Birchers. Again.

In the comments to my piece on Beck v. Soros,  there were a number of postings suggesting that the John Birch Society had it right and that we may as well pick up where they left off.

This may sound harmless to many AT readers, particularly the younger ones, to whom John Birch is scarcely even a name. But it's not. What it is is a provocation designed to associate AT, its readers, and, not the least (well, maybe the least), me with one of the most lurid nut cults ever to appear on the extreme right-wing fringe.

Because that's what the Birchers were -- a cult. A hermetic, isolated group who believed they had secret knowledge denied everybody else in the U.S. of A. And what was this knowledge? Bircher beliefs can be summed up quite simply:

  • A) That everything that occurs in public life, without exception, is caused by the communists.
  • B) That everybody who is not a Bircher is a communist.
Moving on, here are some choice elements of Bircher thought: That Dwight D. Eisenhower was a communist agent, that the civil rights movement was a communist plot, that the Vietnam War was a communist plot (I know, I know -- I don't get it either). That the Christian ecumenical movement was a communist plot, that the mental health establishment was run by communists. That free trade was a communist plot. (I'd like to hear somebody try to square that circle.) That the collapse of the Soviet empire was bogus, a ruse designed to make us let down our guard. Birchers were also opposed to every war the U.S. was involved in since the organization's founding in 1958, on the grounds that they were fought on behalf of guess who? (All they need is a few posters saying "God hates fags" and they'd be all set.)

While some of the organization's stances were acceptable, including opposition to big government and the U.N., it was all couched in that same monotonous "the postman is a communist" drone. Anyone who wants to get a flavor of the organization's rhetoric will find it in Stanley Kubrick's classic satire Dr. Strangelove -- a large portion of mad general Jack D. Ripper's rants are derived directly from Bircher material. (Let me add here that John Birch, a U.S. Army intelligence officer killed by Maoist troops at the close of WWII, had nothing to do with the organization. Birchers considered him a martyr, the "first casualty of WWIII".)

The Birchers were repudiated by the American center-right soon after they appeared -- most famously by William F. Buckley, who read them out of the movement with comments about their "paranoid and idiotic" behavior. Even Ayn Rand, no friend of Buckley or other conservative leaders, was dismissive of the Birchers: "I consider the Birch Society futile, because they are not for Capitalism but merely against Communism."

But repudiation didn't work. Throughout the '60s, American liberals succeeded in connecting Birchers with the center-right, convincing the public at large that everybody from Buckley on down was a nascent Jack Ripper, crazy as a rat in a can, and ready to go off at a touch. Their crowning victory was the trashing of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign. After the organization endorsed Goldwater, the media ran with it, depicting the senator as a demented extremist even though he was not a Birch Society member, had no contact with them, and disagreed with them in detail. The "Bircher" accusation went on to serve the left well for nearly twenty years.

I confess I can't make much sense of the comments concerning the Birchers. I can't see the connection to Soros, who, after all, is no communist, but instead a weird amalgam of European anti-Americanism and various social democratic and soft left ideas, never-neverland notions such as world government mingled with sandal-wearer fixations including euthanasia, legalization of pot, and legalization of prostitution. (I cannot repeat often enough that none of this has anything to do with Karl Popper, a champion of individual liberty and a political philosopher of the highest repute.)

The comments also imply that conservatism is "coming around" to Bircher ideas. This is nonsense. Millennial conservatism is a sophisticated political and intellectual construct, as far beyond the simpleminded compulsions of the Birchers as it is the theology of the Aztecs. Contemporary conservatism is the result of forty years of study, debate, and contemplation of the problems confronting our Republic. A cursory glance at the comments posted to this site reveals a depth and perceptiveness unknown to any paranoid fringe sect. I, for one, like it that way.

So where is this stuff coming from? I see two possibilities: that the remnants of the organization (they're still around -- but so are the Wobblies) are making crude attempts at recruitment in an effort to break in on the current conservative revival, or alternatively that some lefties are attempting to paint AT, its writers, and its readers with the Bircher label in hopes of reliving their 1960s glory days. It really doesn't matter which. Such cute little schemes fail the moment they're exposed. That moment has arrived, and we can consider the matter closed. 

We have no need of such extremist primitivism.We get intelligent, nuanced analysis of our challenges and problems every day from figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Levin. Laura Ingraham...the list, as we all know, is endless. Our current organizations -- the Tea Parties above all -- are vastly superior to any past groups on the right, from their decentralized structure to their modulated and restrained attitude toward doctrine to their decisive ability to put ideas into action. To adapt outmoded and paranoid concepts out of the 1950s would be an exercise in pure futility, as well as being more than a little crazy.

We've got better things to do. So grab that ammo belt, Mandrake -- the Redcoats are comin'.

