YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

July 26, 2014

Darren Mulloy and the John Birch Society

mulloyJBS.jpgThe author is quoted in the Vanderbilt University Press handout for reviewers, quoting the author: “I don’t see the John Birch Society as some part of the ‘lunatic fringe’ of American society, but as a part of the wider culture of the Cold War and as a bridge to the contemporary conservatism of the Tea Party.” VUP: “The John Birch Society played a significant role in the development of the conservative movement as we know it in the U.S.” This statement ignores that the book states unequivocally that it covers the period 1958-1968, with no materials justifying this p.r. guide to potential reviewers, who, presumably will take this book to establish the continuity claimed between the conspiratorial, demonized, and fantastical Welch and his followers and the current disparate foes to “big government.”

D. J. Mulloy is an associate professor in a Canadian university, where he is a member of the history department.A historian is peer-reviewed by the originality of his research and the novelty of the primary sources used. Here are the “primary sources” listed by Professor Mulloy [not one of these is considered to be a primary source comparable to private papers, letters, and diaries, though these must exist in the papers of chief actors in the postwar period from Eisenhower on through Nixon and Ford, not to speak of Buckley and other right-wing characters described in the book: CS ]:
1. John Birch Society periodicals, pamphlets, and speeches
2. Website for JBS.
3. Books (written by eight authors, including Robert W. Welch, Jr.)
4. Newspapers and periodicals
5. Official documents and reports

This is an astounding publication to have emanated from an academic press (Vanderbilt UP, 2014). There are zero examples of either Welch diaries, his correspondence, or the diaries and private correspondence of the chief actors in the melodrama limned by Mulloy. One can only conclude that VUP published a hatchet job directed against all Republicans and conservatives. This despite the evidence supplied by the Venona documents, and the material unearthed by scholars allowed to examine the briefly opened Soviet archives, that did provide proof of Soviet sabotage and spying, as reported by established and more cautious scholars such as John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, Mark Kramer, Ron Radosh, Alexander Vassiliev, and Allen Weinstein.

Moreover, where extremely controversial events are concerned, Mulloy will often cite one book, rather than a variety of interpretations, including those that disagree with whatever claim he makes at the moment in his mad dash through the postwar period.

Chief among his targets is those who claim that the US military budget was justified in light of the fighting strength of the Soviet Union. This is one of the contentions of those Stalinists who accuse [fascist] Americans of starting the Cold War, and of exaggerating the Soviet military threat. Indeed, one prominent New Leftist alerted me to recently declassified CIA documents ‘proving’ that the US was guilty as charged by the Left. But when I looked at these documents, I saw no such materials, but rather, in reviewing the documents treating the Psychological Strategy Board of the 1950s (under the Truman and Eisenhower administrations), I found only disagreement and confusion in high government circles regarding the best approach to dealing with Soviet expansionism. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_Strategy_Board, and my detailed article “Who’s Crazy Now? An Essay Dedicated to Christopher Hill,” UCLA Historical Journal Vol. 10, 1990.)

Another of Mulloy’s professional lapses is his failure to distinguish between class interest and his imprecisely rendered notion of “conspiracy.” Nor is there even an entry in his index for the Popular Front, which might have explained why it was difficult for “extremist” conservatives such as Welch to distinguish between communists and social democrats, a problem that persists today as more and more professed revolutionary socialists deploy the argot of the counter-revolutionary social democrats. (Eric Hobsbawm is one example: see https://clarespark.com/2013/10/28/hobsbawm-israel-the-totalitarian-idea/.)

Moreover, what Mulloy never explains to the reader is this: Marx was never a conspiracy theorist; this was a theoretical point that the JBS didn’t understand, nor probably William F. Buckley either. Socialist revolution would not come from a small group of fanatical terrorists barking out orders from Moscow, but would result from working class revolt, owing to their increasing immiseration under capitalism (resulting from declining rates of profit—a prediction that failed to materialize as Marx had predicted). (Bureaucratic centralism and statism were “Marxist-Leninist” innovations.)

I suppose Mulloy is yet another social democrat who projects his elitism upon a social movement that it does not resemble at all. The populists described in Mulloy’s book were first and foremost suspicious of statist elites, and still are (https://clarespark.com/2009/09/19/populism-progressivism-and-corporatist-liberalism-in-the-nation-1919/ which is indeed elitist).

Working class agency/the labor movement is entirely invisible in Mulloy’s mural of postwar Amerikkka, the land of the easily duped.

demonicobama

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8 Comments »

  1. Compared to your average Left Winger like Bill Ayers or ELF…. the JBS is the epitome of rational. That would be the whole context of Ms. Spark’s comment. Where did the JBS ever plant a bomb or rob?

