Name: John Birch Society
Founded: December 9, 1958 in Indianapolis
The John Birch Society was, for a long time, the principle radical right and anti-communist organization in the United States. Founded by Robert Welch, a retired candymaker from Massachusetts, the group was initially based upon a monologue delivered by Welch in a hotel room to a number of like-minded people. This monologue was later transcribed The Blue Book of the John Birch Society, given to each new member. The name of the Society comes from John Birch, an American intelligence officer killed by Communists in China in August, 1945.
Unlike many other groups the John Birch Society had heavy backing from industrialist and corporations, particularly oil companies and the defense industry. This money made the Society the best funded of all radical right organizations, allowing them to set up thousands of chapters across the country and, by 1963, having at least 80,000 members. As Sara Diamond's book wrote in her book Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States,
By 1963, corporations were spending an estimated $25 million per year on anticommunist literature. ...Some corporations circulated print and audio-visual materials produced by the John Birch Society; other corporations produced their own in-house literature. ...By the early 1960s, the Nation magazine reported that there was a minimum of 6,600 corporate-financed anticommunist broadcasts, carried by more than 1,300 radio and television stations at a total annual budget of about $20 million. ...Leading sponsors included Texas oil billionaire H.L. Hunt and Howard J. Pew of Sun Oil. The corporate sector's massive anticommunist propaganda campaigns created a favorable climate for the mobilization of activist groups like the John Birch Society.
The basic principle of the John Birch Society was that both the United States and the Soviet Union was controlled by a conspiracy of internationalists, bankers, communists, and corrupt politicians out to control and repress the people. Although the two sides may appear at odds with each other, if left unchecked they would eventually use the power and influence to create a single world government based upon socialist principles. Collectivism, no matter what it's form, was the enemy. Welch wrote that even "the Greek and the Roman civilizations ...perish[ed] of the cancer of collectivism, and the civilization of Western Europe is doing so today."
Very little of this was different from the themes and arguments raised by right-wing groups opposed to New Deal legislation before World War II. The John Birch Society has advocated things like abolishing progressive income taxes, eliminating social security, pulling out of the United Nations, a return to traditional Judeo-Christian values (as they interpret them) and the impeachment of a large number of government officials which have allegedly betrayed American principles. For a long time, the US State Department was their chief target, often referring to it as "Communist headquarters in Washington".
John Birch Society Today
Although the John Birch Society is normally thought of as a remnant of the Cold War past, it still exists and is still active. One of the ways it influences society is through the Council for National Policy, which the John Birch Society was instrumental in founding.
The John Birch Society tends to see anti-American enemies everywhere - typically liberals and leftists. Although the Cold War is over and the principle enemy of the past, the communists, no longer seem like such a threat, that hasn't deterred the Society. Today, the John Birch Society talks much more about the threat posed by "collectivism" and "collectivists" rather than communism. After the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma, the John Birch Society was telling people that it was probably committed by leftists seeking to embarrass genuine patriots.
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