The Racism of The John Birch Society

The John Birch SocietyThe image below is the current leadership of The John Birch Society. Notice anything about it? The top three leaders (CEO, President, Chairman of the Board) are all white men. Of the regular council members, 23 are white men and one is a white woman. I’m not saying that this alone means the group is racist. The truth is race is an invented construct. And I’m sure even all these nominally white people have lots of mixed genes from all over the world.

But it is certain that everyone in this image thinks of themselves as white. And The John Birch Society has long been closely tied with neo-confederates and Posse Comitatus. What’s more, one of their big complaints is that the government tries to chip away the privilege of whites, even while maintaining that no such privilege exists.

There is no doubt to me that The John Birch Society is a racist group. What’s really sad is that this fact is one of the less frightening aspects of the group. Although it is doubtless true that its racism is a big reason that the group gets people to join where their minds can be further poisoned by anti-government propaganda and the fear that a Communist America is just a couple of years away — just like it has been ever since 1958 when the group was formed.

John Birch Society Leadership


I’ll be writing more about The John Birch Society in the coming days. It is important because it is the prime early example of the combination of rage, ignorance, and conspiracy theorizing that fuels the Tea Party. In fact, during the glory days of the Tea Party, The John Birch Society was right there at events signing people up. Different name; same philosophy; same people.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

40 thoughts on “The Racism of The John Birch Society

  1. So your racist conclusion is because they are all white they must be racist? It couldn’t be that other races are susceptible to the Frankfurt School agitation and therefore embrace an unsustainable ideology that always leads to ruin? Does correlation always equal causation in your mind or only when you can be racist?

    • It’s usually pointless to respond to people like you. You see: if you couldn’t bother to actually read the article, what is the point of commenting? You comment is, however, a wonderful example of conservative argumentation, “You said some group is racist?! You’re the real racist!” And of course you throw in a reference to the the Frankfurt School to pretend that you are knowledgeable. I’d bet anything you’ve only heard about it in regard to conspiracy theories. Every complaint you make in your comment is refuted by the article itself. I almost never write about race without some idiot coming around saying that my discussion proves that I’m the real racist. You, like most of the rest, didn’t even manage to read through the whole first paragraph before your started ranting. Because you know the truth! Right?

      • Are you commenting on the article or Brian’s comment? If the former, see my response. If the latter, I don’t follow.

  2. Thank you for this informative article. I have a “friend” who claims the JBS is no longer racist and in fact, many blacks and browns are now members. I find this very hard to believe. She’s challenged me to find ANY racist literature from the JBS within the last 50 years and this is proving more difficult than I thought.

    Any suggestions?

    • I doubt you will find that kind of thing. JBS is not like the KKK. They were, however, segregationists. They did spread the lie that MLK was a communist. I recommend reading Wrapped in the Flag.

      The great game that bigots play has always been to define racism as whatever happened before. When segregation was official government policy, it was clear to these people that slavery was racist. Now it is clear that official government segregation is government policy, but they deny the issues of today like: implicit government segregation, unequal funding of public schools, war on drugs, and on and on.

  3. People like you who go out of their way & bend over backwards to try to paint people, or groups of people, as RACIST do far more damage than good to race relations then the real racists! The fact that there are NO black people in the picture of the JBS leadership does NOT prove them to be racist. That conclusion is ABSURD! Blacks comprise of 13 % of our population, does that mean all businesses & all organizations must have 13% blacks? Of course NOT? Are basket ball team owners RACIST? The teams comprise of MOSTLY black players BECAUSE OF THEIR TALENT & ABILITIES! The same goes for businesses & organizations etc. STOP THROWING GASOLINE ON THE FIRE! You insert racism where there is none. You & people like you, Barack Obama & Al Sharpton set race relations back decades! You are a PATHETIC man!

    • Ah, another commenter that can’t manage to read past the first half of the first paragraph before ranting!

      There have actually been studies on why there are more blacks in the NBA. It has to do with options. Consider the Jews throughout history. Were they really good at banking and accounting? No. It was that in many areas, these were the only jobs they were allowed to have. Now we don’t have explicit laws, we just have educational funding that throws money are rich children and deprives it of poor children. Since you are so concerned about the talented succeeding, why aren’t you out working to change school funding instead of ranting that I’m a pathetic man? My guess: because you don’t actually care.

      In other words, you don’t know what you are talking about. You just live in a conservative bubble that allows you to pretend that the US is a meritocracy. It isn’t and it never has been. But I’ll give you a little advice: if you want to be taken seriously DON’T PUT LARGE SECTIONS OF YOUR TEXT IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

      Another thing: Barack Obama and Al Sharpton? You are straight out of central casting!

      Producer: “Quick: I need a cliched conservative idiot!”
      Casting Director: “I think Rick Watts is available.”
      Producer: “Perfect!”

