Fear and loathing cloud the life of a boy in the muddy, paranoid backwoods of Washington State, and this family biography by J.G. Daniel couldn’t come at a better time;
Review by John Titus
“I was twelve years old, lying face down on my belly in the prone position in front of our old doublewide trailer which was situated in the woods of Western Washington. The nearest neighbor was nearly a half mile away. As usual it was wet outside and the ground was cold and soggy. The muddy driveway had a bend in it about fifty yards away, where at any moment the enemy could be coming right at me. In my hands was one of Dad’s converted, full auto AR-15’s and it was loaded.”
This is the opening paragraph of J.G. Daniel’s new family biography “Hate or Be Hated – How I Survived Right-Wing Extremism”.
Mr. Daniel has written a graphic guidebook of how not to raise children, a story that is at the same time tragic but not without humor and hope and resolution.
The John Birch Society, for those who are too young to remember, is a fervent anti-communist organization that was created in the 1950’s by Robert Welch, Fred Koch and a virtual army of militaristic yokels. The Birch Society was fertile breeding ground for the red-baiting witch-hunts of the McCarthy era, and as Mr. Daniel reminds us – is still present in the fetid political climate of 2016.
Daniel paints a picture of a boy who truly wants to please his father – an ignorant, marginally employed survivalist – by accepting the hateful dogma of the sociopath Birch Society. In this bleak world, the brainwashing that begins at home is followed by official training:
“It was only a couple of years later when I received my formal “training” during the summer of 1985 at a John Birch Society summer camp located at the YMCA Campgrounds in Lake Wenatchee, WA., about three hours east of Seattle. I would be one among hundreds of teenagers sent to your not-so-average summer camp to learn the secrets of the Grand Communist Conspiracy. I would also learn how my own high school teachers were trying to brainwash me into becoming a liberal like them and then eventually a full-on commie.
The John Birch Society summer camp featured daily lectures about how rock and roll was going to make me love Satan and how the United Nations was created to take away our freedoms and ultimately destroy America with their New World Order, among other topics. I was taught that democrats, liberals, bankers, the government, celebrities and the media were all working together to trick us into becoming communist slaves. Most importantly, however, I was taught that the John Birch Society was the only organization which could ultimately save America from the communist threat and preserve our freedoms. I learned they were our only hope to make America great again. I didn’t believe everything I was taught, but a lot of it I did.”
Mr. Daniel freely admits that – given the proper motivation – he was prepared to shoot, bomb or sabotage for the cause; a painful truth that provides little separation from the madness of today’s terrorist attacks. Fortunately, small things began to happen in his life that lifted the dark paranoia haunting him. Even at the Birch summer camp, there were pretty girls. By the time he entered high school, he was playing bass in a band under the guidance of a music teacher that saw promise in this young reactionary. Gradually, Daniel awoke to the big picture, seeing a more complete and balanced world in which he excelled. He became a publisher who was so popular that he was accepted into the “insider” group of corporados in the Seattle – Tacoma area, only to find that they were nearly as biased and narrow-minded as his father had been.
“Hate Or Be Hated” is a harsh title for an equally harsh tale of troubled adolescence. But in this short read we see the evolution of boy survivalist to successful businessman and loving parent. J.G. Daniel shows us how compassion and smarts can bring confused people to a truer understanding of the world around them, and in our current hate-filled political climate this book couldn’t have come at a better time.
Here is a brief interview exchange I conducted with J.G. Daniel:
1. The membership of the John Birch Society is not published, so we do not have an estimate of it’s size. In Washington State or other places you have lived, how strong was membership when you were young and do you have an idea of how many members are involved now?
When I was a teenager in the eighties, my dad said that there were well over a hundred thousand members of the John Birch Society in America and that the membership base was very strong in Washington State. At various Birch Society functions that I went too, there would be anywhere from a dozen people at our meetings to well over a hundred at various speaking events. Because the John Birch Society is a secret organization, however, it’s hard to know the real membership count, but it’s obvious that there are hundreds of thousands based on the current state of the Republican Party today. Many Republicans in the congress, senate and even their Presidential candidate today tout the same hate, fear and propaganda of the John Birch Society.
2. In the late 1950’s – early 1960’s General Edwin Walker was using Birch Society propaganda to indoctrinate his troops in Germany and was relieved of his command for that reason. He returned to be very active in Dallas at the time of the assassination of President Kennedy. Was there any talk of this subject in the Bircher circles when you were exposed to it?
I was never exposed to this other than hearing about the Warren Commission and how JFK was a commie and deserved to die. I didn’t pay much attention to this either as my concerns had more to do with commie invasions, losing our freedoms, guns, etc.
3. You were in the army at Ft. Lewis Washington. was there any Birch Society influence in the military at that time?
No, no relationship and never really any discussion on politics when I served.
4. The legacy of The John Birch Society appears to manifest itself in the Tea Party, Donald Trump, and in a strange way perhaps even the Clinton Campaign’s current Russo-phobia. Is this just a perceived influence, or is it possible the Birch machine is still driving far-right movements in the United States?
I think it’s incredibly obvious that the Birch machine as you put it is driving much of the divisive debate going on in America today. The Birch machine is not just limited to the John Birch Society and their publications. The Tea Party, Fox News, the NRA and hundreds of other hate organizations are all inspired by the John Birch Society.
The paranoia in America today over ISIS, Obama’s birth certificate, gun control, illegal immigrants, transgender bathrooms and Russia is all overblown for the most part and does nothing but spark additional hatred, fear, racism and nationalism. The fact that millions of American’s are visibly opposed to Black Lives Matter or they support a complete ban on Muslims entering America shows just how close and possible it is for the US to become a fascist and racist empire. The John Birch Society along with my father had me scared for most of my teenager years and now, unfortunately, that nonsense is on the forefront of American society today.
The extreme right-wing has no opposition to a dictator in America as long as the dictator looks, speaks and acts like them. They, along with the Tea Party, the Koch Brothers and of course Donald Trump are no longer in the closet as kooks. They are mainstream and have successfully overthrown the Republican Party.
I think that what we’re ultimately seeing today is the backlash against having a President who is black and a Democrat and now we’re facing the very real prospect of having a woman who is also a Democrat become President. Racism and sexism runs strong and deep in America’s right.
5. You successfully extricated yourself from years of Bircher misinformation and abusive parenting. As you became skilled in your business career you found that at the highest levels of commerce in the Seattle-Tacoma area, business leaders were just as narrow minded and blindly opinionated.
Without question. It’s very easy to have an overblown ego and a inflated sense of self when you’ve become successful in business. Because of this, most of them believed that they knew what was best, regardless of the data or science put in front of them.
Thank You Mr. Daniel
You can read an excerpt of J.G. Daniel’s “Hate Or Be Hated” at this Alternet link:
J.G. Daniel Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/hateorbehated
My previous article on the John Birch Society: