Scalia’s Convenient Originalism »« Cruz Still Serving Up the Koolaid

Growing Up Bircher

Rick Perlstein has a fascinating article about Claire Conner, who grew up with parents who were two of the original members of the John Birch Society. She’s written a book called Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America’s Radical Right that I’m anxious to read. During a discussion between Perlstein and Conner at a Chicago bookstore, she pulled out a copy of a now-infamous book:

“The Birchers call this the ‘Black Book. They call their bible the ‘Blue Book,’ because it has a blue cover…. This book”—she waved my copy of The Politician, a spiral-bound thing that I had ordered from John Birch Society headquarters in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1997—“is a tract written over a period of years showing Dwight Eisenhower as a dedicated Communist. Who reported, by the way, in Mr. Welch’s theory, to his brother Milton”—the president of Johns Hopkins University—“in the Communist Party. This book was given—secret copies, numbered copies—to certain individuals. Bill Buckley had one. Barry Goldwater had one. My father had one. My father got it in 1955, when I was 10, three years before the John Society ever existed…. You had to sign a pledge that you would never reveal the contents of this book. So, as the John Birch Society developed, there were rumors that developed that there was this”—she whispered—”secret book. ‘There’s a secret book! There’s a secret book! There’s a secret book! And it names real Communists in the government!’ And my father would say, all the time, at every meeting, when people said, ‘What about the secret book?’ that, ‘There is no secret book.’

“So I didn’t believe there was such a book.”

“My dad was speaking to 200 people and giving his standard speech—about the United Nations and the conspiracy and so on—and during the question-and-answer period this woman [was] waving her hand, and my dad called on her, and she said, ‘What about this secret book?’

“So my father said, ‘There is no secret book. There is no such book. There will never be a book’—he went through this whole thing.”

The woman then reached into her satchel, pulled out the secret book, and partook to read from the section that said Dwight David Eisenhower was a secret Communist.

I’ve been saying from the very start of the Tea Party that it reminds me very much of the John Birch Society. William F. Buckley managed to discredit the JBS and oust it from mainstream conservatism in the 1960s, but it has come back with a vengeance. People like Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Rick Wiles, Alan Keyes, Erik Rush, Jerome Corsi and many others are making exactly the same arguments, offering up the same bizarre conspiracy theories that the JBS people did back then, only the target has changed. Instead of the government being controlled by communists, it’s now controlled by Muslims. Instead of Eisenhower secretly selling out America to a mysterious and all-powerful enemy, now President Obama does it. And the UN and the Chinese are still on the verge of taking over the country and the world, as they were then. That none of their predictions ever actually come true does not bother them in the least.

Comments

  1. raven says

    A few of the John Birchers are still babbling on about the commies taking over the USA. Not realizing that the Soviet Union doesn’t even exist any more and commie-ism is all but extinct.

    The brighter among them are babbling on about UN Agenda 21 and zoning. Apparently unaware that the UN has nothing to do with local government zoning regulations.

    They all miss the point though. It’s Area 51 and Reptilian shapeshifting aliens. Romeny is one of those

  2. says

    The Tea Party are mostly illiterate, and too undisciplined to keep any kind of secret anyway. These are the same people who are too full of religious insanity to keep up the pretense that Intelligent Design is NOT AT ALL RELIGIOUS.

  3. raven says

    What’s the Tea Party’s secret book?

    Fox News. Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh.

    They don’t read much any more. It was too hard.

  4. says

    What’s more interesting than the inanity of their beliefs are the bizarre rituals that they feel compelled to cloak them in. A secret book that only the Elect can know about? Fnord.

    This is a not a political movement, it’s a cult.

  5. says

    I’ve been saying from the very start of the Tea Party that it reminds me very much of the John Birch Society.

    I’ve been saying the same about libertarians: same hatred of communism, same reflexive McCarthyism, same wildly paranoid hatred of all things gunnint, same consistent pandering to backwoods survivalist, racist and other militialaneous loons.

  6. says

    Me:

    What’s the Tea Party’s secret book?

    Area Man:

    There is no secret book.

    I walked right into that one, didn’t I?

    What’s more interesting than the inanity of their beliefs are the bizarre rituals that they feel compelled to cloak them in. A secret book that only the Elect can know about? Fnord.

    This is a not a political movement, it’s a cult.

    I was popping back in to mention the mystery cult vibe I was getting from the secrecy, but you beat me to it.

    I’m also thinking about some of the stuff I’ve heard about the KKK having a code language for their meetings that was exposed on a Superman radio show. The title “Imperial Wizard” also comes to mind.

    I should probably stop there. I suspect if I thought about it long enough, I’d probably find mystery cult behaviors in every wingnut society and movement.