      • I’m never sure exactly what these sorts are thinking. If the JBS isn’t racist, then who are the “real racists” you and Obama are worse than? Oh, and incidentally there have been several NBA owners publicly revealed as staunch racists. Which I believe proves that many rich people are too dumb to keep their ridiculous notions in private conversations on the golf course.

        • The “real” racists are the ones who use the n-word and who still support the most obvious forms of racism of 50 years ago. Such people are always on the trailing edge of the issue. I’m sure he’s for voter ID too. And in 20 or 30 years, all pretense will be gone and everyone will admit that it was just a new kind of poll tax and that it was racist. And at that point, our friend here will admit that it was racist just as he won’t admit that the newest conservative racism is not.

          • Your ignorance is evident in your writing. You seem to be a trouble maker rather than someone with substantive views.

            • I’m overwhelmed by the power of your argument! If only the John Birch Society had had you around when William Buckley was picking it apart! Oh, the lost opportunity…

              Attention all Frankly Curious readers: we are shutting down the site because of the raw power of Robert Smith’s devastating argument. You’ll have to find some other troublemaker to read — one who hasn’t been completely defeated by Robert Smith. If you need me, I can be found at

                • Yeah. I am so sick of names like that. I have a writer named Brian Wu. Quite an amazing young man, actually. But it really confuses things. Strangely, Frank Moraes was a hugely important Indian journalist. So even names that seem relatively distinctive aren’t. (And I was born Frank Morris!) At the same time, I wish people would standardize the spelling of names. It’s Hillary, not Hilary! Or the other way around. I don’t care. Just pick one!

    • I think that Rick Watts wants to do a drive by racist rant. And I think Rick Watts succeeded. To the amusement of the regulars.

      • Yeah, I have to give some credit to libertarians who come around here. At least they stick around and engage. Of course, it is because they all believe that if I just understand libertarianism, I will be a believer. People like Watts just know I am an unrepentant racist because all we have to do is pretend racism doesn’t exist and it will disappear. So I’m hopeless.

        • They don’t come around that often. I like trolls, most of the time they are lots of fun to play with.

  4. I read the WHOLE article Frank and I think you are nothing but a white guilt propagandist.. People like you ARE the new racists. Looking for any excuse to vilify any one who even mentions the idea that it’s OK to be white and proud of it. And now I’m sure you will equate this statement to “white pride” or even “white power”, neither of which is what I’m referring to. And I’m sure you think the BLM movement ISN’T a racist hate group.
    What’s sad to me is in this “new” apologetic, white male emasculating America that encourages all sorts of pride; black pride, gay pride, Muslim pride, or pride in the country you came from instead of the country you now live in, the only thing you CAN’T be proud of is being straight, Christian, middle class, and white.

    • Oh, dear. This reminds me of something James Loewen pointed out about “Southern Pride.” There are all kinds of Southern heroes to be proud of; just not Confederate generals. There were people, black and white, women and men, gay and straight, Christians and atheists and Jews, who risked and lost their lives fighting slavery and segregation.

      It’s hard to know how to respond to this sort of thing when we happen across it. If I have any idea where the person is coming from, there’s some kind of opening. But if all they share is anger, I’m flummoxed. And there’s a lot of anger going around.

      • That’s an excellent point. I’ve noted before that southerners never pull out The Sound and the Fury and yell, “Southern pride!” Because that is the sort of thing that the south has rather a lot to be proud of. I’ve always been blown away by the southern gothic writers — you can see a much clearer connection to Britain than you do from northern writers. But there are so many other things to be proud of too. But it’s clear that “southern pride” is not about pride at all.

        Of course, I doubt this guy is from the south. Like so many people, he reminds me of some old Lou Reed lyrics:

        Some people got no choice
        And they can never find a voice
        To talk with that they can even call their own.
        So the first thing that they see
        That allows them the right to be,
        Why they follow it…
        You know, it’s called bad luck.

        • Yeah, the guy didn’t mention the Confederate flag, so probably not. I just brought up Loewen because Southerners say the same stuff when people talk about replacing monuments to Confederate generals. And they have a ton of better things to be proud of, instead, yet they cling to the worst. So it goes with white male straight Christians, as you mentioned in your response.

          Personally I veer towards regional pride rather than family/heritage pride. I find family history interesting (and spooky!) but I don’t feel any emotional connection of pride or shame towards it. They aren’t me.

          Regional pride is pride in my neighbors. I’m proud we were the first state to vote down a gay marriage ban ballot measure. When it comes to regional history, the more you learn about it, the more you learn it was mostly bad (I think that goes for everywhere). Yet individuals and movements rose above the prejudices of their time. It doesn’t make me proud — it gives me hope for the species.

