I was a first-hand witness to the radical John Birch Society. My unique perspective connects the dots from those old radicals to today’s right-wing extremists.
My father was a charter member and a national leader of the Birch Society, recognized as one of the most radical right-wing organizations of the 1960s and 70s. For years, my parents and their Birch associates stoked hatred of the federal government and an irrational fear of socialism. The Birchers focused on their main goals for fighting “socialism”: repealing federal legislation that created Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, labor laws, civil rights protections, and rolling back regulations on business.
It took me a long time to figure out that repealing all progressive legislation (a John Birch dream) would push this country back to 1900 when the government was tiny, workers had no protections, and corporations were free to do whatever they wanted. In those “good old days,” poverty, illness, and early death were the plight of the vast majority of Americans while the wealthy enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. That was the era beloved by Birch leaders and their followers.
Most of the Republicans running for office sound like clones of the John Birch Society leaders I knew. They support everything to help the rich and turn their backs on the middle class and the poor. If Americans continue to elect these right-wingers, our country will be controlled by a scary alliance of religious fanatics, anti-government zealots, and super-wealthy men like the Koch Brothers.
Most people still have no clue what these radicals are up to. That has to change. My book, Wrapped in the Flag, tells my story of growing up in the radical right, how I escaped, and how today’s right-wing sounds eerily similar to the John Birchers I knew. Help me share my story, and we can take one step to stopping the Kochs and their associates.
When Americans understand what is happening and why, they will answer these radicals with a huge, overwhelming NO.
Let’s get busy.
I’ve been aware of the Koch brothers for several yrs now. They are devils in human form. They hate anyone not of their elk and of course, blacks are to be loathed. I THINK
the real communist is their father who spent time with Joseph Stalin and built up the Communitst oil industry. He really was beholden to the almighty $ as our his decendants today.
She could read the somber reflections and the black-wrapped editorials in the Dallas papers the next day. Lauren could weep with me and my roommate as little John Kennedy honors his father with a final salute.
She could listen to my father, back home in Chicago, remind me that “the Communists killed one of their own.”
Maybe, Just Maybe
Maybe, just maybe, Miss Lauren Pierce would take to heart what the Dallas Morning News said on November 23, 1963: “We join the rest of the nation in expressing heartfelt sympathy and trust that the warped and distorted who become unstable in their opposition (to Kennedy) will retreat into the darkness and not emerge until they regain the light of reasonableness and balance.”
Maybe Lauren would learn something from November 1963 in Dallas and she’d rethink her tweet. And, maybe just maybe, the rest of the red-meat, hate-Obama crowd she leads at UT Austin would learn something, too.
Stop Telling Tall Tales
The day before President Kennedy arrived in Dallas thousands of these handbills labeling Kennedy a traitor appeared in downtown Dallas. At the time, I was a college freshman at the University of Dallas, a small conservative college just outside Dallas.
My father, Stillwell J. Conner, a John Birch Society National Council member and Birch spokesperson, had attacked Kennedy as a Communist for four years. When I saw the poster on the street in Dallas, I worried that my father and his John Birch friends―friends like Fred Koch, General Edwin Walker and Robert Welch—had a hand in it.
Months later, the Warren Commission identified the creator of the poster as Robert Surrey, a right-wing Dallas activist and associate of Major General Edwin Walker, a prominent John Bircher who lived in Dallas. Money to print the flyer moved through the Dallas leadership of the John Birch Society. Despite the connections outlined in the Warren Commission report, my father never acknowledged the existence of the handbill or any Birch connection to it.
When I mentioned it, I was told to “stop telling tall tales.”
About Dallas in the 1960s when it was a hotbed of the John Birch Society and other far-right groups . . .
Here’s a new book by Edward H. Miller, “Nut Country: Right-Wing Dallas and the Birth of the Southern Strategy”
Don’t miss the award-winning “Dallas 1963” by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis
If you want more, there are thousands of articles and books about John Kennedy’s assassination
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