazda Automotive group was his cover.


    I tried my best to equal the absurdity that Dwight McDonald quipped in his Hitler tie in.

    Nobody talks much about those Red-hat women groups that dotted the landscape a decade or so ago. Hummmm.

  3. Tip of the gearhead cap to Philip. I never before figured rotarians to the Mazda menace. Yes, laughed at a gag only a few will get.
    I know of a local sailor who has an old RX-3 in a barn on the eastern shore. Daily driver of sorts in summertime. Long story.

  4. There are people in this world who manage to monetize the hurts and discontents of their youth. (See Tom Wolfe on the journalist as character type, and see Stanley Rothman as well). Sinclair Lewis, son of a small town doctor and Yale alumnus, developed a literary talent to get revenge.

  5. Mazda might of had the goal to “seize American power ” but only ended up with seizing motors instead. Thanks for the hat tip Exnoaaman.

  6. A photo of one of three low pressure turbine blades in the disassembled Rotarian Engine being worked on during a refueling outage at my Alma Mater, the Indian Point 3 Nuclear Power Plant, is provided at the web link below.

    Those Rotarians got one thousand megawatts of pure power.

    😀 😀 😀

    Truthfully, I miss those days.

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