What Was The John Birch Society? Anti-Communist Fervor Of The Groovy Era

By | December 7, 2020

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The Civil Rights Movement was a favorite target of the John Birch Society. Source: Southern Policy Law Center

The John Birch Society was the grassroots network of the American anti-Communist crusade of the '50s, '60s and '70s. Society members, called "Birchers," saw a constant struggle against Communist infiltration, and it was no coincidence that the group was founded the year after the death of commie witch-hunt king Senator Joseph McCarthy. The John Birch Society -- which, by the way, still exists -- embraced and propagated conspiracy theories long before the internet even existed, uniting like-minded people in a far-right community through pamphlets, radio shows and boycotts. Though lampooned by mainstream culture as a bunch of red-fearing kooks, the John Birch Society had an ambiguous significance: Was this the crazy fringe of American conservatism, or the purest form of it?

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One of the John Birch Society's causes. Source: (Political Dictionary).

Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society, attended the U.S. Naval Academy as well as Harvard, but did not graduate from either institution. He ended up working as an executive in his brother’s candy company, the James O. Welch Co. After World War II, he began reading Communist literature, and decided that New Deal programs such as Social Security, were part of a Soviet plot to take over America. He eventually retired and left the candy industry; after he discovered John Birch’s story in 1953, he formed the John Birch Society in 1958.