I was raised in a radical right-wing family. For many years, people turned away when I talked about my father and his political views. No one was interested in a man they dismissed as a crackpot and a kook. When I finished the first draft of my book, a literary agent told me that she loved my stories, but no publishing company would pick up my book. There was no audience, she said. According to her, the John Birch Society and the radical right were simply “a footnote of a footnote” in American political history.
Then, the economic crisis hit, Barack Obama became the president, and the Tea Party erupted. People started asking, “Who are these people, where did they come from, and what do they want?” I know.
I can connect the dots between the old radical right of the 1960s and the new radical right of today. I’ll help you connect those dots, too.
Mom and Apple Pie
First, you need to know something about me. I was born on August 16, 1945, the day after the Japanese surrendered to General Douglas McArthur, ending World War II. Depending on how you look at it, I was either one of the last war babies or one of the first baby boomers.
Looking back, it’s easy to think that those post-war years were “the good old days” when everything in America was Mom, S&H green stamps, and apple pie.
The truth was different. Our country faced gigantic post war challenges. The economy had to be retooled to peace time production. Millions of GIs needed jobs and across the globe, Red boots were marching through Eastern Europe and Asia seemingly unopposed. As the Iron Curtain descended, Americans grew afraid.
Tail Gunner Joe
By the time I was six, I could put my hand over my heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I knew that I lived in God’s favorite country and I could name three great Americans: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and “Tail Gunner Joe.”
I wasn’t sure who that last fellow was, but my parents talked about him so often, I knew he was important. It took a while, but eventually I put a first and last name on that guy: Joseph McCarthy, the firebrand anti-Communist senator from Wisconsin.
When McCarthy died in 1957, my parents were devastated. “They killed him because he knew too much,” my mother said.
“It’ll take a lot more Joes to save the country,” Dad added.
Fast forward 18 months and my father had become a Communist fighter just like his hero. For the next 32 years, Dad marched at the head of an anti-Communist army and in those years he never faltered and he never retreated.
They’re Coming For Us
In January of 1959, my mother and my father found the perfect place to fight Communists: the John Birch Society, a new, populist, anti-Communist, anti-federal government movement.
My parents had met Birch society founder Robert Welch several years earlier and the three immediately became allies and friends.
Just a month after the Birch Society was born, my parents paid $2000 to become life members. (That’s about $15,000 in today’s dollars) They were Birchers #1 and #2 in the city of Chicago.
In the winter of 1959, my parents gave me a Birch membership form. I signed on the line and became a full-fledged, adult member of the society. The monthly dues ($1.00 for women) were deducted from my $2.00 per month allowance. I was 13.
My father was promoted to national leadership in 1960. He remained on the National Council for 32 years—until his death.
The John Birch Society defined its first mission as saving America from the Communists. As the Communists continued and accelerated their conquests, it was easy to believe that they were unstoppable.
“They’re coming for us,” my father said.
Robert Welch, Birch founder, calculated in percentage terms how close we were to becoming a satellite of Russia ruled from Moscow. By the early 1960s, Welch estimated the U.S. to be 60% Communist controlled. Only a few years remained, he said, before the United States would cease to exist as a free, independent nation.
Making matters infinitely more dangerous, the problem wasn’t just from the U.S.S.R. or Red China. There were traitors in Congress, the Department of State and every other federal bureaucracy. Welch even believed that we had a Communist president in Dwight D. Eisenhower.
But, that wasn’t even the worst of the problem. Robert Welch had unmasked an even more sinister enemy—the Illuminati, a conspiracy founded in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt in Bavaria. Weishaupt and a group of Enlightenment era Masons devised a plan to destroy all governments and institute a New World Order. They, of course, would be the sole rulers in this new utopia.
According to Welch, the Illuminati had influenced every major event in the last 180 years including the World Wars, our Civil War, the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution. The Communists were not separate from this Master Conspiracy—they functioned as the terror arm of the Illuminati.
The Communists provided the brawn for the revolution but the ideas came from think tanks and foundations. These organizations controlled by “Insiders,” prominent Americans and Internationalists working to further the goals of the New World Order.
You could find the conspirators running the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberger Group, the Trilateral Commission, the United Nations and even fraternal organizations like the Skull and Bones club at Yale. These groups were controlled by the men and women Robert Welch described as “secret Communists.” These Commies looked like and acted like regular, patriotic Americans until the perfect moment arrived. Then, they would be activated by their handlers and rise up to take over the country.
America was in a very bad state. It would take an army of patriots to stop the Communists. Could those men and women be recruited and mobilized before the Communists took total control of our country?
My parents made sure that their children were aware of the horrors of Communism. While other families talked about the weather, the baseball scores, and neighborhood gossip, our dinner conversations took a different tack.
Over chicken and dumplings, my mother described Mao Zedong’s torture methods. Pot roast and carrots encouraged Dad to detail mass starvation in the Ukraine and prison conditions in the Soviet gulag.
Sometimes we heard about children forced to turn their parents into the Commies. Then, those same children were forced to watch while their mother and father were tortured and executed.
In the most horrific stories, the children were made to kill their own parents while the guards watched. I was terrified.
For most of my teen years, I had bouts of indigestion, persistent headaches and frequent nightmares. As hard as I tried to tell myself that these things would never happen in Chicago, my parents were very persuasive. And given the fact that the Communists did do many horrible things, it was hard to push beyond the fear.
Taking Our Country Back
Beyond defeating the Communists, the John Birch Society embraced another mission: taking our country back.”
That’s right—fifty years before right wingers with tea bags on their tri-corner hats waved “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, the Birchers set out to return America to its glory days—sometime between colonial America and 1900. Those halcyon days when real men were free to do anything while the government did practically nothing.
Of course, to get back to that real America, everything passed since FDR had to go, along with the Income tax and every government program not specifically mentioned in our sacred documents.
Birchers could hardly wait for the day the government would be 60 percent smaller than it was (in 1960) and the income tax rate would be zero.
100,000 Before Christmas
The Birch Society spoke to the fear and paranoia that gripped so many Americans. Tens of thousands of men and women joined in just the first few years. Lead by men like Robert Welch, Fred Koch, Revilo Oliver, and my father, an army of patriots was growing. Welch said that one million Americans who knew the score and followed his leadership would be able to stop the Conspiracy in its tracks. By 1960, my father thought they’d reach the 100,000 member milestone before Christmas.
But, as often happens, an unexpected turn of events upended everyone’s plans.
The story continues . . . in http://claireconner.com/2014/12/03/new-right-wing-power-in-dixie/
Wake up, America~
personal finance tips says
Hello there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay.
I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.
Claire Conner says
I am on Twitter. Click the little blue bird on my homepage and you’ll be directed right to my Twitter feed.
Jerry M says
I am in the last 3rd of your book and it has been an eye opener for me. I am 6 years younger than you, but I went to Catholic schools until college and my parents were both proud and active Catholics. As a young teenager I was attracted to Barry Goldwater and later Ayn Rand and William Buckley. I lived in suburban NJ and was completely unfamiliar with Jim Crow laws. I had no idea how important segregation was to state’s rights.
I had not realized what a bunch of bigots were behind the National Review, a magazine I subscribed to until my late 20s. By the time I started reading it, Buckley had removed most of the obvious bigotry.
Thanks for your book, it has dotted a lot of i’s and crossed a lot of t’s for me.
Claire Conner says
I so appreciate your comments, Jerry. It’s amazing how many things we have in common. Like you, it took me a long time to connect the dots. I’m happy to say that both of us figured it out.