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View Diary: Top Comments: The John Birch Society Edition (170 comments)

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  •  The John Birch Society is barely relevant today (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Steveningen, cohenzee, gizmo59, Noddy

    Their conspiracy theories live on, but they have very little influence within the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy that defines much of the Republican Party cultists of today.

    Today's Republican Party includes dozens of factions, so the idea that it's business or bircher types is not very useful.

    That's not to say that knowledge of the history of the Birchers and the Koch connection isn't helpful; it is. None of this accounts for the Republicans who are the anti-choice idiots, the gun nuts, the wannabe anarchists, the fantasy revolutionaries, the zealous libertarians, the wannabe nazis, the white supremacists, the Agenda 21 CT morans, etc. The JBS and the business types aren't connected to these other factions. Individuals, perhaps, but not the organizations.

    It's the Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation, Cato, and other spinoffs that brought these disparate groups together with a common goal of defeating the evil Democrats who, they believed, were winning elections because they were organized and focused on defeating Republicans. There were a few key individuals involved in creating this larger force and Fred Koch was one of them. Paul Weyrich was probably the most influential, however. Weyrich was not a fan of the John Birch Society and their crazy conspiracy theories. He worked hard at diminishing their influence over the years. The JBS was repulsive to the goals of building a Republican base and electing Republicans.

    Here's some interesting facts:

    Fred Koch and Robert Welch were classmates at MIT, iirc.

    Fred Koch was the guy who financed the move of the JBS HQ from Belmont, MA (not far from MIT) to Grand Chute, WI.

    Fred Koch had bought several paper mills in the Appleton, WI area and Lake Winnebago and lived in the area for a while.

    Grand Chute, WI is near Appleton, WI, often considered a suburb now.

    Grand Chute, WI is the birthplace of Sen. Joe McCarthy.

    Fred Koch detested Stalin and communism because the workers actually had power. Fred Koch was a BIG fan of Mussolini's variety of fascism, a more accurate way to describe today's Republican Party agenda.

    Oh yeah. All Democrats are communists, of course. The worst possible threat there is/was to these guys.

    It's not that these guys thought Eisenhower was a communist sympathizer, they paid to have books written to PROVE that Eisenhower a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy".

    And I haven't even talked about the far right conservative christian evangelicals aka the American Taliban.

    "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

    by GrumpyOldGeek on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 08:05:05 PM PST

    •  Yep (5+ / 0-)

      Fringe at best throughout its history, but persistent. Thanks for all that, grumpy!

      -7.75, -8.10; Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

      by Dave in Northridge on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 08:09:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great addition to the diary (5+ / 0-)
      And I haven't even talked about the far right conservative christian evangelicals aka the American Taliban.
      I eagerly await the next installment.
    •  Actually, this is a useful distinction (3+ / 0-)

      Grumpy Old Geek says,

      Today's Republican Party includes dozens of factions, so the idea that it's business or bircher types is not very useful.
      Michael Lind describes the right as being comprised of the corporate right, the religious right, and the libertarians. But where did the ideas of the religious right about government come from? Lind traces them to the JBS.  

      Don't underestimate the importance of the Birchers in right-wing thought. They are some of the best-educated and most energetic apostles. They may be small, but they are quite influential.

      •  Before Pat Robertson, it was Vernon Grounds (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dave in Northridge

        a founder of a Conservative Baptist movement that one of the first to promote political activism by the church. His teachings began in 1950, eight years before the JBS was effectively organized. This got a lot of pushback initially, so the movement eventually split from the mainstream Baptist organizations.

        Michael Lind isn't wrong because the JBS did promote these ideas among various conservative religious leaders, Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, and others. But that was in the 60's and later.

        It's just that the early far right conservative movements were already promoting political activism and those ideas were picked up as part of the JBS strategy.

        It's Vernon Grounds' movement at the Denver Seminary that influenced the Coors family, original funders of the Heritage Foundation. Paul Weyrich met the Coors through Vernon Grounds and his seminarians. Even Gov. Scott Walker's father, Llewellyn, is a former student of Grounds. I won't elaborate. Bad words would be written here.

