John Birch Society

John Birch Society

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The John Birch Society is an American political advocacy group that supports anti-communism
Anti-communism
Anti-communism is opposition to communism. Organized anti-communism developed in reaction to the rise of communism, especially after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and the beginning of the Cold War in 1947.-Objections to communist theory:...

, limited government
Limited government
Limited government is a government which anything more than minimal governmental intervention in personal liberties and the economy is generally disallowed by law, usually in a written constitution. It is written in the United States Constitution in Article 1, Section 8...

, a Constitutional Republic and personal freedom. It has been described as radical right-wing.

Founder Robert W. Welch Jr.
Robert W. Welch Jr.
Robert Henry Winborne Welch Jr. was an American businessman, political activist and author. He was independently wealthy following his retirement and used that wealth to sponsor anti-communist causes. He co-founded the conservative group the John Birch Society in 1958 and tightly controlled it...

 (1899–1985) developed an elaborate organizational infrastructure in 1958 that enabled him to keep a very tight rein on the chapters. Originally based in Belmont, Massachusetts
Belmont, Massachusetts
Belmont is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The population was 24,729 at the 2010 census.- History :Belmont was founded on March 18, 1859 by former citizens of, and land from the bordering towns of Watertown, to the south; Waltham, to the west; and Arlington, then...

, it is now headquartered in Grand Chute, Wisconsin
Grand Chute, Wisconsin
Grand Chute is a town in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, United States. The city of Appleton and unincorporated community of Apple Creek are partially located in the town...

, with local chapters in all 50 states. The organization owns American Opinion Publishing, which publishes the journal The New American.

Values


The society upholds an originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution
Originalism
In the context of United States constitutional interpretation, originalism is a principle of interpretation that tries to discover the original meaning or intent of the constitution. It is based on the principle that the judiciary is not supposed to create, amend or repeal laws but only to uphold...

, which it identifies with fundamentalist Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 principles, seeks to limit governmental powers, and opposes wealth redistribution, and economic interventionism
Economic interventionism
Economic interventionism is an action taken by a government in a market economy or market-oriented mixed economy, beyond the basic regulation of fraud and enforcement of contracts, in an effort to affect its own economy...

. It not only opposes practices it terms collectivism
Collectivism
Collectivism is any philosophic, political, economic, mystical or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals. Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation...

, Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

, and communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

, but socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 and fascism
Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

 as well, which it asserts is infiltrating US governmental administration. In a 1983 edition of Crossfire
Crossfire (TV series)
Crossfire was a current events debate television program that aired from 1982 to 2005 on CNN. Its format was designed to present and challenge the opinions of a politically liberal pundit and a conservative pundit.-Format:...

, Congressman Larry McDonald
Larry McDonald
Lawrence Patton McDonald, M.D. was an American politician and a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the seventh congressional district of Georgia as a Democrat...

 (D
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

-Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

), then its newly appointed president, characterized the society as belonging to the Old Right
Old Right (United States)
The Old Right was a conservative faction in the United States that opposed both New Deal domestic programs and U.S. entry into World War II. Many members of this faction were associated with the Republicans of the interwar years led by Robert Taft, but some were Democrats...

 rather than the New Right
New Right
New Right is used in several countries as a descriptive term for various policies or groups that are right-wing. It has also been used to describe the emergence of Eastern European parties after the collapse of communism.-Australia:...

.

The society opposed aspects of the 1960's civil rights movement
Civil rights movement
The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was...

 because it claimed the movement had communists in important positions. In the latter half of 1965, the JBS produced a flyer titled “What’s Wrong With Civil Rights?,” which was used as a newspaper advertisement. In the piece, one of the answers was: “For the civil rights movement in the United States, with all of its growing agitation and riots and bitterness, and insidious steps towards the appearance of a civil war, has not been infiltrated by the Communists, as you now frequently hear. It has been deliberately and almost wholly created by the Communists patiently building up to this present stage for more than forty years.” The society opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...

, claiming it violated the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791...

 and overstepped individual states' rights to enact laws regarding civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

. The society opposes "one world government", and has an immigration reduction
Immigration reduction
Immigration reduction refers to a movement in the United States that advocates a reduction in the amount of immigration allowed into the country. Steps advocated for reducing the numbers of immigrants include advocating stronger action to prevent illegal entry and illegal immigration, and...

 view on immigration reform
Immigration reform
Immigration reform is a term used in political discussion regarding changes to current immigration policy of a country. In its strict definition, "reform " means to change into an improved form or condition, by amending or removing faults or abuses....

. It opposes the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, the North American Free Trade Agreement
North American Free Trade Agreement
The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA is an agreement signed by the governments of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. It superseded the Canada – United States Free Trade Agreement...

