The Roots of Right Wing Paranoia

I have long wished there was an online archive of documents from the John Birch Society to search through (there is a big archive at Brown University, but it’s not online and requires permission to access on site). I found one that has some of the early documents and…wow. Here’s what JBS founder Robert Welch said at the first meeting of the national council on Jan. 9, 1960:

“From a careful and realistic study of the mountainous pile of evidence that is there for all to see, certain terrifying conclusions are objectively inescapable. Among them are:

(1) The Communists are winning their large victories, as they always have, through the cumulative effect of small gains;

(2) They make these gains chiefly through the conniving assistance of many of the very diplomats and officials who are supposed to be opposing them;

(3) Communist influences are now in almost complete working control of our government;

(4) And hence, the United States Government is today, as it has been for many years, the most important and powerful single force promoting the world-wide Communist advance.” A Confidential Report To Members Of The COUNCIL of The John Birch Society – minutes of 1/9/60 meeting held at Union League Club in Chicago IL, page 1-2; minutes signed by Robert Welch.]

Furthermore:

“Today, gentlemen, I can assure you, without the slightest doubt in my own mind, that the takeover at the top is, for all practical purposes, virtually complete. Whether you like it or not, or whether you believe it or not, our Federal Government is already, literally in the hands of the Communists.” (Ibid, page 2)

“In our two states with the largest population, New York and California…already the two present Governors are almost certainly actual Communists…Our Congress now contains a number of men like Adam Clayton Powell of New York and Charles Porter of Oregon, who are certainly actual Communists, and plenty more who are sympathetic to Communist purposes for either ideological or opportunistic reasons.” (Ibid, page 7) (Note: the reference to Governors refers to Edmund G. Brown of California and Nelson Rockefeller of New York.)

“In the Senate, there are men like Stephen Young of Ohio, and Wayne Morse of Oregon, McNamara of Michigan, and Clifford Case of New Jersey and Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Estes Kefauver of Tennessee and John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, whom it is utter folly to think of as just liberals. Every one of those men is either an actual Communist or so completely a Communist sympathizer or agent that it makes no practical difference…” (Ibid, page 8)

“Our Supreme Court, dominated by Earl Warren and Felix Frankfurter and Hugo Black, is so visibly pro-Communist that no argument is even needed…And our federal courts below that level…are in many cases just as bad.” (Ibid, page 8)

“Our State Department is loaded with Communists from top to bottom, to the extent that our roll call of Ambassadors almost sounds like a list somebody has put together to start a Communist front.” … [Ibid, page 8]

“It is estimated from many reliable sources that from 70% to 90% of the responsible personnel in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare are Communists.”

“Our Central Intelligence Agency under Allen Dulles is nothing more or less than an agency to promote Communism throughout the world…Almost all the other Departments are loaded with Communists and Communist sympathizers. And this generalization most specifically does include our whole Defense Department.”

Gee, where do we see this kind of ridiculous, paranoid rhetoric today? On the far right, only today it’s Muslims who have allegedly taken over the government and are part of a grand conspiracy involving President Obama to help the terrorists win. This is one reason why I want access to more documents from the JBS, especially pamphlets and fliers, because I think they would read like they were written this week if you just changed the targets of the paranoia. In the 60s, it was the Chinese who were alleged to be massing on the Mexican border and coming to invade us; today it’s Muslim terrorists (and immigrants themselves, all of whom supposedly pose a mortal threat to America).

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  • John Pieret

    There always must be a THEM to go with US. Otherwise how could the world be black and white?

  • abb3w

    It would also be interesting to try tracing the influence of the JBS-affiliated on other right-wing political writers, in an attempt to flesh out a history of “right-wing counterculture”.

  • whheydt

    Re; John Pieret @ #1…

    Right out of “Digging the Weans” (Robert Nathan, 1956) which features the We or Us and their enemies the More We or Usser. It’s the report on the archaelogical excavations at Pound-Laundry.

  • RickR

    Fred Clark at Slacktivist has done a thorough job of teasing out the threads of Birch Society paranoia that are entwined with apocalypse “theology” that makes up Tim LaHaye’s specific brand of premillennial dispensationalism on display in the “Left Behind” series of books.

  • colnago80

    They’re all Communists save me and thee, but I have my doubts about thee.

  • colnago80

    Saith Robert Welch: There can be no doubt or question that Dwight David Eisenhower is a conscious Communist conspirator and that John F. Kennedy is a willing tool of the International Communist Conspiracy..

  • raven

    I didn’t see the head Commie on that list. Former President, Dwight Eisenhower.

    How The John Birch Society Pushes Conspiracy Legislation …

    thinkprogress.org/ security/2013/05/09/…/birch-society-agenda-21/

    May 9, 2013 – The John Birch Society, a nativist organization founded in the 1950s, … including that President Eisenhower was a communist infiltrator and …

    1. While General Eisenhower was a Commie, he wasn’t a very competent one. Here it is, 2015 and we still aren’t very commie.

