By "popular demand", More Birchier!!!

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?p=10241374&postcount=31

Ravenman
Charter Member Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,167
Location: Barackington, DC

OK, first- I was a member twice- from 1980 to 1983, and then in 1989, in SE Indiana. What they are like now or what they were like in other areas, I can’t say.

In the first phase, we had an established Chapter going. The only leadership was
the Chapter Leader, who I think was just the point-man who got the chapter going & would host the meetings in his house. There may have been a Chapter Secretary & Treasurer, and that was whoever had the will & ability to do it.

Basically, we had just a monthly get-together. It did indeed open with a prayer & the Pledge. We usually watched a little film or listened to a tape brought by the Regional Co-ordinator, discussed whatever issue it dealt with, whatever was in the news, or in the monthly JBS Bulletin, the monthly journal “American Opinion” and the weekly “Review of the News” (both of the latter now subsumed into the weekly “The New American”). Sometimes we planned to write our Congressmen about these issues or distribute literature or talk up the issues among our friends & associates. Stuff like that. And of course, there’d be a snack at the end & chit-chat. No picketing or boycotts or blacklists or anything like that planned.

We were less than a dozen people at our peak- three families & myself. Two of the families were small business owners, middle-aged. I don’t recall what the third family did- probably white collar, in their mid-30s. I was a college student at the time. I think everyone was college educated. We had various visitors but no new members. Our biggest activity was distributing articles about Sen. Birch Bayh’s record during the 1980 election, in which he lost to Dan Quayle. High victory! Yay us! :smiley:

The Chapter Leader & his family moved as did the other family that owned a business, and the rest of us just didn’t have the will or ability to recruit more people & keep it going. I kept getting the literature for about two years later & then realized I wasn’t as into it anymore.

In 1989, there was an attempt by the Chapter in the next county over to start a Chapter here. We met at the business of an interested party. However, many of the possible recruits were kinda flakey- a couple of blue-collar workers who were kinda racist & anti-Semitic, the business owner & another guy were paranoid about occult & UFO conspiracies, and I myself realized that either the JBS itself
had drifted farther right or I had drifted left or both. Anyway, it just didn’t gel & the attempted Chapter faded into oblivion.

And that was the boring saga of my forays into Birchism.

Aintc’ha glad ya asked?:wink:

How did the fall of the Soviet Union affect the Birchers’ sense of their mission?

Well, two ways-

First, there was been skepticism that the USSR really “fell”. Communist leaders weren’t rounded up & tried & executed for crimes against their people. Basically, it seemed that the same types of people stayed in power, just became less openly belligerent & brutal & anti-religion. And darned if those Birchers who felt that way don’t seem to have had a point.

Second, IF the USSR is gone as a threat, there is still Red China as an external enemy, and also the internal enemy- the internationalist corporate socialist establishment manifested in groups like the CFR, the Trilaterals, the Bildebergers, etc. Just because Big Brother is no longer threatening us with Room 101, it doesn’t mean were in any less danger from the wanna-be Fordships & their plans for a “streamlined soulless Eden”.

I would love to know what the Birchers would think of a the current $700 billion corporate bailout.

From your experience, what do you think there reaction would be?

Is it true that the John Birch Society is generally anti-environmental regulations?

http://www.jbs.org/index.php/inflation-taxes-economy-blog

The JBS is against it. It’s pretty consistently economically libertarian.

Ditto for federal and especially internationalist environmental regulations. State and local regulation and free market solutions are preferred.

http://www.jbs.org/index.php/issues/environment

What do they see as the down side to the clean water and clean air act? (Or is this one of those slippery slope issues?)

Truthfully, I don’t recall. Probably Federal usurping of what should be local responsibilities, bureaucratic impediments to economic development, violation of private property rights. The search at jbs.org and also Google isn’t helping to narrow down specifics.

When you say that you thought that the society was moving further right, what does that mean? What were some of the issues on which you split ways?