 (NAFTA), the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas
Free Trade Area of the Americas
The Free Trade Area of the Americas , , ) was a proposed agreement to eliminate or reduce the trade barriers among all countries in the Americas but Cuba. In the last round of negotiations, trade ministers from 34 countries met in Miami, United States, in November 2003 to discuss the proposal...

 (FTAA), and other free trade agreements. They argue the U.S. Constitution has been devalued to favor of political and economic globalization
Globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

, and that such alleged trend is not accidental. It cites the existence of the Security and Prosperity Partnership as evidence of a push towards a North American Union
North American Union
The North American Union is a theoretical economic union, in some instances also a political union, of Canada, Mexico, and the United States...

. Stuart A. Wright has said that their political racism however was no different from both Republicans and Democratic politicians of the time.

Characterizations


It has been described as "ultraconservative", "far right", and "extremist". The Southern Poverty Law Center
Southern Poverty Law Center
The Southern Poverty Law Center is an American nonprofit civil rights organization noted for its legal victories against white supremacist groups; legal representation for victims of hate groups; monitoring of alleged hate groups, militias and extremist organizations; and educational programs that...

 lists the society as a "'Patriot' Group". Other sources consider the society as part of the patriot movement
Patriot movement
The Patriot Movement is a loose collection of independent minarchist social movements in the United States beginning in the latter half of the 20th century...

.

Origins


The society was established in Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

, on December 9, 1958, by a group of 12 led by Robert Welch, Jr., a retired candy manufacturer from Belmont, Massachusetts
Belmont, Massachusetts
Belmont is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. The population was 24,729 at the 2010 census.- History :Belmont was founded on March 18, 1859 by former citizens of, and land from the bordering towns of Watertown, to the south; Waltham, to the west; and Arlington, then...

. Welch named the new organization after John Birch
John Birch (missionary)
John Morrison Birch was an American military intelligence officer and a Baptist missionary in World War II who was shot by armed supporters of the Communist Party of China. Some politically conservative groups in the United States consider him to be a martyr and the first victim of the Cold War...

, an American Baptist
Baptist
Baptists comprise a group of Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers , and that it must be done by immersion...

 missionary
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 and U.S. military intelligence officer
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

 who was killed by communist forces in China in August 1945, shortly after the conclusion of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Welch claimed that Birch was an unknown but dedicated anti-communist, and the first American casualty, Welch contended, of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

.

One of the founding members was Fred Koch, founder of Koch Industries
Koch Industries
Koch Industries, Inc. , is an American private energy conglomerate based in Wichita, Kansas, with subsidiaries involved in manufacturing, trading and investments. Koch also owns Invista, Georgia-Pacific, Flint Hills Resources, Koch Pipeline, Koch Fertilizer, Koch Minerals and Matador Cattle Company...

, one of the largest private corporations in America. Another was Revilo P. Oliver
Revilo P. Oliver
Revilo Pendleton Oliver was an American professor of Classical philology, Spanish, and Italian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who wrote and polemicized extensively for white nationalist causes....

, a University of Illinois professor who later severed his relationship with the society and helped found the National Alliance. 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 member receiving a copy.
According to Welch, "both the U.S. 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 U.S. government would betray the country's sovereignty to the United Nations for a collectivist New World Order
New World Order (conspiracy)
In conspiracy theory, the term New World Order or NWO refers to the emergence of a totalitarian one-world government.The common theme in conspiracy theories about a New World Order is that a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an...

, managed by a 'one-world socialist government. Welch saw collectivism
Collectivism
Collectivism is any philosophic, political, economic, mystical or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals. Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation...

 as the main threat to Western Civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

, and liberals as "secret communist traitors" who provided cover for the gradual process of collectivism, with the ultimate goal of replacing the nations of western civilization with a one-world socialist government. "There are many stages of welfarism
Welfarism
Welfarism is a form of consequentialism. Like all forms of consequentialism, welfarism is based on the premise that actions, policies, and/or rules should be evaluated on the basis of their consequences. Welfarism is the view that the morally significant consequences are impacts on human welfare...

, socialism, and collectivism in general," he wrote, "but Communism is the ultimate state of them all, and they all lead inevitably in that direction."

The society's activities include distribution of literature, pamphlets, magazines, videos and other educational material while sponsoring a Speaker's Bureau, which invites "speakers who are keenly aware of the motivations that drive political policy". One of the first public activities of the society was a "Get US Out!" (of membership in the UN
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

) campaign, which claimed in 1959 that the "Real nature of [the] UN is to build a One World Government." In 1960, Welch advised JBS members to: "Join your local P.T.A.
Parent-Teacher Association
In the U.S. a parent-teacher association or Parent-Teacher-Student Association is a formal organization composed of parents, teachers and staff that is intended to facilitate parental participation in a public or private school. Most public and private K-8 schools in the U.S. have a PTA, a...

 at the beginning of the school year, get your conservative friends to do likewise, and go to work to take it over." One Man's Opinion, a magazine launched by Welch in 1956, was renamed American Opinion, and became the society's official publication. The society publishes the biweekly journal The New American.

