The John Birch Society, whose conspiracy theories eventually became so fantastic that it faded into irrelevance, has edged back toward the mainstream – or at least the mainstream of conservative thought. It’s listed as one of 87 co-sponsors of next month’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC] in Washington, D.C. The conference is “the year’s must-attend event for the Republican establishment,” says POLITICO.com. Speakers at the Feb. 18-20 conference include Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty – all potential GOP presidential candidates in 2012.
The fanatically anticommunist John Birch Society was founded in 1958 by Robert Welch, who declared that President Dwight Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.” By 1961, when John F. Kennedy was president, the U.S. government was 50 to 70 percent communist controlled, Welch claimed. The Birchers have long maintained that the United Nations aims to establish a “one-world socialist government.” Today’s conspiracy zealots call it the New World Order.
The Birch Society also opposed the civil rights movement in the 1960s, in part because of a belief that communists had infiltrated it. The organization was against fluoridation of municipal water systems, claiming it was a communist plot to poison America.
The Birchers have tempered their tone since those days. The society’s website talks now of a belief in “limited government” and “personal freedom” – catch words of many conservatives. Still, the Birch Society makes it clear that most of today’s Republicans aren’t conservative enough. “As many JBS members realize, true conservative leaders are hard to find nowadays, especially in a movement dominated by neoconservatives and RINOs [Republicans in Name Only],” a recent society press release stated. The organization will have a double booth at CPAC, “offering educational and promotional materials” and streaming live video.
The Birch Society isn’t the only far-right, conspiracy-minded group or individual invited to CPAC. Another co-sponsor is Oath Keepers, the antigovernment organization composed mostly of active-duty law enforcement and military, as well as veterans. Its members pledge to defy 10 orders, including orders to place U.S. citizens in detention camps and orders to confiscate food or property.
Another CPAC sponsor is Eagle Forum, founded by Phyllis Schlafly. Among other things, she has promoted the North American Union conspiracy theory that claims the United States will forsake its sovereignty in a merger with Canada and Mexico. She also wrote a book, A Choice, Not an Echo, that suggested a conspiracy theory in which the Republican Party was secretly controlled by elites who were dominated by members of the Bilderberger banking conference. [The annual, secretive, invitation-only Bilderberger conferences are attended largely by politicians, bankers and business moguls].
Yet another CPAC sponsor is Accuracy in Media, a far-right media watchdog that claimed Vince Foster, deputy White Counsel to Bill Clinton, was murdered and that it was covered up. Many prominent conservatives who were hardly fans of Clinton said there no evidence of murder. Foster’s death was ruled a suicide. AIM also has asserted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has Marxist ties and that the United Nations is planning to impose a one-world government. More recently, AIM’s editor, Cliff Kincaid, promulgated the unfounded theories of the “birther movement.” The birthers claim President Obama is not a U.S. citizen and is, therefore holding office illegally.
Then there is CPAC’s keynote speaker: Fox News personality Glenn Beck. He signed a petition demanding a probe into whether the Bush administration was involved in the 9/11 attacks. He perpetuated the conspiracy theory (before finally debunking it) that the U.S. government may be building detention camps in which to place citizens in the event of national turmoil. And he suggested that Obama has deliberately implemented policies that will force young people to go to work at ACORN and Americorps.
In other words, he fits right in with many others attending the conference.