From The Archive
Dan Kelly
No. 13  December 1999

Birchismo

  

s
a
l
v
o
s

We’ll teach you how to spot ’em
In the cities or the sticks,
For even Jasper Junction is just full of Bolsheviks
The CIA’s subversive, and so’s the FCC
There’s no one left but we and thee
And we’re not sure of thee.

—“The John Birch Society,”
by The Chad Mitchell Trio

Somewhere in the green blankness of southern Michigan, just off Highway 94, stands a lonely little sign declaring “Get US Out of the UN!” If you’re paying attention to the road you’ll miss it, but trust me, it’s there. I first noticed the sign on the way from Grand Haven to Chicago a few summers ago, and as a rubbernecking spectator of fringe political thought, I assumed it was the work of a local militia or perhaps even a cell of cantankerous Constitutionalists, afeared the New World Order was encroaching on the sovereignty of New Buffalo, Michigan. Filing it away in my memory jar, I planned to uncover the sign’s mysterious origins at another time.

Two years passed, and while visiting a gun show in Grayslake, Illinois, my question was answered. There as much to collect kook literature as to peruse Glocks and SKS rifles, I came across a gentleman in red flannel selling books, videos, and pamphlets, each pushing various fringe-dweller hot buttons. Topics ran from the dreaded New World Order to Her Satanic Majesty President Hillary to, hello, the United Nations, which we had to get U.S. out of, pronto. I was mildly surprised to discover the source of this particular enthusiasm, the same one I had noticed in Michigan’s black-stripe wilderness: the John Birch Society. I had discovered a dinosaur bone in my own backyard—the bone, though, was still connected to a reasonably lively dinosaur.

While many recall the sixties as an age of butt-naked radicalism with a Jefferson Airplane soundtrack, the sixties were also the salad days of the far right.

If your first reaction to the phrase “The John Birch Society” is a bewildered “Whoozat?”, it’s a telling sign of your youth. The John Birch Society was, is, and ever shall be the world’s most stringently anticommunist organization, dedicated to finding, exposing, and squashing out every aspect of the global Communist conspiracy. The group was founded in 1958 by retired candymaker Robert H. W. Welch, who, rather than playing checkers or wandering the beach with a metal detector, chose to spend his golden years assembling a cabal of industrialists and declaring holy war on Marxism. Welch had grand plans for his little society. Star-chamber visions filling his head, Welch imagined a titanic secret organization that would checkmate the ever more secretive Communists’ every move.

The John Birch Society’s heyday came during the early sixties. While many recall that decade as an age of butt-naked radicalism with a Jefferson Airplane soundtrack, the sixties were also the salad days of the far right. Culture-shocked average folk desperately sought a way out of the oncoming sybaritic morass, and Welch was only too happy to give directions: Take an extreme right and drive on forever.

As for John Birch, we’ll never know what he would have thought of his eponymous society. Unlike Horst Wessel or Nathan Hale, he never joined the club that would have him as a martyr. A young Bible-banging missionary from backwoods Georgia, Birch relocated to China in the forties to evangelize the heathen Chinee. When the United States entered World War II, Birch rearranged his career plans, enlisted in the Army, and quickly rose to the rank of captain. After several years of pushing Jesus, performing OSS intelligence work, and earning a chestful of medals, the twenty-seven-year-old Birch was nabbed by the Red Chinese and executed a scant nine days after the end of the war. In all probability, Cap’n Birch might have slipped between history’s cracks had Welch not learned of his plight in the files of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.

According to contemporary accounts, John Birch was a decent enough fellow, albeit one whose sphincter never knew the meaning of the words “at ease.” But in Robert H. W. Welch’s approximation, Birch was much more. To hear Welch tell it, Birch was an amalgam of Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne, with a jigger of James Bond to boot. As a martyr he was ideal—a clean-cut, God-fearing, good-looking kid, cut down in his prime by pinko scum. Indeed, for Welch he was nothing less than the first casualty of the nascent Cold War.

As for Welch, he was born to do battle on the home front. As Birch literature proudly recounts, the candyman was something of a child prodigy. Born in 1899 and home-schooled, not surprisingly, he entered the University of North Carolina at the age of twelve. In 1917 he moved on to the U.S. Naval Academy, and in the following year to Harvard Law School where, according to society literature, “his stubborn mind vexed his liberal pro-fessors.” Their vexations soon ceased, though, as Welch dropped out in 1920—strangely, at the top of his class. Welch proceeded to enter the family business, applying his “stubborn mind” to vice presidential duties at the Welch Candy Company and inventing Sugar Babies along the way. (Welch was outdone, however, by his brother James, who was both company president and creator of the more popular Junior Mints.) Not coincidentally, JBS charter members were men very like Welch—cronies from his big business days, retired from years of overseeing production and managing underlings, now eager to apply their knowledge to this great land of ours.