You’ve commented on the post-Cold War view of communists, but do you think the threat of communism is still real? If not, when do you think that threat faded into the background or oblivion, as the case may be?

What’s the Birdher take on radical Islam? Bad as the commies, worse, or not so bad? A lot of the neo-cons put radical Islam as what you might call the third great evil, after Nazism and Communism. Would Birchers agree with that?

Urm, you know that Big Brother was a British puppet of the Americans, right?

Sorry mate, but your loon friends felt the Sovs did not really fall because, to be blunt, the regime change did not involve utterly Bolshevik solutions to problems, like rounding up the Thought Criminals and Liquidating them? That’s fucking insane.

You’re not familiar with the John Birch Society, are you?

OK, 1st-gen Birchers had their roots in the 1940’s-50’s conservative movements, and even as they were diverging from their fellow righties (the Robert Welch-William F. Buckley schism being the most public), there seemed (to me at least) a sense in the JBS that there was still a common cause among them. When that generation started dying off in the early 80’s (Welch himself in '85), the new gen Birchers didn’t have the same sense of fellowship with other conservatives, whether in the Christian Right or the Talk Radio Revival. Thus, there seemed to be greater tendencies to dismiss them as neo-statists or establishment-sellouts or Insider-allies. Also, 1st-gen Birch leadership was religiously a mixed-bag. Welch was a Unitarian (tho in his last years, I heard he converted to traditionalist Catholic). Mormom Apostle (later Pres-Prophet) Ezra Taft Benson, trad Catholic Fr. Frances Fenton, a General who was Christian Science (I forget his name) were all on the Council. I think now JBS leadership is basically Catholic & Protestant Christian.

I was definitely uncomfortable with the even greater split from other conservatives & the insularity of the JBS, as well as the religious homogeneity.

And something else, even in my first stint, I didn’t care for- the JBS defense of 3rd-world anti-Commie authoritarian leaders- Somoza in Nicaragua, Pinochet in Chile, d’Aubisson in El Salvador, Marcos in the Phillipines. I realized it was a matter of realpolitik but it seemed to conflict with the JBS disdain for US conservatives who weren’t idealogically pure. I will say that does not seem to be as much of a problem now.

On the present danger of Communism, I’m unclear. I do think an authoritarian Russia is a threat, but not to the same extent that the USSR was. China could still do a lot of damage as well as 3rd-world Castro-wannabes like Chavez. Basically, no- I don’t see a massive Commie threat looming as before, but a lot of medium-to-little Commie threats popping around.

Larry B: While there is JBS concern about radical Islam, they seem to worry about the Bush response to it a lot more. I haven’t read any complaints about the Afghan war (not to say there aren’t any), but they are very anti-Iraq War AND anti-Patriot-Act. Maybe the JBS view can be summed up as- “radical Islam” is a remote threat but Federal despotism is a more immediate threat.

foolsg- I was making an analogy using BB as symbolic of brutal Communist totalitarianism & the Fordships as symbolic of Western liberal social-engineers.

wmfellows- No, the JBSers didn’t want a bloody purge, especially of “Thought Criminals”, but did expect a lot more Soviet officials to be held accountable- maybe equivalent to the Nuremberg trials. As it was, the most notable deaths in the Communist Eastern Bloc’s collapse were the Ceaucescus. There was talk of trying whoever had ruled East Germany but that was dropped due to his illness.

You mention no Jews. Has the JSB ever been, in any sense, antisemitic?

Relevant because (1) they’ve always been conspiracy theorists and Jews figure heavily in many, but not all, conspiracy theories and (2) they seem to be in the same paleoconservative tradition as Pat Buchanan, who has been called antisemitic because he’s hostile to U.S. defense of Israel or involvement in the MENA, and because he’s published books arguing the U.S. should have left Hitler alone.