        John Birch was, first and foremost, a Fundamentalist Baptist missionary. He attended the Fundamental Baptist Bible Institute in Texas where friends of Vernon Grounds were teaching at the time. In 1940, Birch was a missionary in China. After Pearl Harbor, Birch retreated to Eastern China and continued his missionary activities.

        Amazingly, Jimmy Doolittle's successful bombing of Tokyo resulted in several bombers making emergency landings near Birch's mission. Birch came to the rescue and led the flyers to safety. He became an instant hero. He accepted a commission and joined the US military. He was one of the early OSS (CIA) spies. In 1945, his holier-than-thou brazen arrogance got him shot and killed by the Chinese Communists. He stupidly refused to surrender when captured.

        John Birch was the ideal martyr that fit the JBS founders' anti-communist heroic Bible-thumping arrogant asshole conspiracy theorist ideology.

        It was Paul Weyrich (and many supporters and wealthy donors) who formulated and executed the big tent strategy of the right wing we see today. Weyrich was a right wing talk radio and TV fear-mongerer more than a decade before Rush Limbaugh started spewing his nonsense.

        I'm fascinated by how all this crap came to be. It isn't just because I was born and grew up in Wisconsin and have even met some of these right wing gasbags. No, not just that.

        "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

        by GrumpyOldGeek on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 01:19:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Paul Weyrich recognized "Bircher Madness" (2+ / 0-)

          as the tag that kept Far Right ideas from gaining ground.

          Welch had bottomless amounts of Koch money to spend. But Welch was crazy, possibly legally insane. John Birch Society had big help from Southern Baptist Convention, LDS, and conservative Catholics. But Welch was a rant-and-rave mad man.

          By 1972, Paul was able to convince Adolph Coors and others that a new approach was needed. Lewis Powell had written up a conceptual plan -- the Powell Memo -- that resulted in Heritage and another twenty 'think tank" operations.

          Bircher Madness.

          They don't have Paul Weyrich any more. They do have a system for camouflaging their positions, their voting records particularly, and they rarely sound off as to how Samuel Alito is their favorite Associate Justice on SCOTUS.

          They still have bottomless billionaire money. And there's more paranoid billionaires these days, apparently. Getting to 150 seats, the Bircher Republicans are a major party.

          "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012

          by bontemps2012 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:35:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Facts? (0+ / 0-)

      Several of your "facts" are utterly wrong.

      (1) Fred Koch died in 1967 and he resigned from the Birch Society prior to that time.  

      So how did he (according to you) "finance the move of the JBS HQ" from MA to WI?

      (2)  I am not aware that Welch ever attended MIT.  He graduated from the University of North Carolina and he attended Harvard Law School --- but where did you find MIT?

      (3) What makes you claim that Fred Koch was a "BIG fan of Mussolini's variety of fascism"??  Incidentally, whether or not Koch "detested" Stalin,  nevertheless Koch made a considerable amount of money doing business in Stalin's Russia!

      (4)  What "books" did "they" "pay" to have written to prove Ike was a "dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy"?

      •  Oh goody. A pedantic pseudo-intellectual nitpicker (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dave in Northridge, bontemps2012

        who is being "utterly annoying". Gosh, I didn't provide footnotes, references, or sources, in a comment written spontaneously without checking my notes in a thread in a Daily Kos diary, you conclude that my "facts" are "utterly wrong" somehow.

        I didn't reveal the name of the book about the Eisenhower-communist CT and this makes my statement "utterly wrong" somehow?

        That tone is "utterly offensive". But I'll proceed anyway.

        1) It's JBS money, Fred Koch's, Robert Welch's and all the member's money. No, Fred Koch didn't write the check. The location of the new JBS HQ is important. Fred Koch, and later his son Charles, owns Georgia Pacific which has major paper mills in the region of Lake Winnebago, WI. Grand Chute, WI is the birthplace of Joe McCarthy, a prominent JBS supporter, who later moved to the adjacent city of Appleton. It's Fred Koch's business interests in the area that influenced the location of the new HQ site. If your really think it's necessary to know exactly who wrote the check, you'll have to contact the Outagamie County Register of Deeds. Your dime.

        2) Koch attended MIT, Welch attended Harvard, JBS HQ was in Belmont. Right next door. I wasn't referring to notes. So my "fact" must be "utterly wrong" after all. Does it matter?

