Now Eisenhower, he’s a Russian spy,
Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy.
To my knowledge there’s just one man
That’s really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell.
I know for a fact he hates Commies cus he picketed the movie Exodus.
–Bob Dylan, "Talkin’ John Birch Paranoia Blues"
"The role [Eisenhower] has played, as described in all the pages above, would fitjust as well into one theory as the other; that he is a mere stooge orthat he is a Communist assigned the specific job of being a politicalfront man." –Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, The Politician
I remember the John Birch Society. Back in the Carter years, they occasionally showed up at the doorstep of my house like the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, proselytizing in the name of anti-communism instead of the Bible. Even then, before I had regular erections or anything like a political analysis, I could recognize one thing about them: they were nuts, just like their religious counterparts. And just like the occasional visits from the religious whackos, I loved to engage and argue with them on the doorstep. Even then, I loved a good verbal fight.
That, however, was the last I really heard of the Birchers. Nowadays, in the popular mind, they exist mainly as a punchline to the narrative of the sixties. The John Birch Society descended into self-parody almost as soon as they were founded, earning the opprobrium and ridicule even of fellow right-wingers like William F. Buckley. On their way to irrelevance, they provided fertile ground for the creation of some of America’s most notorious fascists, notably Tom Metzger, the founder of the White Aryan Resistance (W.A.R.) and Willis Carto, the number one holocaust-denying "scholar" in the business. In their day, the Birchers were embematic of the darkness at the heart of an America that lashed back at civil rights marchers and longhairs; now, you could scarcely be blamed for never having heard of them.
I was surprised to hear that they still exist, and in fact that they’re getting air time. The Carpetbagger Report has a transcript of Glenn Beck, noble opponent of the brown-skinned, poverty-stricken invaders of our bold nation, as he interviews Sam Antonio, the Birchers’ national spokesman on immigration. Beck kicks off with these words: "Sam, I have to tell you, when I was growing up, the John Birch Society,I thought they were a bunch of nuts, however, you guys are starting tomake more and more sense to me." The nice folks at ThinkProgress have a clip of the show itself online.
Of course, the first impulse is to rant about how shocking it is to see Beck, an alleged journalist, publicly fellating an organization long-since discredited as crypto-fascist (being very generous). But I think Tristero at Hullabaloo has the most sensible take:
[The goals of the John Birch Society], which were, 40 years ago, the platform of an extremistgroup on the fringes of American politics, are the all but spokenplatform of the Bush administration and the modern Republican party. Wehave seen numerous attempts to eliminate the income tax; Bush hasproposed changes to Social Security that will send it down the road toextinction; Bill Clinton was impeached and Governor Gray Davis ofCalifornia removed from office; the busing issue has morphed into anintense focus of the easier-to-frame affirmative action; and the Bushadministration, on the issue of Iraq and in many other ways, great andsmall, has worked assiduously to bypass the United Nations and make theactions of the UN worthless….
Itis useful to read Bircher literature because, if for no other reason,it will give you insight into what underlies some -perhaps a lot – ofthe secular components of Bush’s worldview.
Birch SocietyFounder Robert Welch believed that "an elite international cabal…isseeking to establish a world tyranny." In the U.S., that cabal wascentered in the Council on Foreign Relations. Of course, Welch and hisfollowers were convinced that Franklin Roosevelt was a communist andthat the New Deal was pure socialism. But the Birchers went further.Some of the abettors of the vast communist conspiracy Welch saw as animminent danger to freedom were President Dwight D. Eisenhower and JohnFoster Dulles.
I think Tristero is exactly right; we’ve had two decades of politics that would make conservatives of earlier eras blush (and in fact, William F. Buckley is now seen by many neo-cons as being a doddering, out-of-touch relic because of his "moderate" views), and things that would have been laughable a few decades ago — such as the Republican approach to "science," which is outright Stalinist. Tristero also draws a convincing genealogy from the Birchers to the modern neo-cons, which makes Glenn Beck’s on-air rimjob seem not only mundane, but long overdue.