1960s


By March 1961 the society had 60,000 to 100,000 members and, according to Welch, "a staff of 28 people in the Home Office; about 30 Coordinators (or Major Coordinators) in the field, who are fully paid as to salary and expenses; and about 100 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 Political Research Associates
Political Research Associates
Political Research Associates , named and known on the Web as PublicEye.org, is a non-profit research group located in Somerville, Massachusetts.-Mission:...

 (a progressive research group that investigates the far right), the society "pioneered grassroots lobbying, combining educational meetings, petition drives and letter-writing campaigns. One early campaign against the second summit between the United States and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 generated over 600,000 postcards and letters, according to the society. A June 1964 society campaign to oppose Xerox
Xerox
Xerox Corporation is an American multinational document management corporation that produced and sells a range of color and black-and-white printers, multifunction systems, photo copiers, digital production printing presses, and related consulting services and supplies...

 corporate sponsorship of TV programs favorable to the UN produced 51,279 letters from 12,785 individuals."

In the 1960s Welch insisted that the Johnson administration's fight against communism in Vietnam was part of a communist plot aimed at taking over the United States. Welch demanded that the United States get out of Vietnam, thus aligning the Society with the far left. The society opposed water fluoridation
Water fluoridation controversy
The water fluoridation controversy arises from moral, ethical, and safety concerns regarding the fluoridation of public water supplies. The controversy occurs mainly in English-speaking countries, as Continental Europe does not practice water fluoridation...

, which it called "mass medicine" and saw as a communist plot to poison Americans.

The JBS was moderately active in the 1960s with numerous chapters, but rarely engaged in coalition building with other conservatives. Indeed, it was rejected by most conservatives because of Welch's conspiracy theories. As Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter. She is known for her two best-selling novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and for developing a philosophical system she called Objectivism....

 said in a 1964 Playboy
Playboy
Playboy is an American men's magazine that features photographs of nude women as well as journalism and fiction. It was founded in Chicago in 1953 by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner's mother. The magazine has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc., with...

interview, "I consider the Birch Society futile, because they are not for capitalism but merely against communism... I gather they believe that the disastrous state of today's world is caused by a communist conspiracy. This is childishly naive and superficial. No country can be destroyed by a mere conspiracy, it can be destroyed only by ideas."

Former Eisenhower cabinet member Ezra Taft Benson
Ezra Taft Benson
Ezra Taft Benson was the thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1985 until his death and was United States Secretary of Agriculture for both terms of the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower.-Biography:Born on a farm in Whitney, Idaho, Benson was the oldest of...

—a leading Mormon—spoke in favor of the John Birch Society, but in January 1963 the LDS church issued a statement distancing itself from the Society. Antisemitic, racist, anti-Mormon, anti-Masonic, and various religious groups criticized the group's acceptance of Jews, non-whites, Masons, and Mormons. These opponents accused Welch of harboring feminist, ecumenical, and evolutionary ideas. Welch rejected these accusations by his detractors: "All we are interested in here is opposing the advance of the Communists, and eventually destroying the whole Communist conspiracy, so that Jews and Christians alike, and Mohammedans and Buddhists, can again have a decent world in which to live."

In 1964 Welch favored Barry Goldwater
Barry Goldwater
Barry Morris Goldwater was a five-term United States Senator from Arizona and the Republican Party's nominee for President in the 1964 election. An articulate and charismatic figure during the first half of the 1960s, he was known as "Mr...

 over Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 for the Republican presidential 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
1964 Republican National Convention
The 1964 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States took place in the Cow Palace, San Francisco, California, on July 13 to July 16, 1964. Before 1964, there had only been one national Republican convention on the West Coast...

. The JBS played no known role in the fall election campaign.

In April 1966, a New York Times article on New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 and the society voiced—in part—a concern for "the increasing tempo of radical right attacks on local government, libraries, school boards, parent-teacher associations, mental health programs, the Republican Party and, most recently, the ecumenical movement." It then characterized the society as "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."

Eisenhower issue


Welch wrote in a widely circulated statement, The Politician, "Could Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 really be simply a smart politician, entirely without principles and hungry for glory, who is only the tool of the Communists? The answer is yes." He went on. "With regard to ... Eisenhower, it is difficult to avoid raising the question of deliberate treason."

The controversial paragraph was removed before final publication of The Politician.

The sensationalism of Welch's charges against Eisenhower prompted several conservatives and Republicans, most prominently Goldwater and the intellectuals of William F. Buckley
William F. Buckley, Jr.
William Frank Buckley, Jr. was an American conservative author and commentator. He founded the political magazine National Review in 1955, hosted 1,429 episodes of the television show Firing Line from 1966 until 1999, and was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist. His writing was noted for...

