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Different Song, Same Lyrics

The John Birch Society was one of the more visibily radical, small-government fringe groups in America during the 1960s. Robert Welch, a retired candy manufacturer, introduced his philosophy at an Indianapolis meeting on December 9, 1958, to twelve “patriotic and public-spirited” men. The first Birch chapter was founded in February 1959. The core thesis of the JBS was a rant that Communists had insinuated themselves throughout the federal government. This was published in The Blue Book of the John Birch Society, which was given to each new member. According to Welch, both the U.S. and Soviet governments were (are) controlled by the same conspiratorial cabal of internationalists, greedy bankers, and corrupt politicians.

Paranoia reigned, especially in print, as Birchers believed that traitors inside the U.S. government would betray America by folding it into the dreaded United Nations “for a collectivist new world order managed by a one-world socialist government.” The Birch Society also opposed the New Deal, and believed in business nationalism.

By the early 1960s, the JBS had grown to a membership of nearly 100,000. Among other traitors, the organization implicated President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren of being crypto-Communists. They had no love for JFK either. After the self-appointed Red slayer, Senator Joseph McCarthy, was rebuked during the mid-1950s, America’s radical anti-Communists were marginalized but not squelched. So satires of Birchers were frequent. The Chad Mitchell Trio issued this The John Birch Society Song, and Bob Dylan’s Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues here.

Well, I was feelin’ sad and kind of blue I didn’t know what I was gonna do The Communists were comin’ around They was in the air, they were on the ground They were all over So I ran down most hurriedly And joined the John Birch Society I got me a secret membership card Went back to my backyard And started looking on the sidewalk ‘Neath the rose bush Well, I was lookin’ everywhere for them gold darned Reds I got up in the mornin’ and looked under my bed Looked behind the kitchen, behind the door Even tore loose the kitchen floor, couldn’t find any I looked beneath the sofa, beneath the chair Looking for them Reds everywhere I looked way up my chimney hole Even looked deep inside my toilet bowl They got away I heard some footsteps by the front porch door So I grabbed my shotgun from the floor I snuck around the house with a huff and hiss and “Hands up, you Communist” it was a mail man He punched me out

The John Birch Society remains active today, and its members still seek “to expose a semi-secret international cabal whose members sit in the highest places of influence and power worldwide.”


For more Steven Heller, see Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design—one of the many Heller titles available at MyDesignShop.com.

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