Ask the former John Bircher...

Inspired by this thread in the Pit-

I have decided to open up a shameful period of my life in which I, a young & naive C’tian Righty, was involved in the John Birch Society from 1980-82 (age 18-20).

And to further the indignity, I rejoined for a year- 1990.

And one last confession- there are some aspects of it I think were quite valid & that I miss, though I have drifted leftward of Birch & it has seemed to have drifted even more rightward than it was in the early 1980s.

So pile on, folks, ask me anything! Just remember this is GD & not the Pit! :smiley:

All I know about those guys I’ve taken from a Wiki article. I’ve been reluctant to visit JBS web sites, for fear my eyes may bleed away.

Is this just a bunch of right-wing Christian xenophobes with some pretty-sounding manifesto, or do they legitimately have any other guiding principles besides fear and hate?

Did you find them to be anti-Semitic?

Who, really, fueled the anger of the core rank and file (here showing a prejudice that they joined the JBS because they were “angry” about something) was it more “the Jews” or “liberals” or “democrats” or secret communists in American society or …

As late as 1990 was there any critical membership weight still exed about fluoridated water being a Communist plot to poison the citizens of the United States?

Someone in the linked thread mentioned that the Birchers wanted to repeal civil rights legislation. Were there any civil rights laws you then felt should have been removed? How about now?

Yeah, I’ve got a few:

  1. What led you to join the JBS?

  2. What aspects of JBS ideology do you still think are “valid”?

  3. What aspects do you reject?

  4. How does the JBS of today differ from the organization you joined?

  5. Do you think the JBS still has any political relevance in our society? More than, say, Lyndon LaRouche?

  6. If not, is there any contemporary organization that you would say is this decade’s functional equivalent of the JBS in its heyday?

Actually, the Wiki article was pretty fair- I’d only add RE civil rights & fluoridation.
The opposition to federal civil rights legislation was expressed on the libertarian principles of the right of free association & use of private property. I never heard or read any racist sentiments in Birch meetings or materials. By the 1980s, fluoridation was a dead issue, only brought up in the context of the government usurping the right to force medication on its citizenry. Btw, recently I read some very strident anti-fluoridation arguments from “environmentalist wacko” :smiley: sources.

In the mid-60s, as racist & anti-Semitic sentiments were expressed both from local & national leaders, Robert Welch & the JBS purged those offending leaders, most notorious of which was a Classics professor Revilo Oliver, who later joined up with the white supremacist anti-C’tian National Vanguard.

I found the publications for the most part, very positive- almost Utopian in envisioning a morally conservative economically libertarian militarily strong & unentangled America. I’ll discuss the flaws that led me to depart later.

Anti-Semitic- not at all.
Robert Welch totally denounced anti-Semitism & The Protocols in THE NEUTRALIZERS, suggesting (rather fancifully) that The Protocols was probably a genuine Bolshevik document tailored to falsely accuse the Jews, thus sending Conspiracy hunters on wild goose chases. However, for information on the historic Illuminati & its connection to the French Revolution & later revolutionary movements, we did have the writings of Nesta Webster from the 1920s, She did buy into The Protocols & there being a specifically Jewish aspect to the Conspiracy. We just ignored the Jewish stuff & used the Illuminati stuff.

JBS anger was about evenly distributed to actual Communist powers (USSR, PRC & satellites), Leftist-liberal US politicians, the United Nations and The Insiders (aka The Eastern Establishment, personified in the Rockefellers and organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission & the Bildeberg Conferences.) There was little concern about actual Communist Party infiltration into US society. We figured the really dangerous Lefties were too smart to join the CPUSA.

I answered the fluoride issue above. It was pretty much a done deal.

By the early 1980s, my impression was that the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s were a settled issue. There were questions whenever certain ones (such as the Voting Rights Act) would come up for renewal, but not any real agitation about repealing anything. The main concern was preventing government from further usurpations on property & free association rights under the guise of civil rights legislation. The recent gay rights debate is the modern manifestation of that concern.