    Comment by hrwolfe — July 20, 2015 @ 3:07 pm | Reply

    • There was nothing average about the Weathermen. The Left had nothing to do with him.

      Comment by clarelspark — July 20, 2015 @ 4:07 pm | Reply

    • With respect to hrwolfe’s rhetorical question regarding “where did the JBS ever plant a bomb or rob?”

      Let’s try to understand the underlying logic of this inquiry.

      Apparently, hrwolfe wants us to believe that the only adverse behavior worthy of our attention is if a person or organization is responsible for and/or participates in violence. Everything else gets a pass and is totally “rational” and acceptable behavior?

      One wonders how much research hrwolfe has done regarding JBS history? First of all, how do we apportion responsibility for the actions of an individual? If, for example, someone reads literature published by an organization or listens to their paid speakers and then that person engages in immoral or illegal or unethical conduct — should we attribute their individual behavior to that organization?

      If that is the overarching principle which hrwolfe wants us to accept — then, presumably, hrwolfe wants us to believe that every defamation lawsuit filed against members of the Birch Society whose viewpoints were informed by JBS literature and by JBS speakers should be considered as the responsibility of the JBS itself — not the specific Birchers involved. In other words, the JBS is responsible for every action of its members–even if the JBS did not instruct them or encourage them to do what they did which caused the lawsuits.

      In addition, there are numerous examples of individuals who were arrested and convicted of crimes (including violent crimes) that originated from the political convictions of the defendants and those persons WERE JBS members. So, according to hrwolfe, we should blame the JBS?

      Lastly, the larger issue:

      1. Facts matter.
      2. Believing and acting upon false information matters.
      3. Even if no criminal acts are involved, there are often severe societal consequences when mis-informed individuals acting from malice falsely attack the patriotism and loyalty of decent, intelligent, honorable, moral, and principled political opponents especially if they attempt to de-humanize and demonize everyone whose views do not conform to their own personal preferences. No free society can exist or thrive if every different point of view is regarded as subversive or un-American or worthy of contempt and revulsion. The JBS and its surrogates/agents have lost libel lawsuits precisely because their viewpoints were based upon FALSEHOODS.

      False ideas impact behavior. Consider, for example, the April 2014 murders of 3 individuals by F. Glenn Miller. See this article: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article3955528.html Miller thought the 3 people he killed were Jews. They weren’t. Also see history of David Lewis Rice in Seattle.

      The reason why virtually the entire conservative movement rejected the Birch Society as extremist, irrational, and irresponsible is precisely because the JBS employed malicious falsehoods in the service of their ideology. Even the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover falsified virtually every major predicate of JBS ideology and J. Edgar Hoover stated that he “had no respect” for Robert Welch because of his false extremist beliefs.

      Comment by ernie1241 — July 20, 2015 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  2. Clare, thank you for your work in reading and exposing the anti-conservative and anti-Tea Party propaganda coming out of some of the academic presses. Most of us are new to the awareness of the extent to which the academic socialist culture has been festering in our institutions. We have our time committed to work and family and are therefore easy prey for much of the academic community without work like yours to help process the material. You not only expose the anti-Americanism of which we were scarcely aware, but you also provide the historical background that we need to understand how and why the culture was enabled to develop to such an extent.

    Comment by Mark Leavenworth — August 1, 2014 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

  3. Clare: Your comments are exceptionally ignorant because of your ill-concealed agenda. You chastise Dr. Mulloy for not relying upon primary source materials such as the papers of Robert Welch and you describe Dr. Mulloy’s book as nothing more than a “hatchet job”. Your specific comment is as follows:

    “There are zero examples of either Welch diaries, his correspondence, or the diaries and private correspondence of the chief actors in the melodrama limned by Mulloy. One can only conclude that VUP published a hatchet job directed against all Republicans and conservatives.”

    Here are the problems with your numerous falsehoods:

    1. Dr. Mulloy DID rely upon correspondence between Robert Welch and other figures — including, for example, his letters to Fred Schwarz (Christian Anti-Communism Crusade) and William F. Buckley Jr.

    2. Apparently, you are totally unaware that the Birch Society, as a matter of strict policy, DOES NOT ALLOW outside independent scholars or researchers to have access to its archives for historical research purposes. They also do not allow independent researchers to have access to their membership to develop a factual portrait of their beliefs and background. In fact, the JBS will not even assist people whom they believe MIGHT write something unfavorable about the JBS (even if factually true).

