What is the John Birch Society?

The John Birch Society (JBS) maintains that internationalist “insiders” with a collectivist agenda, (claimed to be behind both communism and Wall Street capitalism), are engaged in a coordinated drive to destroy national sovereignty and individualism. JBS members are primarily elitist, ultraconservative, and reformist. Its conspiracist theories do not center on scapegoating Jews and Jewish institutions, nor do they center on biological racism. In a more subtle form of racism and antisemitism, JBS promotes a culturally–defined WASP ethnocentrism as the true expression of America. Echoing historic producerist themes, implicit racism and antisemitism are often intrinsic to some group member’s ideology, but they are not articulated as principles of unity. JBS conspiracist narrative traces back to Robison’s book alleging a Illuminati Freemason conspiracy. The Society’s roots are in business nationalism, economic libertarianism, anti–communism, Eurocentrism, and Christian fundamentalism.[i]

The JBS and Liberty Lobby both uses populist-sounding rhetoric, but JBS members distrust the idea of the sovereignty of the people, and stress that the United States is a republic not a democracy, which they dismiss as a “mobocracy.” This explains how the JBS can criticize the alleged secret elites, yet retain an elitist point of view; they want to replace the “bad” elites with the “good” elites–presumably their allies. The JBS also uses conspiracist scapegoating, a common feature of right–wing populism.


 

[i] For more on the JBS, see: William V. Moore, The John Birch Society: A Southern Profile, paper, Southern Political Science Association, 1981; J. Allen Broyles, The John Birch Society: Anatomy of a Protest, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964); Diamond, Roads, pp. 52–59, 140–141, 147–148; Gene Grove, Inside the John Birch Society, (Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1961).