A similar Ponzi scheme is at work today. This time it's an ideological pyramid scam, and it has to do with families and fathers.
The Mother of All Confabulations goes back to 1986. That's when feminist Phyllis Chesler alleged in her book Mothers on Trial that divorcing fathers win child custody in 70% of cases.
Never mind that the actual number of fathers winning custody was only 15%. And don't worry that Chesler's conclusion was based on a sample of 60 discontented women referred by feminist lawyers -- still, it made for a great story.
A decade later, the National Organization of Women was beginning to run out of real issues. So it set out to invent new outrages calculated to rally the faithful.
In 1996 the N.O.W.-nincompoops passed a resolution that repeated Chesler's bogus 70% custody figure. Then they added a new twist, claiming that patriarchal oafs who wanted to stay involved in their children's lives after a divorce represented an "abuse of power in order to control in the same fashion as do batterers."
How's that for high-decibel gender-baiting?
That claim may have succeeded in swelling the N.O.W. membership rolls, but it still needed some scientific apple-polishing. So they brought in the Wellesley Centers for Women, a group with an impeccable reputation for research integrity.
Well, almost. It was the WCW, of course, that had earlier published that fraudulent fiction of female academic underachievement, How Schools Shortchange Girls.
And sure enough, the Wellesley women delivered. In 2002 the WCW published "Battered Mothers Speak Out: A Human Rights Report on Domestic Violence and Child Custody in the Massachusetts Family Courts." People were ecstatic because the report vindicated everything that the N.O.W. had been saying.
Take look closer, and you see the WCW report is based on interviews with a small group of 40 Massachusetts women. Worse, the report lacks any objective proof of their allegations of rampant legal bias.
Which once again proves you can reach almost any conclusion, just so long as you're allowed to hand-pick your subjects and don't ask too many hard questions.
Soon, the whole M.O.M. Squad -- Joan Meier, Jay Silverman, Lundy Bancroft, and others -- was singing the Chesler catechism. Take a look at what they pass off as "research," and you'll see they all reference each other in an ever-expanding circle of self-serving citations.
Most disturbing of all is the tale of sociologist Amy Neustein. She was one of the featured speakers at the M.O.M. conference that was recently held in upstate New York.
Last year Neustein wrote a piece in The Jewish Press alleging her ex-husband sexually abused their daughter Sherry. Neustein won lots of sympathy points telling people she lost the custody battle due to a "malfunctioning court system that punished me for trying to protect my daughter from abuse."
But a few months later Sherry, now a graduate student in New York City, came along with a rather different account: "She would begin by telling me a sordid -- and false -- story about my father, such as a detailed account about how he had molested me or about how he had thrown me violently against a wall.. The truth, however, is that my father never sexually abused me."
And let's not forget Sadiya Alilire, the woman who was portrayed in PBS' Breaking the Silence as a heroic mom who was done wrong by the legal system -- but was later outed by court documents proving her to be a serial child abuser.
Seven months after Charles Ponzi set up shop, his house of cards began to collapse. On August 10, 1920 the newspapers revealed Mr. Ponzi was bankrupt and pronounced his scheme an odious ruse. He was later sentenced to five years in prison.
But 20 years after Phyllis Chesler made her preposterous claim, her siren call of family destruction continues to make the rounds. Worse, the Mothers Opposed to Men are on the offensive, setting up websites, attracting sympathetic media coverage, and lobbying state legislators.
This time, it's not people's money that's at stake. It's our families that need to be shored up, and our children who desperately need their fathers.
Remember how the Great Society evicted fathers from their homes and turned Black families into wards of the government? That's what the M.O.M. Squad has in mind for the rest of us.