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Saturday, November 08, 2014

The new Birchers

Over the last few months on several occasions I have thought about a quote or misquote commonly attributed to Eric Hoffer:

Up to now, America has not been a good milieu for the rise of a mass movement. What starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult, or a corporation.
  • Frequently misquoted as "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."
 
For example: the civil rights movement, feminism and environmentalism all seem to have degenerated from what were once valid approaches to noble goals.

Ed Driscoll has his own take on the matter:

The modern left is built around a trio of laudable principles: protecting the environment is good, racism is bad, and so is demonizing a person over his or her sexual preferences. (In the chapter of his book Intellectuals titled “The Flight from Reason,” Paul Johnson wrote that “At the end of the Second World War, there was a significant change in the predominant aim of secular intellectuals, a shift of emphasis from utopianism to hedonism.” ) But just as the Bircher right began to see communists everywhere, the new Bircher left sees racism, sexism, homophobia, and Koch Brothers everywhere.

They’re lurking around more corners than Gen. Ripper imagined there were commies lurking inside Burpelson Air Force Base. They’re inside your video games! They own NFL teams! They’ll steal your condoms! Disagree with President Obama? Racist! (That goes for you too, Bill, Hillary, and your Democratic supporters.) Not onboard for gender-neutral bathrooms? Not too thrilled with abortion-obsessed candidates like Wendy Davis and “Mark Uterus”? Sexist! Disagree with using global warming as a cudgel to usher in the brave new world of bankrupt coal companies and $10 a gallon gasoline? Climate denier!

And as with the original Birchers, don’t get ‘em started on fluoride.
The original Birchers weren’t bad people, but their Cold War paranoia got the better of them. Similarly, as Charles Krauthammer famously said, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil,” which illustrates how a John Birch-style worldview can cause the modern leftists to take an equally cracked view of his fellow countrymen, to the point of writing off entire states and genders:

...

The John Birch left? I think it’s a phrase whose time has come...

Seems pretty apt.


49 comments:

erp said...

Howard, I wonder if anyone under 50 has even heard of John Birch.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Heh. Of course, the Birchers were still more in touch reality than the MAL, although that is a rather low bar.

Harry Eagar said...

I have pointed out (at RtO) for years that the Tea Party is what you get when you take over the Birch Society but cannot even pretend that there are commies under the bed.

So you're late and pointing in the wrong direction.

erp said...

Commies weren't under the bed, but they were and still are everywhere else.

Bret said...

Driscoll wrote: "the new Bircher left sees racism, sexism, homophobia, and Koch Brothers everywhere."

LOL, regarding the Koch Brothers.

But I think the Bircher Left also sees tea partiers everywhere too!

Harry wrote: "So you're late and pointing in the wrong direction."

Nope. Note that it's "The new Birchers." You're behind the times, Harry.

Clovis e Adri said...

Count me as among the too young to have heard much about Birch.

But most of what I read about him makes me think about Erp.

Are you a Bircher, Erp?

erp said...

Chances of you reading anything about John Birch that isn't hard-core-left-socialist-moonbattery are nil.


And no, I don't now and have never belonged to any group, not even a sorority in college, and am only a registered Republican to be able to vote in primaries.

Harry Eagar said...

Birch had nothing to do with the Birch Society.

You can, of course, read all about that, free of left bias, in the works of Cleon Skousen, Romney's intellectual guide, which are so far from being hidden that you can pick them up at the hippie coffee shop where I take my morning tea. erp is delusional again and should get out more.

erp said...

Harry,

Clovis was referring to Birch in his comments above. That is why my answer was about him, but the same thing would apply to information on the John Birch Society.

Reading materials available at hippy coffee shops in Maui aren't hidden?

Another really out-of-left-field non-sequitur.

Who said anything about anything being hidden?

Clovis e Adri said...

So give me something here Erp.

Even Howard's post gives me the impression this Birch guy was a little nuts.

Tell me the truth, as you see it then.

erp said...

The John Birch Society was the bugaboo du jure during the golden age of leftwing propaganda.