Well, you seem to be describing just another bunch of Christian fundamentalists with some libertarian-style approaches to “rights”. If they’re not xenophobes and tinfoil-hatters, what was the problem? I mean, “Big Centralized Govt. Is Pure Evil!” plus “America Is A Christian Nation!” are hardly unique points of view, either alone or together.

  1. Reading Hal Lindsey’s THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, Taylor Caldwell’s CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS, and materials about the Illuminati merged my
    Christian faith with conservative politics and the JBS was the only group around
    that synthesized all my concerns into a cohesive, rather romanticized worldview.
    In the 1980 elections, its weekly newsmagazine REVIEW OF THE NEWS published a series of essays of the most liberal Senators, and made reprints available for the campaigns, which seemed to have contributed to the ouster of most of these Senators, as well as Reagan’s election.

  2. Besides the basic conservative & libertarian views, I think some suspicion of the internationalist Eastern Establishment should be maintained. Membership in the CFR, the TLC, Bones & such are not deal-breakers, but do warrant attention.
    Of all right-wing Conspiracy-buff groups, the JBS actually does the best job of maintaining some sanity & actually serves as the Snopes of the Anti-Conspiracy Right.

  3. Even at the time, I disliked the JBS tendency of supporting anti-Communist authoritarian leaders of developing countries, and of regarding non-Conspiracy-Buff conservatives with suspicion if not outright derision. While I tried to write off the occasional denunciations of Eisenhower, Billy Graham & William F. Buckley as Welchian eccentricity, it became obvious that such eccentricity wasn’t limited to Robert Welch.

  4. While the first generation of JBS leadership has some animosity towards the
    more establishment Right, there was also some strained cameraderie in that they had often worked together in the past. With the passing of that generation, the new level of JBS leadership did not seem to have any connections with the established Right, just animosity. Also, the first JBS leadership level was religiously diverse- heck, Robert Welch was a Unitarian. Now, it seems to be locked in the hands of an odd alliance of hard-right Protties AND traditionalist Catholics.

  5. Who knows what political circumstances might propel Birchite thought into prominence? I say it’s greatest service now is as a counter-balance to the nutty Conspiracy-buff Right, such as LaRouche (whom it exposed as a Trotskyite huckster back in the mid-1970s).

  6. Well, Pat Robertson tried to co-opt Birchite Conspiracy theory in his THE NEW WORLD ORDER, and so his Christian Coalition seemed to have a chance. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be any central group that could supplant the JBS or that desires to.

In the early 1960s, the xenophobe, tinfoil element still existed. It’s an unfortunate fact that, even as marijuana has been accused of being a gateway drug to the harder stuff, JBS Conspiracy theory has been a gateway to more extreme persons & groups. Usually tho, these extremists break off to then denounce the JBS as covering up the REAL enemy (Jewish, Masonic, Catholic or Space Alien G).

Also, it didn’t help that Robert Welch stated that his goal in forming the JBS was to counter the Communist influence by forming cells infiltrating every level of society for Conservatism, organizing boycotts, letter-writing campaigns & contemplating trying to take over groups like the PTA- none of which really came to fruition, but scared a lot of people for a longer time than was relevant.

You may have been right. What actually happened was, in the '40s and early '50s, many CPUSA members, acting on orders from Stalin, pursued a “Trojan horse” strategy of hiding their Communist identity while working their way into prominent positions in government and the labor unions. In the event, it worked too well – the infiltrators went so far underground that most of them eventually lost interest in being Communists and focused on their new careers. McCarthy and HUAC really needn’t have bothered. You can read the story in It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States, by Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks (W.W. Norton, 2001).

As a leftist I share your suspicion of the Eastern Establishment, but what’s wrong with internationalism as such? That’s what’s always alternately perplexed and enraged me about the nationalist, nativist, and isolationist manifestations of American conservatism. If liberalism or big business are tending towards the erosion of “American sovereignty” and leading us towards a “One-World government” – what the fuck is wrong with that?! What is objectionable about a “New World Order” in and of itself? Historically, nationalism trumps both religion and leftist ideology as the principal cause of war. And Europe is a lot better off now that they’ve embraced internationalism as a working basis of governance. Why can we Yanks follow suit? We ain’t so damned special!

