John Birch Society
The John Birch Society (JBS) is an ultra-conservative anti-communist organization founded in southern California in 1958. Despite rumors to the contrary, the organization continues to exist, although much reduced in size due to poor recuiting to replace its aging membership.
It represents itself as "a membership-based organization dedicated to restoring and preserving freedom under the United States Constitution." It states that its members come from all walks of life and are active throughout the 50 states as part of local chapters. The Society invites all Americans to explore its website, learn more about the John Birch Society, and consider joining with it in its mission to achieve "Less Government, More Responsibility, and – With God's Help – a Better World." Its current headquarters is in Appleton, Wisconsin.
The society was named after John Birch, an American intelligence officer and Baptist missionary in World War II who was killed in 1945 by armed supporters of the Chinese Communist Party. and dubbed "the first American victim of the Cold War" by the Society.
It claims to strenuously defend what they see as the original intention of the U. S. Constitution. The group promotes the idea that America is founded on Christian principles (or their interpretation thereof), and supports a strong Christian influence in culture and government. It is anti-leftist, particularly anti-socialist and anti-communist. The JBS has a conspiratorialist view of history. It is also anti-globalization and for immigration reform. JBS advocates the abolition of income tax, and the repeal of civil rights legislation, which it sees as being Communist in inspiration.
At one time, the John Birch Society was very powerful and members included prominent residents of California including the Knott family. In their early days, Birchers shared a common ideology and some overlapping membership with Fred Schwarz and his California-based Christian Anti-Communism Crusade.
The JBS was established in Indianapolis on December 9, 1958 by a group of 12 "patriotic and public-spirited" men led by Robert Welch, Jr., a retired candy manufacturer from Belmont, Massachusetts. A transcript of Welch's two-day presentation at the founding meeting was published as The Blue Book of the John Birch Society and became a cornerstone of its beliefs, with each new JBS member receiving a copy. "According to Welch," writes Political Research Associates in its analysis of the Birchers, "both the US and Soviet governments are controlled by the same furtive conspiratorial cabal of internationalists, greedy bankers, and corrupt politicians. If left unexposed, the traitors inside the US government would betray the country's sovereignty to the United Nations for a collectivist New World Order managed by a 'one-world socialist government.' The Birch Society incorporated many themes from pre-WWII rightist groups opposed to the New Deal, and had its base in the business nationalist sector..."
JBS's objective was to fight communism using communism's own techniques -- organization of front groups, infiltration of other groups and letter-writing campaigns. The society was named in honor of John Morrison Birch, a Fundamentalist Baptist missionary from Georgia, who had served as an intelligence officer in China during World War II and was killed by Chinese communists in 1945 Welch saw collectivism as the main threat to western civilization, and liberals as secret communist traitors who provide the cover for the gradual process of collectivism, with the ultimate goal of replacing the nations of western civilization with one-world socialist government. "There are many stages of welfarism, socialism, and collectivism in general," he wrote, "but communism is the ultimate state of them all, and they all lead inevitably in that direction."
One of the first public activities of the JBS was a "Get US out of UN!" campaign, which alleged in 1959 that the "Real nature of [the] UN is to build One World Government (New World Order)." One Man's Opinion, a magazine launched by Welch in 1956, was renamed American Opinion and became the Birch Society 's official publication.
In 1960, Welch advised JBS members to "join your local PTA at the beginning of the school year, get your conservative friends to do likewise, and go to work to take it over."
By March of 1961, the Birchers had an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 members and, according to Welch, "a staff of twenty-eight people in the Home Office; about thirty Coordinators (or Major Coordinators) in the field, who are fully-paid as to salary and expenses; and about one hundred Coordinators (or Section Leaders as they are called in some areas), who work on a volunteer basis as to all or part of their salary, or expenses, or both." According to its profile by Political Research Associates, JBS "pioneered grassroots lobbying, combining educational meetings, petition drives, and letter writing campaigns. One early campaign against the second Summit Conference between the US and the Soviet Union generated over 600,000 postcards and letters, according to the Society. A June 1964 Birch campaign to oppose Xerox Corporation sponsorship of TV programs favorable to the UN produced 51,279 letters from 12,785 individuals."
The JBS was viewed by many left-of-center journalists and politicians as an "extremist, wing-nut organization of conspiracy theorists." Much of its early conspiracism, according to Political Research Associates, "reflects an ultraconservative business nationalist critique of business internationalists networked through groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR is viewed through a conspiracist lens as puppets of the Rockefeller family in a 1952 book by McCarthy fan, Emanuel M. Josephson, Rockefeller, 'Internationalist': The Man Who Misrules the World. In 1962 Dan Smoot's The Invisible Government added several other policy groups to the list of conspirators, including the Committee for Economic Development, the Advertising Council, the Atlantic Council (formerly the Atlantic Union Committee), the Business Advisory Council, and the Trilateral Commission. Smoot had worked at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC before leaving to establish an anticommunist newsletter, the Dan Smoot Report. The shift from countersubversion on behalf of the FBI to countersubversion in the private sector was an easy one. The basic thesis was the same. In Smoot's concluding chapter, he wrote, 'Somewhere at the top of the pyramid in the invisible government are a few sinister people who know exactly what they are doing: They want America to become part of a worldwide socialist dictatorship, under the control of the Kremlin.'" Birchers elaborated on an earlier Illuminati Freemason conspiracy theory, imagining "an unbroken ideologically-driven conspiracy linking the Illuminati, the French Revolution, the rise of Marxism and Communism, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the United Nations". Unlike many advocates of the Illuminati-Freemason conspiracy theory, however, the Birch Society strenuously denies harboring any anti-Semitic ideation, and indeed claims many Jews among its membership.