Welch was, naturally, an avid reader of Spengler’s Decline of the West, from which he deduced the idea that the Old World was sliding into the dotage of collectivism, and if America was to avoid the same fate it had to reactivate George Washington’s isolationist policies. The literatus who gave the Birch Society its paranoiac frisson, however, was Nesta Webster, a high-born British lady who wrote several standbys of the conspiracy theorist’s library. Webster spent her life exposing the intricate web betwixt the Bavarian Illuminati, Jews, Communists, and all those in between in such tomes as Secret Societies and Subversive Movements and The World Revolution. Inspired by Mme. Webster, Welch became convinced that the Illuminati—supposedly founded in 1776 to bring “illuminated” individuals together to solve all the world’s woes—survived to the present day as ghosts in the global machine, pulling the levers and causing the historical events we hoi polloi assume to be accidental.[*] Welch’s stroke of genius was to extrapolate that the Illuminati’s ultimate goal was to create a one-world socialist government. Communism was their most devastating weapon, its enervating influence sucking the life from a nation and converting its population into a huddled mass of hollow men.

Add to all this conjecture the all-too-real cabals of high-ranking government officials and plutocrats who do meet periodically to tug at the world’s puppet strings, and who were ecstatically celebrated in historian Carroll Quigley’s 1966 book, Tragedy and Hope. The Illuminati may have been a projection of Welch’s imagination, but the Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1920, David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission, founded in the early seventies, and the ultra-spooky Bilderberg Group are all very real, and have corporate presidents, media kings, and financial czars at their helms. Quigley, of course, thought all this was just jake, as the industrialists, world leaders, et cetera were no doubt coming together for the good of humankind.

Welch saw things differently. Such stuff was not only dangerous, it was an outright offense to American sovereignty, the Constitution, apple pie, proper flag-folding technique, and all else Welch held dear. Outrageous though it seemed, the Birch Society’s obsession with conspiracy ran deep in the American grain, arising directly from the widespread nineteenth-century belief that secret societies were antithetical to democracy. Welch saw the shadow government’s imprint everywhere, and in keeping with his own era’s notions of the Republic’s enemies, he simply recast Communists in the villain’s role, rather than the traditional Masons, Jesuits, or Jews. His small-government polities were equally unremarkable. The society’s motto could easily have been the credo of some state Republican Party: “Less government, more responsibility, and—with God’s help—a better world.”

Despite their admirably homegrown paranoia, the Birchers were nevertheless considered a trifle dotty. Every reformer has his critics, but Robert Welch kept providing his with devastating ammunition. Welch’s first book, May God Forgive Us (1952), started the wrecking ball swinging with its revelation that rather than fighting Communism like they were supposed to do, our government had actually been aiding and abetting the Red Menace. Joe McCarthy, predictably canonized by the Birchers, was right all along. The “loss” of half of Europe and all of China was the work of high-level pinks in the U.S. government—with a special commendation awarded to Truman administration secretary of state/evil genius Dean Acheson.

Today the thought of dubbing Ike a pinko seems merely strange, but back then it had an air of treason about it.

What really tattooed Welch and the society with oddball status forevermore, though, was his declaration that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a card-carrying Leninist. In the early years of his crusade Welch penned a long letter to selected friends outlining Eisenhower’s alleged side-job as a puppet of his Soviet masters. Welch closely examined Ike’s military career, describing his every move as yet another tactic to gain precious postwar ground for the occupying Reds. In 1963 the letter became a book, The Politician, and in the public’s mind it established Welch’s reputation as a cast-iron kook.

Today the thought of dubbing Ike a pinko seems merely strange, but back then it had an air of treason about it. While America was not exactly ready to roll in the hay with the Soviets, people were equally reluctant to wallow once again in the McCarthyist mud. Welch had no such scruples. In The Politician, FDR, Truman, both Dulles brothers, and favorite Birch Society punching bag Chief Justice Earl Warren were all said to be witting agents of The Conspiracy, ready to roger Lady Liberty at the snap of Moscow’s fingers.

