John Birch Society

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John Birch Society
John Birch Society.png
Existence 1958-present
Type political advocacy group
Purpose American conservative group opposed to communism and international globalism.
Location Grand Chute, Wisconsin, United States
Affiliation none
  CEO   Arthur Thompson

The John Birch Society is an American conservative organization founded in 1958 to fight threats to the Constitution of the United States, especially communist infiltration of the United States government. It was named after John Birch, a United States military intelligence officer and Baptist missionary in World War II who was killed in 1945 by armed supporters of the Communist Party of China, and whom the JBS describes as "the first American victim of the Cold War." His parents joined the society as life members.

Based in Appleton, Wisconsin, the society describes itself as "a membership-based organization dedicated to restoring and preserving freedom under the United States Constitution." The group claims its members come from all walks of life and are active in all fifty states through local chapters. Its mission is to achieve "Less Government, More Responsibility, and — With God's Help — a Better World." The JBS was formed as an educational organization and does not endorse candidates, but has often come out against political figures seen as un-American.

Core values

The John Birch Society is anti-socialist and anti-communist. It defends the original intention of the U.S. Constitution as revealed in the written commentaries of the Founding Fathers, especially the Anti-Federalist Papers. The John Birch Society opposes collectivism, which in its view includes wealth redistribution, economic interventionism, socialism, communism, and fascism. The Society believes that cabals and conspiracies throughout the world have significantly shaped history and opposes groups like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and Bilderbergs but rejects all accusations of a Jewish conspiracy to subvert society and nations.

During the 1960s, the John Birch Society opposed aspects of the civil rights movement because of concerns that the movement had a number of communists in important positions and because of argued connections with the American Communist Party. However since 1963 the Society has condemned all forms of racism and anti-Semitism within its ranks.[1] It opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because its provisions violated the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution and infringed on the rights of individual states to make laws regarding civil rights.

Finally, the John Birch Society is against a unified world government and has an illegal immigration reduction view on immigration reform. It has been a major opponent of the United Nations, NAFTA, CAFTA, and the FTAA, and other free-trade agreements with other nations, believing them to be destructive of American principles, the economy, freedom, and national sovereignty.

Origins

Robert Welch, Jr. founded the John Birch Society.

The John Birch Society was established in Indianapolis, Indiana on December 9, 1958 by a group of twelve "patriotic and public-spirited" men led by Robert Welch, Jr., a retired candy manufacturer from Belmont, Massachusetts. A noted founding member was Fred Koch, founder of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in America. 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.

Welch saw collectivism as the main threat to Western Civilization, and far-left 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 a worldwide 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." [2]

American Opinion Book Stores

The John Birch Society has organized grassroots chapters in every state and is the only Americanist organization to have full-time paid field staff assisting those chapters. Its activities include distribution of literature, pamphlets, magazines, videos and other educational material while sponsoring a Speaker's Bureau and encouraging members to conduct letter-writing campaigns to elected officials. The Society had over 400 American Opinion Book Stores across the nation selling approved books and literature. Books considered racist or antisemitic were officially banned, however in some areas these items were sold "under the table".

In February 1966, Donald Gray, (the Birch Society’s Wholesale Book Division Business Manager) sent a memo to all of the Society’s American Opinion Bookstores to clarify the type of material that should not be sold in, or recommended by, JBS bookstores. Gray describes the banned material as:

...most of the books and pamphlets with an anti-Semitic flavor which we omit from our booklist (that) are not of sufficient value in substance or scholarship to rise above the level of anti-Semitic invective or propaganda. Frankly, in our opinion, this applies to most of the books or pamphlets by Marilyn Allen, Richard Cotten, Myron Fagan, Kenneth Goff, Wickliffe Vennard, Eustace Mullins, Gerald L.K. Smith, Robert H. Williams, and Benjamin Freedman.

One of the first public activities of the JBS was a "Get US Out!" (of membership in the UN) campaign, which asserted in 1959 that the "Real nature of [the] UN is to build a 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."

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

1960s

By March 1961, the Society had an estimated 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."

Much of the Society's early views, according to Political Research Associates, reflect a "business nationalist critique of business internationalists networked through groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)." 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". [3] Unlike most advocates of the Illuminist-Freemasonic conspiracy theory, however, the Birch Society strenuously denies harboring any anti-Semitic or anti-masonic ideas, and indeed claims many Jews among its membership. At one point a key leader in the JBS, Revilo P. Oliver, resigned after a dispute over his suggestion of a significant Jewish role in the internationalist conspiracy.

Anti-Jewish, anti-Mormon, anti-Masonic, pro-White, and religious groups criticized the group's acceptance of Jews, non-Whites, Masons, the large number of Mormons in the Society (Ezra Taft Benson, a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, encouraged people to join it), and Welch's alleged feminist, ecumenical, and evolutionary ideas. [4] In 1966, Prof Revilo Oliver (now deceased), who was co-founder (with eleven others) of the Birch Society and Associate Editor of its major organ, American Opinion, claimed that Robert Welch, the JBS's principal founder, was controlled by Jews, the purpose of said control being to harmlessly absorb and deflect the energy and money of patriotic Americans who wished to fight the 'international communist conspiracy', while leaving unmolested the claimed Jewish-led conspiracy against America and Western civilization. [5]

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 U.S. 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 1964reference required and some were delegates at the 1964 Republican National Convention.

John Birch Society members and other opponents of Communism also authored several widely-distributed books that promoted conspiracy theories and mobilized support for the Goldwater campaign. The most popular of these was None Dare Call It Treason by John A. Stormer, which sold over seven million copies, making it one of the biggest-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 that "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."

