It began in 1958 as an effort to halt the spread of communism. Its namesake was an otherwise unknown missionary and U.S. spy who was taken prisoner and executed by Chinese soldiers in Suchow 11 days after V-J day.
Today, the John Birch Society is a haven to some of the more notorious members of the extreme right-wing in America including the founder of Koch Industries. The organization also shows a preponderance of white supremacists in its ranks (see list below).
If you look at its official website, you’ll find a selection of national and global news stories, all slanted to its philosophy and political aims. For example, one headline called for a No vote on Senate funding of the Affordable Care Act (complete with a photo of Rafael Ted Cruz) and the next article criticizes the Republican Party for its vote to “restore funding.” The skewed articles frame the U.S. budget resolution as secondary to an attempt to defund the ACA.
Its entanglement in politics is made very clear with its Freedom Index, a scorecard of Congressional members by state which purports to grade them on their adherence to the Constitution. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) hold the honors with 100% ratings. Rand Paul and Justin Amash each merit a 93% rating and Ron DeSantis and Ted Yoho of Florida, Paul Broun of Georgia, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mike Lee of Utah are closing the gap with 90% JBS scores.
The bulk of the elected members of Congress fail their Freedom Index, apparently unable to attain the purity required by the JBS. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Mo Cowan of Massachusetts earned zeros! No doubt this is welcomed news for them.
So who are the modern-day Birchers? An analysis of the Freedom Index details its ideology. The JBS of 2013 are compatible with the Libertarians and the Tea Party. As a collective, it favors a severely limited federal government and executive powers and extensive states’ rights. Politicians got negative marks for opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, for supporting food and farm subsidies, a higher minimum wage, federal disaster relief, higher taxes, and for passing the budget and upping the debt ceiling.
An interesting note: the official John Birch Society carries a link to a “Voting Index.” However, this link and the so-called Freedom Index is transformed into a website called “The New American”. This dissociation from the parent site is a deliberate sleight of hand. Unsuspecting viewers may not realize that the politician ratings are actually derived from the tenets of the John Birch Society and not some innocuous and patriotic sounding New American group.
It takes no effort to read between the lines and see that the John Birch Society is the ideological equivalent of the Tea Party, and this pervasive ideology has a grip on many GOP in Congress today.
Infamous John Birchers
- Willis Allison Carto – founder of the white supremacist Liberty Lobby
- Adolph Herman Joseph Coors II (Dec.) – beer magnate and stalwart GOP contributor who seeded the Heritage Foundation
- Frederick Chase Koch (Dec.) – founder of Koch Industries, daddy of Charles and David, author of A Business Man Looks at Communism
- Timothy F. LaHaye – Detroit-born Baptist preacher and author of the fictional Left Behind series describing the Rapture. Believes The Illuminati are controlling the world; that Catholicism is evil and homosexuality is a curable disease
- Robert Jay Mathews (Dec) – white supremacist who died in a FBI shoot-out in 1984; founded The Order, associated with Aryan Nations, White American Bastion and Mormon convert.
- John F. McManus – President of the John Birch Society and author of four books.
- Thomas L. Metzger – atheist, white supremacist, KKK member; associated with the American Independent Party.
- Kevin Alfred Strom – Alaskan-born founder of the white supremacist National Vanguard; pled guilty to child pornography in 2008.
- Arthur R. Thompson – CEO of the JBS; member of the Christian Coalition, where he served as Interim Chapter Leader.