In that same vein, the Birchers also favored Tailgunner Joe’s love of authoritative-sounding yet unverifiable statistics. The Communist take over, for example, could be monitored like a weather report. Communist control of the United States measured at 20 to 40 percent in 1958, rising to 30 to 50 percent in 1959, and topping out at a sizzling 40 to 60 percent in 1960. In fact, in the Birchers’ estimation almost everyone was in on The Conspiracy. NATO, for example, was the first step in signing over America’s soul and sovereignty. Equally demonic were the World Health Organization and UNICEF, which funneled “charitable” funds into the maleficent United Nations.

And the list rolled on. Birch targets included the Social Security system, the Federal Reserve, income tax, welfare, foreign aid of any sort, urban renewal, the AMA, compulsory integration, the civil rights movement, and the brain-bending practice of water fluoridation (cf., General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove). Even defense spending was in doubt since Birchers believed that the real Communist threat arose from within. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, almost all America’s universities, corporations, foundations, more than seven thousand of its clergymen, and a guesstimated 60 percent-and-rising segment of the mass media were rife with hardcore Communists, fellow travelers, and “Comsymps” (a word coined by Welch for those he could not directly accuse of being Communists). Our once great nation now glowed pinker than Pepto Bismol. Welch admonished his troops in no uncertain terms, “Get to work, or learn to talk Russian.”

angelwar

Many contemporary conservatives, such as McCarthy revisionist Richard Gid Powers, try to pass off the Birch Society as something of a liberal invention, a particularly lunatic bit of fringe on which the media focused in order to discredit the worthy cause of anticommunism. But the Birchers were far more than that. For all its Chicken Little paranoia, the JBS popularized the strategy that the right would employ so ably for the next three decades: unremitting war on the snobbish, effete intellectual elite—a gang the neoconservatives soon learned to call by their correct name, “the New Class,” rather than the more inflammatory “Communists.”

Not surprisingly, before Welch turned on his weird idea faucet, the right was happy to welcome the JBS on board. The Birch Society not only brought together the usual GOP constituents—“wealthy businessmen, retired military officers, and little old ladies in tennis shoes,” in the words of one contemporary observer—but also attracted a fair number of young people, who appear in photos of Bircher meetings dressed in sensible suits and flower print dresses.

Nonetheless, the cracks in Welch’s ideological pot continued to spread. Supercilious superconservative William F. Buckley Jr. took some whacks at Welch in his National Review, though he was careful not to offend the society’s membership at large. Buckley and Co. sensed a change in the political winds, and no doubt appreciated the Birchers’ potential appeal to the average Joe. Now if only … if only the head of the beast could be hacked off, and replaced with someone more, well, sane.

Fat chance. Robert Welch was the JBS, and the JBS was him. And though Bob had all the charisma of a dish of warm flan, he nevertheless managed to instill a startling zealotry in his followers. If Welch was a Hitler, as his lefty critics charged, he was a Führer on Thorazine, his arms bound to his sides to prevent potentially electrifying gesticulations. Despite this, Welch’s self-made superpatriot status was believable to some. He inspired elements of the Silent Majority to speak up more than any (other) pompous Ivy League ass ever could.

“It is one of our sorrows that, in fighting the evil forces which now threaten our civilization, for us to be too civilized is unquestionably to be defeated.”

What was most frightening/inspiring about the Birch Society was that, despite its flaky reputation, it worked. It was an ideological juggernaut, structured like a corporation, and filled with dues-paying members who were that rarity in sixties American politics: right-wing activists. One contributor to the 1964 anthology The Radical Right estimated that, at its peak, the JBS had more than four thousand chapters and a hundred thousand dues-paying members. (Exact figures are unattainable, as society membership lists have always been classified.)

Mass-mediated memories of the sixties always give prominence to the SDS, the Yippies, and other left-wing organizers and protesters, but the Birchers were out there too, banging on doors, organizing protests, and writing to their congressmen. And that wasn’t all they did. As it turned out, the Birchers weren’t playing by Dale Carnegie’s rules.

Welch once said, “It is one of our sorrows that, in fighting the evil forces which now threaten our civilization, for us to be too civilized is unquestionably to be defeated.” The answer, then, when fighting Communism, was to use Communism’s tactics. Like an underground army of Hugh Beaumonts, the Birchers collectively heard and obeyed. Through his monthly Bulletins, Welch taught his local chapters the finer points of fifth column activity. In order to better oversee the proper dispensation of education to America’s youth, members were advised to seize control of their local PTA. Members were also to infiltrate groups suspected of having socialist leanings and to attend and disrupt “pro-Communist” gatherings—which could mean anything from heckling a professor at a nearby university to protesting a Russian art exhibit. Also, as the JBS’s popularity began to wane, the head Bircher set up front groups and ad-hoc committees to lure those who wouldn’t be caught dead at a Birch Society cell meeting. Such fronts included the well-known Committee to Impeach Earl Warren, the innocuous sounding Freedom Club, the Realtors for American Freedom, and the double-dutch mouthfuls of the Committee Against Educating Traitors at Government Expense and the Committee to Warn of the Arrival of Communist Merchandise on the Local Business Scene. It was often possible for an everyday citizen to attend a Birch meeting without realizing it.