    2. The John Birch Society is still very much alive and babbling like the idiots they are. These days it seems to be UN Agenda 21.

    3. I still run into what must be very old people on the internet babbling on about the Communist Menace. When I point out that communism is more or less dead, they act like they never realized it.

    The lesson here is clear. You need to update your To Hate and Fear list every decade or two. These days it is Scientists, Moslems, Atheists, Gays, and Obama. Demons and satan are always in style though.

  • gshelley

    That would be the John F Kennedy who became President?

    Obama must have learned from him. Kennedy invaded and blockaded Cuba, taking the world to the brink of nuclear war to hid his communist sympathies, Obama has bombed Al Quaida into almost oblivion to hide the fact he really likes them

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    YES!

    Only Oregon managed to elect TWO terrifyingly anti-Bircher members of congress – one in each house!

    We’re number 1! We’re number 1!

  • http://dharmaubuntu.wordpress.com/ Aspect Sign

    You know, while the arguments are the same I can’t help but feel that the old school John Birchers are at least deserving of a touch more respect than the current crop of right wingers. They truly believed that anything left of the government providing national security was socialism and socialism was just the loading ramp for communism. It was free individualism and capitalism against socialism and collectivism. And this country has been a socialist democracy since at least FDR, giving them a legitimate foe. The whole thing with islam is somewhat different, it has become what style of fascism will we have, christian or islamic .

  • wscott

    @ Aspect Sign #10: Fair point. Of course we still hear the same rhetoric from Faux News et al. Once you’ve redefined “Communist” to mean anyone to the left of Rick Santorum, then by that definition yeah I guess you really can say the commies have taken over. It’s almost Orwellian how they manage to redefine words to mean exactly what they want them to mean, rather than what they actually mean.

  • macallan

    I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

  • jonathangray

    As soon as we had settled ourselves at the table Stalin rose, lifted his glass and proposed a toast “To President Roosevelt, who in spite of the mute growls of the Fishes dared to recognize the Soviet Union.” Everyone drained his glass to the bottom and sat down again with considerable laughter at Stalin’s reference to Ham Fish. I then proposed the health of President Kalinin and thereupon a series of toasts was begun which continued throughout the entire meal. The next one was Molotov’s to me in which he proposed “The health of one who comes to us as a new Ambassador but an old friend.”

    – William Bullitt

  • http://wanderinweeta.blogspot.com Susannah

    Go back even further. Remember the “Yellow Peril”? During WWII this was still a thing. I was in high school in the late 50s when it morphed into the “Red Scare”.

    From the Wikipedia write-up: ” the fear that they would eventually take over and destroy western civilization, replacing it with their ways of life and values. The term also refers to the fear and or belief that East Asian societies would attack and wage wars with western societies and eventually wipe them out and lead to their total annihilation …”

    The more things change …

  • felidae

    Nothing whips up credulous paranoid fringe like the threat of an external enemy massed on our borders or the threat from within of enablers of them–people have gotten rich from feeding the conspiracy minded red meat See: Beck, Glenn

  • jonathangray
  • grumpyoldfart

    In Australia circa 1960, Prime Minister Robert Menzies warned that the Indonesians were about to invade Australia. Reporters pointed out that the Indonesian navy didn’t have any troopships and asked how the invading soldiers would get here. Menzies said they would arrive on logs and rafts and sampans. He won the election!

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    Our Supreme Court, dominated by Earl Warren and Felix Frankfurter and Hugo Black, is so visibly pro-Communist that no argument is even needed…

    …or can be given!

  • Lady Mondegreen

    Richard Hofstadter’s book The Paranoid Style in American Politics is well worth reading. He discusses the early Birchers.

    I’ve got a library copy of his Anti-Intellectualism in American Life waiting in my book queue.

  • jonathangray

    “From 1934 to 1939 Hofstadter was active in left-wing groups, including a leadership role in the Young Communist League and (in 1938–39) a member of the Communist Party. Although disillusioned by Stalin’s deal with Hitler in 1939, and disgusted with the party’s anti-intellectualism, he remained an informal supporter into the early 1940s. … From 1942 to 1946, Hofstadter taught history at the University of Maryland. There, he became fast friends with radical sociologist C. Wright Mills and read extensively in the fields of sociology and psychology, absorbing ideas of Max Weber, Karl Mannheim, Sigmund Freud, and the Frankfurt School.”

