Is your washroom breeding fascists?
January 5, 2019 1:37 PM   Subscribe

As someone who came to political consciousness under Clinton, my first exposure to the John Birch Society was a decades old, snarky science fiction story about the JBS infiltrating work-spaces in orbit and a sort of crypto-fascist conspiracy. I thought it was a joke about reverse-Communists until my parents explained that John Birchers were real and even some of my family were members. It's values are extreme conservatism, distrust of established power structures/foreigners (see also: Communists), and a worship of American individualistic exceptionalism. It falls at the end of the 'paleo' portion of the American political spectrum. The John Birch Society predated, foreshadowed, and nurtured the strains of black helicopter, birther, flat earther, etc. crazy that infects American politics today. After seeing some references to it floating in my links this week, here's a primer for you. Previously.

The John Birch Society was founded by Robert Welch, who grew rich manufacturing Sugar Daddies and Junior Mints, and named to honor a U.S. soldier, OSS operative, and Christian missionary killed when he refused to hand over his revolver at a People's Liberation Army checkpoint in 1945.

The JBS was founded in 1958 and one of the original 11 members was Fred Koch. The intent was mainly to combat any hint of Communist influence in the United States, which was everywhere.
"In November 1958, Welch sent [William F.] Buckley and several others a typed copy of “The Politician,” a manuscript he had written. He had numbered each copy and asked that recipients return it to him after they had read it. The work’s most startling conclusion was that Soviet penetration of the United States extended deep into the White House and that one of the USSR’s principal agents was none other than the president of the United States. Dwight Eisenhower, he concluded, was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.”

He also identified as Communists who took their orders from Moscow Eisenhower’s brother Milton, then president of Johns Hopkins University; his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles; Dulles’s brother, Allen, then director of Central Intelligence; and former secretary of state George Marshall, among others.


Welch decreed that the John Birch Society would be autocratic in its governance. Any other organizational method, he insisted, would leave the society open to “infiltration, distortion and disruption.” He proclaimed the very word democracy a “deceptive phrase, a weapon of demagoguery, and a perennial fraud.” The JBS would consist of clusters of chapters, each with about 20 carefully screened members. He set a goal of building a million-member force. Estimates of how many people actually became Birchers range from 20,000 to 100,000.

Welch had JBS run “stealth” campaigns to win seats on local government bodies, where it would work to counter “communist domination.” Its members paid close attention to book acquisitions by local libraries and pressed for the banning of certain titles. They organized boycotts of stores that carried goods imported from Communist countries. A merchant who stocked such items could find that Birchers had placed cards on counters and shelves bearing the words “Always buy your communist goods at ——,” with the name of the store written in the blank space. Birchers pressed local governments to impose heavy taxes, fees, or regulations on such merchants."
National Review - The Inside Story of William F. Buckley Jr.’s Crusade against the John Birch Society This article is interesting in how it details Buckley's issues with a clearly whacko fellow traveler, who was financially entwined with the same people who supported The National Review (and the National Review's staff), and Buckley's desire to be seen as legitimate/sane by the rest of the nation. It also has some inside dope from the Goldwater campaign that was interesting. Not mentioned in the quotes are JBS's antipathy to civil rights legislation, water fluoridation, and Justice Earl Warren, who they famously tried to impeach.
"In the nineteen-sixties, Welch became convinced that even the Communist movement was but “a tool of the total conspiracy.” This master conspiracy, he said, had forerunners in ancient Sparta, and sprang fully to life in the eighteenth century, in the “uniformly Satanic creed and program” of the Bavarian Illuminati. Run by those he called “the Insiders,” the conspiracy resided chiefly in international families of financiers, such as the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers, government agencies like the Federal Reserve System and the Internal Revenue Service, and nongovernmental organizations like the Bilderberg Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. Since the early twentieth century, they had done a good deal of their evil work under the guise of humanitarian uplift. “One broad avenue down which these conspiratorial forces advance was known as progressive legislation,” Welch declared in 1966. “The very same collectivist theories and demagogic pretenses which had destroyed earlier civilizations were now paraded forth in the disguise of new and modern concepts.”
The New Yorker - Confounding Fathers This article (previously) is also about Glenn Beck, and cemented my impression that Robert Welch was a successful cult-type leader among others like Rush Limbaugh and Lyndon LaRouche.
"Recently at the state level, legislators have authored Bircher-esque bills that have made it further through the lawmaking process than many thought possible in Texas, even just a few years ago—though these are less the cause of the John Birch Society’s influence than an indication of the rise of its particular strain of politics. These include bills that would forbid any government entity from participating in “Agenda 21,” a UN sustainable development effort which JBS pamphlets describe as central to the “UN’s plan to establish control over all human activity”; prevent the theoretical sale of the Alamo to foreigners (since 1885 the state has owned the former mission, Texas’ most visited historic landmark, where the most famous battle of the Texas Revolution occurred); and repeal the Texas DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students who graduate from Texas high schools to pay in-state tuition at public colleges. And last month, Governor Greg Abbott signed the “American Laws for American Courts” Act into law, guarding against what the society has called “Sharia-creep” by prohibiting the use of Islamic Sharia law in Texas’ court system.

This is what the 21st-century John Birch Society looks like. Gone is the organization’s past obsession with ending the supposed communist plot to achieve mind-control through water fluoridation. What remains is a hodgepodge of isolationist, religious and right-wing goals that vary from concrete to abstract, from legitimate to conspiracy minded—goals that don’t look so different from the ideology coming out of the White House. It wants to pull the United States out of NAFTA (which it sees as the slippery slope that will lead us to a single-government North American Union), return America to what they call its Christian foundations, defund the UN, abolish the departments of education and energy, and slash the federal government drastically. The John Birch Society once fulminated on the idea of Soviet infiltration of the U.S. government; now, it wants to stop the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling and possible collusion with the campaign of President Donald Trump."
Politico - The John Birch Society Is Back This article talks about the nuts and bolts work that JBS does to run workshops and classes to spread right-wing political thought among fellow die-hards and older folks. And that brings us right about current times.
posted by cult_url_bias (0 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Heya, these links are fine but the framing is more on the "here's my story" side than is site style for Mefi posts -- fine to repost and/or contact us about reframing. -- LobsterMitten


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