's circle, to renounce outright or quietly shun the group. Buckley, 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 Birch Society. From then on Buckley, who was editor of National Review
National Review
National Review is a biweekly magazine founded by the late author William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1955 and based in New York City. It describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion."Although the print version of the...

, became the leading intellectual spokesman and organizer of the anti-Bircher conservatives. In fact, Buckley's biographer John B. Judis wrote that "Buckley was beginning to worry that with the John Birch Society growing so rapidly, the right-wing upsurge in the country would take an ugly, even Fascist turn rather than leading toward the kind of conservatism National Review had promoted."

1970s


The society was at the center of an important free-speech law case in the 1970s, after American Opinion accused a Chicago lawyer representing the family of a young man killed by a police officer of being part of a Communist conspiracy to merge all police agencies in the country into one large force. The resulting libel
Slander and libel
Defamation—also called calumny, vilification, traducement, slander , and libel —is the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image...

 suit, Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc.
Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc.
Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323 , was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States established the standard of First Amendment protection against defamation claims brought by private individuals...

, reached the United States Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

, which held that a state may allow a private figure such as Gertz to recover actual damages from a media defendant without proving malice, but that a public figure does have to prove actual malice, according to the standard laid out in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan
New York Times Co. v. Sullivan
New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 , was a United States Supreme Court case which established the actual malice standard which has to be met before press reports about public officials or public figures can be considered to be defamation and libel; and hence allowed free reporting of the...

, in order to recover presumed damages or punitive damages. The court ordered a retrial in which Gertz prevailed.

Key society causes of the 1970s included opposition to both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. It was created by Congress of the United States under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, signed by President Richard M. Nixon, on December 29, 1970...

 (OSHA) and to the establishment of diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China. The society claimed in 1973 that the regime of Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

 had murdered 64 million Chinese as of that year and that it was the primary supplier of illicit heroin into the United States. This led to bumper stickers showing a pair of scissors cutting a hypodermic needle in half accompanied by the slogan "Cut The Red China Connection." According to the Voice of America, the society also was opposed to transferring control of the Panama Canal
Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is a ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. Built from 1904 to 1914, the canal has seen annual traffic rise from about 1,000 ships early on to 14,702 vessels measuring a total of 309.6...

 from American to Panamanian sovereignty.

The society was organized into local chapters during this period. Ernest Brosang, a New Jersey regional coordinator, claimed that it was virtually impossible for opponents of the society to penetrate its policy-making levels, thereby protecting it from "anti-American" takeover attempts. Its activities included the distribution of literature critical of civil rights legislation, warnings over the influence of the United Nations, and the release of petitions to impeach U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren
Earl Warren
Earl Warren was the 14th Chief Justice of the United States.He is known for the sweeping decisions of the Warren Court, which ended school segregation and transformed many areas of American law, especially regarding the rights of the accused, ending public-school-sponsored prayer, and requiring...

. To spread their message, members held showings of documentary films and operated initiatives such as "Let Freedom Ring", a nation-wide network of recorded telephone messages.

After Welch



By the time of Welch's death in 1985, the society's membership and influence had dramatically declined, but the UN's role in the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 and President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 George H.W. Bush's
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 call for a 'New World Order' appeared to many society members to validate their claims about a "One World Government"
New World Order (conspiracy)
In conspiracy theory, the term New World Order or NWO refers to the emergence of a totalitarian one-world government.The common theme in conspiracy theories about a New World Order is that a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an...

 conspiracy.

The society continues to press for an end to U.S. membership in the United Nations. As evidence of the effectiveness of JBS efforts, the society points to the Utah State Legislature
Utah State Legislature
The Utah State Legislature is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Utah. It is a bicameral body, comprising the Utah House of Representatives, with 75 Representatives, and the Utah Senate, with 29 State Senators...

's failed resolution calling for U.S. withdrawal, as well as the actions of several other states where the Society's membership has been active. The society repeatedly opposed overseas war-making, although it is strongly supportive of the American military. It has issued calls to "Bring Our Troops Home" in every conflict since its founding, including Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

. The society also has a national speakers' committee called American Opinion Speakers Bureau (AOSB) and an anti-tax committee called TRIM (Tax Reform IMmediately).

The second head of the Society was Congressman Larry McDonald
Larry McDonald
Lawrence Patton McDonald, M.D. was an American politician and a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the seventh congressional district of Georgia as a Democrat...

 from Georgia, who was killed on September 1, 1983, when the Soviets shot down KAL 007. The only congressman killed by the Soviets during the Cold War, he was on the way to the 30th year commemoration of the U.S.-S. Korea Mutual Defense Treaty in Seoul.

