One of my unfortunately vivid memories of my childhood was encountering my second cousin, Henry, who was a fanatical John Bircher. He hated the UN, communists, public schools, and non-white people. He was also cheerful, outgoing, and enthusiastic, the life of the party, and he was often at family events. He was at my father’s funeral, telling stories about Dad. I avoided him. Wanted nothing to do with him.
What I remember was Henry learning that I was into science…so he helpfully gave me all this John Birch literature about how black people were more closely related to gorillas than white people were. Even at that young age (I must have been 10 or 12), I knew this was insane nonsense, a lie driven by naked racism, and I knew right away that Henry was a bad man to be avoided. More generally, I learned early to despise the John Birch Society.
Hmm. Why have I also learned to hate Fox News? Because it is the modern form of the John Birch Society, as this video explains. The connections are undeniable.
Oh man. The comments about anti-communist paranoia just brought the bad memories flooding back. Deranged conservative relatives are just the worst — you have to hang with them and listen to their noise while hating every word. I’m just relieved he was a somewhat distant relative and only had to see him sporadically. Maybe he was like a low-dose vaccine?
The rotten state of the JBS has been evident for quite some time, as witness the Chad Mitchell Trio’s song about the group:
When I was younger, people talked about dancing -Te John Birch Polka- where you swing your partner as far right as possible
Ah, my childhood. And my teen years. And my 20s. And now, my fading gray years. It seems to never end.
cubist @ #1 — I saw The Mitchell Trio with John Denver in the fall of 1966 at my college’s home coming thing. Yes, they did that song for a bunch of conservative Christians. They also did “God Is Dead”. It was a lot of fun.
Walter Solomon says
Apparently the guy who started the JBS also was the creator of Sugar Daddy candies. My mom used to eat those like crazy when she was growing up in the 50s. She even saved and mailed in the wrappers for prizes.
It makes me wonder how much of hard-working Black peoples money was used to fund this racist, piece of shit organization just through the sale of those disgusting treats. If that’s not an argument in favor of economic self-sufficiency and “buying Black,” I don’t what is.
PZ Myers says
You know, I owe him a debt of gratitude. I learned while prepubescent that even if someone is likeable, even if they are a relative, they can still be a colossal asshole. It’s shaped my worldview ever since, and made me the skeptic I am today.
Akira MacKenzie says
My exposure to the JBS was limited to reading a couple of issues of their propaganda rag, The New American. Yikes. Even back when I was a Rush-Limbaugh-worshipping conservative, I thought the JBS was full of shit.
If you still subscribe to cable, YOU are giving $ to Fox “News”.
Cut the cord!
Dennis K says
My sister married a Birch nut 35 years ago. Before that, she was a loving and happy sidekick, if a bit naive. Best pals growing up. We still speak on occasion, yet behind my big-brother facade I jump from anger to sadness to pity and back again, round and round. It’s torture. She lost her mind and I miss her.
My dad’s family was full of Birchers, mostly in Eastern Washington. When I informed his aunt that I had nice new boyfriend she told me to make sure he was white, Protestant and did not take too much of my time. Well, I one out of three right.
In his later years I got really really tired of my dad blaming everything on commies. I finally told him that even Russia gave up the communist economic model, and was just an authoritative dictatorship. He is is dead now, so I can no longer tell him Putin’s dictatorship is also incompetent.
Everyone, the mainstream GOP included, thought they had marginalized the JBS by the end of the 1960s. The JBS was playing the long game, though. They now own the GOP. Every crazy, batshit notion they ever had is coming back to a town near you. Get used to hearing terms like “pinko”, and maybe one day soon we’ll have a presidential nominee who will say “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!” Of course, “liberty” in this case is (and always was) the liberty of the JBS to do whatever they saw fit to do.
My dad was pretty mild-mannered, but I did see him speak with vitriol when the John Birchers were the topic.
About 40 years ago I had a long conversation with my wife’s uncle who knew John Birch and served under him as the company meteorologist in China at the end of WWII. Once when they were setting out on horseback on some scouting mission, my wife’s uncle had come down with hemorrhoids so couldn’t ride and had to stay behind in camp. Birch ended up getting killed on that mission by the Chinese Communists. As Birch was purported as the first American victim of Communism, the JBS later named themselves after him.
Having seen the same process with several family members, they saddest thing is they haven’t “lost their minds”. They don’t have dementia or acquired brain injuries or psychoses. They willingly chose to give their minds away!
This classic old song or smthig los like that..
The fun part is, they still think old Ike was a communist agent.