  • caseloweraz

    This was Robert Welch speaking in December 1958 at the meeting in Indianapolis attended by Fred Koch, where Koch became a member of the JBS:

    “This octopus is so large,” Welch said, “that its tentacles now reach into all of the legislative halls, all of the union labor meetings, a majority of the religious gatherings, and most of the schools of the whole world. It has a central nervous system which can make its tentacles in the labor unions of Bolivia, in the farmers’ cooperatives of Saskatchewan, in the caucuses of the Social Democrats of West Germany, and in the classrooms of Yale Law School, all retract or reach forward simultaneously. It can make all of these creeping tentacles turn either right or left, or a given percentage turn right while the others turn left, at the same time, in accordance with the intentions of a central brain in Moscow or Ust-Kamenogorsk. The human race has never before faced any such monster of power which was determined to enslave it.”

    Source: Sons of Wichita by Daniel Schuman, pp. 43-44.

    Notice how, in Welch’s conception, Communism controls not only most governments around the world but also the labor unions, the schools, farmers’ cooperatives, and the majority of religious institutions. Those as yet unaffected — himself and his fellow travelers — to him constitute the human race, and for them Communism represents an existential crisis.

    The Invasion of the Body Snatchers brilliantly satirizes this attitude.

  • Kermit Sansoo

    jonathongray – I’m curious. Is your point that, since there were indeed real Commies, that therefore Eisenhower was a Communist sympathizer, that all Democratic congressmen were Stalinists, and that there was therefore a massive buildup of Chinese military forces just south of the Mexican border?

    .

    Nobody that I recall has on this blog insisted that there are no Muslim terrorists, for example, but I and others suggest that thinking Obama is a Muslim is paranoid, delusional, and at best indicative of a total inability to understand reality and assess evidence.

    .

    If your point is simply to remind us that there are real threats, I can assure you on that point; I and others here know this. But just as the US drove Cuba, Viet Nam, and other countries to Communism, so too are we driving many countries, tribes, and individuals to Muslim extremism by our bullying, cultural colonialism, and our “death angel from the sky” bombings. Black and white, Us vs Them, paranoid pandering creates enemies ex nihilo, not only in our imaginations, but in reality.

  • colnago80

    Re Kermit Sansoo @ #22

    A former Congresscritter from Orange Co., California, James Utt, once sent a message to his constituents claiming that there was an army of a quarter million Chinese Communists poised in Baja California to launch an invasion of California. Seems like Grey’s kind of guy.

    By the way, many of Grey’s asshole buddies amongst the neocons were Trotskyites at the time that Hofstadter was a member of the Communist Party, including Irving Kristol, father of the neocon movement, and Norman Podhoretz. So was Grey’s fellow nutcase David Horowitz who used to man a table at Sather Gate at an entrance to the UC Berkeley campus for the Socialist Worker’s Party, a Trotskyite outfit.

  • colnago80

    Re Jonathan Grey

    By the way, speaking of the Venona Papers, the man who exposed them, Allen Weinstein, stated, based on information gathered from them, that, by the time Senator Joe McCarthy, another of Grey’s heroes, started his campaign to expose the Communists in the State Department, there weren’t any, they had all been canned (e.g. Alger Hiss). Ole Joe never could keep the number of fictitious Communists in the State Department straight, giving different numbers in every speech he made.

  • jonathangray

    Kermit Sansoo:

    If your point is simply to remind us that there are real threats, I can assure you on that point; I and others here know this. But just as the US drove Cuba, Viet Nam, and other countries to Communism, so too are we driving many countries, tribes, and individuals to Muslim extremism by our bullying, cultural colonialism, and our “death angel from the sky” bombings. Black and white, Us vs Them, paranoid pandering creates enemies ex nihilo, not only in our imaginations, but in reality.

    There seems to be a general reluctance among liberals to acknowledge the reality of existential enemies (apart from the vas right-wing conspiracy) who are not motivated by some legitimate grievance against us and can therefore be excused or appeased. This is not to deny that legitimate grievances can exist or that hamfisted or paranoid responses often serve only to empower the enemy; but that is hardly “creating enemies ex nihilo”.

  • jonathangray

    colnago80:

    By the way, many of Grey’s asshole buddies amongst the neocons were Trotskyites at the time that Hofstadter was a member of the Communist Party, including Irving Kristol, father of the neocon movement, and Norman Podhoretz. So was Grey’s fellow nutcase David Horowitz who used to man a table at Sather Gate at an entrance to the UC Berkeley campus for the Socialist Worker’s Party, a Trotskyite outfit.

    Hostility between varieties of American conservatism/neoconservatism and varieties of socialism/communism is a family squabble among members of the same revolutionary clan.

    “What is needed is not a revolution in the opposite direction, but the opposite of a revolution.” ~ Joseph de Maistre

  • Anri

    Well, I think we can all agree with jonathangray that, given it’s long-standing complete takeover of the US political system, international communism is a vastly more powerful force now than it was in the 60’s.