Also, no Communist or communist or socialist movement has come to power by revolutionary means in decades. All the current LW leaders in Latin America, except Castro, were elected. And those who are revolutionaries, such as the Zapatistas, don’t even bother to invoke the name of Marx any more.

As far as the national Council, I don’t know of any Jews. I know there have been several authors, such as Alan Stang (tho he has converted to Christianity in recent years, he was still Jewish in the early '80s) and Rabbi Marc Antleman, many members and various Chapter leaders. Robert Welch wrote a pamphlet in 1963 called The Neutralizers http://web.archive.org/web/20021228041754/http://www.jbs.org/focus/refute/neutralizers.htm to decry anti-Semitism & other forms of bigotry & extremism that anti-Communists can fall into.

That said- early in the JBS’ history, there was one particular person on the national Council & who wrote for AMERICAN OPINION, a professor of classical & romance languages at the University of Illinois, Revilo P. Oliver, who made increasingly outrageous comments about Jews until he & others expressing similar sentiments were ousted. That problem still crops up occasionally. Some JBS members either get on a “Jewish-conspiracy” obsession to the extent they are either expelled or quit for more extreme company, convinced that the JBS is just a front for the Jewish Conspiracy.

Something that contributes to the confusion is that some of the best-researched older books on the history of conspiracies and secret societies do veer into anti-Semitism. The books of Nesta Webster are real minefields in that regard.

Good point about the recent lack of revolutionary Communist gov’ts.

Strikes me as terribly naive, such an expectation, given that none of the states were conquered a la Nazi Germany, and domestic run purges (sorry, trials) have a long history - since the French Revolution and the Terror, of … well ending up as Terrors.

When it comes down to it, it strikes me that if they / you actually expected such results, you / they knew nothing of European history.

Anyone have any other Qs before I let this thread join its sire in oblivion?

I used to attend their meetings in the local library. There were not many of them. They were all Libertarians also. One is now running for congress.
Hilary is the devil, the Clintons had all those people killed (Arkancide he called it).
Bob Barr is their candidate.
Jews? Not sure, I once found a Duke pamphlet in the bottom of ones tract bag.

Loved the book Birchism Was My Business by Gerald Schomp.

Never hear of the book till now. A search uncovered this, which cites the book, and gives a pretty fair critique of the JBS.

http://books.google.com/books?id=B__GNRIZ-uEC&pg=PA351&lpg=PA351&dq="Birchism+was+my+business"&source=web&ots=kZNtLg-D_x&sig=PMk8tkAa1egCkXVka6tjStMMmTA&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=4&ct=result#PPA340,M1

Apparently, Schomp was also on Buckley’s FIRING LINE in 1970 debating with a Birch leader over if the JBS was good for the Right.

The hostility of the JBS to William F. Buckley (& pals) and Billy Graham also exemplified the insular attitude that I tried for a long while to ignore but eventually found unpalatable.

Another thing RE anti-Semitism & racism: The JBS is neither. However, people who are anti-Semitic or racist often find common cause with the JBS on other issues.* It may take a while before they get weeded out or decide that the JBS won’t “go after the REAL enemy”.

  • As an example, “Libertarianism”, believing in individual freedom & rights & very limited government, should be as anti-racist as any philosophy imaginable. BUT there is a certain type of racist that believes in a truly free system, racial superiority will become easily apparent and that racial equality is an excuse for intrusive governmental intervention.

In the late 1970s saw a 60 Minutes segment, I think it was, on the JBS. The reporter stated the JBS had lately changed its ideology somewhat and had come round to thinking the international Communist conspiracy was only part of a much larger conspiracy “founded by a group of European intellectuals in 1776.” Later on I discovered Wilson & Shea’s Illuminatus! trilogy and learned about the Bavarian Illuminati, which was indeed founded that year.

Anyway, does the JBS still susbscribe to that kind of overarching, all-explanatory, lasting-for-centuries, Jack-Chickish conspiracy theory?