To those of us who grew up in the 1950’s or 1960’s The John Birch Society may seem like a thing of the distant past, but it’s alive and well today and has left it’s paranoid footprints everywhere. Surprisingly, they’ve changed some of their targets, learned from mistakes and are attempting to re-invent the movement. It’s tentacles reach The Tea Party, The Koch brothers and elements of the militia movement. The John Birch Society was shunned by William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater and the Republican establishment some 50 years ago, and the anticommunist Red-hunters were linked to assassination teams trained by “The Minutemen” In fact, they are woven into the fabric of the Kennedy assassination itself.
In the January 11th issue of “The New Yorker”, Thomas Mallon has written “A View From The Fringe; The John Birch Society and The Rise of The Radical Right”. Mallon covers the history of The J.B.S. from it’s creation by candy king Robert Welch in 1958. It was Welch, Mallon writes, who suggested “That Dwight Eisenhower had consciously acted as an agent of the International Communist Conspiracy.” This gives us a scale upon which to measure the extreme views of the Birchers. Needless to say, they were not at all happy to witness Nixon’s pivot to China in 1972. China after-all, was the place where American missionary John Birch was killed. Birch, who at the time was acting as a translator for Doolittle’s Raiders, was reportedly killed by Red Army soldiers at the time of the Japanese surrender. Alternative legends have Birch being killed in a firefight between the retreating Japanese Army and the Chinese. In fact, Birch’s mother Ethel Birch “was first told that her son had been killed by stray bullets”. Regardless, Birch became the poster-boy for several generations of anticommunists.
In his 1971 book “Power On The Right”, William Turner captures the paranoid power structure of the American right-wing. Turner recounts a 1962 Gallup poll that “found that at least 10 million Americans considered Welch’s “philosophy” intriguing”. He suggests “the Mormon-settled states of Utah, Idaho, and Washington contain a membership out of proportion to their population”. “Texas, Florida and Southern California are Birch country”. This description provides linkage that we will next explore; the Birch empire stretches from Orange County California, to Dallas Texas, to the home of Birch co-founder Fred Koch in Wichita Kansas. Orange County California spawned both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, along with huge financial support. Wichita Kansas was the epicenter of Fred Koch’s newly found oil money, and he went on to build oil refineries in both Nazi Germany and The Soviet Union. His preferences surface in this interview (scroll down) with New Yorker writer Jane Mayer:
“MAYER: And here again, you get this strange reoccurrence of a kind of a little touch of Nazi Germany because the nanny that they chose for the two oldest boys, which would have been – Frederick Koch was the oldest son, and the next one was Charles Koch, who is the person who really has been the key figure running Koch industries and also running the company’s political operations. Charles and Frederick, the oldest sons, were put in the hands of a German nanny who was described by other family members as just a fervid Nazi. She was so devout a supporter of Hitler that finally, after five years working for the family, she left of her own volition in 1940 when Hitler entered France because she wanted to celebrate with the Fuhrer. And there was a tremendous amount of kind of chilly competition between the boys and friction between the boys.”
Most readers now know that The Koch brothers are Libertarian kingmakers, and in Mayer’s January 25 2016 New Yorker article “New Koch”, Mayer describes how the brothers are trying to re-invent themselves:
“In the past year, Koch Industries has become one of the leading backers of a bi-partisan coalition for criminal-justice reform, supporting legislation that aims at reducing prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders, many of whom are poor people of color”.
Analysis I have read suggest another motive: similar legislation may let corporations off the hook for environmental or other crimes, and they seek to establish this precedent.
William Turner’s “Power On The Right” describes Birch founder Robert Welch as an admirer of “Franco of Spain, Salazar of Portugal, Batista of Cuba, Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, and Rhee of South Korea, totalitarians all, who undoubtadly would have agreed with him that a democracy is “a demagogic weapon and a perennial swindle”.
The Bircher’s handled themselves like an intelligence operation, where “Local chapters were kept small and designated by four-letter code names, and the identity of members was closely guarded. This enabled the society to wage campaigns of harassment, disruption, and letter writing that gave the illusion of spontaneity”.
Turner quotes a Birch spokesman as “stating that some two thousand Los Angeles County law enforcement officers were members of his organization”. While that may be a stretch, it is clear that the Bircher’s had indeed infiltrated the military and the police, perhaps nowhere more thoroughly than Dallas – and that is where we touch on the Bircher’s and the Kennedy assassination.