2009–present


The Society has been active in supporting the auditing of, and aims to eventually dismantle, the Federal Reserve System
Federal Reserve System
The Federal Reserve System is the central banking system of the United States. It was created on December 23, 1913 with the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act, largely in response to a series of financial panics, particularly a severe panic in 1907...

. The JBS believes that the U.S. Constitution gave only Congress the ability to coin money, and did not intend for it to delegate this power to a banking monopoly, or to transform it into a fiat currency
Fiat money
Fiat money is money that has value only because of government regulation or law. The term derives from the Latin fiat, meaning "let it be done", as such money is established by government decree. Where fiat money is used as currency, the term fiat currency is used.Fiat money originated in 11th...

 not backed by gold or silver.

The JBS was a co-sponsor of the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference
Conservative Political Action Conference
The Conservative Political Action Conference is an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States....

, ending its decades-long exile from the mainstream conservative movement.

In popular culture

  • In 1964, Dizzy Gillespie
    Dizzy Gillespie
    John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was an American jazz trumpet player, bandleader, singer, and composer dubbed "the sound of surprise".Together with Charlie Parker, he was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz...

     made a semi-satirical run for President, and formed chapters of the "John Birks Society" (his real name was John Birks Gillespie) in 25 states.
  • Bob Dylan
    Bob Dylan
    Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, film director and painter. He has been a major and profoundly influential figure in popular music and culture for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly...

     wrote "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues
    Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues
    Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues, also known as Talkin' John Birch Society Blues and Talkin' John Birch Blues, is a talking blues song written by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 1962. It is a satirical song, in which a paranoid narrator is convinced that communists, or "Reds" as he calls them, are...

    ", narrated by a paranoid society member who looks everywhere for Communists, even in his toilet bowl and at one point decides that they are in his television set.
  • Charlie Daniels
    Charlie Daniels
    Charles Edward "Charlie" Daniels is an American musician known for his contributions to country and southern rock music. He is known primarily for his number one country hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", and multiple other songs he has performed and written. Daniels has been active as a singer...

     song Uneasy Rider references the group – the man with green teeth responds, "I'm a faithful follower of Brother John Birch."
  • General Jack Ripper in the movie Dr. Strangelove was based upon the John Birch Society's anti-fluoridation
    Water fluoridation controversy
    The water fluoridation controversy arises from moral, ethical, and safety concerns regarding the fluoridation of public water supplies. The controversy occurs mainly in English-speaking countries, as Continental Europe does not practice water fluoridation...

     campaign.
  • The Chad Mitchell Trio
    Chad Mitchell Trio
    The Chad Mitchell Trio were a North American vocal group who became known during the 1960s. They performed folk songs, some of which were traditionally passed down and some of their own compositions. Unlike many fellow folk music groups, none of the trio played instruments...

     performed the satirical song "The John Birch Society".
  • Steve Jackson Games
    Steve Jackson Games
    Steve Jackson Games is a game company, founded in 1980 by Steve Jackson, that creates and publishes role-playing, board, and card games, and the gaming magazine Pyramid.-History:...

     included a mythical "Fred Birch Society" as one of hundreds of groups in the collectible card game
    Collectible card game
    thumb|Players and their decksA collectible card game , also called a trading card game or customizable card game, is a game played using specially designed sets of playing cards...

     Illuminati: New World Order
    Illuminati: New World Order
    Illuminati: New World Order is a collectible card game that was released in 1995 by Steve Jackson Games, based on their original boxed game Illuminati, which in turn was inspired by The Illuminatus! Trilogy...

    .
  • Walt Kelly
    Walt Kelly
    Walter Crawford Kelly, Jr. , or Walt Kelly, was an American animator and cartoonist, best known for the comic strip, Pogo. He began his animation career in 1936 at Walt Disney Studios, contributing to Pinocchio and Fantasia. Kelly resigned in 1941 at the age of 28 to work at Post-Hall Syndicate,...

     used his comic strip Pogo to produce a satire that appeared in book form as "The Jack Acid Society Black Book."

Presidents

  • Robert W. Welch, Jr. (1958–1983)
  • Larry McDonald
    Larry McDonald
    Lawrence Patton McDonald, M.D. was an American politician and a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the seventh congressional district of Georgia as a Democrat...

     (1983) – a U.S. Representative
    United States House of Representatives
    The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

     killed by the Soviet Air Force in the 1983 KAL-007 shootdown incident.
  • Robert W. Welch, Jr. (1983–1985)
  • Charles R. Armour (1985-1991)
  • John F. McManus (1991–2004, 2005–present)
  • G. Vance Smith (2004–2005)

CEOs

  • G. Allen Bubolz (1988–1991)
  • G. Vance Smith (1991–2005)
  • Arthur R. Thompson
    Arthur R. Thompson
    Arthur R. Thompson is the CEO of the John Birch Society, and took office in 2005.- Citations :...