          I think the first time I heard “Street Hassle” I knew I’d remember those lines for a long time …

          • Yeah, I understand that. I feel shame that California passed Prop 8.

            Personally, however, I’ve always been more of a globalist. I’m impressed that humans went to the Moon. I don’t see that as something by the US or the men themselves. It was something we all did in our amazingly complex interactions. But I see humans more and more as a system. This is a direct outgrowth of the way the economy works. I think if people better understood economics, there would be revolution. None of it makes sense.

            None of this means that I think humans are perfect. I just think we are a fascinating species and it is interesting to be part of it.

            Thanks for all the fish!

    • You can read the WHOLE article and still not get past your obvious prejudices. Your comment doesn’t address anything that I wrote. It is just yet another cliched “whites are being oppressed” rant.

      Who told you that you can’t be proud of being straight, Christian, middle class, and white? Certainly not me! I would just point out, as I did inside the WHOLE article, race is an invented concept. Racism exists; race does not.

      But the only people I hear saying you can’t be proud of your heritage are people ranting on like you. But the truth is, when people say they are proud to be “white” they are more saying something about what they are proud to not be — it is not an affirmative statement; it is a reactive statement. If I were the kind of person to care about such things, I would say that I was proud of my Portuguese heritage. No one gets mad when someone talks about how much they love their French ancestors. But “white”? How could I be proud of my German heritage if I don’t have one?

      Finally: don’t you see the need for “pride” movements among weak groups that just isn’t there among strong groups? Don’t you see why Israel is so important to the vast majority of Jews? Don’t you see that if all the ex-presidents went around complaining that “you can’t even be proud to have been president” that everyone would think they were a bunch of whiny jerks?

      I don’t know you and I can’t say much about you. But I can say this: you’re a whiner! Grow up!

    • I said race is an invented concept because that is a scientific fact. It is also a historical fact, as it has been well documented when and why it was created.

      Your statement about “intellectual pedigree” is just sad. You are a whiner, because your first comment whined. In this comment, you’re just trolling. I don’t allow trolling. Further posts will be deleted unread.

    • This is spammy. But the website is kinda charming so I’m leaving it up. But as the Grand Poobah of baseball around here, James can veto this decision.

      • Looks for all the world to me like someone just trying to make a little money referring readers to glove sellers. Harmless enough. And whoever wrote it wasn’t born an English speaker, so I root for them. A more specific site name might help, though.

        • So we have the James seal of approval? I’ve had to go back to nofollow links in comments, so I’m not as concerned. What does bug me is: why not do this on a baseball post? I know why, of course. This post was linked to somewhere. So I’ve been getting a lot of traffic on it. I probably should take the comment down. But: baseball gloves! Sometimes I wish that I was nine years old again…

          • There’s this very boring thing ESPN shows every year during the All-Star Break, called the Home Run Derby. Sluggers hit batting-practice homers over and over. It’s mind-numbingly dull. The only good part about it is all their kids get to shag lazy flies in the outfield.

            Here’s a fun 30-second clip of happy kids catching a ball:

            Cool song. I remember making myself dizzy like that. It’s basically the little kid version of getting high.

            • Yes, that was cute. Although that’s something I don’t like about baseball. I want to sit where no ball can come flaying at me. If I had any coordination, I would bring a glove. A really big one!

              • I was at a minor-league game some years ago, behind the netting, totally protected. And still, when a foul came rocketing at my face, I jumped halfway out of my seat. The PA announcer intoned one word, “FLINCH,” and the crowd had a good laugh. It was pretty funny, honestly.

                • Ah! Let me tell you about my experience. I hate loud sounds and things moving quickly toward me. I jump. And fast. I always saw this as an indication of my cowardly nature. But one time a guy saw spin around at some sound. He said, “Wow, you have quick reflexes.” And then I saw Ronin where Gregor catches the coffee cup. Sam (who was testing him) says, “Good reflexes.” And Gregor replies, “Oh yeah, they die hard.” Ever since, I’d defined my jumpy nature as a sign that I am a badass. Because let’s be clear: they are all trying to kill me.

                  • The vicissitudes of fate. You should have grown up in Finland and been a hockey goalie. They’re padded like the Michelin Man, no puck can hurt them, and they don’t have to skate very well. Just have good fear-based reflexes.

                    I have one good reflex. If I knock a fragile object off a counter, I reflexively stick out my foot to break its fall. This has saved many items, as I am a clumsy oaf. Also I can throw popcorn in the air and catch it in my mouth. These are my list of skills.

                    • There’s a nice scene regarding that in The Mighty Ducks. But that would take a lot of training. I can well imagine getting out of the way of the puck. It would push entirely against my impulses to get in the way of it. But I do have skating badly down, so there’s that.

