The World of the John Birch Society: Conspiracy, Conservatism, and the Cold War

D J Mulloy, Author
D. J. Mulloy. Vanderbilt Univ., $35 (296p) ISBN 978-0-8265-1981-8
Paperback - 978-0-8265-1982-5
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A particular brand of conservatism currently active on the American political scene can be traced back to the John Birch Society, according to this revealing work from Mulloy (American Extremism), associate professor of history at Wilfrid Laurier University. The Society was co-founded in 1958 by Robert Welch, a rural North Carolina native who entered the U.S. Naval Academy, quit after two years to attend Harvard Law School, then joined his brother's profitable candy company before going into politics. Mulloy skillfully details Welch issuing a clarion call to prospective Birchers with his shrill anti-communist announcement at the peak of the Cold War years: "Communism," Welch believed, was "a gigantic conspiracy to enslave mankind." Wary from years of the McCarthy witch hunt, The Blue Book of the John Birch Society was read with disbelief, as it named President Eisenhower, his brother Milton, Secretary of State Allen Dulles, and Chief Justice Earl Warren as communists. Nevertheless, the Society's close bond with the U.S. military, the tense atmosphere in Dallas preceding J.F.K.'s assassination, and Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential run reflect the group's influence. Mulloy's essential look at Welch's remarkable group brilliantly reveals the Society's hard-nosed conservatism while linking it to movements that preceded today's Tea Party. (June)
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