     (2005–present)

Members


One survey in the early 1970s found the typical John Birch Society members were middle or upper-middle class, Republican and Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

. They were also fairly young and well educated: the majority of the sample was under 40 at time of recruitment and had completed at least three years of college. A later survey in the mid 1980s found the membership then was disproportionately from the Southwestern United States
Southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...

, young, urban, male, and Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

. They were consistently conservative on secular issues, antigovernment, and negative toward communism. Wilcox (1988) reports the evidence does not support liberal notions that irrationality, social strains, or status anxiety explained their beliefs.

Notable members



  • Robert Adelmann
    Robert Adelmann
    H. Robert “Bob” Adelmann is a libertarian journalist, public speaker and former businessman known for his focus on economic issues, particularly the role of the Federal Reserve System in US history. Adelmann is unabashedly conservative, holding life memberships in both the John Birch Society and...

  • Gary Allen
    Gary Allen
    Gary Allen was an American conservative journalist.-Background:As a student, Allen was majoring in history at Stanford University and studied at California State University, Long Beach. He was a prominent member of the John Birch Society, of which he was a spokesman...

  • Thomas J. Anderson
    Thomas J. Anderson
    Thomas Jefferson Anderson was an American conservative author, farmer, and candidate for the U.S. presidency.-Early life:...

  • Lloyd W. Bailey
    Lloyd W. Bailey
    Dr. Lloyd W. Bailey is a faithless elector, physician and ophthalmologist, now retired, from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, who achieved notoriety during the 1968 U.S...

  • Guy Banister
    Guy Banister
    William Guy Banister was a career member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a private investigator. He gained notoriety from the allegations made by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, after Banister's death, that he had been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy...

  • Reed Benson
    Reed Benson
    Reed Amussen Benson is a retired Brigham Young University professor of religion who was also at one time a member of the John Birch Society and is noted for his extreme political conservatism and his advocacy of homeschooling....

  • Taylor Caldwell
    Taylor Caldwell
    Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell was an Anglo-American novelist and prolific author of popular fiction, also known by the pen names Marcus Holland and Max Reiner, and by her married name of J. Miriam Reback....

  • Roy Cohn
    Roy Cohn
    Roy Marcus Cohn was an American attorney who became famous during Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigations into Communist activity in the United States during the Second Red Scare. Cohn gained special prominence during the Army–McCarthy hearings. He was also an important member of the U.S...

  • Robert DePugh
    Robert DePugh
    Robert Boliver "Bob" DePugh was an American anti-Communist activist who founded the Minutemen militant anti-Communist organization in 1961.-Life and career:...

  • Medford Bryan Evans
    Medford Bryan Evans
    Medford Bryan Evans was a college professor, author, editor and father of M. Stanton Evans.Evans was born August 21, 1907 in Lufkin, Texas, the son of Lysander Lee Evans and Bird Medford Evans. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1927 and took a Ph.D....

  • Bonner Fellers
    Bonner Fellers
    Bonner Frank Fellers , was a U.S. Army officer who served during World War II as military attaché and psychological warfare director. He was a considered a protégé of General Douglas MacArthur.-World War II:...

  • John William Finn
    John William Finn
    John William Finn was a sailor in the United States Navy who, as a chief petty officer, received the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II...

  • Ezola B. Foster
    Ezola B. Foster
    Ezola Broussard Foster is an American activist, writer, and politician. She is president of Black Americans for Family Values, authored the book What's Right for All Americans, and was the Reform Party candidate for Vice President in the U.S. presidential election of 2000...


  • G. Edward Griffin
    G. Edward Griffin
    G. Edward Griffin is an American film producer, author, and political lecturer. He is perhaps best known as the author of The Creature from Jekyll Island , a critique of much modern economic theory and practice, specifically the Federal Reserve System.Starting as a child actor, he became a radio...

  • William Norman Grigg
    William Norman Grigg
    William Norman Grigg has authored several books from a Constitutionalist perspective. He used to be a senior editor of The New American magazine.-Biography:...

  • J. Evetts Haley
    J. Evetts Haley
    James Evetts Haley, Sr., usually known as J. Evetts Haley , was a Texas-born political activist and historian who wrote multiple works on the American West, including an enduring biography of legendary cattleman Charles Goodnight...

  • Billy James Hargis
    Billy James Hargis
    Billy James Hargis was a fundamentalist Protestant Christian evangelist. At the height of his popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, his Christian Crusade ministry was broadcast on more than 500 radio stations and 250 television stations...

  • Merwin K. Hart
    Merwin K. Hart
    Merwin Kimball Hart was an American political figure.Born in Utica, New York, Hart attended Harvard in 1900, graduating in 1904 in the same class as Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was elected to the New York State Assembly in the election of 1906, and was involved with the Progressive Movement...

