John Birch Society

From Academic Kids

The John Birch Society (JBS) is an ultra-conservative membership-based organization in the United States which was originally founded in 1958 by Robert W. Welch Jr to oppose communism and collectivism.

The JBS supports an interpretation of the United States Constitution in accordance with what it considers to be the original intent of the Founding Fathers, and sees itself as dedicated to restoring and preserving constitutional freedoms.

The JBS seeks to promote the idea that the United States is founded on Christian principles and supports the role of the Christian religion in culture and government. Amongst other things, it is staunchly opposed to globalization and is supportive of reduced immigration; it also advocates the abolition of income tax, and the repeal of certain civil rights laws, as being communist in nature. The JBS regularly alerts its members to these and other issues as well as what it sees as the "cultural manipulation" occurring in contemporary American society. The views of the JBS tend to attract controversy.

The Society was named after John Birch, an American intelligence officer during World War II and Baptist missionary who was killed in China in 1945 by armed supporters of the Chinese Communist Party. He was dubbed by the Society "the first American victim of the Cold War."

The JBS is headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin and its members are located across the United States, usually based in local chapters. The Society's motto is "Less Government, More Responsibility, and With God's Help, A Better World."

Contents

History

The JBS was established in Indianapolis on December 9, 1958 by Robert Welch, Jr., who was a retired candy manufacturer from Belmont, Massachusetts. To the founding meeting Welch invited men he felt were patriotic and public-spirited. A transcript of Welch's two-day presentation at the 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.

The Society's objective was to fight communism using some of communism's own techniques -- organization of front groups, infiltration of other groups. One of the first public activities of the JBS was the "Get US out!" campaign, an anti-United Nations campaign which alleged in 1959 that the "Real nature of [the] UN is to build One World Government (New World Order)." 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. A major tactic of the JBS was organizing massive letter-writing campaigns to public officials and advertisers.

One Man's Opinion, a magazine launched by Welch in 1956, was renamed American Opinion and became the Society's official publication. It has since been replaced by the bi-weekly magazine, The New American.

By March of 1961, the Society had an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 members, hundreds of chapters 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." (Higher membership figures are dismissed by serious scholars as inflated.)

Political Research Associates, an organization that is critical of the JBS, reports that "[a]ccording to Welch [...] 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.'"[1] (http://www.publiceye.org/tooclose/jbs.html)

Much of the Society's early conspiracism, charged Political Research Associates, "reflects an ultraconservative business nationalist critique of business internationalists networked through groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The JBS views the CFR through a conspiracist lens as a puppet of the Rockefeller family, according to Rockefeller, 'Internationalist': The Man Who Misrules the World, a 1952 book by Emanuel M. Josephson. In 1962 Dan Smoot's The Invisible Government added several other policy groups to the JBS's 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 - a former employee of the FBI who left to establish an anticommunist newsletter - concluded that, "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."

JBS authors also elaborate on earlier Illuminati Freemason conspiracy theories, 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"[2] (http://www.publiceye.org/tooclose/jbs.html). Unlike most advocates of the Illuminati-Freemason conspiracy theory, however, The John Birch Society strenuously denies harboring any anti-Semitic views, and claims to have many Jewish members.

The Republican Party mainstream grew progressively more disaffected with the the JBS after Welch circulated a letter calling President Dwight D. Eisenhower a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy." Welch expanded on his allegations in a book titled The Politician, written in 1956 and published by the JBS in 1963. In it, he declared that Eisenhower's brother Milton was Ike's superior within the "Communist apparatus" and alleged that other top government officials were also communist agents, including ex-president Truman and Roosevelt, as well as former United States Secretary 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. Mainstream journalists began to portray the JBS as a fringe group of conspiracy theorists and dubbed them "Birchers."

In their early days, the JBS shared a common ideology and some overlapping membership with Fred Schwarz and his California-based Christian Anti-Communism Crusade.

John 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 Richard 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 National 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 was an impediment to electoral success.

John Birch Society members and allies 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, which suggested that the Republican Party was secretly controlled by elitist intellectuals dominated by members of the Bilderberger banking conference, and 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 A. 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."

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."

Key John Birch Society causes of the 1970s included opposition to OSHA and the establishment of diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China. The organization claimed in 1973 that the regime of Mao Zedong had murdered 64 million Chinese as of that year, and further accused the country of being the primary supplier of illicit heroin into the United States. The Society was also vehemently opposed to transferring control of the Panama Canal from American to Panamanian sovereignty.

The second John Birch Society chairman, US Representative Dr. Larry McDonald, was killed in the 1983 KAL-007 shootdown incident. Society members suggested that McDonald had been the principal target of the Soviets in the attack upon the airplane.

During the 1990s and in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the Society has opposed Free Trade agreements such as North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and the newly proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). It continues to press for an end to United States membership in the United Nations, and it points to the Utah legislature's recent resolution calling for the US to take such a step as evidence of the effectiveness of JBS lobbying.

By the time of Welch's death in 1985, the Birch Society's membership and influence had dramatically declined, but the UN's role in the Gulf War and President George H. W. Bush's call for a 'New World Order' appeared to many JBS members to validate their claims about a "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 somewhat to more than 55,000.

Chairmen

See also

External links

Sources

  • "Birch Society Investigated," Idaho Statesman, October 9, 1964.
  • Ronald Sullivan, “Foes of Rising Birch Society Organize in Jersey,” New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com), April 20, 1966, pp. 1, 34.
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