The same tactics were employed as are being employed against the Tea Party and other non-leftwing groups now, but with different results because the media doesn't have a complete grip on information as it did prior to the internet, but still has enough power to do a lot of damage.

Hey Skipper said...

The John Birch Society was the bugaboo du jure during the golden age of leftwing propaganda.

I grew up near the John Birch Society national headquarters. They were taking the crazy train at least a couple stops down the line.

erp said...

More so than the current leftwing movements?

Peter said...

Arguing which side attracts the loopier conspiracy theorists may be fun, but it deflects from the fact that they all are worms eating away at democracy and civic cohesion. Much of the left today is indeed in full blown conspiracy mode for the same reason the far right was in the fifties--they don't like to look in the mirror and ask themselves why they are meeting repeated electoral failure when they are so brilliantly correct about so many things. Much easier to blame the subversive, secretive plots of neo-liberals, neo-cons, Texas plutocrats, sex-educators, commies, Boomer academics, the mainstream media, Hollywood, floridators, vaccinators, yada, yada, yada.

Forgive me for sounding like a preachy Canadian, but the American attraction to conspiracy theories can look pretty dysfunctional at times to those on the outside. Perhaps it is your revolutionary tradition and fixation with the intent of your Founders, but, as Hitchens once said, listening to American political rhetoric can sometimes leave an outsider with the impression you are two speeches away from another civil war. Bush was never very well-regarded in Canada, but most of the criticism was to the effect that he was dumb or naïve. We had to go on holiday to New England to learn he was actually the Devil incarnate hellbent on undoing all of Thomas Jefferson's work.

It always amazes me how the shelves of bookstores groan under the weight of American spy thrillers based on some kind of internal conspiracy to endanger the country and destroy the Constitution, with a solitary hero racing around one step ahead of the evil ones to save the day and get the girl (actually, to get lots of them). You can usually tell the politics of the author by the nature of the conspiracy. I once thought about making a million with a ripper about how dissidents in the Canadian security services conspired with executives from Bombardier to undermine the intent of the British North America Act of 1867. I'm sure glad I didn't give up my day job.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

I came to the opposite conclusion as to the role of "loopier conspiracy theorists" in America.

They are not "worms eating away at democracy and civic cohesion". They have in fact the role of giving extra meaning and fun to topics that, otherwise, would be extra dull and boring.

Few things should give us more yawnings than, say, a discussion on healthcare systems. But the rivalry of nuts that is the US political life (and blogs like this) makes that an eternal source of polemics, divisiness and tribal dances around the bonfire.

I guess that's part of their secret sauce.

Harry Eagar said...

It's a damn good thing for Clovis that there aren't any more commies, so that the current incarnation of the Birch Society cannot plausibly agitate for nuclear war like the original version did, because that would have had fallout -- ha, ha, joke -- on even neutral countries.

Query: are believers in chemtrails left or right?

Clovis e Adri said...

Harry,

Or we may see it this way: Supposing the bombs would directly devastate the big nuclear countries, Latin America (and Australia) would be the best places to be at, if survival in the planet still remained possible afterwards.

So a nuclear all out war is our best shot at being the number One in the world :-)

Peter said...

Clovis, in the late seventies, there was a leftist Boomer couple in Vancouver who became convinced the superpowers were hellbent on mutual destruction and that nuclear war was imminent. They decided to flee and bought a detailed map of the world to figure out where the remotest, safest place for them to settle would be. In 1980, they packed up, sold everything and moved to the Falkland Islands.

Clovis e Adri said...

... just to be in the middle of the Falklands War in 1982. LOL.

Life doesn't get more ironic, does it?

erp said...

Harry, no more commies? You should get out more. Our government is crawling with commie "advisors" and even the notoriously leftwing Christian Science Monitor has noticed: FTA: Among the groups active in Ferguson are the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and the Revolution Club of Chicago. The RCP – a small, mysterious, but nationally dispersed Maoist cell led by activist Bob Avakian – has been in the area since at least Wednesday, along with the Revolution Club and the New Black Panthers Party. The New Black Panthers Party has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, among other organizations.