  • Edgar W. Hiestand
    Edgar W. Hiestand
    Edgar Willard Hiestand was a staunch Anti-Communist who served ten years in the United States Congress.Hiestand was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 3, 1888. A Republican and member of the John Birch Society, he represented California's 21st Congressional District from 1953 until 1963, when...

  • William P. Hoar
    William P. Hoar
    William P. Hoar is a writer for the John Birch Society noted for very strong attacks on mainstream politicians from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush...

  • H. L. Hunt
    H. L. Hunt
    Haroldson Lafayette Hunt, Jr. , known throughout his life as "H. L. Hunt," was a Texas oil tycoon and conservative activist. He built one of the world's largest fortunes by trading poker winnings for oil rights, ultimately securing title to much of the East Texas Oil Field, one of the world's very...

  • Meir Kahane
    Meir Kahane
    Martin David Kahane , also known as Meir Kahane , was an American-Israeli rabbi and ultra-nationalist writer and political figure. He was an ordained Orthodox rabbi and later served as a member of the Israeli Knesset...

     (as FBI informant)
  • Carl Karcher
    Carl Karcher
    Carl Nicholas Karcher, SMOM was an American businessman, founder of the Carl's Jr. hamburger chain, now owned by parent company CKE Restaurants, Inc.-Early life:...

  • Jamie Kelso
    Jamie Kelso
    Jamie Kelso is Administrator and owner of the American White Nationalist websites WhiteNewsNow.com and TheWhiteRace.com . He hosts daily webradio programs, including The Jamie Kelso Show on the Voice of Reason Broadcast Network ReasonRadioNetwork.com.-Early life and background:Kelso was born in...

  • Granville Knight
    Granville Knight
    Granville Frank Knight was a physician and anti-communist activist. He was a leading member of the John Birch Society in California....

  • Fred C. Koch
    Fred C. Koch
    Fred Chase Koch was an American chemical engineer and entrepreneur who founded the oil refinery firm that later became Koch Industries, the second-largest privately-held company in the United States....


  • Alfred Kohlberg
  • David Lane
  • Jacqueline Logan
    Jacqueline Logan
    Jacqueline Logan was a star of the silent motion picture screen who was on board William Randolph Hearst's yacht The Oneida in 1924 when film director Thomas Ince died. The young actress was under contract to Ince at the time. Logan was a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1922. She was born in Corsicana, Texas...

  • Robert Jay Mathews
    Robert Jay Mathews
    Robert Jay Mathews was the leader of an American white nationalist group The Order.Mathews was burned to death during the intense gunfight with approximately seventy-five of the federal law enforcement agents who surrounded his house on Whidbey Island, near Freeland, Washington.Mathews' life was...

  • Larry McDonald
    Larry McDonald
    Lawrence Patton McDonald, M.D. was an American politician and a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the seventh congressional district of Georgia as a Democrat...

  • Tom Metzger
    Tom Metzger
    Thomas Metzger is an American white nationalist who founded White Aryan Resistance . His far-right activist groups, including WAR, have been monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an American organization that tracks hate groups...

  • David A. Noebel
    David A. Noebel
    David A. Noebel is an American religious leader and writer. He is the current director of Summit Ministries, in Manitou Springs, Colorado in the United States...

  • Revilo P. Oliver
    Revilo P. Oliver
    Revilo Pendleton Oliver was an American professor of Classical philology, Spanish, and Italian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who wrote and polemicized extensively for white nationalist causes....

  • Robert M. Owens
    Robert M. Owens
    Robert M. Owens , is a Delaware, Ohio lawyer who ran as an independent candidate for Ohio Attorney General in the November 4, 2008 election. Owens currently serves on the national council of The John Birch Society.- Education :Owens graduated with honors from Ohio Wesleyan University, with a major...

  • Floyd Paxton
    Floyd Paxton
    Floyd G. Paxton is the inventor of the bread clip, a notched plastic tag used for sealing bags of bread worldwide. It is manufactured by the Kwik Lok corporation, and part of the proceeds for each clip go to the John Birch Society, of which Paxton was a director and past President.Floyd Paxton was...

  • Westbrook Pegler
    Westbrook Pegler
    Francis James Westbrook Pegler was an American journalist and writer. He was a popular columnist in the 1930s and 1940s famed for his opposition to the New Deal and labor unions. Pegler criticized every president from Herbert Hoover to FDR to Harry Truman to John F. Kennedy...

  • William Luther Pierce
    William Luther Pierce
    William Luther Pierce III was the leader of the white separatist National Alliance organization, and one of the most important ideologists of the white nationalist movement. Pierce originally worked as an assistant professor of physics at Oregon State University, before he became involved in...

  • John Rees
    John Rees (journalist)
    John Rees is a British right wing journalist resident in the United States of America. Based out of Baltimore, Maryland, he was active during the 1970s and 1980s. He ran a network of private informants on college campuses in the United States, that Political Research Associates referred to as often...