  5. White people will always love the worst of white people from Stalin to Hitler from John Gotti to Al Capone from Dylann Roof to Freddy Krueger. White people love white communist white Nazi white skinheads white nationalist even if the John Birch Society has plans on destroying the American government if it’s white people that’s doing it white people will love that too.

  6. Birchers often want us to believe that the JBS could not possibly be described as facilitating racism or pandering to racists just because of the number of black Americans who were members of the JBS.

    However, the Communist Party USA had at least 20-30 times as many black Party members as the JBS—and even more significantly—UNLIKE the Birch Society, the Communist Party elevated many black Party members into senior positions within the Party.

    NEVERTHELESS, it is very clear that there were MAJOR arguments within the CPUSA between white and black members — particularly between their African-American leaders such as Claude Lightfoot, Benjamin Davis Jr., Pettis Perry, and James Jackson and white leaders like Gus Hall.

    Often, the black CPUSA leaders characterized the white CPUSA leadership as racist in their beliefs and practices. Black Party members complained bitterly about “white chauvinism” within the Party. Some of the corroboration for this situation within the CPUSA can be found in testimony by African Americans who later became JBS members and speakers–such as Julia Brown and Lola Belle Holmes.

    For example, Julia Brown told the FBI that:
    “She has stated that she has found absolutely as much ‘racial prejudice’ and ‘white chauvinism’ in the CP as ‘there is in Mississippi’. And that many Negroes who have been duped by the CP and who have become ‘tools’ of the Party, need to have ‘their eyes opened’. [FBI-Los Angeles 100-54554, serial #489; 2/5/60, in CPUSA-COINTELPRO file re: Julia C. Brown]

    During her June 4, 1962 testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities Julia declared she was not allowed to attend her neighborhood Communist club meetings “because it was a Jim Crow club.”

    So, the assurances by JBS members which refer exclusively to the number or presence of black members within the JBS mean absolutely NOTHING!

    Lastly, many of the African Americans who “praised” the JBS (1) were employees of the JBS and (2) contradicted their previous stated positions regarding the JBS AFTER they became PAID JBS employees.

    • I agree. You are going to find this in any group. And groups that think of themselves as enlightened usually have difficulty addressing their own blind spots. However, this article is not meant to be a takedown of the JBS. It’s more along the lines of snark.

  7. Frank Moraes,

    In the course of these four years under the trump administration I’ve often wondered what exactly the trend was that attracted people to Trumpism. My stepfather, who is a staunch conservative, who I remember listening to Rush Limbaugh on our ranch in west Texas and constantly berate Obama since ’08, has been in complete opposition to Donald Trump since before he became president and yet, I have liberal friends who outright supported him since 2016. My grandmother advocated for Trump. I thought this was strange at first but, you see, my grandfather was born in 1918, a WWII vet who grew up during segregation who campaigned, along with other members of my family, for Barry Goldwater during 1964 and he became an early member of the John Birch Society, in 1959, I believe. I’ve had to politically turn against my Father’s side of the family, whom over 90% (including my millennial generation) have conjoined with the nationalist populist party of Trump and I now have to reflect whether the fact that my Grandfather’s connection with the JBS (which some call QAnon 1.0) is… I should have opened with the fact that my grandfather is extremely racist. He grew up during segregation and continued to support that model throughout his entire life and as a child watched him practically froth at the mouth seeing a POC on the television but this overt racism obviously didn’t stop with him. He got dementia before I met him and he died in 2010 and now in this current climate where I wish I could ask him questions on why he supported such extreme values and the history where he stood supported in his decisions I’m left without much support or understanding why the rest of my family and other people who feel isolated from their familys’ now not so covert racist tendencies are now transcended in this political climate of extremism under the confederate flag under Trumpism. I have so much I want to say about this but I want to ask “Why is the John Birch Society so successful at manipulating Americans into extremism and what can we do to be the solution?”

    • One thing that helped the JBS was that they organized well. But I think it’s fairly easy to organize when you have a boogieman that people already hate or fear. I think that same thing is true of Trump, but that it’s more complicated. He is a charismatic person. And there are lots of people on the left and right who have never really thought about politics — they just go along with everyone around them. In California, we see a lot of people like that on the left. I assume in Texas, you see that more on the right. And that explains Obama-Trump voters. When a man like Trump comes along, they follow. It’s been well documented in political science research that people do not generally support a politician because of policy. They decide they like a politician and then mold their policy preferences to this support. I know it’s discouraging. We’d all like to believe that ideas matter in politics but mostly they don’t. On the other hand, I think it also means that support for Trump’s ideas begins and ends with him.

      There is also some interesting research (John Dean discusses it in his book Conservtives Without Conscience) that indicates when authoritarian followers are shown their authoritarianism, they often change. But frankly, I’m not that optimistic about this country given the systemic advantages that conservatives have (Even while Republicans whine about their oppression!) and the dark turn the Republican Party has taken in recent decades.

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