Another legendary figure who has fortunately faded from public view – though: he’s been colorful, we’ll give him that. James Gordon “Bo” Gritz is a decorated former Special Forces officer and Vietnam veteran who made a name for himself in the 80s for his conspiracy theories surrounding the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue and a couple of bizarre rescue attempts, but is probably most familiar for his two presidential campaigns in association with the white nationalist America First party in 1988 and 1992. In 1988, he ran as vice president with David Duke on a political platform advocating the re-institution of racial segregation (in fairness, Gritz thought he’d be running with James Traficant and dropped out when he met Duke). In 1992, he ran for the Populist Party under the slogan “God, Guns and Gritz” on a platform described in his isolationist manifesto “The Bill of Gritz”, which e.g. called for completely closing the border with Mexico, the dissolution of the Federal Reserve, and proclaiming the US to be a “Christian Nation” in which the legal statutes “should reflect unashamed acceptance of Almighty God and His Laws”.
Gritz was a central proponent of the rather popular conspiracy theory that there have been a concerted effort by Vietnamese and American governments (every one of them since the war) to hide the existence of POWs still alive and retained in Laos and Vietnam. In the 80s he even undertook a series of private trips to locate POWs, though the missions were uniformly failures: partially the failures can of course be attributed to the always heavily emphasized secrecy of the missions being undermined by Gritz’s pathological inability to avoid drawing attention to himself and publicizing his attempts – in addition to the nonexistence of the POWs that were supposed to be rescued (some might suspect that the latter is a reason for the former – despite being funded by people like Clint Eastwood and Ross Perot, Gritz’s missions bore an uncanny resemblance to missions to locate Bigfoot, in more than one way). He did, however, succeed in cranking up the conspiracy theories, concluding for instance that US government was covering up the existence of the POWs as part of a bigger cover-up of their involvement in organized drug traffic with South East Asian mafia. In the late 80s he founded the Christic Institute for the purpose of pursuing a lawsuit against the U.S. government over these issues but little seems to have come from it, apart from his books A Nation Betrayed and Called To Serve, which expanded on the conspiracy theories to encompass e.g. JFK assassination conspiracies (JFK was assassinated because he was about to abolish the Federal Reserve and have the Treasury Department begin printing United States Notes – the drug traffic conspiracy runs deep) and various New World Order ravings.
His next organization, the Center For Action, broadened its view and actually tried to actively build bridges between conspiracy theorists (Gritz himself was strongly influenced at least by Mary Stuart Relfe) and both leftwing and rightwing activists. His 1990 ”Freedom Call ’90” conference, for instance, featured a lineup including both October surprise conspiracy advocates, psychic and later 9/11-truther Barbara Honegger, and Eustace Mullins, no less. Gritz’s own 1992 presidential campaign was also colored by his beliefs in FEMA concentration camps, the idea that Clinton, Bush and Perot were all pawns of the Council on Foreign Relations and Trilateral Commission, as well as his fear that bar codes are the mark of the beast. His anti-war efforts in the early nineties, despite being premised on the idea that the first Gulf War was a conspiracy to implement a one-world government, actually found him some sympathy on the left, at least until they discovered his association with Christian Identity activists like Peter Peters.
During the 90s Gritz was probably most noted for his involvement in the survivalist movement, e.g. through his course SPIKE (Specially Prepared Individuals for Key Events), where opponents of the New World Order were taught paramilitary and survivalist skills that would help them survive the impending total sociopolitical and economic collapse of the US – he even established a community in Idaho called Almost Heaven (featured heavily here). To the public, however, he became probably most famous for using his influence in the Christian Patriot community to negotiate with Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge and with the militia in the famous 1996 stand-off with the Montana Freemen. He was also arrested in 2005 for his, uh, intervention (trespassing) in the Terri Schiavo case. At present he is still running some radio shows and suchlike, but seem to have faded from public view.
Diagnosis: Colorful, but not necessarily in a good way. Probably pretty harmless at this point.