    3. Dr. Mulloy’s history of the JBS is unquestionably the best-researched, best-documented, and best-written history of the JBS ever written. The only thing that comes close is Sam Brenner’s 2009 doctoral dissertation (“Shouting At The Rain”). Mulloy has done something which most academics (other than Brenner) have never done — i.e. he became intimately familiar with JBS publications and addressed their logic and significance in the context of larger history. Most authors just dismiss the JBS as an extremist organization of no consequence. But Mulloy thought otherwise and has produced the best study ever published about it.

    4. At NO time did Dr. Mulloy write or condone any pejorative comments about Republicans or conservatives in general. He did, of course, summarize (accurately) the turmoil and controversy and angst within the Republican Party and within the conservative movement which was occasioned by the activities and beliefs of the Birchers and their sympathizers. Significantly, virtually the entire conservative movement in our country REJECTED the JBS as irrational and extremist — as did J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

    5. Not surprisingly, your training has NOT been history or social science. Your writings are mostly incomprehensible psychobabble and have no value with respect to Dr. Mulloy’s new book.

    Comment by ernie1241 — August 1, 2014 @ 3:08 pm | Reply

    • To “Ernie”: I am a trained historian and published author. Mulloy had an opportunity to describe any personal correspondence in his list of primary sources, but did not. My blog was not a vindication of JBS, but a critique of historical method. Vanderbilt UP gave the impression in their release to reviewers that Mulloy was creating a direct link between JBS and the Tea Party. If he objected to that linkage, he should have stopped the publicity department of VUP from publishing the sentence I quoted.

      Comment by clarelspark — August 1, 2014 @ 8:24 pm | Reply

    • Ernie, what your definition of “entire conservative movement” REALLY means is:

      “the progressivist pseudo-conservatives running the GOP and their Left Wing globalist elite allies and all the associated sycophants orbiting around them.”

      The average street conservative knows little of the JBS, beyond the fact that they need to be prepared for ridicule and derision if they voice a favorable opinion about them. So, it’s easier to just avoid talking about the Cold War unless one is totally immersed in the historical realities that blow apart the Left’s assertions that the Cold War was all an “imperialist myth”.. Left Wing smear tactics are designed to discourage dissent. And they work. Don’t they?

      Compared to your average Left Winger like Bill Ayers or ELF…. the JBS is the epitome of rational. Whatever faults they have pale in comparison to your average Left Wing hero… Mao for example.

      Comment by albert8184 — August 22, 2014 @ 7:41 pm | Reply

      • No, Albert, you are entirely mistaken. Such gross errors can be avoided if you simply ask pertinent questions instead of immediately attacking the messenger.

        When I referred to the conservative movement, I referred to a very wide range of individuals, organizations, and publications. For example: on one end of the spectrum there were libertarian publications that rejected the JBS and on the other end of the spectrum there were people and organizations such as J. Edgar Hoover and senior FBI officials along with Human Events newspaper, the National Review crowd (Bill Buckley, James Burnham, Frank Meyer etc) along with prominent politicians such as Sen. Barry Goldwater, Sen. John Tower, Cong. Walter Judd, Gov. George Romney, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and most state GOP chairmen and conservative columnists and pundits and publishers such as George Sokolsky, Patrick Buchanan, William Loeb, and James J. Kilpatrick.

        If you want to review the exceptionally wide range of JBS critics, see my webpage here: https://sites.google.com/site/ernie124102/jbs-4

        I might add that even many JBS members ultimately resigned from the JBS — often with extremely caustic comments about Robert Welch and his leadership of the JBS which (in many cases) conformed to the criticisms which the left-wing had made for years.

        Lastly, with respect to your comment that the JBS is “the epitome of rational”:

        Apparently you do not know that the JBS and its surrogates were defendants in many libel lawsuits. The most famous test of what YOU consider “the epitome of rational” JBS methodology was revealed in the historic precedent-setting libel lawsuit brought by Chicago lawyer Elmer Gertz. The JBS described Gertz in an article it published in its monthly magazine as “a Communist fronter” and a “Leninist” engaged in a “conspiracy” against Chicago police.

        After 14 years of litigation, including two different jury trials, numerous appeals, and review by the U.S. Supreme Court, the JBS paid Gertz $100,000 in compensatory damages and $300,000 in punitive damages for malice. As you may know, punitive damages are only allowed when “malice” can be shown. Malice, in legalese, refers to “reckless disregard for truth” arising from evil intent and a desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering.

        As one Appeals Court observed about the JBS article on Gertz:

        “There was more than enough evidence for the jury to conclude that this article was published with utter disregard for the truth or falsity of the statements contained in the article about Gertz.” [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, No. 81-2483, Elmer Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 6/16/82, page 20].

        Comment by ernie1241 — August 28, 2014 @ 3:51 pm


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