J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.
In the comments to my piece on Beck v. Soros,  there were a number of postings suggesting that the John Birch Society had it right and that we may as well pick up where they left off.

This may sound harmless to many AT readers, particularly the younger ones, to whom John Birch is scarcely even a name. But it's not. What it is is a provocation designed to associate AT, its readers, and, not the least (well, maybe the least), me with one of the most lurid nut cults ever to appear on the extreme right-wing fringe.

Because that's what the Birchers were -- a cult. A hermetic, isolated group who believed they had secret knowledge denied everybody else in the U.S. of A. And what was this knowledge? Bircher beliefs can be summed up quite simply:

  • A) That everything that occurs in public life, without exception, is caused by the communists.
  • B) That everybody who is not a Bircher is a communist.
Moving on, here are some choice elements of Bircher thought: That Dwight D. Eisenhower was a communist agent, that the civil rights movement was a communist plot, that the Vietnam War was a communist plot (I know, I know -- I don't get it either). That the Christian ecumenical movement was a communist plot, that the mental health establishment was run by communists. That free trade was a communist plot. (I'd like to hear somebody try to square that circle.) That the collapse of the Soviet empire was bogus, a ruse designed to make us let down our guard. Birchers were also opposed to every war the U.S. was involved in since the organization's founding in 1958, on the grounds that they were fought on behalf of guess who? (All they need is a few posters saying "God hates fags" and they'd be all set.)

While some of the organization's stances were acceptable, including opposition to big government and the U.N., it was all couched in that same monotonous "the postman is a communist" drone. Anyone who wants to get a flavor of the organization's rhetoric will find it in Stanley Kubrick's classic satire Dr. Strangelove -- a large portion of mad general Jack D. Ripper's rants are derived directly from Bircher material. (Let me add here that John Birch, a U.S. Army intelligence officer killed by Maoist troops at the close of WWII, had nothing to do with the organization. Birchers considered him a martyr, the "first casualty of WWIII".)

The Birchers were repudiated by the American center-right soon after they appeared -- most famously by William F. Buckley, who read them out of the movement with comments about their "paranoid and idiotic" behavior. Even Ayn Rand, no friend of Buckley or other conservative leaders, was dismissive of the Birchers: "I consider the Birch Society futile, because they are not for Capitalism but merely against Communism."

But repudiation didn't work. Throughout the '60s, American liberals succeeded in connecting Birchers with the center-right, convincing the public at large that everybody from Buckley on down was a nascent Jack Ripper, crazy as a rat in a can, and ready to go off at a touch. Their crowning victory was the trashing of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign. After the organization endorsed Goldwater, the media ran with it, depicting the senator as a demented extremist even though he was not a Birch Society member, had no contact with them, and disagreed with them in detail. The "Bircher" accusation went on to serve the left well for nearly twenty years.

I confess I can't make much sense of the comments concerning the Birchers. I can't see the connection to Soros, who, after all, is no communist, but instead a weird amalgam of European anti-Americanism and various social democratic and soft left ideas, never-neverland notions such as world government mingled with sandal-wearer fixations including euthanasia, legalization of pot, and legalization of prostitution. (I cannot repeat often enough that none of this has anything to do with Karl Popper, a champion of individual liberty and a political philosopher of the highest repute.)

The comments also imply that conservatism is "coming around" to Bircher ideas. This is nonsense. Millennial conservatism is a sophisticated political and intellectual construct, as far beyond the simpleminded compulsions of the Birchers as it is the theology of the Aztecs. Contemporary conservatism is the result of forty years of study, debate, and contemplation of the problems confronting our Republic. A cursory glance at the comments posted to this site reveals a depth and perceptiveness unknown to any paranoid fringe sect. I, for one, like it that way.

So where is this stuff coming from? I see two possibilities: that the remnants of the organization (they're still around -- but so are the Wobblies) are making crude attempts at recruitment in an effort to break in on the current conservative revival, or alternatively that some lefties are attempting to paint AT, its writers, and its readers with the Bircher label in hopes of reliving their 1960s glory days. It really doesn't matter which. Such cute little schemes fail the moment they're exposed. That moment has arrived, and we can consider the matter closed. 

We have no need of such extremist primitivism.We get intelligent, nuanced analysis of our challenges and problems every day from figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Levin. Laura Ingraham...the list, as we all know, is endless. Our current organizations -- the Tea Parties above all -- are vastly superior to any past groups on the right, from their decentralized structure to their modulated and restrained attitude toward doctrine to their decisive ability to put ideas into action. To adapt outmoded and paranoid concepts out of the 1950s would be an exercise in pure futility, as well as being more than a little crazy.

We've got better things to do. So grab that ammo belt, Mandrake -- the Redcoats are comin'.

J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.