Founded in 1958 by an elite coterie of white businessmen, the John Birch Society produced and disseminated ultraconservative propaganda to white homeowners, housewives, and middle-class professionals, stoking fears of perceived threats to their country’s core values (Christianity, capitalism, and individual freedom). Although conservative political leaders publicly denounced the fringe movement, they ultimately accommodated the Birchers’ extremism in exchange for their money and votes. And the effects of this decision are still felt in the present day, with far-right politicians like Madison Cawthorn, Donald Trump, and Marjorie Taylor Green using the Birchers’ political playbook to gain power.
Birchers offers key insights into the evolution of the far-right as well as the extraordinary steps taken by many to constrain the society’s growing influence— including a massive and previously undisclosed spy operation undertaken by a liberal coalition in the 1960s and ‘70s. BIRCHERS is an illuminating read, perfect for fans of Jane Mayer, Rick Perlstein, Dana Milbank and anyone seeking to understand the origins of right-wing extremism in the United States, where it is today, and where it is headed.
Matthew Dallek is a professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. The author of The Right Moment and Defenseless Under the Night, his writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, the Atlantic, and others. He lives in Washington, DC.
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