Birchers also took it upon themselves to flood newspapers, radio, and television stations, and local, state, and national government offices with barrages of letters and phone calls, whenever one or the other dared to act in opposition to Birch philosophy. Other psychological blitzkriegs literally brought the war home to the Birchers’ perceived enemies. Repeated anonymous late-night phone calls; false fire alarms; embarrassing and annoying classified ads featuring the mark’s home address—these and other “I didn’t order these pizzas”-level pranks filled the Birchers’ black bags.

black_bear

Despite all this fiercely patriotic activity, the Birchers’ days were numbered. Whether it was by an ingenious Masonic plot, or simply enough decent folks growing tired of the Birchers’ bullshit, the inevitable karmic backlash occurred.

Owing to their unequivocal views and quasi-fascistic structure, the Birchers were often, at times lazily, lumped in with the likes of the Klan, the neo-Nazis, and the more reactionary militias. No surprises there: As a superpatriotic organization, the JBS was a freak magnet. As fast as Welch and a handful of conscientious chapter leaders kicked out the bigots filling their ranks, more joined up—promoting their poison behind Welch’s back, and often right under his nose. The bigot label left its mark. The JBS became viewed as a gateway drug to the harder stuff.

Charges of anti-Semitism kept cropping up. Welch himself wasn’t an anti-Semite—even the Anti-Defamation League grudgingly acceded to that fact—and the JBS, while not a model of strength through diversity, was established to discriminate against commies and commies alone. In the lower ranks, on the other hand, those of anti-Semitic inclination cut society literature with racist classics like William Guy Carr’s Pawns in the Game and American Nazi Party ephemera. The JBS ideology of U.S. versus the Insiders was equally worrisome. Use of such Bircher buzzwords as “Illuminati,” “Insiders,” and “Internationalists” as euphemisms for “Jews,” “Jews,” and “Jews,” respectively, was not unheard of. Welch may not have been an anti-Semite, but his apparent naiveté about the sources of his theories was hard to swallow. In his book Birchism Was My Business, Gerald Schomp, a former chapter leader, recounted that Welch was one day seized by the bright idea of rounding up as many right-wing Jews as possible (no easy trick, according to Schomp) and creating yet another front group: the Jewish Society of Americanists.

The Birchers’ pro-cop tack—“Support Your Local Police” is undoubtedly their best-known slogan—also spooked many non-cop Americans. Cops gravitated to Birchism like hippies to hash, enticed by the JBS’s pooh-poohing of civilian review boards, whose presence would have had a chilling effect on the thin blue line’s God-given right to crack skulls. JBS cells sprang up in police departments from coast to coast. Regional manager Thomas J. Davis proudly trumpeted the presence of one hundred Birchers on the NYPD payroll in 1964. In Santa Ana, California, a cell of twenty to thirty Birchers in blue waged a campaign to oust their chief and replace him with one of their own. Support them? Who could get close enough?

These days, the lot of the professional paranoid grows ever more difficult. The world has lost both Robert Welch (he died in 1985) and the Soviet Union. New times call for new ideas, especially about who “THEY” are, and how best “THEY” can be combated.

Fortunately, Welch discovered a new world of revelations well in time for the end of the Cold War. It dawned on him that he had it backwards all along: It was the UN that ran the Soviet Union, not vice versa. Forget learning Russian; it’s Esperanto that we’ll have to study unless we are willing to disrupt UN preparations to overrun our streets, seize our homes, violate our womenfolk, and use the Constitution as toilet paper. This new apocalypse even has a name, found beneath that freakish “pyramidclops” on the back of every dollar bill: “Novus Ordo Seclorum,” the New World Order invoked by both Presidents Nixon and Bush.

Today’s Birchers are a passionate lot, driven to expose what their literature now describes as a “satanic Conspiracy.”