Howard said...

Perhaps it is your revolutionary tradition and fixation with the intent of your Founders...

I'm inclined to agree. Of course, some people consider that a bug and some consider it a feature.

Harry Eagar said...

So what?

I imagine all those groups together couldn't claim as many members as just the armed, racist maniacs who rallied to Bundy.

That was the knock against the old Birchers. At a time when there really were commies, the Birchers (and he McCarthyites) couldn't find any because all the ones they fingered weren't.

erp said...

Wrong.

Ever heard of the Venona Papers.

erp said...

Howard, you are far too subtle.

Peter said...

I'm inclined to agree. Of course, some people consider that a bug and some consider it a feature.

It might explain why you are the most selfless, valiant liberators the world has ever seen while at the same time being perhaps the most impatient, naive occupiers and nation-builders.

Hey Skipper said...

[erp:] [Crazier] than current leftwing movements?

Hard to say. Reading the wikipedia article makes me think the JBS's crazy was much more narrowly focused: communism as the root of all evil.

Obviously, communism was easily bad enough, but it wasn't the reason for everything the JBS didn't like, and not everything the JBS didn't like was bad.

In comparison, progressive hubris is unabated and universal. So not crazier in degree, but probably in quantity.

And I think it worth noting that the JBS didn't do anything violent, and has simply faded away to almost nothing.

[Harry:] It's a damn good thing for Clovis that there aren't any more commies, so that the current incarnation of the Birch Society cannot plausibly agitate for nuclear war like the original version did …

Really? Where?

[Peter:] In 1980, they packed up, sold everything and moved to the Falkland Islands.

I don't know how many more coffee spews my keyboard can take.

erp said...

Skipper, I don't really know anything about the Birchers' beliefs. I seem to remember was Ike was supposed to be a member or something. To compare them with Communists is silly. As far I know, Birchers didn't murder multiple millions of innocents.

Harry Eagar said...

Funny. erp, as usual, has it backwards. The Birchers thought Eisenhower was a commie tool, if not an actual commie.

Although Welch's crazy belief system did not rely on antiblack racism, it appealed so strongly to Southern racists that they moved strongly into the Birch Society.

Funny how what goes around comes around.

erp said...

Harry, I believe I said I didn't know anything about the birchers' beliefs, but I remembered Ike was in the picture somehow, your saying I got it backwards is, as is your wont, wrong.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Since we are talking about the oldies, I'd like to ask you: what about McCarthy and McCarthism?

It all happened when you were around and paying attention (I guess), so please give me your take of him.

Did you approve of his actions and methods back then? Do you remember your thougts while it was happening?

erp said...

Clovis, there's nothing I can tell you more than I've already told -- everything you think you know about the U.S. is wrong including McCarthy and up to your jejune analysis of the current political climate.

Clovis e Adri said...

I've done no analysis of the "current political climate", as far as I know.

Interesting how you flinched from my question. I guess I know why.

Harry Eagar said...

Wiki has thsi (and much more) about the Birchers:

'Welch wrote in a widely circulated statement, The Politician, "Could Eisenhower really be simply a smart politician, entirely without principles and hungry for glory, who is only the tool of the Communists? The answer is yes." He went on. "With regard to ... Eisenhower, it is difficult to avoid raising the question of deliberate treason."[50]

The controversial paragraph was removed before final publication of The Politician.[51]

The sensationalism of Welch's charges against Eisenhower prompted several conservatives and Republicans, most prominently Goldwater and the intellectuals of William F. Buckley's circle, to renounce outright or quietly shun the group. Buckley, an early friend and admirer of Welch, regarded his accusations against Eisenhower as "paranoid and idiotic libels" and attempted unsuccessfully to purge Welch from the Birch Society'

When you're too crazy for Buckley, you're too crazy.

erp said...

Clovis, this statement speaks volumes, I've done no analysis of the "current political climate", as far as I know. The operative words being, “as far as I know.” That you don’t know is painfully obvious.

