Summary Of The John Birch Society

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The John Birch Society is without a doubt, one of the most bizarre groups in modern American history. Founded in 1958, by American businessman Robert Welch, the society was radical anti-communist group that believed that The United States was under threat, both externally and internally. The Birch Society would go on to propagate many extreme conspiracy theories, such as claiming that President Eisenhower was a member of a secret communist plot. Yet, as D.J Mulloy argues in his book, The World of the John Birch Society, “they had played an essential role in the revitalization of conservatism,” and made “a significant and lasting contribution to America’s Cold War and conspiracy cultures.” In the book, he seeks to examine the society’s worldview,…show more content…
He writes that when William F. Buckley of The National Review wrote a piece condemning the Society and asking Welch to step down, he still needed to assert that “Many decent people belonged to the Society” and that it was controlled by a “lunatic fringe,” but even then Buckley still faced pushback from many conservatives. Mulloy depicts the Goldwater campaign as being the highpoint of the Society’s influence in politics. He states that, “a major problem facing Goldwater was that he was strongly identified with both the radical Right in general and the John Birch Society in particular.” Yet, he argues that Goldwater was afraid to distance himself from radical elements, such as the Birch Society, because of their influence. This, along with several other factors led to him being viewed as an extremist, and after his devastating loss the Society was pushed from the semi-mainstream by conservatives who viewed them as part of the extreme element that led to Goldwater’s…show more content…
history. His sources are wide and varied, using newspapers, secondary historical accounts, and public statements made by both figures inside and outside of the Birch Society. Mulloy uses Welch himself as a source the most extensively however, which does make sense as the Society operated “under completely authoritative control at all levels,” and because most of its ideas came from Welch himself. The book itself is rather short, which leaves out some other important areas that Mulloy could, and perhaps should have covered. For example, throughout the book he mentions The Second Red Scare, McCarthyism and the American Commonest Party, but they are more like passing comments and he doesn’t give enough context. It would have been better if he had another chapter earlier on in book discussing the history of communism in America, so that the audience would have a better idea of the circumstances under which the Society emerged. Nonetheless, Mulloy does an excellent job of describing the history of the John Birch Society, their views, as well as their impact on Cold War conservatism and the book is well worth the
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