  • H. L. Richardson
    H. L. Richardson
    Hubert Leon "Bill" Richardson founded Gun Owners of America in 1975 and served as a California state senator from 1966–1988. He served as the state senate's Republican Caucus Chair for several of these years. He was also the unsuccessful Republican candidate for the United States Senate in 1974,...

  • Thomas Robb
    Thomas Robb
    Thomas Robb, also known as Thom Robb, is the national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and a pastor at the Christian Revival Center.-Early life:Thomas Robb was born in Detroit, Michigan into a Baptist family and grew up in Tucson, Arizona....

  • Archibald Roosevelt
    Archibald Roosevelt
    Archibald Bulloch "Archie" Roosevelt , the fifth child of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, was a distinguished U.S. Army officer and commander of U.S. forces in both World War I and II. In both conflicts he was wounded. He earned the Croix de guerre and Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster,...

  • John H. Rousselot
    John H. Rousselot
    John Harbin Rousselot was a U.S. Representative from southern California. Born in 1927 in Los Angeles, California, Rousselot attended the public schools of San Marino and South...

  • Morrie Ryskind
    Morrie Ryskind
    Morrie Ryskind was an American dramatist, lyricist and writer of theatrical productions and motion pictures, who became a conservative political activist later in life.-Biography:...

  • Kurt Saxon
    Kurt Saxon
    Kurt Saxon, born Donald Eugene Sisco on March 6, 1932, is a survivalist and the author of The Poor Man's James Bond, a series of books on improvised weapons and munitions.-History:...

  • Phyllis Schlafly
    Phyllis Schlafly
    Phyllis McAlpin Stewart Schlafly is a Constitutional lawyer and an American politically conservative activist and author who founded the Eagle Forum. She is known for her opposition to modern feminism ideas and for her campaign against the proposed Equal Rights Amendment...

  • John G. Schmitz
    John G. Schmitz
    John George Schmitz was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives and California State Senate from Orange County, California. He was also a member of the John Birch Society...

  • George Schuyler
    George Schuyler
    George Samuel Schuyler , was an African American author, journalist and social commentator known for his conservative views.-Early life:George Samuel Schuyler was born in Providence, Rhode Island to George Francis and Eliza Jane Schuyler...

  • Philippa Schuyler
    Philippa Schuyler
    Philippa Duke Schuyler was a noted American child prodigy and pianist who became famous in the 1930s and 1940s as a result of her talent, mixed race parentage, and the eccentric methods employed by her mother to bring her up....

  • Eric Show
    Eric Show
    Eric Vaughn Show was a Major League Baseball player who played for most of his career with the San Diego Padres. On September 11, 1985, Show gave up Pete Rose's record-breaking 4,192nd career hit...

  • Edwin Walker
    Edwin Walker
    Major General Edwin Anderson Walker was a United States Army officer known for his conservative political views and for being an attempted assassination target of Lee Harvey Oswald.-Early life and military career:...

  • John Wayne
    John Wayne
    Marion Mitchell Morrison , better known by his stage name John Wayne, was an American film actor, director and producer. He epitomized rugged masculinity and became an enduring American icon. He is famous for his distinctive calm voice, walk, and height...



Scholarly studies

  • McGirr, Lisa. Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (2001), focus on Los Angeles suburbs in 1960s
  • Schoenwald; Jonathan . A Time for Choosing: The Rise of Modern American Conservatism (2002) pp 62–99 excerpt and text search
  • Stone, Barbara S. "The John Birch Society: a Profile," Journal of Politics 1974 36(1): 184-197,
  • Wilcox, Clyde. "Sources of Support for the Old Right: a Comparison of the John Birch Society and the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade." Social Science History 1988 12(4): 429-450,
  • Wright, Stuart A. Patriots, politics, and the Oklahoma City bombing. Cambridge University Press. 11 June 2007. ISBN 978-0521872645

Primary sources

  • Robert W. Welch Jr. The New Americanism and Other Speeches. Boston: Western Islands, 1966.
  • Gary Allen. None Dare Call It Conspiracy. G S G & Associates, Inc., 1971.

Criticizing the John Birch Society

  • De Koster, Lester. (1967). The Citizen and the John Birch Society. A Reformed Journal monograph. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.
  • Epstein, Benjamin R., and Arnold Forster. (1966). The Radical Right: Report on the John Birch Society and Its Allies. New York: Vintage Books.
  • Grove, Gene. (1961). Inside the John Birch Society. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett.
  • Grupp, Fred W., Jr. (1969). "The Political Perspectives of Birch Society Members." In Robert A. Schoenberger (Ed.), The American Right
  • Hardisty, Jean V. (1999). Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers. Boston: Beacon.


External links