  7. petemoulton says

    You know who else was raised by Birchers? The Kochroach brothers, who do a lot of teabagger funding. Their old man, Fred Koch, was a founding member of the JBS. And that’s why the teabaggers sound so much like the insane Birchers.

  8. says

    And the UN and the Chinese are still on the verge of taking over the country and the world…

    And that’s partly due to the fact that people like the Birchers, teatards and libertards NEED the Chinese Communist regime to break our evil Communist labor unions and give us cheaper consumer goods so we can all live the good life without having to pay for it.

  9. John Pieret says

    All you need to know about these people is that they think Obama is as much a communist as Dwight Eisenhower. I actually agree … it”s the conclusion they draw from that that’s crazed!

  10. Abdul Alhazred says

    FWIW, the JBS still exists and is at least organizationally distinct from “Tea Party” groups.
    Might be some overlap in membership, though.

  11. daved says

    It seems to me, though, that there is a crucial distinction between the JBS and the Tea Party, and that’s the genesis of the movement.

    OK, I won’t claim to understand exactly what fueled the start of the JBS, but I think it’d be reasonable to say it was fear. Fear of the Other, fear of International Communism, fear of whatever. Fear tends to sell pretty well, especially when it’s tied to a giant conspiracy; the fearful take comfort in knowing that they know about the conspiracy, even though most people don’t.

    The Tea Party, on the other hand, was started by some nitwit TV business correspondent, and has since been appropriated by a bunch of very rich people who don’t think they should have to pay any taxes.

  12. colnago80 says

    Not only did Robert Welch (who by the way was from the Welch family of grape juice fame which disowned him) claim that Dwight David Eisenhower was a conscious Communist conspirator but that his successor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. was an unconscious tool of the International Communist Conspiracy.

  13. says

    daved: BOTH movements are based on fear of The Other, and BOTH movements are organized and manipulated by the 1% to keep the 99% divided against each other. On those two points at least, there’s no difference between the two (well, three) groups.

  14. daved says

    Raging Bee: I’ll go along with that; clearly, fear of The Other is a big part of the whole anti-Obama drumbeat.

    I was just pointing out that I don’t think the JBS was generally used for personal enrichment by the oligarchy. Maybe they couldn’t come up with a way to make a buck off it.

  15. says

    The Tea Party, on the other hand, was started by some nitwit TV business correspondent, and has since been appropriated by a bunch of very rich people who don’t think they should have to pay any taxes.

    I think the Tea Party can fairly be said to have started at the grassroots, but this lasted for all of a few weeks before it was co-opted by Fox News and “astroturf” groups like Freedomworks, which were already part of the conservative establishment. Various local and independent groups sprang up after that, but they could never seem to get organized (it’s from them we got the spectacle of Fox covering anti-Obama “protests” consisting of twenty people).

    I’d say the biggest difference is that the JBS has a centralized organization that is very much separate from the conservative establishment, whereas the Tea Party is largely disorganized but very much subsumed by mainstream conservatism. In other words, the Tea Party doesn’t really exist other than as the rightward and shittier part of the conservative spectrum, and frankly I get annoyed when people speak of it as a distinct movement rather than as a marketing gimmick. The JBS can at least claim to be its own exotic species.

  16. colnago80 says

    Re Raging Bee the Fairfax fumbler

    Ole Bee simply can’t resist the opportunity to take a shot at libertarians.

  17. D. C. Sessions says

    That none of their predictions ever actually come true does not bother them in the least.

    It can’t. After all, they’re still waiting patiently for a prediction of the Second Coming that was due within the lifetimes of those who were around 2000 years ago. The Soviet takeover of the United States is all part of the End Times shtick, so it’s locked in by their religious (unthinking, unquestionable) faith.

  18. Pierce R. Butler says

    “The Birchers call this the ‘Black Book. They call their bible the ‘Blue Book,’ …

    Conner has just let it slip that the JB Society has more than one secret bible. Her cunning attempt to distract us with this “black book” may work for the innocent and trusting such as Ed Brayton, but those in the know recognize that the Blue Book points to the critical info.

    Go ahead, type “Blue Book” into your search engine. Disregard the one about used car prices, and everything else will concern the Air Force’s notorious cover-up report about Roswell, Area 51, and those so-called Unidentified Flying Objects.

    Obviously, the Birchers have the real Air Force report, but have no choice but to try to warn us in coded euphemisms (hint: the aliens to worry about have lots of documents…) because We! Can’t! Handle! The! Truth!

  19. exdrone says

    Area Man @2

    “What’s the Tea Party’s secret book?”
    There is no secret book.

    That’s the first rule of Fright Club.

Leave a Reply