To give the devil his due, the modern JBS still advocates education over insurrection, even in this age of militias and ATF showdowns. Furthermore, Birchers are not flying saucer, cattle mutilation, and hollow earth theorists—they deal only in the implausible, not the improbable. Surprisingly, they even oppose organized militias, believing that the Second Amendment’s reference to a “well-regulated militia” permits firearm ownership but does not give free rein to form private armies. After all, unrestrained extremism frightens the average schmucks, putting more power into Janet Reno’s claws and allowing Clinton to dispense freedom-trammeling laws like a gumball machine.

Allowing cooler heads to prevail hasn’t necessarily swelled the JBS’s ranks. In comparison with what it once was, the JBS undoubtedly suffers these days from a severe dearth of manpower. Of the alleged hundred thousand members of the sixties, only eighty thousand or less remained in the seventies, leading to an even more dramatic depopulation during the Reagan years, according to some sources. An e-mail request to the society for a current head-count was met with claims of confidentiality—rarely a sign of a boisterously healthy organization.

Ah, but while Birch numbers are small, the hardest of cores remains. Like the red-flannelled gentleman at the gun show, today’s Birchers are a passionate lot, driven to expose what their literature now describes as a “satanic Conspiracy.” Over six hundred thousand copies of the “Conspiracy” issue of the JBS house organ, The New American, were hawked by loyal Birchers in 1997—both independently and through the society’s American Opinion bookstores. Passion is definitely a prerequisite for JBS membership. Even with the not-smallish membership fee of $48 a year (lifetime memberships have soared from the $1,000 bargain rate of the early sixties to $2,000 today), one is entitled to little more than a subscription to the JBS Bulletin, regular chapter meetings, and a clean conscience, I suppose.

evil mickey

Thirty-nine dollars arranges for delivery of the thin, four-color New American, which emanates from Appleton, Wisconsin, a town significant only as the hometown and current receptacle of Saint Joe McCarthy. To read the magazine is to realize how almost mainstream the Birchers have become—due more to the nation’s successive listings to the right since 1968, of course (The New American’s Web site carries a ringing endorsement from Pat Buchanan) than any behavior modification on the JBS’s part.

The New American dedicates itself to providing those “facts and perspectives omitted from other national media,” as they put it, including, in recent issues, a detailed nine thousand-word story on the august nobility of Pinochet and the infamy of that former despot’s present persecution by “the global elite”; a complaint about “gynecological probing” in the public schools; reach-for-your-revolver headlines like “Christian Slaves Freed, UN Objects,” and “UN Wants to Tax E-mail”; an essay comparing and contrasting our nefarious Chief Executive with fugitive hippie murderer Ira Einhorn; and, of course, the latest dispatches from the ongoing war over water fluoridation.

Naturally, the truly educated Bircher should also partake of the society’s breathtaking array of ultraconservative publications and videos. “The Robert Welch Presentations,” for example, once available only in 8 millimeter film format, have been collected into eight hours of videotape, with the putty-nosed Welch shuffling papers and clamoring about “the principles of proper government and the conspiratorial influence in the twentieth century.” Once $130, the Tao of Welch can now be yours for just eighty bucks. Books peddled by the JBS include Disney: The Mouse Betrayed, which exposes “pedophile and sex abuser problems at Disney World” and “how Disney’s Hollywood Records produces some of the most violent, pro-suicide, and pro-Satan music in the industry.”

Historically, the Birchers have had little luck in getting their own into public office. Most Birchers with any real political experience joined after leaving office, as in the case of one-term congressman Howard Buffett, father of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Similarly, those politicians who, unmindful of the effects of political poison, proudly declared their JBS membership—as did California Republican Representatives John H. Rousselot and Edgar Hiestand in 1962—often found themselves promptly ousted by the voters. They didn’t have far to fall. Most former Bircher politicos easily “transitioned” to positions within the JBS. How many Birchers held legislative power in the sixties will probably never be known. In 1961, however, conservative paladin Barry Goldwater stated that a search for Birchers through the hallowed halls of the Capitol Building “would turn up a lot of embarrassed people.” The last noteworthy and open member of the JBS to hold national elected office—the society’s chairman, no less—was Representative Larry McDonald of Georgia back in the early eighties. McDonald also made the unfortunate decision to board KAL 007, the passenger plane shot down by the Soviets in 1983, undoubtedly sending the Birchers into paroxysms of shivering paranoia.

As it stands now, Robert Welch University exists only in the form of a thirty-thousand-volume library, every last damn book of which deals with the “preservation of our heritage of freedom.”