Republican mainstream unhappiness with the Birchers intensified after Welch circulated a letter calling President Dwight D. Eisenhower a “conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy.” Welch went further in a book titled The Politician, written in 1956 and published by the JBS in 1963, which declared that Eisenhower’s brother Milton was Ike’s superior within the Communist apparatus and alleging that other top government officials were also communist tools, including “ex president Truman and Roosevelt, and the Sec. Of State John Foster Dulles and former CIA Director Allan W. Dulles.” Conservative writer William F. Buckley, Jr., an early friend and admirer of Welch, regarded his accusations against Eisenhower as "paranoid and idiotic libels" and attempted unsuccessfully to purge Welch from the JBS. Welch responded by attempting to take over Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative youth organization founded with assistance from Buckley.
In October 1964, the Idaho Statesman newspaper expressed concern about what it called an “ominous” increase in JBS-led “ultra right” radio and television broadcasts, which it said then numbered 7,000 weekly and cost an estimated $10 million annually. “By virtue of saturation tactics used, radical, reactionary propaganda is producing an impact even on large numbers of people who, themselves, are in no sense extremists or sympathetic to extremists views," declared a Statesman editorial. "When day after day they hear distortions of fact and sinister charges against persons or groups, often emanating from organizations with conspicuously respectable sounding names, it is no wonder that the result is: Confusion on some important public issues; stimulation of latent prejudices; creation of suspicion, fear and mistrust in relation not only to their representatives in government, but even in relation to their neighbors.”
The Statesman article went on to charge “that there are many local communities in which the tactics of the extremists have made life miserable for good citizens... through spying, nocturnal phone calls, economic and social pressures, stoning, even bombings, and other tactics alien to the American way of working out political decisions. …An unchecked increase in this kind of propaganda is degrading the American political dialogue to such a point as to damage our self-respect at home and our reputation for public responsibility abroad. These radical, reactionary positions are undermining American Democracy.”
Birch Society influence on US politics hit its high point in the years around the failed 1964 presidential campaign of Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, who lost to incumbent President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Welch had supported Goldwater over Nixon for the Republican nomination, but the membership split, with two-thirds supporting Goldwater and one-third supporting Nixon. A number of Birch members and their allies were Goldwater supporters in 1964 and some were delegates at the 1964 Republican convention. The Goldwater campaign in turn brought together the nucleus of what later became known as the New Right, many of whom had been groomed by the Birch Society but whose more pragmatic members realized that the group's conspiracism and its affiliation with racism and anti-Semitism were impediments to electoral success. Birch Society members also authored several widely-distributed books that promoted conspiracy theories and mobilized support for the Goldwater campaign:
A Choice, Not an Echo by Phyllis Schlafly, suggested that the Republican Party was secretly controlled by elitist intellectuals dominated by members of the Bilderberger banking conference, whose policies were designed to usher in global communist conquest. "A Choice, Not an Echo" became one of Goldwater's campaign slogans.
The Gravediggers, co-authored by Schlafly and retired Rear Admiral Chester Ward of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, claimed that U.S. military strategy and tactics were actually designed to pave the way for global communist conquest.
None Dare Call It Treason, by John Stormer, sold over seven million copies, making it one of the largest-selling paperback books of the day. It decried "the concurrent decay in America's schools, churches, and press which has conditioned the American people to accept 20 years of retreat in the face of the communist enemy." Mr. Stormer also added, in his 1998 preface to the paperback edition: "Communism, which some believe (or hope)died in the Soviet Union, is alive and on the march in Asia, the Middle East, Central and Southern Africa and through guerrilla groups in Central and South America." Is it certainly alive and very well in the last three mentioned areas: the current (2004) president of Brazil is Communist; and so is the president of Venezuela, Cuba´s longtime tyrant, the president of Haiti, and, last but not least, so is the current president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, although this is a well-kept secret for most of the world, for one reason or another.
In April 1966, the New York Times reported on "the increasing tempo of radical right attacks on local government, libraries, school boards, parent-teachers associations, mental health programs, the Republican Party and, most recently, the ecumenical movement. … The Birch Society is by far the most successful and 'respectable' radical right organization in the country. It operates alone or in support of other extremist organizations whose major preoccupation, like that of the Birchers, is the internal Communist conspiracy in the United States."
The Birch Society was organized into cells, imitating Welch's understanding of Communist organizing techniques. "This cell segregation is aimed at preventing infiltration by the 'Communists' or other groups seeking inside information about the society," the Times reported. "Ernest Brosang, the New Jersey regional coordinator, contends that it is virtually impossible for opponents of the society to penetrate its policy-making levels." Its activities included distribution of segregationist literature, attacks on race "mongrelization," agitation against the United Nations, and petitions to impeach liberal U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. To spread their message, Birchers held Sunday showings of right-wing documentary films and operated such as "Let Freedom Ring," a nationwide network of recorded telephone messages. They also helped organized the "Minutemen," a paramilitary group training to lead guerrilla warfare once the Communists took over."
A later John Birch Society chairman, US Representative Dr. Larry McDonald, was killed in the 1983 KAL-007 airliner shootdown.
By the time of Welch's death in 1985, the Birch Society's membership and influence had declined, but the UN role in the Gulf War and President Bush's call for a 'New World Order' unwittingly echoed Birch claims about the goals of the internationalist One World Government conspiracy. Growing right-wing populism in the United States helped the JBS position itself for a comeback, and by 1995 its membership had grown again to more than 55,000.
The John Birch Society
P.O. Box 8040
Appleton, WI 54912
Phone: (920) 749-3780
Fax: (920) 749-5062