1970s

The Society wound up at the center of an important free-speech law case in the 1970s, after one of its magazines, 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 suit, Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., reached the United States Supreme Court, which said opinions cannot be false under the First Amendment (while nevertheless finding for the plaintiff, who prevailed upon retrial).reference required

Key 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 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." The society also was vehemently opposed to transferring control of the Panama Canal from American to Panamanian sovereignty, resulting in another slogan: "Don't Give Panama Our Canal — Give Them Kissinger Instead."reference required

The John Birch Society was organized into local chapters. Ernest Brosang, a New Jersey regional coordinator, contended that it was virtually impossible for opponents of the society to penetrate its policy-making levels, thereby protecting it from anti-Americanist takeover attempts. Its activities included distribution of literature critical of so-called "civil rights" legislation, warning of the influence of the United Nations, and distributing petitions to impeach U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren. 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 Birch Society's membership and influence had dramatically declined, possibly due, in part, to the perceived ending of the Cold War, 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 populism in the United States helped The John Birch Society position itself for a comeback, and by 1995, its membership had grown somewhat to more than 55,000[who?] though that number is unofficial as the Society does not disclose its membership statistics.reference required

After that time period, the John Birch Society started a campaign to impeach President Bill Clinton for alleged connections with Chinese interests and on charges of treason and bribery[6]. Within months of the Society's call for impeachment, news of the Monica Lewinsky affair broke, and the Society's charges were overshadowed by media coverage of Lewinsky and Clinton. The President was eventually indicted on impeachment charges but the charges were different than the Society had hoped to bring. Clinton, however, was not convicted by the Senate because of the tenuous nature of the charges and the lack of necessary votes. Nevertheless, the impeachment campaign's relative success bolstered the Society and its public knowledge, membership, publication circulation, and finances.

During the 1990s (with a brief pause to work on the Clinton impeachment campaign) and in the first decade of the 21st century, the Society has opposed free-trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and the newly proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). CAFTA won a two-vote victory in the House (217–215), but the Society predicts the FTAA will have an even more difficult time.reference required

In recent years, The John Birch Society has been just as critical of President George W. Bush as it had been of Democratic presidents, accusing the Bush administration of advocating and carrying out acts of torture against suspected terrorist leaders during the War on Terror. In a 2005 online poll, the organization's membership voted for President Bush's impeachment[7], citing issues such as the USA PATRIOT Act, the proposed sellout of U.S. Seaports to Dubai Ports World[8], and recent allegations against the Bush administration concerning domestic telephone surveillance of suspected terrorists operating within the United States. These were cited as evidence of Bush's lack of regard for the Constitution.reference required

The JBS 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 legislature's resolution calling for U.S. withdrawal, as well as the actions of several other states where the Society's membership has been active. The Birch 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 (it wanted a quick win and exit after the conflict had already started rather than a simple losing pullout). The Society also has a national speakers' committee called American Opinion Speakers Bureau (AOSB) and an anti-tax committee called TRIM (Tax Reform IMmediately).reference required

New American

The New American [1] is a biweekly news magazine published by the John Birch Society, created from the merger of Review of The News and American Opinion.

Leaders and Notable Members

Presidents

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

CEOs

Notable Members in History

See also

References

Footnotes

Further reading

Supporting the John Birch Society

  • Welch, Robert. (1961). The Blue Book of the John Birch Society. 21st printing. Boston: John Birch Society.
  • Welch, Robert. (1964). The Politician. Revised, 5th printing, hardcover. Belmont MA: Belmont Publishing.
  • John Birch Society. (1964). The White Book of the John Birch Society for 1964. Belmont, MA: John Birch Society.
  • Welch, Robert. (1966). The New Americanism and Other Speeches. Boston: Western Islands.
  • Allen, Gary, with Larry Abraham. (1972 [1971]). None Dare Call It Conspiracy. Rossmoor, CA; Seal Beach, CA: Concord Press. Self-published in 1971.
  • Griffin, G. Edward. (1975). The Life and Words of Robert Welch: Founder of the John Birch Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: American Media.
  • McManus, John F. (1983). The Insiders. Belmont, MA: John Birch Society.
  • McManus, John F. (1992). “Taking on the Giant: How Dare Pat Buchanan Defy the Establishment!” The New American, April 20, p. 5.

Criticizing the John Birch Society

  • "Birch Society Investigated," Idaho Statesman, October 9, 1964.
  • Berlet, Chip. (1989). “Trashing the Birchers: Secrets of the Paranoid Right.” Boston Phoenix, July 20, pp. 10, 23.
  • Broyles, J. Allen. (1964). The John Birch Society: Anatomy of a Protest. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • 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.
  • Janson, Donald & Eismann, Bernard. (1963). "The John Birch Society" pages 25–54 from The Far Right, New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Johnson, George. (1983). Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics. Los Angeles: Tarcher/Houghton Mifflin.
  • Kraft, Charles Jeffrey. (1992). A Preliminary Socio-Economic and State Demographic Profile of the John Birch Society. Cambridge, MA: Political Research Associates.
  • Moore, William V. (1981). The John Birch Society: A Southern Profile. Paper, annual meeting, Southern Political Science Association, Memphis, TN.
  • Ronald Sullivan, “Foes of Rising Birch Society Organize in Jersey,” New York Times, April 20, 1966, pp. 1, 34.
  • FBI files and documents pertaining to Birch Society: ^ http://ernie1241.googlepages.com/jbs-1

External links

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