With the recent flowering of the right, though, one hardly has to be a JBS member to support the society’s once-kooky beliefs. Representative Ron Paul, a former Libertarian candidate for president and a major proponent of taxpayers’ rights (namely the right to pay few or none), has proposed measures to withdraw U.S. membership and funding from the United Nations. A particular sweetheart of the Birch fraternity is the notorious Representative Helen Chenoweth of Idaho, who finds time in her busy schedule to write for The New American. “Thank goodness for those, such as the John Birch Society,” gushes Congressman Chenoweth (as she insists on being addressed), “who are unashamed to advocate love of country, defense of nation, and an abiding commitment to our Constitution.”

As for potential future Birchers, today’s JBS has had better luck getting in touch with the kids than Bob Welch ever did. One pet project is Robert Welch University, which, the Good Lord willing, will soon become a fully functioning, four-year liberal arts college, empowered to issue degrees in God-fearing 100 percent Americanism. As it stands now, though, Robert Welch University exists only in the form of a thirty-thousand-volume library, every last damn book of which deals with the “preservation of our heritage of freedom.” One particularly fun aspect of the JBS is the summer camp held under the Bob Welch U. banner. While the typical activities of volleyball, canoeing, hiking, and singings of “Kumbaya” are practiced, campers can also take classes designed to remediate the bum education they pick up at Illuminati-run public and private schools: “Our Godly Heritage,” “What is Humanism?”, “Global Tyranny—The UN,” “The Life of John Birch,” and, as an alternative to making wallets and weaving lanyards, “Salesmanship.” Other activities include the “Night Patrol,” wherein camp counselors brandishing swords and funny hats mount raids on the campers’ cabins at random hours, teaching them the hard-learned value of hating secret police. Parents can also be assured that no funny business takes place between campers of opposite, or even the same, sexes. Counselors oversee the campers’ activities twenty-four hours a day. What was that about oppressive governmental control?

Today’s respectable conservatives, looking down from their amply funded think tank posts, find it convenient to cry boo to the John Birch Society, dismissing it as a political curiosity for which they claim neither affinity nor responsibility. Yet, for the past thirty years, these same right-thinkers have fueled their successful reconquest of government with a blaring populism that bears a red-haired milkman’s resemblance to the wacky faiths of the JBS. Silent, righteous majorities rising against a hated liberal elite; defiantly normal Americans versus a sneaking, manipulative “New Class” of journalists, professors, bureaucrats, and social workers (humanistic sodomites, one and all): However contemporary conservative thinkers might protest, this is a strategy for which they owe the John Birch Society a debt of gratitude. Welch and company converted the McCarthyite witch-hunt into something more universal: a culture war between God’s patriots and an international, octopod cabal of quivering Great Society Clintonistas.

While it is true that the contemporary right takes great pains to keep talk of The Conspiracy far from its public presentations, and while it is also true that the Birchers hold no truck with the likes of Gingrich or the Bushes (globalists all), their weird theorizing is a historical bridge between the Joe McCarthy sideshow and the more successful populism of Irving Kristol and the neoconservatism of David Horowitz.

Most crucially, the Birch Society was among the first to crystallize and capitalize on that most compelling of rightwing faiths: the feeling, shared by so many of the nation’s privileged and powerful, that they are, in fact, the persecuted ones, the ones whose towers are forever in danger of being toppled. Welch’s true accomplishment was calling together into a protest movement a generation of strutting, financially solvent, middle-aged Americans, fresh from bombing the hell out of Dresden and Hiroshima, and still intoxicated with their new role as the first superpower; a generation for whom the landmark events of the sixties were an unpleasant series of pimp-slaps. Welch did more than he could ever know to prove his hero Spengler’s theories, beckoning his followers into a uniquely American brand of collectivism.

 


[*] Webster’s most prominent recent disciple is none other than the Rev. Pat Robertson, whose 1991 book, The New World Order, relies heavily on her anti-Semitic hallucinations.

You Might Also Enjoy

New Consensus for Old

Thomas Frank

The prominent sociologist Herbert Gans had been writing about popular culture and its audiences for some twenty years when he. . .

salvos

Dreams Incorporated

Matt Roth

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM? demanded a booming voice. The ballroom went dark and the audience settled in for a fifteen. . .

salvos

Baffler Newsletter

New email subscribers receive a free copy of our current issue.

Further Reading

 July 3

On a snowy, sleety evening last November, inside the auction room at Phillips on Park Avenue, Henry Highley was waiting at. . .

Heads Up: We recently updated our privacy policy to clarify how and why we collect personal data. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand this policy.