        3) Yes, Fred Koch made much of his initial fortune in Stalin's Russia. He developed a deep hatred of Stalin and communism there, mostly because, having trained his own teams of engineers in Russia, “Virtually every engineer he worked with [there] was purged,” as written in this 2006 Forbes Magazine article and in Koch's 1960 book, A Business Man Looks at Communism (not available online). In it, he wrote that the Soviet Union was "a land of hunger, misery, and terror".

        He expounds on the benefits of Mussolini's Fascism as well. The suppression of communism was important to Koch. The idea of territorial expansionism "to assert its superiority and strength to avoid succumbing to decay" was appealing as well. This was a way to counter the decay Koch observed in communism. Yes, Koch was a fan of Mussolini's Italian Fascism ideology. No because of greed or business interests, rather out of empathy and humanitarian concerns. Contrary to current rationalizations about the motivations of the Koch family, unbridled greed and evil intentions aren't the primary motivations. It's irrational fears that drive the conspiracy theorists, mostly.

        4) In Robert Welch's 1975 publication, The Politician, he wrote about Eisenhower's communist agency. Unfortunately, Google Books only provides snippets of the book contents.

        I found a few references to Welch's and McCarthy's infamous papers and essays about the Eisenhower communist conspiracy theories in Richard Hofstadter's paper, The Paranoid Style in American Politics which I highly recommend to anyone interested in CT research. I assume you're familiar with Hofstadter's essay. An excerpt:

        The typical procedure of the higher paranoid scholarship is to start with such defensible assumptions and with a careful accumulation of facts, or at least of what appear to be facts, and to marshal these facts toward an overwhelming "proof' of the particular conspiracy that is to be established. It is nothing if not coherent -- in fact, the paranoid mentality is far more coherent than the real world, since it leaves no room for mistakes, failures, or ambiguities. It is, if not wholly rational, at least intensely rationalistic; it believes that it is up against an enemy who is as infallibly rational as he is totally evil, and it seeks to match·his imputed total competence with its own, leaving nothing unexplained and comprehending all of reality in one overreaching, consistent theory. It is nothing if not "scholarly" in technique. McCarthy's 96-page pamphlet McCarthism contains no less than 313 footnote references, and Mr. Welch's fantastic assault on Eisenhower, The Politician, is weighed down by a hundred pages of bibliography and notes. The entire right-wing movement of our time is a parade of experts, study groups, monographs, footnotes, and bibliographies. Sometimes the right-wing striving for scholarly depth and an inclusive world view has startling consequences: Mr. Welch, for example, has charged that the popularity of Arnold Toynbee's historical work is the consequence of a plot on the part of Fabians, "Labour Party bosses in England," and various members of the Anglo-American "liberal establishment" to overshadow the much more truthful and illuminating work of Oswald Spengler!
        The JBS funds such publications.

        "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

        by GrumpyOldGeek on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 06:40:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Identify "Birchers" by "Bircher Madness." (2+ / 0-)

          If they expound a nontrivial selection of the standard paranoid themes of the John Birch Society, then they're Birchers.

          Distrust of democratic government ? You betcha.

          Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics is a true today as when it was written in 1965. But what matters about JBS is that the Birchers organized the Far Right.

          McCarthyism was not organized. There wasn't a McCarthy Society or McCarthy meetings in church cellars.

          Robert Welch's 1958 start up for JBS led to local chapters in all the major cities, where Far Right religious and political groups were finally able to meet and work out cooperative operations. Baptist vs. Mormon vs. Catholic -- that had been the norm. Then JBS provided local forums where they could put aside their traditional differences.

          You betcha, hate-driven racism was the fuel.

          Anti-communism blanketed the literature. Problem was, there weren't enough American Communists to go around. South of the Mason-Dixon and west of the Mississippi, damn close to zero.

          Black people ??? No shortage of that. So the Civil Right Movement turned into communists !!! Baptist preacher Martin Luther King and SCLC became communists!

          Bircher Madness. We had it tagged in the 1960s. It's the same damn thing today. same paranoia. Same conspiracy schemes. Spread out by billionaire money, sure thing. Same madness.

          "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012

          by bontemps2012 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 06:02:01 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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