Which book is anti-semitic and draws on source materials that are even more anti-semitic. Michael Lind exposed it in his book Up From Conservatism: Why the Right is Wrong for America (Free Press, 1997). It was this matter, in fact, that provoked Lind, a onetime National Review editor, to break with the right. The conservative movement’s “no enemies to the right” strategy mandated that such as Robertson be given a free pass, and Lind wasn’t having any of that.

Maybe the JBS didn’t pull off that ambitious project – but the broader American conservative movement did, which accounts for its present hegemony. You can read the story in Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (Penguin Press, 2004).

Was that his real name? :dubious:

I’m not a Bircher, but I think the answer to that would be that some sort of international government would impose foreign values or culture on us. It might, for example, abolish the death penalty, because a lot of foreign countries don’t have it, or increase taxes on us to help poor countries, or whatever.

And I think they might say that we are pretty damn special…that America was founded on values of freedom, self-reliance and limited government, and is the strongest voice for those values.

I repeat: What the fuck is wrong with that?!

Besides, a truly democratic, or at least republican, international government would not impose “foreign values” on any of its members – only those values that could be supported by a general international consensus. That’s the way it’s working out in the European Union, and there’s no obvious reason why that model couldn’t be expanded to encompass the U.S.

The EU model hasn’t exactly been a success insofar as the EU is not a United States as we would use that term in this country. Moreover, there have been significant growing pains for the EU and it has taken several hundred years and many, many wars just to get them this far. Let’s take a step back on the wolrd government for the moment as it isn’t happening anytime soon (at least not the type of system you are dreaming about).

Where to start! L

Pat Robertson’s THE NEW WORLD ORDER is not anti-Semitic. It did not blame or target Jews. It did point out that the NWO conspiracies had a Jewish membership who worked against the efforts of their own people & faith. His AS sources were, as with the JBS, the writings of Nesta Webster. If I were writing on the Illuminati & occultic revolutionary movements, I couldn’t avoid using her as a source. I would be more careful of noting the nature of my sources. Something else Pat or his ghost used was the fabricated Albert Pike quote on Masonry as a Luciferian religion.

Internat’lism/Globalism as the natural devolopment of constitional representative democracies (aka democratic republics) creating overarching structures to insure peace & justice & freedom is just fine. Robert Welch himself said it was a worthy idea. We opposed, to use Randian terms, a New World Order based on force (such as Communism) and fraud (corporate-socialist bureaucracy masquerading as democracy) steered by an amoral alliance of businessmen & social engineers & commissars, whether it becomes a soul-crushing Big Brother or a soul-anesthetizing Brave New World.

RE the Right’s infiltration into all levels of society, the same can be said of the Left. Fact is- everyone tilts one way or another. I will say the divisions have become more obvious & more vocal, especially with the creation of alternate media.

Resolution 8 is Welch’s acknowledgement of possible acceptable world gov’t…

*8. I shall be a good patriot of my country.

Due to the increasing speed and reach of both transportation and communication, our world does grow smaller. And our broadening outlook into space does tend to make the total population of this earth seem more like one group of fellow toilers thrown together on a tiny island. So we should realize that eventually, perhaps in a hundred years or perhaps in several thousand years, there will come about some real federation of all nations, or what Tennyson called a “parliament of man.” But for this to be anything but the framework of a cruel tyranny, it will have to be arrived at by the peaceful and willing consent of the various peoples and their governments, much as our federal nation was formed by independent states and their people at the end of our colonial period.

The attempt to use this great future hope, however, as an excuse and means for imposing on all the inhabitants of the earth, by brute force and massive murders, by trickery and terror and torture, the arbitrary and absolute rule of a one-world Communist regime, should be resisted at every turn before it is too late. Since the United Nations is visibly intended to be the initial framework for such a tyranny, with such incredibly cruel suppression to be inflicted on all who resist as was already used by the United Nations on the people of the Congo, it is crystal clear that each and every surrender of all or any part of the sovereignty of any country to the United Nations constitutes treason on the part of the rulers of that country. And the moral necessity of resistance to such treasonous acts is equally clear.*