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The World of the John Birch Society

Conspiracy, Conservatism, and the Cold War

D. Mulloy

Publication Year: 2014

As far as members of the hugely controversial John Birch Society were concerned, the Cold War revealed in stark clarity the loyalties and disloyalties of numerous important Americans, including Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Earl Warren. Founded in 1958 as a force for conservative political advocacy, the Society espoused the dangers of enemies foreign and domestic, including the Soviet Union, organizers of the US civil rights movement, and government officials who were deemed "soft" on communism in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Sound familiar? In The World of the John Birch Society, author D. J. Mulloy reveals the tactics of the Society in a way they've never been understood before, allowing the reader to make the connections to contemporary American politics, up to and including the Tea Party. These tactics included organized dissemination of broad-based accusations and innuendo, political brinksmanship within the Republican Party, and frequent doomsday predictions regarding world events. At the heart of the organization was Robert Welch, a charismatic writer and organizer who is revealed to have been the lifeblood of the Society's efforts.

The Society has seen its influence recede from the high-water mark of 1970s, but the organization still exists today. Throughout The World of the John Birch Society, the reader sees the very tenets and practices in play that make the contemporary Tea Party so effective on a local level. Indeed, without the John Birch Society paving the way, the Tea Party may have encountered a dramatically different political terrain on its path to power.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dediation

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Many people have contributed to this book and I am extremely grateful to all of them. Much of the initial research for it took place in the wonderful archives of the Wilcox Collection for Contemporary Political Movements in the Kenneth Spenser Research Library at the University...

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pp. 1-14

It was an extraordinary claim. The thirty-fourth president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower—the widely beloved war hero, the man who had helped save the world from fascism during World War II—was a traitor, a “dedicated, conscious agent” of the Soviet Union and of the whole “Communist...

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Part 1: chapter 1. Exposure

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pp. 15-41

For eighteen months following its formation in December 1958 the John Birch Society operated in relative obscurity. This period of initial calm was brought to an abrupt end in July 1960 when the Chicago Daily News published the first significant exposé of the Society, including the contention of its founder...

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2. Putsch

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pp. 42-73

On April 16, 1961, the Overseas Weekly, a controversial tabloid newspaper sold mostly on U.S. military bases in Europe, published an article entitled “Military Channels Used to Push Birch Ideas.”1 The article alleged that Major General Edwin A. Walker, a decorated war hero of both the Second...

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3. Extremism

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pp. 74-106

As the campaign season formally got under way at the end of August 1964, the New York Times reporter Anthony Lewis predicted that whether the contenders liked it or not, there would be three key themes in the fast-approaching presidential election: civil rights, the nation’s nuclear policy, and...

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Part 2: Chapter 4. Rights

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pp. 107-136

In September 1956, two years before the formation of the John Birch Society, Robert Welch published “A Letter to the South: On Segregation” in One Man’s Opinion, the precursor to American Opinion. Speaking in the first person plural, Welch argued that “we had come to believe it to be inevitable, and desirable, that...

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5. War

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pp. 137-166

In summary, Gentlemen, we are losing, rapidly losing, a cold war in which our freedom, our country, and our very existence are at stake. And while we don’t seem to know we are losing this war, you can be sure the Communists do.” So did Robert Welch inform the eleven men who gathered in Indianapolis to...

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6. Conspiracy

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pp. 167-186

Conspiracies and conspiracy theories saturated the thinking and political activity of the John Birch Society between 1958 and 1968. Events big and small, from the Cold War and the rise of the civil rights movement to the “smear” campaign against the Society itself, were seen more clearly...

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pp. 187-190

The John Birch Society did not disappear after 1968. It survived the presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon and continued to offer its conspiratorial assessments throughout the remainder of the twentieth century and indeed on into the twenty-first, even undergoing a revival of sorts with the rise of the Tea...


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pp. 191-250


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pp. 251-266


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pp. 267-286

E-ISBN-13: 9780826519832
E-ISBN-10: 0826519830

Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 881831078
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The World of the John Birch Society

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Subject Headings

  • John Birch Society.
  • Conspiracies -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Conservatism -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1989.
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