Current political climate = recent election aftermath.

I'll answer your question, although you have never answered any of mine, by quoting my first math professor in college, "I will only entertain a question the answer to which isn't already painfully obvious." It sure cut down on silly questions and snide remarks -- you might take note.

Harry, I’ll quote your words right back at you, “So what?” Even if all or some of what you say is true, I repeat, so what? Compared to what commies, pinkoes, fellow travelers have done and are still doing, it's insignificant.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

So I have never answered any of your questions?

Memory is a wonderful thing, you look to remember your first math professor in college, still you forgot more than a year of our exchanges here.

Anyway, I get from your answer that you were a McCarther fan. That's indeed obvious, silly me to even ask.

erp said...

I am a fan of the Founding Fathers, Duke Snider, old B&W movies on AMC and very little else.

McCarthy was cruelly demonized and destroyed and it hasn't ended even though he was largely vindicated.

Objecting to that kind of treatment doesn't make me a fan and you might be amused that in high school I won a debate in which I took the pro side of McCarthy and the cause of exposing communists in government. Of course that was in 1952 when the teachers' unions were only a gleam in Albert Shanker's eye.

Clovis e Adri said...

And there we have a confession.

Thanks for answering me, Erp, obvious as it was.

erp said...

A confession? Of what? You are really ridiculous.

Clovis e Adri said...

Why Erp? I thought that to obtain confessions was much in line with your McCarthist desires...

erp said...

Another non-answer to my question which is: Confession? Of what?

My desire now as then is to rid our country of the socialist/fascist/liberal/progressive/statist/collectivist/marxist/maoist policies ... ripping us apart and yes, I don’t know why it matters, but if it’s that important to you, I confess to that and will even shout it from the rooftops.

BTW – I rarely read fiction, but am reading Follett's, The Century Trilogy after you mentioned his works to see where you are getting your information.

The first volume covering WWI was quite an eye-opener. I've just begun the second volume and can't wait to find out what happens.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

Sarcasm, Erp, you don't get sarcasm.

What do you mean when you say the book was an eye-opener? Is it an expression of wonder or of criticism?

erp said...

If you refer back to my comment about why I'm reading popular fiction, you will learn it's an eye-opener because Follett is providing information to augment what you learned from movies and TV shows and when I say I can't wait to find out what happens, it's sarcasm because I was there and know what happened.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

I don't know if you get the idea of fiction, but I'll give you a hint: it is not about describing objectively what happened in history.

Clovis e Adri said...

Oh, by the way, I did not read that book yet.

It must be quite an eye-opener to learn how I get my ideas from a book I've never read.

You wouldn't make a good detective, Erp, I am sorry to tell you. I can say so because I've probably read Who Dunno It books more than anything else.

Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle, Rex Stout... by your logic, much of my worldview came from them.

erp said...

Clovis, strange I'm quite sure you referenced Follett, no matter. It's not surprising you don't know how the narrative works. Check my comment on snarky asides and gratuitous propaganda in everything -- mostly fiction. I

Clovis e Adri said...

Yes, I mentioned his name, which does not mean I've read that book.

Although I like to read now and then some historical fiction, my usual preferences are towards either detective mysteries or phantasy worlds (Tolkien like).

I guess I am a very standard nerd at that.

How much "gratuitous propaganda" goes on that genres, Erp?

erp said...

Gratuitous propaganda promoting the narrative is injected everywhere. You just don't notice it because it's the norm to you.

I read Tolkien and other fairy tales when I was a kid, but then I grew up.

Clovis e Adri said...

I think you are the person to whom this quote was invented:

"There are two novels that can transform a bookish 14-year-kid’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs."

erp said...

Perhaps that may be true for boys, but my life was transformed by Nancy Drew who confirmed what I thought all along -- girls could do anything they wanted, were smarter and more daring than boys and yet remain girls, not girls who wanted to be boys. After all boys are handy to have around for heavy lifting. :-)

I took that to heart and never looked back.