General Walker and Billy James Hargis
In Mallon’s New Yorker article we meet Claire Conner, author of “Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America’s Radical Right”. Conner’s father spent thirty-two years on the societies national council. This passage is significant:
“The most interesting facet of Conner’s unfortunate youth involves her having been a student at the University of Dallas, and a witness to the Presidential motorcade, on November 22, 1963. “Did the Birch Society have anything to do with this?”she asks her father, just afterward, over the phone. He hung up without answering”.
Dallas was ground zero for American extremism when Kennedy visited. General Edwin Walker, an avowed racist, alleged homosexual, rabid anticommunist and Nazi sympathizer and his sidekick Reverend Billy James Hargis were key Dallas Birchers. Walker had resigned his commission after he used his military status to promote John Birch Society propaganda among his troops. Later, he was forced into a mental institution by Attorney General Robert Kennedy after he was involved in a anti-integration riot at the University of Mississippi. Walker and Billy James Hargis went on carnival-barker type speaking tours against communism, equating civil-rights legislation with “negro communist infiltration”.
Walker and his associates were found to be responsible for the “Wanted For Treason” posters that appeared in Dallas for Kennedy’s visit. It was also Walker, in which is now believed to have been a publicity stunt, who Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly took a shot at through an open window at Walker’s home. The shot missed, or was intended to miss. As stated, this raised Walkers perceived profile and provided linkage to Oswald as he was being set up as a patsy.
The best work on this subject has come out in a recent book by Dr. Jeffrey Caufield titled “General Walker and the Murder of President Kennedy – The Extensive New Evidence of a Radical-Right Conspiracy”
I have ordered Caufield’s 1,000-page book but at this date it is still being shipped. I have however, heard a number of podcast interviews with Dr. Caufield. They can be found at THIS LINK.
Caufield has pulled together a nation-wide underground operation that, in conjunction with the Bircher’s was violently dedicated to racist anti-integration, anticommunism and a hatred for the Kennedy brothers. While it seems obvious that the military, CIA, Warren Commission and other governmental organizations were clearly in on the operation as well as cover-up of Kennedy’s assassination, Dr. Caufield carefully threads together elements of the radical right-wing. These include the Bircher’s, who appear to have been foot-soldiers in the assassination. One needs look no further than the Dallas Police to find the linkage. Combine that with Jack Ruby’s warning to the Warren Commission that General Walker and the Bircher’s were involved in the assassination – a subject quietly rejected by Warren as Jack Ruby pleaded to be taken out of Dallas for his safety. Here is a passage from Caufield’s “General Walker and the Murder of President Kennedy” – read this carefully:
“On December 28, 1966, nine days after Jack Ruby entered the hospital, General Walker wrote to Billy James Hargis and expressed his fear that Ruby might talk, and then Walker issued a warning. The information was buried in the third paragraph of a letter following a trivial discourse about a briefcase Hargis had given him, his regrets that he could not attend a function with Hargis and his family, and his libel law suit. The letter was discovered by the author and revealed here for the first time. Walker wrote:
Another peculiarity—with de Mohrenschildt returning to Dallas
from Haiti as Rubenstein is allegedly dying with cancer (and might talk)—de M. made a front-page spread; and our informant produced his address and whom he is staying with—not good.
A warning. When Rubenstein leaves the hospital in a box (the only way he will come out), there is no further “block” to returning the blame on the right wing. The books and press will gradually pick it up again. RFK must have it—it must be done, as insurance and assurance—an RFK political necessity.”
So here we have Walker – at the apex of the John Birch Society in Dallas – predicting that Ruby would die in jail, that he can never live to talk about the far-right’s involvement, and foreshadowing that Robert Kennedy must be killed also.
The John Birch Society is still alive and well. They are presumed to be involved in the movement to privatize Federal lands through the recent welfare-cowboy-militia debacles in Nevada and Oregon. Their website has a nice, clean “white” American presentation, while still equating civil rights with Communism (is that still around?) in blog posts. They have made somewhat of a course correction however. In an interview with James Corbett, Bircher/author James Perloff has charted new territory.
Perloff, author of “Shadows of Power” has done a pretty darned good expose’ of The Council on Foreign Relations, and his research should be considered. Perloff has stated that the Birch Society had it a little wrong in the early days – or perhaps the dynamics have simply changed. In my opinion gleaned from the interview, rather than Communism, Perloff now sees that global trade agreements that threaten sovereignty of nation-states is the actual enemy. And here is where “left” and “right” may be in agreement. Multinational corporate governance leads to, well… a “new world order”.
The legacy of the John Birch Society is still with us, in libertarianism and anti-Federalism. Their heirs like the Koch brothers wield significant political power, and they are still potentially dangerous.
For more on these topics, check the embedded links above and take a look at Dr. Jeffrey Caufields Website HERE