Rick Perlstein has a fascinating article about Claire Conner, who grew up with parents who were two of the original members of the John Birch Society. She’s written a book called Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America’s Radical Right that I’m anxious to read. During a discussion between Perlstein and Conner at a Chicago bookstore, she pulled out a copy of a now-infamous book:
“The Birchers call this the ‘Black Book. They call their bible the ‘Blue Book,’ because it has a blue cover…. This book”—she waved my copy of The Politician, a spiral-bound thing that I had ordered from John Birch Society headquarters in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1997—“is a tract written over a period of years showing Dwight Eisenhower as a dedicated Communist. Who reported, by the way, in Mr. Welch’s theory, to his brother Milton”—the president of Johns Hopkins University—“in the Communist Party. This book was given—secret copies, numbered copies—to certain individuals. Bill Buckley had one. Barry Goldwater had one. My father had one. My father got it in 1955, when I was 10, three years before the John Society ever existed…. You had to sign a pledge that you would never reveal the contents of this book. So, as the John Birch Society developed, there were rumors that developed that there was this”—she whispered—”secret book. ‘There’s a secret book! There’s a secret book! There’s a secret book! And it names real Communists in the government!’ And my father would say, all the time, at every meeting, when people said, ‘What about the secret book?’ that, ‘There is no secret book.’
“So I didn’t believe there was such a book.”
“My dad was speaking to 200 people and giving his standard speech—about the United Nations and the conspiracy and so on—and during the question-and-answer period this woman [was] waving her hand, and my dad called on her, and she said, ‘What about this secret book?’
“So my father said, ‘There is no secret book. There is no such book. There will never be a book’—he went through this whole thing.”
The woman then reached into her satchel, pulled out the secret book, and partook to read from the section that said Dwight David Eisenhower was a secret Communist.
I’ve been saying from the very start of the Tea Party that it reminds me very much of the John Birch Society. William F. Buckley managed to discredit the JBS and oust it from mainstream conservatism in the 1960s, but it has come back with a vengeance. People like Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, Rick Wiles, Alan Keyes, Erik Rush, Jerome Corsi and many others are making exactly the same arguments, offering up the same bizarre conspiracy theories that the JBS people did back then, only the target has changed. Instead of the government being controlled by communists, it’s now controlled by Muslims. Instead of Eisenhower secretly selling out America to a mysterious and all-powerful enemy, now President Obama does it. And the UN and the Chinese are still on the verge of taking over the country and the world, as they were then. That none of their predictions ever actually come true does not bother them in the least.
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